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Archive for the 'South-East Marylebone' Category

Cavendish Square 5: the Duke of Cumberland’s statue

By the Survey of London, on 19 August 2016

This is the fifth instalment in an occasional series of posts about Cavendish Square. John Stewart’s Critical Observations on the Buildings and Improvements of London (1771) said of Cavendish Square that ‘the apparent intention here was to excite pastoral ideas in the mind; and this is endeavoured to be effected by cooping up a few frightened sheep within a wooden pailing; which, were it not for their sooty fleeces and meagre carcases, would be more apt to give the idea of a butcher’s pen’. This was a satirical allusion to the square’s new statue of the Duke of Cumberland, the ‘Butcher of Culloden’, commander at that final and decisive defeat of the Jacobite rising in 1746. All the same, the square was indeed let to a butcher for grazing.

Critical Obs

John Stewart’s Critical Observations, 1771.

The gilt lead equestrian statue of the Duke of Cumberland had been erected in 1770 at the cost of Lt. Gen. William Strode, who had fought under and befriended the Duke, and whose own memorial in Westminster Abbey records him as ‘a strenuous assertor of Civil and Religious Liberty’. At the time Strode lived on Harley Street, on the north-east corner with Queen Anne Street. The Duke’s sister Amelia, who had paid for a lead statue of George III for Berkeley Square in 1766, lived at the west end of the north side of Cavendish Square. Strode conceived what was London’s first outdoor statue of a soldier in 1769, the same year he was alleged to have withheld clothing from his soldiers, a charge of which he was acquitted at a court martial in 1772.

Malcolm engraving

J. P. Malcolm’s engraving of 1808 (© City of Westminster Archives Centre).

The statue was by John Cheere, who had made another version of Cumberland for Dublin in 1746. The paunchy figure in modern dress faced north to the contemporary temple fronts of what are now 11–14 Cavendish Square (see earlier post). That the statue faced this way, presenting its rear to those who approached the square along the Hanover Square axis, may reflect where Princess Amelia and Strode lived. It also looked to Scotland. The statue was immediately ridiculed on aesthetic grounds; any politics in the gesture appear to have passed without published comment.

Meekyoung Shin's soap statue, photographed in 2013.

Meekyoung Shin’s soap statue, photographed in 2013.

Lacking admirers, the statue fell into dilapidation. In 1868 the 5th Duke of Portland took it down, ostensibly to be recast. It never was, perhaps simply melted down instead. Its Portland stone plinth survived, with Strode’s inscribed dedication. By 1916 this had been encircled by a roof on thin columns to create a summer house. That lasted into the 1970s.

Temporary Soap Staue, Cavendish Square, Marylebone, Greater London. Taken for The Survey Of London

Meekyoung Shin’s soap statue in 2014 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

In 2012 a replica of the lost statue was mounted on the plinth, made of soap on a steel armature by the Korean artist Meekyoung Shin as Written in Soap: A Plinth Project. She anticipated its gradual and scented erosion within a year, but its tenure was extended, her commentary on mutable monumentality complicated by endurance and popularity. An identical replica was installed at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, South Korea, in July 2013. The Cavendish Square statue was dismantled in 2016.


Meekyoung Shin’s soap statue in 2015 (above and below).

April 2015 (2)

RIBA headquarters, Nos 66–68 Portland Place

By the Survey of London, on 29 July 2016

Howard de Walden Project. Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, Marylebone, Greater London. View from south west.

RIBA Headquarters, view from the south-west (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

Ian Nairn once noted the irony that the RIBA’s headquarters should be located in Portland Place: the one street in London he felt had been ‘most stupidly and selfishly and blindly ruined by twentieth-century R.I.B.A. members’. But George Grey Wornum’s building, with its sophisticated union of clean lines and classical proportions, is not one of those brutal transgressors.

At the entrance, a pair of giant cast-bronze entrance doors, decorated with a series of charming relief sculptures, tell the story of London’s river and its buildings, modelled by James Woodford, to drawings prepared by J. D. M. Harvey.

Howard de Walden Project. Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, Marylebone, Greater London. Detail of bronze entrance door.

Howard de Walden Project. Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, Marylebone, Greater London. Detail of bronze entrance door.

Howard de Walden Project. Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, Marylebone, Greater London. Detail of bronze entrance door.

Howard de Walden Project. Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, Marylebone, Greater London. Detail of bronze entrance door.

Inside, the entrance hall has a honey-coloured sheen from its yellow terrazzo floor slabs and polished limestone walls, incised with the names of RIBA Presidents and Gold Medallists. But it is the staircase that is Wornum’s tour de force. It is a dramatic space, dominated and held together by four giant fluted columns of green Ashburton marble, star-shaped in plan and without bases or capitals, that rise nearly 30ft to the coffered glass ceiling.

Montage 2

On the first floor is the principal reception room: the Henry Florence Memorial Hall.  Decoration is everywhere, with a patterned floor and splayed limestone piers carved with scenes of architecture through the ages (designed by Edward Bainbridge Copnall), and several fine wall carvings (also by Copnall), including one showing Wornum and Maurice Webb deep in conversation under the watchful eye of Ragnar Östberg. On the ceiling are sculptures by Woodford depicting the various building trades. Also in this room is a pine screen carved with twenty reliefs (by Denis Dunlop) representing culture and industry in India, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Howard de Walden Project. Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, Marylebone, Greater London. Florence Hall, first floor, view from east

Henry Florence Memorial Hall, designed by Wornum with his visit to Stockholm obviously very fresh in his mind (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

Howard de Walden Project. Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, Marylebone, Greater London. Detail of plasterer in Florence hall ceiling, first floor.

