Knock. Knock. KNOCK.
Like a callow Pip calling on Miss Havisham, we swing the door knocker and await response. Ranger's House, facing out onto Blackheath at the quiet end of Greenwich Park, is a grand, Georgian property full of treasure. Yet it has somehow remained invisible to millions of tourists who flock to the area each year. Not for much longer.
The building has been in the hands of English Heritage since the turn of the century. It attracted the kind of people who like to tick off English Heritage properties, but suffered from infrequent opening hours. Now, following an impressive revamp and the introduction of more sociable opening times (though still oddly closed on a Saturday), it's set to attract a much wider crowd.
We're eventually ushered inside to visit one of the greatest displays of art and treasures we've seen outside a major museum. This is the Wernher Collection (or part of it), amassed by 19th century businessman Sir Julius Wernher.
And what a collection it is. You may think that maiolica pottery and filigree jewellery are not for you. Once you've seen one gilded brooch, you've seen them all, right. Well, no. Time and again we're struck by the exquisite craftsmanship on every item. Wernher favoured objects imbued with special meaning or hidden messages — exemplified by the ivory carving of a lady who, reflected in a mirror, conceals a grinning skeleton. More shades of Miss Havisham.
Room after room reveals new treasures — some 700 objects in all. The collection ranges from miniature paintings to gigantic faux-oriental tapestries, all beautifully displayed with clear, informative descriptions.
The house itself is a fairly barebones example of a Georgian Palladian villa. Built for an admiral in 1721, it's also been home to Earl Chesterfield and various other well-to-dos. Wernher never lived here, but it does provide the perfect home for displaying his treasures. Next time you're in Greenwich, head a little further up the hill and stop off at this overlooked jewellery box. Just don't be afraid to knock.
Ranger's House, Chesterfield Walk, London SE10 8QX. £9 adult, £5.40 child, or free to EH members. Open Sun-Wed. Also reviewed by Diamond Geezer and IanVisits. Note, photography is not allowed inside, and we are grateful to English Heritage and the Trustees of the Wernher Foundation (who own copyright) for the images.