I was hoping to get to Brighton this year to see the restored Saloon in the Royal Pavilion, but I am not going anywhere for the time being. So I will pretend I’m going while I present a few pictures and on dits about the latest restoration of this absurdly appealing structure.
I’ve visited the Pavilion several times over the years. I regard it as the perfect representation of the personality and reign of George, Prince of Wales, the Regent for nine years beginning in 1811, and King George IV upon the death of his father George III on 29 January in 1820. In many ways, George IV was a magnificent fellow with excellent taste and great ambitions for improving art, architecture, and design; in other ways, he was a spendthrift, selfish, narcissistic adulterer whose unpopularity almost brought down the monarchy.
Like the Pavilion, one could say, magnificent or ridiculous, praiseworthy or laughable.
The restoration of the Central Saloon took more than eight years of work. Below is the way it looked when I first saw it, with handsome chinoiserie panels and subdued draperies and carpeting.
The restoration was based on a painting of the Saloon in 1826 by John Nash, who painted all the royal interiors around this time, and on historical drawings, photos, and accounts
The walls were hand-stenciled in platinum leaf, a process that took several years to accomplish.
Likewise the draperies were expertly created from the finest silks.
The Guardian wrote: ‘The staggering carpet, a swirling kaleidoscope of flowers, stars, dragons and exotic Chinese birds, had to be reinvented from the hazy detail in a 19th-century watercolour by Anne Sowden, artist and glass conservator for the pavilion, as her last challenge before retirement.
Queen Victoria was not amused by the pavilion and she sold it to the city of Brighton in 1850 after she removed most of the furniture and decorative material, much of which can be found at Buckingham Palace, it is said. Many items have been loaned back to the Pavilion and are on display there.
The magnificent ‘Kylin’ clock, purchased in France for the Saloon, is decorated with turquoise-glazed Chinese lions, known as kylins, after a mythical Chinese animal.
The restoration was accomplished for about £380,000, with most work done by in-house experts on the museum staff. They certainly can be proud of their skills. Here are a few more angles on the Saloon. Let’s hope we can return soon!
Called The Mad Marquess or, less frequently, the Dancing Marquess, Henry Cyril Paget, 5th Marquess of Angelsey, could not have been more different from his illustrious ancestor, Henry William Paget, the 1st Marquess, if he’d tried. Whilst the 1st Marquess lost his leg at Waterloo, the 5th lost a fortune on a lavish, over-the-top lifestyle that nearly bankrupted the estate. The 5th Marquess collected clothing and jewels with gusto and had his motor car fitted with pipes that issued wafts of perfume instead of exhaust fumes. The 5th Marquess’s excesses scandalized the locals who lived near Plas Newydd, the Angelsey home of the Paget family, as they did the entire nation, but the final straw came when he had the family chapel converted into his own private theatre.
The Marquess was described by Clough Williams-Ellis as “a sort of apparition – a tall, elegant and bejeweled creature, with wavering elegant gestures, reminding one rather of an Aubrey Beardsley illustration come to life.” An Omaha newspaper described him thus: “He is a thoroughly effeminate looking young fellow and he may be seen when in Paris walking around with a toy terrier under his arm, the pet being heavily scented and bedizened with bangles and bows. The fingers of the marquis fairly blaze with rings. He presents the characteristics of the Gypsy type.”
As I said, the 1st and 5th Marquess’s couldn’t be more different, although they do appear to share the same smile. Viv Gardner, Professor of Theatre Studies at the University of Manchester, is recognized as an expert on the life and times of the 5th Marquess and so we turn to her article on the subject that appeared in The Guardian in 2007 for more background information:
“The recorded facts about Paget are fragmentary and elusive; the suppositions are numberless. What we do know is that Henry Cyril Paget was born in Paris on June 16 1875 to Henry Paget, Earl of Uxbridge, later 4th Marquis of Anglesey, and his wife, Blanche Mary Curwen Boyd. They had married in 1874, and Paget’s mother died when he was scarcely two years old. On her death, he went to live with the French actor Benoît-Constant Coquelin – who was rumoured to be his real father. Paget referred to Coquelin’s sister as his aunt throughout his life, and she was with him when he died.
At the age of eight, Paget left Paris and was taken to live at Plas Newydd, his father having married for a third time, to an American heiress. His childhood in north Wales seems to have been particularly isolated.