Henry Florence Memorial Hall,  ceiling panel by Woodford (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

Montage 1

Henry Florence Memorial Hall, splayed limestone piers carved with scenes of architecture through the ages (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

The British Architectural Library on the third floor was designed by Wornum in consultation with the RIBA’s then librarian Bobby Carter, with Moderne curved ends to its bookcases, and originally with a colour scheme by his wife Miriam (recently restored) of steel bookshelves enamelled in blue and yellow, and a brown cork floor.

British Architectural Library (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

British Architectural Library (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

With grateful thanks to Eloise Sinclair who put this blog piece together based on the text in the draft chapter from the South-East Marylebone volumes, which can be found here.

Commemorating Lord Byron on Holles Street

By the Survey of London, on 20 May 2016


Lord Byron by Thomas Phillips (Reproduced via Wikimedia Commons).

That Lord Byron was born in Holles Street in January 1788 seems clear. His mother Catherine had returned from Paris a month before his arrival to live in rented rooms there. These rooms have been identified variously as No. 16, which stood on the west side of the street, near its north end, or via a supposed renumbering as No. 24, eight doors further south. It was at No. 24, on a house rebuilt in 1852, that the Society of Arts commemorated Byron in 1866–7 with the first of its round blue plaques. But there had been no renumbering and, in any case, letters from Catherine Byron are addressed simply as from ‘Holles Street’ – no evidence for any house number has been traced. The plaque disappeared in 1889–90 when John Lewis redeveloped this stretch of the street. Lewis commissioned a bronze half-length profile of Byron from the sculptor John Edward Taylerson as a replacement. This was housed within a large Portland-stone aedicule on the second floor of the new frontage at No. 24 in 1900, and was exploited by Lewis for marketing and propaganda purposes during a hot-tempered dispute with the Howard de Walden Estate over the conversion of the old house at No. 16. The Byron aedicule was destroyed by aerial attack in 1940 and Tom Painter designed a modest bronze portrait plaque for a pier between the rebuilt department store’s windows in 1960. This was taken down and replaced in 2012 by a City of Westminster plaque that bears the message (misquoting the poet), ‘Always laugh when you can it is a cheap medicine’.


Plaque designed by Tom Painter for John Lewis, now replaced (By Miezian via Wikimedia Commons).

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Cavendish Square 4: No. 20 (the Royal College of Nursing)

By the Survey of London, on 29 April 2016

This is the fourth instalment in an occasional series of posts about Cavendish Square. Outward appearance belies the fact that there is a substantial early Georgian house at 20 Cavendish Square. It is enclosed within a shell of the 1930s that was part of an extensive redevelopment of a larger corner site as premises dedicated to the nursing profession.

P_1_34 Cavendish Square

20 Cavendish Square (to centre), c.1910 (Royal College of Nursing Archives).

The plain brick-fronted three-storey house was built in 1727–9 by George Greaves, a Clerkenwell carpenter. Its first resident was Francis Shepheard, a former MP who had moved from the Whigs to the Harleyite Tories. He was a wine trader and East India merchant in the steps of his father Samuel, who had been Robert Harley’s financier and was Deputy Governor of the South Sea Company from 1713. Francis inherited a fortune when his father died in 1719.


Plans of the ground floor and first floor of 20 Cavendish Square, showing the layout of the eighteenth-century house and later extensions of 1921-6 (© Survey of London, Helen Jones) Please click here to download a pdf version of the plans.

A broad five-bay front permitted a central entrance, but in an almost square plan there is an unusual layout. The house’s finest feature, a painted staircase, among the best of its kind in London, is oddly situated in the south-east corner. The great expense of such decoration may have obliged Shepheard to avoid an open-well entrance-hall form in favour of a dog-leg stair walled off from the entrance hall. This meant orienting the stair to rise from back to front, forcing a landing against the front wall and so causing irregular fenestration. The town-house aesthetic was evidently, and even more than usual, internal. The main staircase walls display two large architectural capricci, attributed by Edward Croft-Murray to John Devoto, the principal scene painter at the Drury Lane Theatre at the time. There are also trophies and grisaille figures of the Arts on the landing and of Music below the southern capriccio, these more in the style of James Thornhill. The ceiling, in contrast, is painted in the manner of William Kent, with gilded hatching and grisaille caryatids supporting a trompe-l’oeil dome.

Howard de Walden Project. Royal College of Nursing, 1a Cavendish Square, Marylebone, Greater London. Detail of stair. View from east.

View of the painted staircase at 20 Cavendish Square, showing the southern capriccio attributed to John Devoto (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).


Howard de Walden Project. Royal College of Nursing, 1a Cavendish Square, Marylebone, Greater London. Detail of stair. View from west.

View of the painted staircase at 20 Cavendish Square, looking north-east from the first-floor landing (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

The next most impressive space in the house, to the north-west on the ground floor, is a fully pilastered room. The quality of this room, and the fact that its Ionic pilasters are sunk at the corners, hint at involvement on the part of James Gibbs, who was stationed just around the corner on Henrietta Street at the time. An imposing marble chimneypiece has a swagged frieze with a Medusa-like mask, plaits tied under her chin, a type widespread in the 1730s. However, flanking eagle-headed terms suggest the fireplace could be datable to the 1750s as double-headed eagles featured in the coat of arms of William Wildman Barrington, 2nd Viscount Barrington. He moved in when he became Secretary at War in 1755. During his tenure the house became known as a place for parties. The Barrington family continued to occupy the house up to 1888.


Measured drawing of the central part of the east side of the pilastered room (marked lounge on the plan) at 20 Cavendish Square (© Survey of London, Helen Jones).

