Extraordinary evidence has come to light about the original function of the famous Octagon Room, part of Orleans House Gallery, Twickenham as a primitive device for celestial communications.
During research for the Heritage Lottery-funded £1.8m renovation project, in which original drawings and documents have been sourced in an effort to revert the décor to its true 1720s state, artists and technicians were stunned to discover a previously undiscovered stash of diagrams by its architect James Gibbs showing the unique, cylindrical building as a vast acoustic earpiece with various ingenious sound enhancers and transcribing machinery, all beneath a giant retractable roof.
James Gibbs (1682-1754) has long been known for his interest in extra-terrestrial activity having witnessed as a young man “many curious fire globes o’er Thames at Richmond”. Several of his other building designs have alluded to astronomy but this is the only known example of his obsession being put directly into practice, most likely with the generous financial assistance of wealthy Twickenham resident James Johnson (1655-1737), notable for sharing Gibbs’ fascination having “experienc’d a divinely sensuous other-worldly abduction”.
Richmond Council officers have long been mystified since discovering that the original footprint of the house and gardens, of which the Octagon Room is the only section remaining intact, mimics exactly the constellation of Orion with the Octagon sitting in place of dominating star, de Mairan’s Nebula. Most remarkably reams of transcripts discovered within the documents appear to depict abstract wave patterns with a stunning similarity to those of NASA’s Keppler spacecraft purporting to show unusual, unexplained activity way beyond our own solar system. These have now been passed on to the British Astronomical Society for deciphering.
There is now evidence that much of the machinery stayed in place relaying “an abundance of communications” until the arrival of King Louis Philippe, Duc d’Orleans in the early 1800s who, as a deeply religious man and a representative of the Catholic Church, saw it as a “dark art”, ordering its immediate removal and destruction. It is assumed that the documents were somehow rescued by Louis Philippe’s wife Maria Amalia after her husband’s death as they have been in the possession of her family, ancestors of King Ferdinand IV of Naples, stored in an impenetrable safebox, ever since. There they would have stayed had the safe’s mechanism not inexplicably given out last month revealing the contents for the first time in over 200 years.
[Contributed by our special correspondent Avril de Furst]