Ranger's House - The Wernher Collection - English Heritage

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A unique and eclectic collection of more than 650 works of art. Ranger's House, an elegant redbrick villa on the edge of Greenwich Park, is the new home of the Wernher Collection, an exhibition of great international importance that brings together an astounding array of objects including paintings, jewellery, porcelain, silverware, furniture, woodcarving and tapestries. These works of art were purchased by mining magnate Sir Julius Wernher (1850-1912), for whom collecting was a lifelong passion. Each object reveals much about Sir Julius's character and his eclectic taste, within the collecting world of the nouveaux riches in late nineteenth-century London.
Born in Darmstadt in Germany, in 1850, Julius came to London in 1871, shortly after the Franco-Prussian war. By the age of 21, his aptitude for business and his excellent memory had been recognised by the French diamond dealer Jules Porges, who offered Julius the opportunity to go to South Africa and act as his agent in the mining town of Kimberley. His career went from strength to strength, and his contemporaries in the diamond fields remarked on both his honesty and integrity in business matters, and his ability to judge the quality of a diamond. On his return to England in 1880, Julius ran the London end of Wernher, Beit & Co., the company he had formed with his close friend Alfred Beit, and which was later amalgamated with the De Beers corporation. His involvement in the lucrative gold-mining business had helped Julius to amass a great personal fortune, which he chose to spend by purchasing works of art. He sought the advice of eminent German collector, dealer and historian Wilhelm von Bode, and gathered together a unusual and varied collection of paintings and objects that reflected his tastes for northern European works of art and the 'splendidly ugly' - quite different to other collectors of the time. In 1888 Julius married Alice Sedgwick Mankiewicz (1862-1945), nicknamed Birdie, whom he described as 'bright-eyed, fair-haired, small, intelligent and musical', and they had three sons during the 1890s, Derrick, Harold and Alex. Although Julius was by nature a contemplative and reserved man, he indulged Birdie in her lavish tastes, and many glittering parties were held at their London home – Bath House, Piccadilly (demolished in 1960), and at their large country home, Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire, purchased in 1903. Julius was made a Baronet in 1904, and died in 1912 leaving more than £11 million, which was the largest South African fortune on record. Both Julius and Birdie were supporters of charitable causes, Sir Julius was instrumental in the founding of Imperial College, London, and during the First World War, Birdie contributed millions of pounds to the 'war loan' in honour of her youngest son, Alex, who had been killed in action. After Birdie’s death in 1945, Luton Hoo and the Wernher Collection passed to Sir Harold Wernher (1893-1973), then to his wife, the Russian princess Lady Zia Wernher (1892-1977) and through the family line. It is the core of Sir Julius Wernher's collection purchased while the family were living at Bath House that is on display at Ranger's House, along with a few key works of art from the period at Luton Hoo.

Venue Type:

Heritage site, Gallery, Historic house or home

Opening hours

5 Apr-30 Sep, Mon – Wed Entry by guided tours only at 11.30am and 2.30pm. Booking advisable on 020 8853 0035 / 5 Apr-30 Sep, Sun 11am-5pm / 1 Oct- 20 Dec & 1 - 31 Mar : Exclusive group access, please call for details / Closed 21 Dec – 28 Feb Please can we add: The property may close at short notice, please ring in advance for details

Admission charges


Nearly 700 works of art are featured at Ranger’s House, in sumptuous surroundings. Among them are rare early religious paintings by Filippino Lippi, Hans Memling and Francesco Raibolini ‘Il Francia’, and paintings by Dutch old masters Gabriel Metsu, Adriaen van Ostade and Pieter de Hooch. The collection includes a large number of exquisite Renaissance jewels, carved and polychromed medieval ivories, vibrant Maiolica ceramics and Limoges enamel plate, peculiar wrought silverware pieces and an abundance of fine Renaissance bronzes. Decorative arts of the eighteenth century are handsomely represented by richly gilded Sèvres porcelain, Meissen pottery figures, fine French furniture and huge Beauvais tapestries, complemented by British portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, George Romney and Sir William Beechey. The new home at Ranger’s House gives visitors an experience of works of art of great variety and a rare insight into the life of Sir Julius Wernher – millionaire gold and diamond dealer and philanthropist. There will be much to stimulate and engage the visitor, and the exhibition gives the opportunity for a detailed look into the crafts and skills involved in the making of a work of art, and in the modern conservation practices applied to preserve them today.

Collection details

Decorative and Applied Art, Fine Art, Music

Key artists and exhibits

  • The Wernher Collection
  • Sèvres porcelain
  • Meissen pottery figures
  • French furniture
  • Beauvais tapestries
  • Renaissance jewels and bronzes
  • Medieval ivories
  • Maiolica ceramics
  • Limoges enamel plate
  • Wrought silverware
  • Sir Joshua Reynolds
  • George Romney
  • Sir William Beechey
  • Filippino Lippi
  • Hans Memling
  • Francesco Raibolini ‘Il Francia’
  • Gabriel Metsu
  • Adriaen van Ostade
  • Pieter de Hooch

Ranger's House - The Wernher Collection - English Heritage
Greater London
SE10 8QX




020 8853 0035


020 8853 0090

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.