In 1894 Sir Charles Tennant bought the property as a wedding present for his daughter, Margot, and the Liberal politician Herbert Henry Asquith. The couple lived here with their children and servants before and after Asquith served as Prime Minister from 1908 to 1916. Margot Asquith was a political hostess with a reputation for extravagance. On departing for 10 Downing Street she noted, ‘All the colour, furniture, grates, curtains, and every chair, table, and rug in Cavendish Square I had chosen myself.’ This precedes the disarming admission that ‘It is a constant source of surprise to people of moderate means to observe how little a big fortune contributes to Beauty.’ (The autobiography of Margot Asquith, ii, 1922, pp.103 and 106) After their wartime return, their income much diminished, the Asquiths were obliged to sell in 1920, marketing the property as suitable for ‘a nobleman, embassy or family of distinction’ (Royal College of Nursing Archives, RCN/28/3).

But Annie Pearson, Viscountess Cowdray, bought 20 Cavendish Square to be a clubhouse for nurses. She followed up in 1921–2 by funding rebuilding along Henrietta Street to form a headquarters building for the College of Nursing, established in 1916 in an office on Vere Street as a response to wartime exigencies, to support and advance the nursing profession. This was part of a phased campaign of redevelopment with Sir Edwin Cooper as architect throughout. The first phase included some internal remodelling of the house; Cooper’s neo-Georgian detailing is hard to distinguish from the eighteenth-century work.

20 Cavendish Square (left), as refaced and raised in 1932-4 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

20 Cavendish Square (left), as refaced and raised in 1932-4 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

The last rebuilding phase in 1932–4 followed the acquisition and demolition of a corner house. Cooper refaced and, through the ingenious introduction of bridging structural steelwork, heightened No. 20, which was used as the Cowdray Club up to 1974. The RCN has since carried out three refurbishments, the most recent of which in 2012–13 saw the opening on Henrietta Street of a public heritage centre with retail and museum elements.

St Andrew’s Church, formerly in Wells Street, now at Kingsbury, Middlesex

By the Survey of London, on 1 April 2016

Remnants of old urban churches occasionally get reconstructed on suburban sites when they have outlived their usefulness. An example is Wren’s All Hallows, Lombard Street from the City of London, whose incongruous tower surprises motorists as they flash through Twickenham along the A316. But for a complete Victorian church, not of the first architectural order, to have been transferred lock, stock and barrel from the West End out to Metroland is surely unique. Yet that is what happened to St Andrew’s, Wells Street, Marylebone, rebuilt in 1933–4 as St Andrew’s, Kingsbury.

St Andrews Church, Kingsbury,Greater London. Exterior view from south west. Taken for the Survey of London. ©

St Andrew’s Church, Kingsbury, from the south-west (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). If you are having trouble viewing images, please click here.

The key to the reuse of the church was the wonderful treasure house of its fittings, recognized even at a time when Victorian art and architecture were generally held in low esteem. The Wells Street church had an unusual history. Like many Victorian churches it was erected to boost church accommodation and, hopefully, attendances, in a densely inhabited urban area. But not long after it was completed to designs by Samuel Daukes in 1847, a rival Anglican church, the celebrated All Saints, Margaret Street, was constructed just round the corner. Both were controversially High Church foundations and in their early days attracted fashionable congregations who came to admire their splendid church music and fine fittings. The actress Sarah Bernhardt was married at St Andrew’s in 1882, but the marriage did not last.

St Andrews Church, Kingsbury,Greater London, Interior from south west in gallery. Taken for the Survey of London.

View of the interior from the south-west (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

The nave from the south-east (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

The nave from the south-east (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

View through to the nave from the south aisle (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

View through to the nave from the south aisle (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

The church’s third vicar was Benjamin Webb, secretary of the Ecclesiological Society and editor of its pugnacious journal, The Ecclesiologist. To keep up with All Saints, Webb commissioned fittings from the leading architects and artists of the Victorian church-building movement. Pugin had already contributed an altar and one window, and Butterfield (the architect of All Saints) a lectern.  To these Webb soon added a wonderful wall monument by William Burges to his predecessor, James Murray, and then a whole series of fittings by G. E. Street. Chief among these was the reredos, developed in stages to cover the whole east wall, with stone niches and alabaster figures and scenes carved by Webb’s protégé, the sculptor-carver James Redfern.  The font is also Street’s, but its tall canopy was added after Webb’s death by J. L. Pearson, who also tucked in sedilia beside the reredos. Add in copious stained glass by Clayton and Bell and some unusual decoration of the sacristy contributed by G. F. Bodley, and you have one of the richest collections of Victorian church fittings in existence.

The chancel from the west (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

The chancel from the west (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

Detail of the reredos by G. E. Street (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

Detail of the reredos designed by G. E. Street (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

The altar designed by A. W. N. Pugin (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

The altar designed by A. W. N. Pugin (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

The more conspicuous All Saints was better able to withstand the loss of local population and the vagaries of church attendance in twentieth-century Marylebone than St Andrew’s. A commission proposed in 1929 the unusual solution of taking the latter down and re-erecting it elsewhere. Kingsbury, a rapidly growing district of Middlesex next to Wembley, was identified as the best site; it had a small and inadequate ancient church in an enormous churchyard, so that was the place identified for its relocation. So in 1933–4 this ‘unique casket of architectural jewels and decorative treasures’ was removed and rebuilt in remarkably faithful form by the builders Holland & Hannen and Cubitts, under the architect W. A. Forsyth’s direction. The interior at Kingsbury looks almost the same as it did in Marylebone, but enjoys much better light as it is not blocked in by surrounding buildings.  Because the church is now free-standing, its sides and east end look a bit different. But standing as it does on an eminence above the road, St Andrew’s is now seen to superior advantage than when it was hemmed in among buildings along a nondescript Marylebone street.

