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    Harley Street

    By the Survey of London, on 13 October 2017

    Harley Street has long been synonymous with the top echelon of the medical profession, a Harley Street consultant the apogee of the profession. This reputation was forged in the second half of the nineteenth century, and although it dimmed a little in the years after the Second World War, it enjoyed a resurgence in the late twentieth century with the growth of private health care.

    Howard de Walden Project. Harley Street, Marylebone, Greater London. View from.

    General view of the west side of Harley Street looking south from New Cavendish Street. Photographed by Chris Redgrave for the Howard de Walden Estate and the Survey of London. © Historic England

    The street itself has preserved its residential appearance, despite the fact that for the most part residence is now confined to upper-floor flats. It was first conceived in the early eighteenth century, but largely laid out and built up between the 1750s and 1780s. Although much Georgian fabric remains, there has been considerable rebuilding, particularly in the southern stretches of the street.

    Detail of the 1 - 5 Harley Street on the corner with Cavendish Square. Photographed by Chris Redgrave

    Detail of  1–5 Harley Street on the corner with Wigmore Street, designed by Robert J. Worley and built in 1896-9. Photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England

    From the beginning Harley Street was one of the more fashionable addresses hereabouts, with aristocracy, gentry, politicians, high-ranking clergymen, military and naval officers resident for the London season. Here too were the portraitist Allan Ramsay, and J. M. W. Turner before he decamped round the corner to Queen Anne Street. Increasingly in the early nineteenth century wealthy merchants took up residence. Many owed their wealth to slavery, from sugar plantations in the colonies and later from the huge sums paid out in compensation to plantation owners following the abolition of the slave trade. Others had grown rich through the East India Company, so many that Harley Street became as notable for its ‘nabobs’ as it became for its doctors. As late as 1841 Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine reckoned that ‘the claret is poor stuff, but Harley Street Madeira has passed into proverb, and nowhere are curries and mulligatawny given in equal style’.

    DP176911

    This general view of 74 to 82 Harley Street gives a good impression of the street’s Georgian character, and perhaps a sense of that monotony so disliked by the Victorians. The houses date from the 1770s, with the usual later alterations of balconies, stuccoed ground storeys and raised upper floors. Photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England

    During the earlier decades of Victoria’s reign members of parliament and lawyers were prominent in Harley Street. The street so epitomised dull respectability that it was chosen by Charles Dickens as the home of Mr Merdle in Little Dorrit, first published in 1855–7. Disraeli too, in Tancred published in 1847, derided ‘your Gloucester Places, and Baker Streets, and Harley Streets, and Wimpole Streets, and all those flat, dull, spiritless streets, resembling each other like a large family of plain children’. Disraeli’s great political opponent Gladstone occupied 73 Harley Street from 1876–82. His arrival coincided with his campaign on the Eastern Question, arising from the massacre of Orthodox Christians in the Balkans. On a Sunday evening in 1878 a ‘jingo mob’ gathered outside his house, hurling stones and verbal abuse at his windows.

    73 Harley Street. Gladstone lived in the house previously on this site, which would have resembled those on either side. The present No. 73

    73 Harley Street. Gladstone lived in the house previously on this site, which would have resembled those on either side. The present No. 73 was rebuilt in 1904 to designs by W. Henry White for the ophthalmic surgeon Walter Hamilton Hylton Jessop. The blue plaque commemorates not only Gladstone’s residence from 1876–82 but also Sir Charles Lyell who lived there from 1846–75. Photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England

    By this time Marylebone had long been associated with medicine. Indeed, medicine arrived at the same time as the housing boom of the 1750s onwards. Most of the early evidence relates to institutions for treating the poor. Hospitals, like housing, gravitated to healthy suburban locations close to open fields and fresh air. When the Middlesex Hospital was built on Mortimer street in 1757 it was at the very edge of the expanding city, as was the parish workhouse in Paddington Street.

    Entrance to No. The size and number of doctor's brass plates were strictly controlled by the Howard de Walden Estate, with regular checks against the Medical Directory to weed out interlopers.

    Entrance to No. 118. The Georgian house on this site was rebuilt in around 1909–10 to designs by F. M. Elgood with stone carvings by A. J. Thorpe. Together with its neighbours to the south, Nos 114 and 116, it was reconstructed behind the retained façade in 2005–9 as consulting suites and a pathology laboratory for the London Clinic by the architects Floyd Slaski Partnership. Photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England

    Today, Marylebone generally, and Harley Street in particular, is most closely linked with front-rank medicine and private consultants. From the mid eighteenth century, proximity to London’s teaching hospitals became important for top medical men who held prestigious posts in them. Closeness to aristocratic patients was another major consideration. By the 1840s there were sufficient eminent physicians and surgeons in Cavendish Square and Queen Anne Street to act as a magnet for others. However, around this time those at the top of their profession were as likely to reside south of Oxford Street as north. The medical directory for 1854 shows an even distribution between Marylebone, Mayfair and Bloomsbury.

