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The Survey of London


Recording the history of London's built environment since 1894


Doorcases in South-East Marylebone

By the Survey of London, on 27 July 2018

In 2017 the Survey of London published two volumes (Nos 51 and 52) covering South-East Marylebone, an area comprising much of the West End north of Oxford Street. Historically and architecturally, this is an area of extraordinary richness and variety, resonant with famous names and associations, from the Adam brothers’ Portland Place and Nash’s Park Crescent to the medical specialists of Harley and Wimpole Streets, and much more besides.

We would like to present here a varied assortment of doorcases in the area, from handsome eighteenth-century survivals and neo-Georgian designs, to plain doorways for blocks of modest flats and elaborate entrances for shops and institutions.

Hereafter, the Survey of London’s blog will take a summer break. Posts will resume in September.

Mansfield Street was laid out by the Adams on the Portland estate from c.1768, and was largely complete by 1772. Elevationally the Mansfield Street houses were typical of the Adams’ approach to terrace compositions, with the exteriors generally subservient architecturally to the interiors. The plain but elegantly proportioned brick façades resembled the less-decorative ranges of the Adelphi, any ornament being reserved for the entrance door surrounds. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

13 Mansfield Street and other neighbouring houses exhibit an early use of one of Robert Adam’s most successful designs for street architecture – a grand door surround with a wide semicircular fanlight comprising concentric inner and outer rings of delicate glazing, but extending beyond the width of the doorway to embrace slim rectangular side-lights. There are obvious similarities with Serliana, but it has been suggested that Adam derived this idea of a wide semicircle from the Porta Aurea of Diocletian’s Palace in Spalatro (now Split). It was a form that recurred throughout his work, both externally and in internal features, such as mirrors. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

29 Beaumont Street, a house built c.1890 for the livery-stableman William Burton, with an elaborate entrance in rubbed brick. Burton ran livery stables and a horse dealership in Marylebone High Street from 1857. From about 1872 he was also operating as a job master from stables in Paddington and Notting Hill, and in 1877 in Oxford Street. By the late 1880s the Marylebone stables were mostly or wholly used for dealing, and in 1890–1 Burton had them rebuilt, together with a saddler’s shop (now 30 Beaumont Street) and a house for his family (now 29 Beaumont Street). Thomas Durrans was the architect, and H. C. Clifton of Bayswater the contractor. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

93A Harley Street (Harley Lodge), frontage to Weymouth Street. This is a fine example of the double-fronted mews house rebuildings, this time of the early 1900s. Like its dourer stone-fronted equivalent at 90A Harley Street, it was designed in 1911 for the developer Charles Peczenick by Sydney Tatchell, but on this occasion in a more playful red-brick and stone neo-Georgian manner, with a semicircular-headed entrance set in an Ionic doorcase. In medical use from the beginning, it is now, like many of its type, a private dental surgery. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

This purpose-built institute and club connected with the Mission of the Good Shepherd in Paddington Street was designed by the architect and vestryman Thomas Harris. The foundation stone was laid by the Duchess of Portland in July 1898 and the completed premises, built by H. H. Sherwin of Waddesdon, were opened in January 1900 by the Duke and Duchess of Fife. For the front elevation Harris produced an interesting and eclectic design, executed in red sand-faced brick interlarded with blocks of buff terracotta produced by J. C. Edwards of Ruabon. Though the overall manner is Arts and Crafts, Gothic is there in the ogees over the windows and emphatically in the canopied figure of the Good Shepherd, sculpted by John Daymond III or possibly his son John Dudley Daymond. It is mounted over a panel of arty lettering. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