Monument to James Murray, by William Burges (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

St Andrews Church, Kingsbury,Greater London. Font from south west. Taken for the Survey of London.

The marble font by G. E. Street, with metal cover by J. L. Pearson, viewed from the south-west (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

Detail of the chancel screen (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

Detail of the chancel screen (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

St Andrews Church, Kingsbury,Greater London.Pulpit Taken for the Survey of London.

View of the metal pulpit by G. E. Street (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

St Andrews Church, Kingsbury, Greater London. West window stained glass. Taken for the Survey of London.

The west window with stained glass by Clayton & Bell (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

Shopping in style – D. H. Evans in 1937

By the Survey of London, on 26 March 2016

The name of D. H. Evans disappeared from Oxford Street in 2001, though it lingers in the memory of many. Since then it has been a branch of the House of Fraser, the company which has owned the store since 1954. Just over eighty years ago the present store was completed, officially opened in February 1937. It was designed by Louis Blanc in 1934 and constructed in two phases so that trading could carry on with as little interruption as possible. When it was completed, it made a dramatic impact, occupying an entire block, and rising higher than any of the other shops then standing on Oxford Street.


Cover of the Coronation Brochure produced by D. H. Evans in 1937, with their new store circled, and showing how much higher it was than its neighbours along Oxford Street.

With the coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth taking place on 12 May that year, the management of D. H. Evans produced a commemorative brochure for the occasion, which principally served as a promotion for their new store. Traditionally Oxford Street was included in royal processions, and the coronation that year was no exception. The street was part of a six-mile route taken by the new king and queen after their coronation from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace. Some press reports estimated that six million people descended on London for the occasion. All the shops were decorated with special window displays, and the street enlivened with flags and flowers. Royal monograms and coloured streamers abounded.

Side elevation of D. H. Evans

Perspective view of D. H. Evans from the Coronation Brochure. 

Recent relaxation of the height restrictions imposed on trade buildings by the London Building Acts enabled the new store to rise to 100 feet, twenty foot more than the old limit and productive of an additional two storeys. The building was steel-framed, with solid concrete floors and faced in Portland stone above the pale-grey granite facing of the ground storey. The great height of the building gave it presence on the street and produced one of its most exciting spaces inside in the form of the escalator hall. This contained not just the sequence of escalators but also staircases and ‘high-speed’ lifts (the upper trading floor could be reached in one and a half minutes).

Escalator Hall, D. H. Evans, from the 1937 Coronation Brochure

Escalator Hall, D. H. Evans, from the 1937 Coronation Brochure

In its finish and colour the escalator hall was also intended to be a glamorous focal point, a place to be seen, as well as from which to view all the store had to offer. The walls and pillars were of delicate beige-pink Travertine marble, the floors of polished cork, producing a ‘soft, brown glow’, the fibrous plaster ceiling was in a ‘modernistic design’, the sheen of metalwork on stairs, escalators and lifts was achieved in ‘silver and copper bronze surfaces, satin finished’.

Ground Floor

Ground Floor, D. H. Evans, with the impossibly angular largely female shoppers parading along the wide aisles between display stands.

There were six trading floors. On the ground floor were fashion accessories and fabrics arranged either side of a sweeping central aisle. Branching from each side ‘miniature, self-contained shops’ sold specific accessories or goods: stockings, gloves, handbags, lace, jewellery, perfume, fur trimmings, scarves, haberdashery, needlework, flowers, wools, or household stationery, each defined beneath its own canopy, with diffused light illuminating the merchandise displayed beneath. Fabrics had a larger area, occupying the rear half of the floor with separate sections for different types of material: plain silks, printed silks, tweeds, woollens, cottons, and lingerie fabric (staffed entirely by women). Here were also dress-making patterns, staffed by ‘expert saleswomen’ capable of giving sound and practical advice.

One of the 'display corridors', bringing window shopping indoors.

One of the ‘display corridors’, bringing window shopping indoors.

The first floor was divided into three sections devoted to the principal items of women’s clothing: the hat, the coat and the frock. Display corridors ran around the floor designed to look like shop windows. Thought was given to the way in which people shopped in the arrangement of goods, so they were divided into price groups and size, but also for quick or slow shoppers.

Millinnary department,

Millinery department, where different areas were adapted to differing habits of the shoppers, whether they were fast or slow. 

Hats were arranged on tall counters for quick shoppers, and mirrored alcoves for those wishing to make a leisured choice. A separate room was set aside for three-piece suits, and private fitting rooms, luxuriously appointed, were provided ‘in plenty’.

The corset department.

The corset department.

Underwear, including night-clothes, was on the second floor. More display corridors lead to blouses and knitted jumpers, placed ‘for matching purposes, next to skirts. Knitted suits were in a separate room, and ‘tailormades’ supervised by a specialist tailor. Here too were shoes, furs, and bathing and beach wear. Furs were displayed against a background of Indian white mahogany, and there was a fur storage section resembling a small bank, with a vault of its own, while the cold storage in the sub-basement could store ‘many thousands of pounds worth’.

the children's department

The children’s department, which featured Peter Pan’s Playground. ‘The houses of Peter Pan and Wendy take the form of two huge trees which spread their branches over an enchanting ornamental pond and fountain.’

The third floor contained three quite separate sections: the children’s department, household and travel. The children’s department was the largest, taking up about two thirds of the floor and not only selling outfits but also providing two playrooms for the under-sixes – Peter Pan’s Playground (see above).


