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.
The Percy family, now dukes of Northumberland have lived at Syon House for many years. To follow the fortunes of the Percy family is to travel the twists and turns of British history.From their arrival with William the Conqueror in the 11th century, they held a stronghold at Alnwick Castle in far Northumberland and frequently ran into conflicts with the English kings.Because of their support for Mary Queen of Scots, they were commanded to live in the south, at their property at Petworth in Sussex.There were many periods of imprisonment in the Tower for various earls over the centuries.
In its first few centuries, Syon seemed to exist under a dark cloud. Lord Somerset died on the scaffold before it was finished; Lady Jane Grey resided here; it served as a prison for the children of Charles I for a time.
Syon came to the Percy family through the marriage of Henry Percy (1564- 1632) to Lady Dorothy Devereux (d. 1619), a sister of Robert, Earl of Essex, a favorite of Elizabeth I.From a previous marriage, Lady Dorothy owned the lease to the valuable Syon estate.When James I came to the throne, he gave Syon outright to Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland.In 1605 the 9th earl himself landed in the Tower, where he lived for sixteen years, improving his estates and studying scientific topics from his prison.He was known as the Wizard Earl for his many interests in science and the occult.His wife Dorothy regularly sent him baskets of fruits from the Syon orchards.
By 1764, Syon was still basically a Tudor mansion, looking much as it had when first built in 1547, a courtyard house that offered many challenges to bring up to current taste. The 3rd duke, who succeeded in 1817, rebuilt the walls of the house in Bath stone, and built the conservatory. He entertained “lavishly” at Syon during the reign of William IV and was succeeded by his brother Algernon in 1847. Their descendants today still live at Syon, the family of the 11th Duke, Henry Alan Walter Richard Percy.
From the website: Robert Adam and ‘Capability’ Brown
“The 7th Duke of Somerset died in 1750, and Hugh and Elizabeth, who were to become the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, inherited the estates. They were leading figures in contemporary society, and would have inherited a house with dated interiors, surrounded by an unfashionable formal landscape. Gardens and House were both in a poor condition.
“The solution was a complete redesign of Syon. In one of his first major commissions, the landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown swept away the formal landscape to the south and west of the House, replacing it with the open views characteristic of the English Landscape movement. Over the course of twenty years he extended this to the north and west, incorporating farmland to the west into the new park, and creating Pleasure Grounds to the north, both centred on large new ornamental lakes. In the House the Scottish architect Robert Adam was commissioned to create a series of striking classical interiors, filled with antiquities shipped from Italy. Adam was not able to change the interior layout of the House, and so used a number of architectural devices to create a suitable impression.”
Following a carefully designed route through Capability Brown’s Park, then through a monumental portico, one enters the Great Hall.
The visitor experiences a dramatic contrast when stepping into the Ante-Room after the subdued serenity of the Hall.
The floor is scagliola (composition of ground marble, plaster and glue often seen on tabletops) in brilliant colors, perfectly preserved and highly polished.Some of the marble columns were found in the Tiber River in Rome and brought to Syon.Others are copies, also made of scagliola.The columns serve to square off the room size and to provide bases for the gilded statues, all reproductions of ancient figures.It is difficult to underestimate the dazzling effect of standing in this room, which I am tempted to describe as gaudy, though it also has a unity of color and beauty that actually give it a different but equally impressive dignity as the Great Hall.
After the brilliant colors of the ante room, the dining room is almost restrained in its gilded elegance. From the Ante-Room, on the corner of the house, one steps into the ivory and gold magnificence of the Dining Room, a perfect example of classic Adam style.Columns, apses, antique statues, and gilt combine with the rich wooden flooring in a pleasing pattern.Adam rarely used soft materials in his eating rooms because carpets, curtains, tapestries and other hangings could absorb food odors.Cleverly concealed in the doorways are compartments holding the dining tables, which were set up for meals and removed for dancing or other activities, while some of the statue bases conceal chamberpots.
The Red Drawing Room was described by Adam as a buffer to the real Withdrawing Room for the ladies, which was in the next chamber, the Gallery,now the Library.The walls are of red Spitalfields silk, while diamonds and octagons on the ceiling contrast with the painted medallions with gilded banding.
The Long Gallery was intended by Adam for the use of the ladies. The Tudor room is 136 feet long with a width and height of only 14 feet. Adam solved the size and shape problem by softening the colors to pastel mauves and greens, installing shallow bookcases and clustering the tapestry-upholstered furniture in what we would call conversation groups.There is a unity of design elements as well, with decorative swags on the walls, flat pilasters separating the bookshelves, and a pleasing pattern of geometric shapes, as in the ceiling.When I visited this room, I found it astonishingly beautiful, yet comfortable.As I gazed at the titles on the shelves, the Duke himself came by, showing the collection to a visitor.
At the far end of the library, there is a little closet, once the site of the corner spiral staircase, now long gone. In this little room, decorated in delicate pinks and grays, hangs a birdcage holding a mechanical bird which spreads his wings and warbles on the hour. The bottom of the cage is the clock’s face, not a particularly practical place to put it, if you ask me. It is known as one of Adam’s conceits. Nevertheless, the “closet” serves the role of early closets for kings and dukes — a private room holding favorite collections and offering the closest thing to privacy a great personage could experience. Ah, the trials and tribulations of fame and fortune!