In 1923–4, 17 Cavendish Square was taken by the piano-makers John Brinsmead & Sons Ltd, previously across Wigmore Street, and an ostentatious refurbishment ensued. The architects T. P. Bennett & Hossack oversaw the Adamesque stucco embellishment of the Wigmore Street elevation with a new entrance and shopfront. Gilbert Bayes was the sculptor responsible for lower-storey reliefs of classically draped standing figures representing Science, Music and Art, and a panel depicting an orchestra of eleven naked child musicians. These received gushing encomiums – ‘a delightful conceit’, ‘a captivating piece of work’, and an eight-page spread in the Architects’ Journal(© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

4 Moxon Street (formerly known as Paradise Place) incorporates a plain doorcase and a gateway designed to give access to the premises of W. N. Davis, of Davis & Son, old-established dyers and cleaners with adjoining premises at 91 Marylebone High Street. Davis’s architect was E. V. New of New & Son. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

View of the entrance to 4 Moxon Street. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

11 Queen Anne Street was one of ten houses built by George Mercer between Chandos Street and Harley Street, and completed in 1764. From 1777 to 1780, the house was nominally occupied by ‘the Wicked Lord’, Lord William Byron, great uncle of the poet, but it is doubtful whether he spent much time there. The timber doorcase to this house, Doric columned with a deep open pediment, is similar to that at No. 24. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

No. 68 Harley Street was rebuilt in 1905–6 for Alfred Herbert Tubby, an orthopaedic surgeon. The architect was E. Harding Payne, the builder A. J. Vigor of Westminster. The front is of stone and red brick with some Wren-inspired detailing. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

Melcome Regis Court at 59 Weymouth Street is a block of flats built in 1934–5 by Gee, Walker & Slater Ltd. The architects were Marshall & Tweedy, but elevational design and supervision of details were undertaken by Colonel Blount at the Howard de Walden Estate, the result characteristically heavy-going. The pointed-arched Gothic doorway is framed by a doorcase with tripartite leaded windows and a stepped motif, and flanked by shopfronts. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

No. 28 Welbeck Street was completed and first occupied in 1770–2. It has a handsome Doric doorcase with attached fluted columns and a frieze with paterae. The adjoining No. 27 was rebuilt in 1893 by J. Simpson & Son to designs by C. H. Worley, lessee and architect, replacing the original house built by George Mercer. The façade features a canted bay through all five floors, with a gabled attic. The detailing is straightforward except for an oversized hooded front door. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

Chandos House

By the Survey of London, on 1 January 2016

Chandos House is the high point of the Adam Brothers’ Portland Estate Development. Though named after its first resident in 1774, the Whig politician and courtier James Brydges, 3rd Duke of Chandos, it was not designed and built for him, as was previously thought, but was an unusually lavish building speculation on the part of the Adams.

Chandos House, 2 Queen Anne Street (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

The façade of Chandos House, 2 Queen Anne Street, built of Craigleith stone with a porch of Portland stone (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). If you are having trouble viewing images, please click here.

The full story surrounding its construction is not entirely clear but recent research has brought more facts to light. Like the southern half of Portland Place and Mansfield Street, the ground here was included in James Adam’s building agreement with the Duke of Portland in 1767 and was part of Robert’s and James’ master-plan for developing the area. It was constructed around 1769-72 by the Adam contracting and builders’ supplies firm, William Adam & Company, in which all four brothers held equal shares.

Its purpose was twofold: as a showcase for the brothers’ design talents, and as a lure to entice a big-name aristocratic purchaser, who in turn might help draw fashionable metropolitan society to the new housing they were planning in the surrounding streets. But there was a third reason why it was thought worth William Adam & Company undertaking the construction of this and several of the best houses in Mansfield Street and Portland Place as a ‘company’ speculation – and that was in order to promote the company’s business interests. In a later letter to his brother John in Scotland, William Adam explained that when builders first began taking ground at Marylebone, it was decided ‘a very eligible Speculation to build some Houses there on our own Accot… especially as it helped greatly to extend our Connections in the Brick & Timber business’. [1]

The Doric porch at Chandos House (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

The entrance porch at Chandos House, with typically unconventional Adam order capitals atop the fluted columns. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