The Baby Shop

The travel section sold school trunks, suit cases, rugs, foot muffs and ladies’ weather-coats and mackintoshes, while the household section included overalls, utility frocks, maids’ and nannies’ outfitting as well as bed- and table-linen etc.

The beauty salon

The beauty salon, offering sound-proof beauty rooms. 

Half of the fourth floor was devoted to hairdressing and beauty salons, boasting ‘an all British staff’. All cubicles had padded comfort chairs, spring rests for the feet, a telephone, and sterilising cabinets – for disinfecting the instruments of beauty treatments. For beauty culture there were nine sound-proof beauty rooms with day or night lighting. Materials used were prepared in the company’s own laboratories, adjoining which were workrooms for the production of postiche. The rest of the floor was given over to the gifts department.

The restaurant

The restaurant on the fifth floor.

The fifth floor was the highest one devoted to the public and contained the restaurant. Furnished in brown, beige and rose, down both sides were plush-seated alcoves while the rest of the floor had circular tables arranged in a grid of squares around the supporting columns, around the base of which were waitressing stations. The restaurant offered table d’hôte and à la carte meals, while a salad and sandwich room catered for customers with less time to linger. Two kitchens, one at either end, were fitted out with all the latest appliances.

Ladies who lunch

Ladies who lunch – enjoying a lettuce leaf or two, and a cigarette, in the fifth-floor restaurant at D. H. Evans in 1937


The Builder, 8 Jan 1937, p.122; Coronation brochure, 1937

The Langham Hotel

By the Survey of London, on 18 March 2016

The Langham Hotel of 1863–5 was London’s largest hotel when new, and among London’s largest buildings, a prime example of what were dubbed ‘monster’ hotels, more kindly ‘grand’. Following the railway-station hotel boom of the 1850s the Langham was a significant novelty for being dissociated from a terminus. The Langham Place site in a smart district was thought right for a hotel for its openness, therefore healthfulness. Distance from a railway station could be marketed as a virtue, but this was still a bold speculation that looked to American rather than local precedents.

The Langham Hotel (by The Langham, London, reproduced with a Creative Commons licence via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)])

The Langham Hotel (by The Langham, London, reproduced without changes under a Creative Commons licence via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]). If you are having trouble viewing images, please click here.

The Langham Hotel Company Limited set out to build a hotel ‘on a scale of comfort and magnificence not hitherto attained in London’. [1] Its ‘very respectable’ directors were a solid bunch of mercantile men, headed by two aristocrats stooping to trade – Henry Chetwynd-Talbot, 18th Earl of Shrewsbury and Talbot, as president, William Coutts Keppel, Lord Bury, as vice president. Among the directors was Peter Graham of Jackson & Graham, a high-class Oxford Street furnishing firm. The adjacency of several embassies including the American consulate inspired hope of accommodating diplomats. Imminent completion of the Metropolitan Railway with its station at the top of Great Portland Street would, it was claimed, make up for the absence of a main-line terminus.

A design competition was won by John Giles, a novice architect. He was persuaded to work with the more experienced James Murray, whose designs for the interiors were regarded by the competition committee as especially good – the forced partnership ended up in court over ownership of the drawings. Giles was probably responsible for the floor plan and exterior, Murray for details of the internal layout. Lucas Brothers, who had recently finished the London Bridge Railway Terminus Hotel, were contractors and major shareholders. Jackson & Graham supplied furniture and brought in Owen Jones to design interiors.

The hotel opened in June 1865 with the Prince of Wales and 2,000 others in attendance to see London’s most splendid hotel, spread over ten floors including basements and attics, and overall half again bigger than the Grosvenor Hotel of 1862. It aimed ‘to suit all from princes to the middle-classes’. [2]

The Langham Hotel, drawn from measured survey. Please click to download a high resolution version of the drawing (© Survey of London, Helen Jones with Andy Crispe).

The Langham Hotel, drawn from measured survey. Please click to download a pdf version of the drawing (© Survey of London, Helen Jones and Andy Crispe).

Plans of the ground floor and first floor of the Langham Hotel (© Survey of London, Helen Jones and Andy Crispe)

Plans depicting the layouts of the ground and fifth floors of the Langham Hotel in 1907. Please click to download a pdf version (© Survey of London, Helen Jones).

The report of the opening in the Illustrated London News neatly summarizes how the hotel was received:

The style of architecture would be called Italian; it is, however, plain, simple, and substantial, and singularly free from meretricious ornament. It includes large drawing-rooms, a dining-room, or coffee-room, 100 feet in length, smoking-rooms, billiard-rooms, post-office, telegraph-office, parcels-office, &c., thus uniting all the comforts of a club with those of a private home, each set of apartments forming a ‘flat’ complete in itself. Below are spacious kitchen, laundry, &c., and water is laid over all the house, being raised by an engine in the basement. Some idea of the extensive nature of the establishment may be formed when we add that its staff of servants number about two hundred and fifty persons, from the head steward and matron down to the junior kitchenmaid and smallest ‘tiger’. The ‘Langham’, on an emergency, can make up as many as 400 beds. The floors are connected with each other by means of a ‘lift’ which goes up and down at intervals. It is as nearly fire-proof as art can render it. [3]

Giles’s exterior, yellow Suffolk bricks (commonly known as “Suffolk Whites”) with Portland stone dressings, is heavily indebted to the Grosvenor. It is Italianate, but picturesquely so, with consciously eclectic Gothic elements and an eventful skyline with French pavilion roofs. The shape of the site was a gift, allowing, even forcing, some break-up of the cuboid massing to the east, the locus for an asymmetrical parti with a pointily domed tower and a big two-storey bow. The building was praised – ‘The points which call forth admiration are the union of regularity with picturesqueness, so desirable in town architecture; the subordination, at least in the side, of detail to general effect, and the reserve and simplicity which are manifest in a great part of the work.’ [4] Many have since disagreed, but a century later Henry-Russell Hitchcock judged the building ‘a rich and powerfully plastic composition, most skilfully adapted to a special site, and more original than most of what was produced in the sixties in Paris’. [5]

Monster Mash

The rich sculpture which adorns the eaves cornice and imposts of the lower-storey window arches (© Survey of London, Derek Kendall, 1988).