    Detail of the door to No. 72. The size and number of doctor's brass plates were strictly controlled by the Howard de Walden Estate, with regular checks against the Medical Directory to weed out interlopers.

    Detail of the door to No. 72. The size and number of doctor’s brass plates were strictly controlled by the Howard de Walden Estate, with regular checks against the Medical Directory to weed out interlopers. Photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England

    Harley Street’s subsequent primacy is probably accounted for by its immediate proximity to Cavendish Square – the acme of fashionable Marylebone. Even by 1874, when Harley Street’s significance was already established, being close to the square still mattered. In that year Sir Alfred Baring Garrod, physician and gout specialist, moved from 84 Harley Street further south to No. 10 simply to be nearer to Cavendish Square. Twelve years later the surgeon Sir John Tweedy’s move in the opposite direction, from No. 24 to No. 100, was regarded by colleagues as committing professional suicide.

    For most of its history, the southern end of Harley Street was the more fashionable address. Nos 6 and 8 to the left were built in 1825-7, probably by the architect Thomas Hardwick.

    For most of its history, the southern end of Harley Street was the more fashionable address. Nos 6 to 10 (to the left) were built in 1825–7, probably by the architect Thomas Hardwick. Photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England

    As fashionable society ebbed away from Marylebone in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a similar shift of smart medical practice might have been expected, but that never happened. By then many patients of all classes were travelling to see doctors rather than the reverse. But the main reason seems to have been that once a distinct medical community had been established it was found to be enormously beneficial to those within it. This professional interaction is recalled in many memoirs of consultants, who placed great value on the ability to call on the advice or second opinion of a neighbour. In the twentieth century there was also an active policy on the part of the Howard de Walden Estate to preserve the Marylebone grid as a medical enclave.

    Nos 51 (left) and 53 Harley Street. No. 51was built in 1894 to designs by F. M. Elgood for the surgeon William Bruce Clarke on the site of the Turk's Head pub. No. 53 was designed by Wills & Kaula and completed in 1914-15 as a home and practice for the surgeon and urologist Frank Seymour Kidd.

    Nos 51 (left) and 53 Harley Street. No. 51 was built in 1894 to designs by F. M. Elgood for the surgeon William Bruce Clarke on the site of the Turk’s Head pub. No. 53 was designed by Wills & Kaula and completed in 1914–15 as a home and practice for the surgeon and urologist Frank Seymour Kidd. Photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England

    The image of the Harley Street doctor relies much on the traditional kind of premises he inhabited. The standard London town house needed little alteration to turn it into a doctor’s house. Ground-floor front rooms became waiting rooms instead of dining rooms, with a consulting room either immediately behind or in the closet wing.

    Nos 82 to 86 Harley Street. No. 84 in the centre was rebuilt in 1909 to designs by Claude W. Ferrier. The neurologist Walter Russell Brain had consulting rooms in No. 86 (on the left) in the 1960s.This retains its rich Georgian interior and was home to Russian ambassadors after 1780, including Count Simon Woronzow and Prince Andreyevich Lieven.

    Nos 82 to 86 Harley Street. No. 84 in the centre was rebuilt in 1909 to designs by Claude W. Ferrier. The neurologist Walter Russell Brain had consulting rooms in No. 86 (on the left) in the 1960s. This retains its rich Georgian interior and was home to Russian ambassadors after 1780, including Count Simon Woronzow and Prince Andreyevich Lieven. Photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England

    Originally, the doctor’s dependants occupied the remainder of the house above, but after families moved to the suburbs, houses might be converted or rebuilt as suites of consulting rooms for multiple medical occupation.

    40 and 42 Harley Street show the contrasting architectural taste of the 1890s (No. 42 on the left, by C. H. Worley) and 1930s (No. 40 on the right, by Charles W. Clark, architect to the Metropolitan Railway Company). No. 40 was designed to resemble a private house but provided suites of consulting rooms behind a modish Art Deco entrance hall. No. 42 decked in Worley's characteristic orange-pink terracotta was given Jacobean-style interior decor.