Syon Park and House are on the itinerary of Number One London’s Town and Country House Tour in September – details and complete itinerary can be found here.
Victoria here, looking through my collection of Regency-era fashion plates to see what was worn 200 years ago. I find I have five plates from 1812, two framed on the wall of my office, the others filed away in notebooks. So here, in case you want to be entirely up to date two centuries ago:
Fashions of 1812
Ackermann’s Repository of Arts Half Dress, January 1812
A Roman round robe of stone colour or pale olive cloth embroidered in a variegated chenille border; long sleeves finished at the wrist to correspond and lined with pink sarsnet. Pomeranian mantle of silk, the colour of the robe and finished with deep Chinese silk fringe. Cap of black or colored velvet, ornamented with a rich silk tassel, and curled ostrich feathers placed towards the left side. High standing collar of muslin or net, edged with lace or needle work, rising above the robe at the throat. Pink embroidered ridicule. Gloves a pale lemon colour, and half boots of pink kid, trimmed with narrow sable fur.
Ladies Magazine January 1812 London Morning and Evening Dresses
Morning dress. – Pelisseof maroon silk, lined throughout with fur, which when buttoned, forms a sort of lappel: standing collar, to turn over; and very deep cuffs. – A hat of the same silk, trimmed with ribbon and feathers.
Evening dress, of green satin, with epaulettes of lace.– Cap of the same, trimmed with lace and a flower.
Ackermann’s Repository of Arts Morning Dress, May 1812
A French frock of fine plain India muslin, with demi-train, and long full bishop’s sleeves. Waggoners’ cuffs, with gaged front, and shoulders to correspond. Tucker of double-rolled muslin, which also finishes the cuffs round the hands.
A Parisian mob cap of fine lace, confined round the head, and terminating on one side with a celestial blue or silver grey ribbon. Sash of the same, tied in small bows and ends in front. Hair in waved curls, divided in the center of the forehead. Spanish slippers of lemon-colored kid, and gloves of the same material.
The peculiar taste and elegant simplicity of these habiliments are further specimens of the graceful invention of the celebrated Mrs. Gill, of Cork-streeet, Burlington-gardens, from whom we have obtained them.
Ackermann’s Repository of Arts November 1812 Evening Dress
A white crape or mull muslin petticoat, worn over white satin, finished round the bottom with a ball fringe of gold; a crimson velvet or satin bodice, formed so as partially to expose the bosom and shoulders. A short bishop’s sleeve, edged with ball fringe, and ornamented with the same round the bosom, and shoulders. A short sash of shaded ribband, to correspond with the colour of the bodice, tied in short bows and ends in front of the figure.
A shepherdess’s hat, composed of crimson velvet and white satin; a curled ostrich feather placed entirely on one side, and waving towards the back of the neck. The hair divided on the forehead, and curled on each side, rather lower than of late. Treble neck-chain, and amulet of wrought gold; short drop ear rings, and bracelets en suite. Crimson velvet or satin slippers trimmed with gold rosettes or fringe. White kid gloves, just avoiding the elbow. Fan of white and silver embossed crape or carved ivory. Occasional scarf of white French silk, with embroidered ends and border.
La Belle Assemblee February, 1812–A Winter Walking Dress
A scarlet Merino cloth pelisse, lined with straw coloured sarsnet, trimmed with light coloured spotted fur, and attached with loops of black silk cordon and rich frog tassels; the broad fur in front, forming a tippet, pointed at the back. A narrow fur passes from the top of the sleeve, is brought down the side seams, and relieved by fastenings of black silk cordon; four loops with frogs ornament the shoulders and cuffs; plain standing up collar tied with cordon: a fine cashemire shawl, with brown ground, and richly variegated border, is generally thrown over the dress, in which is united both comfort and elegance. A Swedish hat of the same material as the pelisse, lined with straw colour, and fastened up one side; the crown trimmed with two rows of narrow spotted fur, and one still narrower at the edge of the hat; a bunch of the Christmas holly in front, and two tassels falling from the summit of the crown, of black, to answer the pelisse, with is worn over a white round dress, either of plain or corded cambric. Beaver gloves, and demi-broquins of scarlet Morocco, laced with black, and lined with fur, complete the dress.
Of all the outfits pictured here, I think I’d choose the evening dress with the shepherdess hat! Just the thing for the next ball I attend. Though since I am still in Wisconsin, I suppose I’d be wise to choose that fur-trimmed winter walking dress, which looks like it would be comfy on a windy, chilly day.
Victoria here, writing about one of my favorite places in London — Kenwood House. I first visited many years ago and feasted my eyes on the stunning collection of masterworks in the Iveagh Bequest and on the justly famous Adam Library. But I admit, the rooms used as galleries, were — aside from the paintings — quite bland. So I was delighted a few years ago to hear that the whole house was to be renovated and restored to the period when the 1st Earl of Mansfield purchased the structure and had Robert Adam remodel it in 1764-1779.