Paget missed his own lavish, week-long 21st birthday celebrations due to ill health, and a cold could put him to bed for weeks. He learned painting and singing in Germany and spoke fluent French, good Russian and grammatical Welsh. At some time, rather incredibly, he also served as a lieutenant in the 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
In 1898, Paget married his cousin, Lilian Chetwynd. The marriage was annulled two years later – stories abound as to why – but the annulment was changed to a legal separation in 1901. He succeeded to the title of 5th Marquis in 1898, and inherited substantial property on Anglesey and in Staffordshire, with an annual income of over £110,000 a year (roughly £8m in today’s money).
By 1904, however, the Marquis had bankrupted the estate, spending thousands of pounds on jewels, furs, cars, boats, perfumes and potions, toys, medicines, dogs, horses and theatricals on a scale unimagined even among the profligate Edwardian aristocracy. Everything was sold to meet his debts, down to the contents of the potting shed and a parrot in a brass cage.
Paget “retired” to France on an income of £3,000 a year, accompanied only by a manservant, his adopted child (a dark-skinned baby who was later returned to her birth parents) and her nurse. They went first to Dinan in Brittany, and finally to Monte Carlo, where Paget died in 1905, his former wife and Mme Coquelin at his bedside.
Most of the Marquis’s effects were sold from his family estates soon after he was declared bankrupt, and all his personal papers were destroyed by the Paget family after his death. Even today, the family are reticent about their forebear, who brought devastation and distress not just to the Pagets and their property, but to their servants, tenants, neighbours and tradesmen.”
Originally published after Number One London’s 2015 Duke of Wellington Tour, we’re re-running this post on our St. James’s Walk as we regularly include it on all our tours that begin or end in London. Our next is the Country House Tour, May 2021. Complete details can be found here.
Kristine and Victoria led a walking tour of St. James’s London, beginning with a view of Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Monument from Green Park. Being a Sunday, the traffic circle and the Mall were closed to vehicle traffic and open to pedestrians and bicycles. Our weather was perfect – warm and sunny.
We then headed up the pedestrian path on the east side of Green Park, past Lancaster House and Spencer House, before cutting through the narrow Milkmaids Passage, a pedestrian tunnel that brings one out opposite the Stafford Hotel.
The Stafford Hotel (now much remodeled) was once the home of Sir William, 3rd Baronet Lyttelton, and his wife (1787-1870), the former Lady Sarah Spencer, niece of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. After her husband’s death, Lady Lyttelton became a governess to the children of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. During World War II, the Stafford was used as a club for American and Canadian officers, and the hotel remains known for its American Bar to this day.
Wandering around the maze of streets in this little corner of St. James’s, we found a mix of modern (often brutalist) office/apartment complexes and 18th century listed buildings. A post-war office complex now faces Spencer House and stands as evidence of the bomb that was dropped on the site during WWII, which also blew out most of the windows of Spencer House. Remarkably, no one was injured in the blast.
Above, and across from the Stafford, is the entrance facade to Spencer House in St. James’s Place. Built 1756-66 by architects John Vardy and James “Athenian” Stuart for John, 1st Earl Spencer, Spencer House is now owned by the Rothschild Enterprise’s RIT Capital Partners and open on most Sundays for a tour of the State Rooms. The website is here and includes photos of both the exterior and interior.
A few doors down from Spencer House is this handsome brick house, once the residence of Williams Huskisson (1770-1830). The blue plaque refers to him as a statesman; he was often a strong political opponent to the Duke of Wellington in Parliament. Huskisson also became England’s first railroad fatality. During the inaugural run of the Manchester to Liverpool railroad, he was amongst the dignitaries invited to travel on one of two trains opening the route. When the trains stopped at a siding to take on water, Huskisson left his carriage and crossed the tracks to the second train, unaware that Stephenson’s train, the Rocket, was headed straight towards him on the middle track. Huskisson’s leg was crushed by the Rocket and he died a few hours later. Unfortunately, the accident was witnessed by several notables who were on the trip, including the Duke of Wellington.
Next door, No. 29 was once the residence of Winston Churchill.
No. 5 was the home of Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745)
and his son Horace Walpole (1717-1797)
Duke’s Hotel is another elegant institution, located just off St. James’s Place.