    Nos 40 and 42 Harley Street show the contrasting architectural taste of the 1890s (No. 42 on the left, by C. H. Worley, brother of Robert J. Worley) and 1930s (No. 40, on the right, by Charles W. Clark, architect to the Metropolitan Railway Company). No. 40 was designed to resemble a private house but provided suites of consulting rooms behind a modish Art Deco entrance hall. No. 42 decked in Worley’s characteristic orange-pink terracotta was given Jacobean-style interior decor. Photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England

    In the later twentieth century many consultants gave up their private rooms for the better-equipped universities and hospitals. In their place came alternative practitioners and aesthetic therapists for whom the individual consulting rooms in elegant domestic settings provided a soothing backdrop. In the latest conversions encouraged by the Howard de Walden Estate there has been a policy of reconstruction to create purpose-built consulting suites over reinforced basements, allowing the latest diagnostic equipment to be installed behind retained facades, which preserve the historic character of the district.

    Early twentieth century Birn Brothers postcard, poking fun at the Harley Street consultants and their patients. © H. Martin. Reproduced by permission of H. Martin

    Early twentieth century Birn Brothers postcard, poking fun at the Harley Street consultants and their patients. © H. Martin. Reproduced by permission of H. Martin

     

    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.

    fgdgd

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

    April 2015 (2)

    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

    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.

    Chimneypiece

    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.

    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).

    Cavendish Square 2: Nos 11-14

    By the Survey of London, on 8 January 2016

    This is the second in what will be an occasional series of posts about Cavendish Square. The north side of Cavendish Square has symmetry about its centre. This reflects the prominence of the elevation in relation to the square’s common axis along Holles Street to Hanover Square, a coherent piece of town-planning across two landholdings that is unusual for early eighteenth-century London. But the axis was the extent of the coherence then achieved. The Duke of Chandos’s plans for a full-width palace across Cavendish Square’s north side fell by the wayside when much of his fortune evaporated. Instead he built two big houses at either end and left the middle of the square’s show frontage empty save for use as a rubbish dump. This failure was excoriated by James Ralph in the Critical Review in an account of the square in 1734:

    ‘… there we shall see the folly of attempting great things, before we are sure we can accomplish little ones. Here ’tis, the modern plague of building was first stayed, and I think the rude, unfinish’d figure of this project should deter others from a like infatuation. When we see any thing like grandeur or beauty going forward, we are uneasy till ’tis finish’d, but when we see it interrupted, or intirely laid aside, we are not only angry with the disappointment, but the author too: I am morally assur’d that more people are displeas’d at seeing this square lie in its present neglected condition, than are entertain’d with what was meant for elegance or ornament in it.’ [1]

    Howard de Walden Project. General view of Cavendish Square, Marylebone, Greater London. View from south.

    Cavendish Square in 2013, with a view through the trees to Nos 11-14 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). If you are having trouble viewing images, please click here.

    Extract from the Ordnance Survey First Edition map of Middlesex XVII, showing Cavendish Square and Hanover Square c. 1870 (Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland)

    Extract from the Ordnance Survey First Edition map of Middlesex XVII, showing Cavendish Square and its environs, including Hanover Square, c. 1870 (Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland)

    So things rested until the Society of Dilettanti acquired the site. Famously bibulous but seriously antiquarian, the Dilettanti began here in 1753 to build an academy for the improvement of painting, sculpture and architecture, shipping in Portland stone for what would have been an important public building and an early essay in neo-classicism, based on the Temple of Rome and Augustus at Pola in Istria, and designed by a sub-committee, Robert Dingley, Sir Francis Dashwood and Col. George Gray. Competition and want of money caused the project to be abandoned and the stone was sold to John Spencer. The columns on the Green Park front of Spencer House of 1755–9 are those intended for Cavendish Square in recycled and cut-down form.

    (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    The north side of Cavendish Square in 2014, showing Nos 11-14 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    Detail

    Detail of the Corinthian portico at Nos 13-14 Cavendish Square, photographed in 2012 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    Cavendish Square’s embarrassing gap mouldered and it was not until 1768–70 that the present buildings went up. Their Portland stone fronts with what Sir John Summerson called ‘magnificent Corinthian porticos’ appear to be a conscious if somewhat mysterious reflection of the abandoned Dilettanti project. [2] This was no academy, merely two pairs of semi-detached houses, a speculation for an MP, George Forster Tufnell, whose family gave its name to Tufnell Park – that’s another story.

    11-14 Cavendish Square from the LCC GLC Historic Building Survey drawings collection (© Survey of London, Helen Jones)

    Plans of 11-14 Cavendish Square, adapted from a Greater London Council survey of 1966 (© Survey of London, Helen Jones)

    The inner houses were entered from a central dividing roadway that led to a stable yard to the rear. At the end of the nineteenth century three of the houses were adapted for the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, a Roman Catholic institution, to be a convent school. After war damage, repairs that included a linking bridge over the road were topped off with Jacob Epstein’s Madonna and Child, erected in 1953. The buildings are now the headquarters of the King’s Fund health charity.