The sculptural detail repays close examination. Below the heavy eaves cornice there are griffins and sphinxes, some addossed and seated, others rampant yet bovine, made of moulded cement on slate armatures. Livelier and lither stone-carved creatures, more griffins, lions and lizards, grace the imposts of lower-storey window arches. These ‘semi-Gothic Grotesques’ were harshly judged – ‘Their antics … have an artificial and done-to-order look about them, very different from the grim humour of ancient work.’ [6] Hitchcock, who suspected the influence of Viollet-le-Duc, saw ‘elephantine playfulness’, which seems fairer.

In December 1940, bombing destroyed the building’s north-east corner and, with consequent flooding, the hotel closed. The BBC took up occupation from 1941, using the premises as offices and studios to 1986. Reconversion to hotel use in 1987–91 was by Hilton International.


[1] Morning Post, 30 June 1862, p. 2

[2] The Times, 12 June 1865, p. 9

[3] Illustrated London News, 8 July 1865, p. 12

[4] Building News, 20 Oct 1865, p. 72

[5] Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Architecture, Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, 1958, p. 16

[6] Building News, 20 Oct 1865, p. 727

Former General Medical Council offices, 44–50 Hallam Street

By the Survey of London, on 4 March 2016

(© Historic England, Lucy Millson-Watkins).

Former General Medical Council offices, 44-50 Hallam Street, from the south-west in 2015 (© Historic England, Lucy Millson-Watkins). If you are having trouble viewing images, please click here.

The southern part of this building (to the right in the picture above) was erected in 1915 to house the General Medical Council (formally the General Council of Medical Education & Registration of the United Kingdom). The Council had begun to investigate a move to larger premises from its offices at 299 Oxford Street in 1903, during the presidency of Sir William Turner. The initiative was seen through a decade later by Sir Donald MacAlister, the Council’s President from 1904 to 1931 and a physician and administrator renowned for his great intellect, probity and firmness. In 1912 a committee was formed to oversee the move. MacAlister was joined by Dr (Sir) Norman Moore, representing the Royal College of Physicians, (Sir) Charles Sissmore Tomes, the Council’s treasurer and chairman of its dental committee, Sir Henry Morris, a recent past President of the Royal Society of Medicine, and Sir Francis Champneys, an eminent obstetrician. An enquiry to the Howard De Walden Estate in 1914 elicited the offer of a development site at 44–48 Hallam Street. The northern part of the building, always intended, was not added until 1922–3. The Dentists Act of 1921, seen through by the Liberal politician Francis Dyke Acland, had established the Dental Board of the United Kingdom to take on the GMC’s oversight of dentists and to deal with the scourge of unqualified dentistry. To maintain good communications with the Council, the new Board, chaired by Acland, built the interconnected premises next door.

(© Historic England, Lucy Millson-Watkins).

Detail of the bas-relief over the entrance, by Frederick Lessore, depicting the cult of Asklepios and his extended family (© Historic England, Lucy Millson-Watkins).

(© Historic England, Lucy Millson-Watkins).

Detail of sculptural ornament at the centre of the bow, with the bowl of Hygieia between the windows (© Historic England, Lucy Millson-Watkins).

The architect at both stages was Eustace C. Frere, of South African origins and Beaux-Arts trained, and the builders Chinchen & Co., of Kensal Green. Robert Angell had prepared plans in 1914, but Frere was preferred, probably because of family connections. The building is distinctive in Hallam Street for its clean Portland stone elevation – Frere was able to steer the Council away from a cheaper brick alternative by saving money in other areas. It is more widely unusual for its synthesis of neo-Georgian form and proportion with Neo-Grec ornament. Above the original entrance in what was at first an otherwise symmetrical front elevation, a once fine but now weather-worn lintel bas-relief by Frederick Lessore follows the suggestions of Dr Richard Caton, a member of the council, in depicting the cult of Asklepios (seated, left) and his extended family whose members represent aspects of medicine. This ‘frieze’ has a Greek-fret continuation across a full-height bow bearing more relief sculpture by Lessore and his assistants. Diminutive caryatids grace the tops of mullions, symbolising the Council’s functions, and the bowl of Hygieia is at the centre of the bow between the upper storeys where a council room was placed under a dining room. These spaces were laid out between separate staircases for members and the public and in front of committee rooms. The extension has similar external detailing, its tall windows lighting a board room. A second entrance was formed in its south bay around 1960 when the Medical Protection Society took the building’s northern parts. Since 2010 No. 44 has been a conference centre, Nos 46–50 three duplex apartments.

(© Historic England, Lucy Millson-Watkins).

Radiator casing in former committee room (© Historic England, Lucy Millson-Watkins).

(© Historic England, Lucy Millson-Watkins).

Council room internal windows (© Historic England, Lucy Millson-Watkins).

(© Historic England, Lucy Millson-Watkins).

Public staircase (© Historic England, Lucy Millson-Watkins).