St. James’s Place opens into St. James’s Street, famous for gentlemen’s clubs of the British variety and several very old and traditional merchants. The numbering begins at the Palace and goes north up the east side of the street to Piccadilly then crosses to the west side and counts southward back to the Palace.
A Grenadier Guard at St James’s Palace, built by Henry VIII
Entering St. James’s Street, we find many Georgian and Regency institutions, including Berry Bros. and Rudd, Ltd, Wine Merchants, at No. 3.
A Passage beside the wine store leads to Pickering Place, above.
This little space was once known as a spot for dueling, but it must have been pretty tight! Another plaque commemorates the location of the Texas legation 1842-1846.
Pickering Place,with a plaque of Lord Palmerston
Lock and Co. Hatters have served British dignitaries for more than 300 years.
White’s Club, #37/38 St. James’s Street, founded 1693
On the west side, heading back to St. James’s Palace, you will find Brook’s Club.
Brooks’s 60 St. James’s Street, club founded in 1762
The headquarters of Justerini and Brooks Ltd. at 61 St. James Street,
across Park Place from Brooks’s.
The Carlton Club, #69 St. James’s Street, founded in 1832
#74 St. James’s Street, formerly the Conservative Club, completed in 1845
Returning to Piccadilly, we stopped for a welcome sit-down and a coffee or tea. Even on a Sunday morning, Piccadilly was busy, as usual an international mish-mash of tourists globe-wide. Great people watching!
We walked east on Piccadilly past a number of famous sites:
on the north side of the street, Burlington Arcade.
And Burlington House, home of the Royal Academy of Arts.
Tucked almost beside Burlington House is the famous residence, Albany, once the home of Lord Byron and more recently, Georgette Heyer. Built originally as Melbourne House. it was traded by that family to the Duke of York and Albany (2nd son of George III) in exchange for what became Melbourne House in Whitehall, now the Scotland office just south of Horse Guards. Later it became prestigious bachelor quarters, eventually open to women as well.
On the South side of the street, that esteemed purveyor of all things delicious, Fortnum and Mason, established in 1707 in Duke Street, and supplier worldwide, including to the army in the Peninsular War in the early 19th century, right up to today’s British forces — not to mention picnickers, racegoers, opera lovers, and foodies everywhere. To visit, click here.
Fortnum and Mason
Hatchards Bookstore, above, established 1797 Their website is here.
Soon, we arrive at the wonderful St James’s Church, Piccadilly.
Outside the church is a small but lively marketplace
The famous wood carvings of Grinling Gibbons
Floris Perfumers on Jermyn Street
Nearby, a plaque marking the location of the residence of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
Time for another pause that refreshes, this time at Chequers…a charming little pub in Duke street. At the rear of the building or accessible from a passage beside it is Mason’s Yard, another hidden collection of interesting sites, including the White Cube Gallery and the member’s entrance to the London Library.
William III in St. James’s Square
At last we came to St. James’s Square, still a leafy oasis, though a private park as so many of the squares in London are.
There are still a few of the buildings originally built here, though much remodeled, and many replaced. At #4 is the Naval and Military Club, better known as the In and Out Club.
#4 St. James’s Square
The plaque honors Nancy Astor (1879-1964), first woman to sit in Parliament, who once lived here.
Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St. Albans, 1605-1684
Following the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660, Henry Jermyn was Lord Chancellor, and received a grant of land north of St. James’s Palace, which he had cleared and laid out for development. He is known as the Father of the West End. He died shortly before the completion of St. James’s Church, just north of St. James’s Square.
At #10 St. James’s Square stands Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, site of many important multilateral events. The building was once home to three Prime Ministers, William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham (1708-1778), Edward Geoffrey Stanley, Earl of Derby (1799-1869), and William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898).
Plaque honoring three Prime Ministers at #10 St. James’s Square
Ada, Countess of Lovelace (1815-52) at #12 St James’s Square
Ada Lovelace was the only legitimate child of Lord Byron and his wife, Anabella Millbanke. She was a mathematician and a pioneer in computing.
London Library, #14 St. James’s Square
The private library, established in 1841, is a favorite of many British writers and historians. Kristine and Victoria returned here the week after the tour for a special viewing during London Open House Week.
#16 St. James’s Square, above, once the Boehm residence where the Prince Regent received the despatches of the Duke of Wellington after the Battle of Waterloo,now the East India Services Club.
