Old and New London: Volume 4. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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APSLEY HOUSE AND PARK LANE.
—"Tecto quum vidit in illo]
Situation of Apsley House—George II. and the Apple-stall Keeper—Henry, Lord Apsley, purchases the Site, and builds a Mansion—The First Earl Bathurst—Apsley House purchased by the Nation for the Duke of Wellington—Description of the Building—The Picture-Gallery—The Duke's Temporary Unpopularity, and Attack of the Mob on Apsley House—The Waterloo Banquets—The Waterloo Shield—Biographical Notice of the Duke of Wellington—Memorials of the Illustrious Duke—The "Curds and Whey House"—Hyde Park Corner—A Singular Panic—Park Lane—A Strange Abode—Park Lane Fountain—Holdernesse House—Great Stanhope Street—Tilney Street—Dean Street—Dorchester House—South Street—Chapel Street—Grosvenor House—The Grosvenor Family—Dudley House—Upper Brook Street—Park Street—Green Street—Norfolk Street—The Murder of Lord William Russell—Camelford House.
Quitting May Fair, we now turn to the southwest, down Hamilton Place, in order to look in upon Apsley House, with which we were obliged to deal very briefly in our walk along the mansions of Piccadilly. This house, so many years the residence of the late, and still the residence of the present Duke of Wellington, forms a conspicuous object on entering London from the west, occupying as it does the corner of Hyde Park and Piccadilly. Its situation is one of the finest in the metropolis, standing upon the rising ground overlooking the parks, and commanding views of the Kent and Surrey hills in the far distance. Its site is said to have been a present from George II. to a discharged soldier, named Allen, who had fought under that king at Dettingen. His wife here kept an apple-stall, which by the thrifty couple was turned by degrees into a small cottage. The story of this present has been often told, but it will bear telling yet once again:—When London did not exist so far as Knightsbridge, George II., as he was riding out one morning, met Allen, who doubtless showed by his garments that he had once belonged to the army; the king accosted him, and found that he made his living by selling apples in a small hut. "What can I do for you?" said the king. "Please your majesty to give me a grant of the bit of ground my hut stands on, and I shall be happy." "Be happy," said the king, and ordered him his request. Years rolled on; the apple-man died, and left a son, who from dint of industry became a respectable attorney. The then Chancellor gave a lease of the ground to a nobleman, as the apple-stall had fallen to the ground. It being conceived the ground had fallen to the Crown, a stately mansion was soon raised, when the young attorney put in claims; a small sum was offered as a compromise, and refused; finally, the sum of £450 per annum, ground rent, was settled upon.
In 1784, Allen's son or other kin sold the ground to Henry, Lord Apsley, Lord Chancellor, afterwards second Lord Bathurst, who gave to the house which he built upon it the name by which it is still known. The mansion was originally of red brick, and though solid and substantial, it had no great architectural pretensions.
The father of Lord Chancellor
Apsley, the first Earl Bathurst, was
one of the most genial and agreeable of the friends of Pope, who
has referred to him in the often
quoted lines in terms of respect
"Oh! teach us, Bathurst, yet unspoiled by wealth,
That secret rare, between th' extremes to move
Of mad good-nature and of mean self-love."
His lordship appears to have been of a particularly lively and cheerful disposition, and to have preserved his natural vivacity to the very last. To within a month of his death, which happened on the 16th of September, 1775, at the age of ninetyone, he constantly rode out on horseback for two hours before dinner, and regularly drank his bottle of claret or madeira after dinner. Some amusing anecdotes have been told of this old Lord Bathurst, which will bear telling over again. He used to repeat often, with a smile, that Dr. Cheyne had assured him, fifty years before, that he would not live seven years longer, unless he abridged himself of his wine. About two years before his death, he invited several of his friends to spend a few cheerful days with him at his seat, near Cirencester; and being, one evening, very loth to part with them, his son (then Lord Chancellor) objected to their sitting up any longer, adding, that health and long life were best secured by regularity. The earl suffered his son to retire, but as soon as he left the room, exclaimed, "Come, my good friends, since the old gentleman is gone to bed, I think we may venture to crack another bottle!"