30 Portland Place: London’s Guggenheim Museum that never was

By the Survey of London, on 26 February 2016

In the summer of 1939 plans were almost complete for the wealthy American heiress and socialite Peggy Guggenheim to open an Institute of Modern Art in London, in a house at 30 Portland Place specially rented for the purpose from Sir Kenneth Clark, who had been living there for some years with his family and his own remarkable collection of paintings and furnishings. The art historian and critic Herbert Read was already lined up as museum director on a five-year contract and Ms Guggenheim had left for Paris to acquire more artworks, with a list of desiderata drawn up by Read. But then war broke out…

30 Portland Place, view from the north-west (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

30 Portland Place, view from the north-west (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). If you are having trouble viewing images, please click here.

No. 30 was one of a block of fashionable terraced houses, built in the 1770s–90s as part of the Adam brothers’ development at Portland Place. With the neighbouring properties to its south at Nos 26 and 28 it forms an elegant trio of period houses, all with good Adam interiors. In plan the house was straightforward, though typical of the care Robert Adam took in varying room shapes, with partitioning used to introduce curves at the far end of the rear ground-floor breakfast parlour and at both ends of the second drawing room, echoed by other shallow curves in the rear closet wing – features that are still traceable in the house today. Several Adam office designs for chimneypieces, friezes and ceilings for No. 30 survive in the collection at Sir John Soane’s Museum, but only the drawing-room ceilings remain in situ. [1] Much of the eighteenth-century décor was lost during a comprehensive refit in 1901 for the Liberal politician and merchant banker William Charles Heaton-Armstrong, who lived there with his family from 1898 until around 1911, when the failure of his bank forced him to move. His successor in 1911, Lady Margaret Jenkins, spent heavily reversing much of this, reintroducing ‘correct’ Georgian panelling and mantelpieces and stone hall flooring which she thought more in keeping with the date of the house. [2]

In 1934 No. 30 was taken by Sir Kenneth Clark, then newly appointed as Director of the National Galley and Surveyor of the King’s Pictures, and his wife Jane. Clark remembered the house as being ‘far too big’, and the piano nobile of Adam rooms as ‘completely unnecessary’, but he and his wife made use of the space to display artworks and to entertain on a grand scale. Photographs now in the RIBA show the house during their residence, with curtains, rugs and other fittings that the Clarks commissioned from contemporary artists and friends like Marion Dorn, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell; the painter Graham Bell lived for a while in an upstairs room. [3]

Kenneth Clark by Howard Coster, 1934 (© National Portrait Gallery, London)

Kenneth Clark by Howard Coster, 1934 (© National Portrait Gallery, London).

30PP Kenneth Clark's house RIBA72130

The dining room at 30 Portland Place in 1938, during Kenneth Clark’s residence, with curtains designed by Duncan Grant, and George Seurat’s Le Bec du Hoc, Grandcamp (now in the National Gallery) above the chimneypiece. (Photograph by Alfred Cracknell, © RIBA)

30PP Kenneth Clark's house RIBA72131

The sitting room at 30 Portland Place in 1938, with a rug designed by Marion Dorn, and what appears to be one of Paul Cézanne’s studies of Château Noir above the chimneypiece. (Photograph by Alfred Cracknell, © RIBA)

But by the summer of 1939, with war looming, the Clarks were keen to move their children out of London, and Sir Kenneth informed the Howard de Walden Estate that a ‘Mrs Goggenheim’ [sic] had expressed an interest in taking his house on a five-year lease to establish an Institute of Modern Art. By this date Peggy Guggenheim had closed her short-lived commercial gallery in Cork Street, Guggenheim Jeune, and was turning her attention to establishing a museum of modern art in Europe, preferably in London. [4]

The choice of Herbert Read as museum director was a canny one. As editor of the leading art magazine Burlington Review, he was at the time probably Britain’s best-known advocate of modern art. But it took the offer of a five-year contract from Ms Guggenheim to persuade him to relinquish his editorship. With such a large house intended for what, initially, would be a small museum, the plan was for Read and his family to reside on one upper floor, Guggenheim on another, though apparently they quarrelled about who should have which floor. There seems to have been genuine affection in their relationship: she regarded Read as a bit of a father figure, later reminiscing: ‘he treated me the way Disraeli treated Queen Victoria’. For his part, Read often signed letters to Ms Guggenheim as ‘Papa’. [5]

Herbert Read by Howard Coster, half-plate film negative, 1934 (© National Portrait Gallery, London).

Herbert Read by Howard Coster, 1934 (© National Portrait Gallery, London).

With everything decided, towards the end of July 1939 Peggy Guggenheim began to make plans for a trip to Paris to buy suitable works for the new museum. Read gave her a list of possible loans and acquisitions, and had already told the press that the opening show would trace the development of modern art since 1910, beginning with Matisse. The collector and gallery owner Roland Penrose, later a co-founder of the ICA, offered to lend some of his Picassos for the first show. The exact content of Read’s list is not known, but Matisse was one of the names that Peggy Guggenheim crossed off as being not ‘modern’ enough for her tastes; others to suffer the same fate included Cézanne and Rousseau.

But the outbreak of war early in September put paid to the project, even though the lease to the Portland Place house had been agreed (but not signed). Sir Kenneth Clark later suggested letting it rent-free as a centre for artists to meet and exhibit their work, but it was requisitioned in 1940 and damaged by bombing in 1941, since when it has seen a variety of commercial uses. Herbert Read was dismissed, never having held office. Once the dust had settled, Read rather ungenerously wrote to the artist Ben Nicholson about the Guggenheim affair: ‘Never in business matters rely on a single patron particularly if that patron is a woman and an American’ – this despite the fact that he had already been paid and allowed to keep an advance of £2,500, half his five-year salary.