By this time we were all ready for our tea, so we hiked back to Piccadilly and the wonderful Richoux Tea Room at #172.
Left to right: Kristine, Marilyn, Donna, Ki, Victoria and Diane
In 2018, the St. James’s Walk will be a part of our Georgian England Tour and our 1815: London to Waterloo Tour. Complete details on both Tours can be found here.
In a glass display case at Kedleston Hall stands Lady Curzon’s famed Peacock dress. Her husband, George, Lord Curzon, was Viceroy of India and in 1903, they held a fabulous Coronation Ball, to which Lady Curzon wore the Peacock dress, above, which is entirely hand embroidered. The embroidery was done in workshops in India and then sent to Worth’s Paris workshops to be fashioned into the dress, which was then shipped to Lady Curzon in India.
Today, the embroidery on the dress has tarnished and none of it’s brilliant colours remain. However, about a decade ago, fashion historian and conservator Cathy Hay decided to set about recreating the dress. You’ll discover more about Cathy’s journey and the history of the dress in the video below, which will be of interest to all those who, like myself, harbor historical dreams.
George Hoby was not only the greatest and most fashionable bootmaker in London, but, in spite of the old adage, “ne sutor ultra crepidam,” he employed his spare time with considerable success as a Methodist preacher at Islington. He was said to have in his employment three hundred workmen; and he was so great a man in his own estimation that he was apt to take rather an insolent tone with his customers. He was, however, tolerated as a sort of privileged person, and his impertinence was not only overlooked, but was considered as rather a good joke. He was a pompous fellow, with a considerable vein of sarcastic humour, as evidenced in the following anecdotes handed down to us by Captain Gronow –
I remember Horace Churchill, (afterwards killed in India with the rank of major-general,) who was then an ensign in the Guards, entering Hoby’s shop in a great passion, saying that his boots were so ill made that he should never employ Hoby for the future. Hoby, putting on a pathetic cast of countenance, called to his shopman, “John, close the shutters. It is all over with us. I must shut up shop; Ensign Churchill withdraws his custom from me.” Churchill’s fury can be better imagined than described. On another occasion the late Sir John Shelley came into Hoby’s shop to complain that his topboots had split in several places. Hoby quietly said, “How did that happen, Sir John?” “Why, in walking to my stable.” “Walking to your stable!” said Hoby, with a sneer. ” I made the boots for riding, not walking.”
Hoby was bootmaker to George III, the Prince of Wales, the royal dukes, Beau Brummell, most of the aristocracy and many officers in the army and navy. His shop was situated at the top of St James’s Street, at the corner of Piccadilly, next to the old Guards Club. Hoby was the first man who drove about London in a tilbury. It was painted black, and drawn by a beautiful black cob. This vehicle was built by the inventor, Mr Tilbury, whose manufactory was in a street leading from South Audley Street into Park Street.
No doubt Mr. Hoby had patterns for all manner of desirable boots, evidenced not in the least by his impressive client list. However, he will forever be linked to a boot design not of his making. Of course I refer to the Wellington boot, a pair of the Duke’s own boots of this design are pictured at left. Hoby had been bootmaker to the Duke of Wellington from his boyhood, and received innumerable orders in the Duke’s handwriting, both from the Peninsula and France, which he always religiously preserved. The Duke asked Hoby to modify the 18th-century Hessian boot to a height below the knee, in order to make them more practical for walking and riding. The resulting boot was made of softer calfskin leather, had no trim, boasted heels one inch high and fit more closely around the leg, making it more practical and hard-wearing for battle, yet comfortable for the evening. The boot was dubbed the Wellington and was quickly adopted by Hoby’s other customers.
Hoby was also bootmaker to the Duke of Kent; and as he was calling on H.R.H. to try on some boots, the news arrived that Lord Wellington had gained a great victory over the French army at Vittoria. The duke was kind enough to mention the glorious news to Hoby, who coolly said, “If Lord Wellington had had any other bootmaker than myself, he never would have had his great and constant successes; for my boots and prayers bring his lordship out of all his difficulties.”
Hoby may have had a penchant for sarcasm and a high opinion of himself (and his own influence upon British military history) but he knew how to run a business – Hoby died worth a hundred and twenty thousand pounds.