In 1820 the mansion was purchased by the nation, and settled as an heirloom on the illustrious dukedom of Wellington. It was then leasehold only. Mr. Peter Cunningham tells us that "the Crown's interest in Apsley House was sold to the duke by indenture, dated the 15th of June, 1830, for the sum of £9,530, the Crown reserving, however, a right to forbid the erection of any other house or houses on the same site." The principal front, next Piccadilly, consists of a centre with two wings, having a portico of the Corinthian order, raised upon a rusticated arcade of three apertures, leading to the entrance hall. The west front consists of two wings; the centre slightly recedes, and has four windows with a balcony. The front is enclosed by a rich bronzed palisade, corresponding with the gates to the grand entrance to the Park. In the saloon is a colossal statue of Napoleon, by Canova.
In 1828 the mansion was enlarged, and the original exterior of red brick was faced with a casing of Bath stone, designed by Mr. B. Wyatt. At this time the front portico and the west wing were added; but, says Mr. Peter Cunningham, "the old house still remains intact, so much so, indeed, that the hall door and knocker belonged to the original Apsley House." In the upper part of the west wing is the Waterloo Gallery, nearly a hundred feet in length. This noble apartment is splendidly decorated, and richly gilt. The ballroom extending the whole depth of the mansion, and the small picture gallery, which together form a suite, are both superb rooms. On the groundfloor, at the north-west angle, looking into the little garden which divides the house from Hyde Park, is the modest chamber used by the great Duke as a bedroom to the last year of his life. It is plainly furnished, with a small iron bedstead and a plain writing table; a few books, which were the duke's favourite companions, still remain where their great master left them. This room was shown to the public, along with the rest of the house, for a few days in 1852, the year of the duke's death, and a striking proof it gave of his simplicity and studied avoidance of all that savoured of luxury. The house contains several fine pictures, amongst others a full-length portrait of George IV., in the Highland costume, by Sir David Wilkie. This picture was damaged by a stone during the Reform Bill riots, but the injury has been skilfully repaired. There are also portraits of the Emperor Alexander and the Kings of Prussia, France, and the Netherlands, and of several of the duke's companions-inarms, and pictures of the battles which he fought. Among the latter is Sir William Allan's celebrated painting of the "Battle of Waterloo, with Napoleon in the Foreground," of which the duke is said to have remarked that it was "good, very good; not too much smoke." Then there are several portraits of his great rival, Napoleon; also Wilkie's "Chelsea Pensioners reading the Gazette of the Battle of Waterloo," which was painted for the duke. The gallery contains besides a collection of other subjects, sacred and profane, by the old masters and painters. Dr. Waagen, in his work on "Art and Artists in England," speaks with great enthusiasm of the specimens of Sir David Wilkie in this collection; as also of a "Christ on the Mount of Olives," by Corregio (captured in Spain from Joseph Bonaparte); besides others by Velasquez, Claude Lorraine, Jan Steen, and Teniers.