    (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    Jacob Epstein’s Madonna and Child of 1953, commissioned by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, a Roman Catholic institution. The Society moved to and took the freehold of No. 11 in 1888-9, added No. 12 in 1891, and then No. 13 in 1898. Photographed in 2014 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    For a fuller account of the eighteenth-century history of this site, see: Peter Guillery, ‘Cavendish Square and Spencer House: Neo-classicism, opportunity and nostalgia’, in The Georgian Group Journal, vol. 23, pp. 75-96.

    References

    [1] James Ralph, A Critical Review of the Publick Buildings, Statues and Ornaments in and around London and Westminster, 1734, p. 106

    [2] John Summerson, ‘The Society’s House: an architectural study’, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, vol. 102, Oct 1954, p. 924

    Cavendish Square 1: No. 1A

    By the Survey of London, on 27 November 2015

    This is the first in a short series of posts about hidden or obscure features from the early years of Cavendish Square, a place that has more than its share of surprises for those with an interest in eighteenth-century architectural and art history.

    Cavendish Square was laid out in 1717–18 with palatial aristocratic habitation a primary intention. As landowners, the Harley family sought to capitalize on top-echelon contacts to give development of its Marylebone estate the lustre of wealth. Plans were set tolerably fair, but went awry with the bursting of the South Sea Bubble in 1720. Money vanished and so did most of the aristocrats. By 1730 only two aristocratic town houses had been completed; one (Bingley House, to the west) has wholly gone, the other survives in forgotten part at the south end of the square’s east side, as No. 1a or Flanders House, where the Flemish representation of the Belgian Embassy has been housed since 2003.

    No. 1A Cavendish Square in 2013 (Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    No. 1A Cavendish Square in 2013 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). If you are having difficulty viewing images, please click here.

    This building is the southern third of what went up in almost cubic form in 1720–6 as Harcourt House, for Simon Harcourt, 1st Viscount Harcourt and a former Tory Lord Chancellor, who, suffering cataracts, was all but blind. This fact as much as short money might explain why richly Baroque first designs by Thomas Archer [1] were pared down by Harcourt’s first executant architect, Edward Wilcox; he died and in 1721 was succeeded by Francis Smith of Warwick. In 1724 Harcourt was three months a widower before marrying Elizabeth, née Vernon, the widow of a former friend, Sir John Walter. Lavish furnishing of the house, including Genoese damasks patterned with leopards, suns and elephants, was attributed to her influence. The internal fit-out was overseen by George I’s cabinet-maker James Moore. Harcourt did not enjoy the house long, dying in 1727.

    3D Reconstruction of Harcourt House

    Reconstruction of the former Harcourt House, as in 1827 (© Survey of London, Helen Jones)

    His grandson, Simon, 1st Earl Harcourt, enlarged a middle back parlour with a canted bay in 1758 and gave it an interior by James ‘Athenian’ Stuart. This was Stuart’s first London commission and an important early ‘Greek’ neoclassical work. It was not universally liked – ‘God Damn my Blood My Lord is this your Grecian Architecture what villainy what absurdity If this be Grecian, Give me Chinese give me Gothick, Any thing is better than this, For Shame My Lord Pull it down & Burn it . . . not to expose your own ignorance for it is the most Wretched miserable affair ever was seen by Mortal.’ [2] This round deprecation by Lord Delaware was famously relished by Robert Adam and Paul Sandby. The more stolid Stiff Leadbetter was responsible for plainer alterations in the early 1760s, including the addition of a room to the south-east along Margaret Street.

    Detail from plan of Cavendish Square, showing Nos 1-2

    Detail from plan of Cavendish Square showing Nos 1 and 2, c.1810 (© Survey of London, Helen Jones)

    The house was divided into two dwellings in 1825–7 and remodelled with new stucco facing by Sir Jeffry Wyatville. Sir Claude Scott, who had made a fortune as a wartime government grain contractor, bought the southern section and enlarged the Margaret Street room to be a banking hall, which, extended again in 1873, survives as a NatWest branch. Further works in 1928 that were overseen by Wimperis, Simpson and Guthrie gave the surviving part of the building its current appearance. The last aristocrats departed from the five-bay northern dwelling during the First World War. In came Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild and then, in the 1920s, the Mixed Arbitral Tribunals set up by the Treaty of Versailles to settle disputes arising from the war. Demolition and replacement with an explicitly commercial building followed in 1933–4.

    Sources

    1. In the British Library – King’s Maps xxvii.6
    2. As quoted by Richard Hewlings in ed. Susan W. Soros, James ‘Athenian’ Stuart 1713–1788: the rediscovery of antiquity, 2006, pp.195–7