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When Shelley was ten, he was sent off to study at the Syon House Academy—a site which we located more as a matter of serendipity than scholarship. We knew that the school was located in Islesworth, on the Great Western Road in Thames Valley. We assumed that it would be near the great Syon House estate for which it had been named. But no one at the Syon park had heard anything of the establishment. As we drove around the park, we noticed a preparatory school, and checked with the administrators there. No one knew of the academy, but one teacher told us she remembered seeing a plaque on one of the brick walls surrounding Syon House park.
We proceeded on foot around the perimeters of the estate, searching vainly for the plaque. As we searched, however, we went past a large brick building—several times. It was called "Syon Lodge" and seemed to be roughly the right age and size. The main building was given over to offices, while the old stable area, kitchen, and walled garden were used as a showroom by "Crowther of Syon Lodge," a purveyor of antique replicas that has occupied the site for over 65 years. Despite its careful upkeep, the box-like structure seemed fairly grim, and it was easy to imagine the site as the place Shelley considered such a prison.
The wall that enclosed the place was of particular interest, since it seemed to match Tom Medwin’s description of the Syon House enclosure rather neatly.
We inquired inside and were told that the place had indeed been a school at one time, but no one really knew much about the building’s history. We took several shots of the building—not really expecting much—and over the next week or two I tried to find records of the Lodge, to no avail.
Imagine our surprise when, at the Shelley Museum at Poole, we discovered an early picture of Syon House Academy that, despite the loss of a wing, was clearly the same building!