Detail of the porch at Chandos House, carved of Portland stone (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

Detail of the porch, carved of Portland stone. The frieze is decorated with rams’ heads linked by swags (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

The Adams, as was their wont, expected great things of the house. A company financial statement of January 1772 noted that by then they had received but refused an offer of 11,000 guineas for it. However, their increasing financial problems, which were exacerbated by the Scottish banking crash in the summer of 1772, the cessation of work at the Adelphi and a general downturn in the building trade, made it difficult for them to find a purchaser, and the house was added by the brothers, along with two properties in Mansfield Street, to the top prize valued at £50,000 in the Adelphi lottery sale held a year later.

By then it had been mortgaged two or three times over to the banker and international financier Sir George Colebrooke. It is not clear what happened to the house at or immediately after the Adelphi lottery sale but it was back in the Adams’ ownership by June 1774 when the Duke of Chandos agreed to buy it from them for £11,000. This was less than they had already turned down, and less than they owed Colebrooke, but in their situation was too good an offer to refuse. As part of the deal they were required to pay interest on Chandos’s loan, as well as ground rents and all other taxes and charges until all outstanding building work was done to his satisfaction – indicating that even then the house was still unfinished. [2]

A view of the stairwell at Chandos House (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

A view of the top-lit stairwell, showing the ceiling with central oculus. The ceiling suffered bomb damage in the Second World War and was restored in the 1950s (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

Detail of the stair rail at Chandos House (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

Detail of the wrought-iron balustrade on the staircase. The balustrade incorporates Adam’s favourite anthemion motif, picked out in gilt. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

In terms of its architecture, Chandos House is notable for several reasons. Most immediately obvious is its unusual use of Craigleith stone as the facing material for its rather austere, stripped-down façade. The plainness is relieved by a crisply carved porch of Portland stone and elegant wrought-iron railings and lampholders.

The fireplace in the front room of the ground floor at Chandos House (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

The marble chimneypiece in the front dining room. The central relief panel depicts the bull being led to sacrifice. The roundel above is John Bacon’s Aeneas Escaping Troy originally in 53 Berners Street when it was occupied by the Royal Society of Medicine, and moved here when the RSM acquired Chandos House. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

Chandos House was the first of Robert Adam’s four great masterpieces of central London townhouse design – the others being 20 St James’s Square; Derby House, Grosvenor Square; and Home House, Portman Square – and it prefigures their achievement in bringing together sophisticated sequences of rooms of varying size and shape, for both public and private use, as well as services, on a central London house plot. Although not as lavish in its interiors as the other three, which were commissioned by very wealthy private clients, its rooms nonetheless form a very important surviving example of Adam’s decorative style – in this case designed with enough flexibility to appeal to a wide range of potential purchasers.

A view of the ceiling in the ground floor reception room at Chandos House (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

A view of the ceiling in the front dining room, from the door to the back parlour. The delicate fluted  columns are in a version of Adam’s ‘Spalatro’ Order.  (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

Detail of the ceiling in the front room on the first floor of Chandos House (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

Detail of the ceiling in the principal drawing room on the first floor, painting of ‘Nymphs decorating a Herm’ attributed to Antonio Zucchi (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

As part of a major restoration for the Royal Society of Medicine in the 2000s, stolen chimneypieces were substituted with replicas and the Adam ceilings were restored and carefully repainted in tones based on the Adam office drawings at Sir John Soane’s Museum. New carpets were made based on a variety of Adam designs.


[1] Blair Adam Muniments
[2] Middlesex Deeds Register 1770/1/381; 1770/2/40; 1772/6/378: Blair Adam Muniments, NRAS1454/4/16/18: Public Advertiser, 23 May 1772; 13 March 1773; 26 July 1773: Journals of the House of Commons, 13th Parliament of GB: 6th Session (26 Nov 1772 – 1 July 1773), p. 339