The aborted Portland Place museum did, however, have one lasting legacy. Peggy Guggenheim held on to Read’s ‘shopping list’, which she later revised with the aid of artist friends such as Marcel Duchamp and Theo van Doesburg’s widow, Nellie; and the works that she then acquired – including masterpieces by Georges Braque, Salvador Dalí, Piet Mondrian and Man Ray, were to form the basis for her now world-famous private collection of abstract and Surrealist art.


[1] Sir John Soane’s Museum, Adam drawings, vol. 13/122–3; vol. 24/139–44; vol. 53/64

[2] Much of this and the succeeding paragraphs is based on correspondence files belonging to the Howard de Walden Estate Archive

[3] Kenneth Clark, Another Part of the Wood. A Self Portrait, 1985 edn, pp. 238–9, 251, 276

[4] Howard de Walden Estate Archive, property files for 30 Portland Place

[5] This and the succeeding paragraphs are largely based on Mary V. Dearborn, Mistress of Modernism: The Life of Peggy Guggenheim, pp. 158–63: Peggy Guggenheim: A Celebration, exhibition catalogue, 1998/1999, pp. 47–9: http://www.guggenheim-venice.it/inglese/museum/peggy.html

Cavendish Square 3: Nos 15 and 16 (with 2–14 Harley Street)

By the Survey of London, on 19 February 2016

This is the third in an occasional series of posts about Cavendish Square. At the corner of Cavendish Square and Harley Street is ‘les 110 de Taillevent’, a recently opened branch of a Parisian restaurant. This is the latest twist in the convoluted history of a building that despite serial alterations stands as a remnant of the square’s aristocratic origins.

16 Cavendish Square, Marylebone, Greater London. View from the south west. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

Nos 15 and 16 Cavendish Square on the corner with Harley Street, from the south-west in 2014 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). If you are having trouble viewing images, please click here.

After Cavendish Square was laid out in 1717–18, the Duke of Chandos intended to build himself a palace across the whole of its north side. He was obliged to back-pedal after the South Sea Bubble burst, and in 1724–5 began building a pair of houses at either end of the frontage, to designs by Edward Shepherd. Dilatory and indecisive, Chandos left the carcasses incomplete. He eventually decided to take that to the west for himself, and returned to complete it in 1733–5. Entered from Harley Street, the house had a painted imperial staircase, expensively decorated by Gaetano Brunetti and Jacopo Amigoni.

by Herman van der Myn, oil on canvas, 1725 or before

James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos, by Herman van der Myn, c.1725 (Reproduced by kind permission of the National Portrait Gallery, London).

by Philip Mercier, oil on canvas, 1733

‘The Music Party’ by Philip Mercier, 1733, depicting (from left to right) Princess Anne, Princess Caroline, Prince Frederick and Princess Amelia reading from Milton. In the background is a depiction of the Kew Palace, or the Dutch House at Kew Gardens (Reproduced by kind permission of the National Potrait Gallery, London).

From 1762 Princess Amelia, George II’s second daughter, lived here and there was it seems a decline from Chandos’s opulence. After she died in 1786, The Times (21 Feb 1787, p.3) reported, ‘Of all the ill-furnished houses – perhaps that of the late Princess Amelia was the worst. With the exception of one large glass, it was much of the same sort as might have been expected at a plain Esquire’s in the country.’ James Hope, the 3rd Earl of Hopetoun, then undertook substantial improvements with Robert Adam as his architect. The entrance moved northwards within a tetrastyle stone porch (now gone) and under a pedimented aedicule (extant) and the north wing was much enlarged. In 1795 in moved Henry Hope, a distant cousin, Europe’s pre-eminent merchant banker, a great art collector and a refugee from Amsterdam. Poussins faced the front door and the front drawing room was graced by a Titian, two Veroneses and several Van Dycks. The last occupant of the whole house from 1816 to 1824 was George Watson Taylor MP, another art collector and, as an heir to a Jamaican fortune, a defender of Caribbean vested interests in Parliament.

by Charles Howard Hodges, published by John Boydell, published by Josiah Boydell, after Sir Joshua Reynolds, mezzotint, published 1 January 1788 (1787)

Henry Hope by Charles Howard Hodges, after Sir Joshua Reynolds, c.1787 (Reproduced by kind permission of the National Portrait Gallery, London).

by Pieter Christoffel Wonder, oil on canvas, 1826-1830

Study for ‘Patrons and Lovers of Art’ by Pieter Christoffel Wonder, 1826-1830, depicting George Watson Taylor kneeling in front of Titian’s ‘Bacchus and Ariadne’ (Reproduced by kind permission of the National Portrait Gallery, London).

Such a vast house in this location was no longer tenable and in the later 1820s Thomas Hardwick oversaw the separation of the capital mansion from its back parts with remodelling that included a top-lit staircase that is still extant. Hardwick added what is now 15 Cavendish Square and, on the garden, 6–14 Harley Street. The largest dwelling, on the corner, was taken by William Carr Beresford, Viscount Beresford, a hero of the Peninsular campaign. Dr Henry Herbert Southey, an eminent physician and younger brother of the poet Robert, took what became 4 Harley Street. Further division and alterations followed in 1863 and further eminent doctors and merchants moved in. The last private resident of the corner property was Edward Berman, a German button importer. No. 15 saw Beaux Arts alterations for the Jockey Club in 1913 and the corner block was converted with ground-floor rustication in 1926–7 to be a branch of Coutts Bank that closed in 2012.

(© Survey of London, Helen Jones)

Phase plans of Nos 15 and 16 Cavendish Square and 2-4 Harley Street. Please click on the picture to expand (© Survey of London, Helen Jones).