When Lord Iveagh purchased the building to house his art collection, it was primarily to be gallery space, but over the years, English Heritage decided to make changes that complement the architecture and the paintings both. And they did a stunning job!
Lord Iveagh, one of the heirs of the Guinness Brewery fortune, bequeathed Kenwood and his incredible art collection to the nation in 1927.
Below, the library ceiling as it appeared when undergoing restoration.
The painting above the fireplace in the Dining Room is by Anthony Van Dyke, Princess Henrietta of Lorraine Attended by a Page.
Elsewhere in the Dining Room are two priceless masterpieces:
Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of the Artist, above, and
Johannes Vermeer, The Guitar Player, below
The furniture is certainly equal to the paintings and the setting: a sidetable
Above, The Hon. E. S. Russell and His Brother by Landseer.
Above, Angelica Kauffman, RA, The Disarming of Cupid
Kauffman was an excellent painter and did many Georgian interior medallions and other paintings — and is, in my opinion, quite underrated.
Above, a Carlton House Desk – the original was supposedly designed for the Prince of Wales by George Hepplewhite.
Portrait of Elizabeth Murray and Dido Bell, cousins, once attributed to Johann Zoffany, but currently unattributed; the version hanging at Kenwood is a copy of the original, which can be seen in Scone Palace, Perthshire, Scotland. This painting of Lord Mansfield’s wards has long fascinated art experts and social commentators. Dido Bell was the subject of a 2013 film exploring her life and times.
In the Music Room
Sir Thomas Lawrence, Miss Murray, 1824-26
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mrs. Musters as “Hebe”, 1782
Another version of this work can be seen in the staircase of Highclere Castle, sometimes in evidence in scenes from Downton Abbey.
John Hoppner, Mrs. Jordan as Viola from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, c.1785-92
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Kitty Fisher as Cleopatra Dissolving the Pearl, 1759
Sir Joshua Reynolds, The Brummell Children, 1782
Magnificent Chimney piece by Adam, completed in 1773,
a fantasy with mermen, flying griffins and cherubs, and panels of Chinese painted marble tiles.
Marguerite Hyde, 19th Countess of Suffolk
by John Singer Sargent, 1898
Also known as Daisy, Marguerite was the daughter of Levi Leiter of Chicago, a partner in the Marshall Field. and Co. Department Store. She presented her family’s collection of portraits to the nation. They are displayed on the upper level at Kenwood House. Here are a few examples, taken from the website.
Maria Constantina Trevor, Countess of Suffolk, attributed to Catherine Read
Elizabeth Home, Countess of Suffolk, artist unknown
Charles II by Sir Godfrey Kneller
You can see the fabulous collection of paintings and furniture at Kenwood House during Number One London’s Town and Country House Tour in September.
Victoria here. People often ask me what I recommend for their visits to London. I always answer, if they are in search of the English Regency, Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was a brilliant architect and teacher. The Museum is in his house and classrooms, so you will get a taste of a wealthy (but not aristocratic) residence, in addition to all of Sir John’s collections, used for the instruction of his architecture students.
The bust of Sir John Soane in the center of the picture above was sculpted by Sir Francis Chantrey (1781-1841). The Museum is comprised of a rabbit warren of rooms, each one chock-a-block full of architectural specimens, art and Soane’s various and varied collections.
Sir John began his career working for architects George Dance and, later, Henry Holland. He traveled to Italy to study and came back to London to begin his own practice, in which he prospered, often doing projects to expand, remodel and modernize the country houses of the wealthy. An example, below, is Moggerhanger House in Bedfordshire, finished in 1812 and updated as a conference center in recent years. More information is here.
Sir John Soane’s Museum shows several rooms in which his family lived, and I have always found the Drawing Room amusing. It’s very brilliant shade of yellow that was very popular during the Regency, as evidenced in a number of country houses (such as Goodwood House).
Whether you visit on a sunny or a rainy, gray day, this room will be cheerfully bright. The dining room is an equally vivid crimson, also a popular color for walls in the Regency.
Sir John Soane’s Museum also has gallery space for small, very selective exhibitions related to Soane’s era and interests. I recommend browsing the shop on the website for Museum publications. One of my favorites is The Soanes At Home: Domestic Life at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, from 1997. It’s full of pictures, copies of receipts and invoices and all sorts of fascinating information about life and household management in the early 19th century.
Above, Soane’s drawing of the Bank of England as he rebuilt it in 1814; since then, it has been remodeled and enlarged so that little of his work is evident today, except in portions of the interior. The Museum houses a collection of more than 30,000 architectural drawings by England’s finest architects, as well as Soane’s sketchbooks, business records and other valuable research and archival material.
Above is a drawing by J. M. Gandy of Tivoli Corner, part of Soane’s Bank of England, now remodeled.
Above, a statue of Sir John Soane in the Bank of England, where he is honored even though they changed his designs beyond recognition. Soane left the buildings of his Museum and his home to the nation as a resource for training future architects.
We’ll be visiting the Museum in September, as part of the itinerary of Number One London’s Town and Country House Tour – you’ll find further tour details and the full itinerary here.