In the tumults which broke out in London in 1831 on account of the opposition of the duke and the Tory party to the first Reform Bill, the windows of Apsley House were broken by the mob. In consequence of this, the duke had all his windows cased with iron shutters, like those of shop-fronts in our leading thoroughfares, and made bullet-proof; and though often entreated to have them removed when his popularity returned, he steadily refused to allow the change to be made, as he had no confidence in the smiles of popular favour, and would often say that they were a standing proof of the vanity of the world's applause. With reference to the manner in which the fury of the multitude in the above-mentioned year vented itself on the duke, we glean a little intelligence in the following extract from Mr. Raikes' "Journal:"—"I can remember well," he writes, "the time when the duke returned to England, after his brilliant campaigns, crowned with the battle of Waterloo; at that time he was cheered by the people wherever he went, and lauded to the skies. Afterwards, at the period of the Reform Bill, the fickle people forgot all his services, and constantly hooted him in the streets. One morning, as he was coming from the Tower on horseback, the rascally mob attacked him with so much virulence and malice, that he was exposed to considerable personal danger in the street. I was in that year at a ball given by him at Apsley House to King William IV. and his Queen, when the mob were very unruly and indecent in their conduct at the gates; and on the following days they proceeded to such excesses, that they broke the windows of Apsley House, and did much injury to his property. It was then that he caused to be put up those iron blinds to his windows, which remain to this day as a record of the people's ingratitude. Some time afterwards, when he had regained all his popularity, and began to enjoy that great and high reputation which he now, it is to be hoped, will carry to the grave, he was riding up Constitution Hill, in the Park, followed by an immense mob, who were cheering him in every direction; he heard it all with the most stoical indifference, never putting his horse out of a walk, or seeming to regard them, till he leisurely arrived at Apsley House, when he stopped at the gate, turned round to the rabble, and then pointing with his finger to the iron blinds which still closed the windows, he made them a sarcastic bow, and entered the court without saying a word."
The shutters remained outside the windows of the house down to the death of the duke in 1852, after which they were removed by his son and successor.
On every 18th of June to the last, the duke celebrated his Waterloo dinner in the large gallery. Mr. Rush, in his "Court of London," mentions dining here in the summer of 1821, when the king (George IV.) was a guest, with most of the royal dukes, the foreign ambassadors, and the duke's old companions in arms. He thus describes the after-dinner scene:—"The king sat on the right hand of the duke. Just before the dessert courses, the duke rose and gave as a toast, 'His Majesty.' The guests all rose and drank it in silence, the king also rising and bowing to the company. A few minutes afterwards the king gave 'The Duke of Wellington,' introducing his toast with a few remarks. The purport of these was, that had it not been for the exertions of 'his friend upon his left' (it was so that he spoke of the duke), he, the king, might not have had the happiness of meeting those whom he now saw around him at that table; it was, therefore, with peculiar pleasure that he proposed his health. The king spoke with great emphasis and great apparent pleasure. The duke made no reply, but took in respectful silence what was said. The king himself continued sitting whilst he spoke, as did the company in profound stillness under his words."
These banquets were continued from year to year down to the duke's death. As years rolled on, the familiar faces gradually fell off, and the number of chairs for his guests—his old comrades in arms—grew smaller and smaller.
On state occasions, the chief ornament of the
duke's sideboard was the celebrated shield presented to him by the City of London. It is of
pure gold, and was manufactured by Messrs.
Rundle and Bridge, from the designs of Thomas
Stothard, R.A. On it are represented, in basrelief and in alto, the most important of the duke's
victories; and it is said that its cost was nearly
£15,000. In fact, a dinner at Apsley House has
been almost described in anticipation by Virgil,
in a passage of his "Æneid," thus translated by
"On Tyrian carpets, richly wrought, they dine;
With loads of massive plate the sideboards shine;
And antique vases, all of gold embossed
(The gold itself inferior to the cost
Of curious work), where, on the sides, were seen
The fights and figures of illustrious men,
From their first founder to the present Queen."
Down to within a few weeks of his death, the duke used to ride out every afternoon, on his way to the Horse Guards or the Park. His appearance, as he passed from the gate of Apsley House into Piccadilly, at his accustomed hour, was one of the sights of London which "country cousins" were regularly taken to see; and, attired in a plain blue frock-coat, with white waistcoat and trousers, with a groom riding behind him, he was "the observed of all observers." "A stranger could recognise him amidst the peers by the marked respect they showed to him. The duke was the best-known and most popular man in London. There were people constantly waiting at the entry to the House of Lords, and not unusually in the vicinity of the Horse Guards, to get a peep at him; and he had been so long accustomed to acknowledge the homage paid to him by all classes, on his appearing in public, that the habit had become mechanical with him. Every well-bred person raised his hat to the duke; and the duke, sitting on horseback in his calm, impassive manner, and looking straight before him, lifted two fingers towards his hat to everybody. It was quite a scene when he chanced to walk along Regent Street, or some of the more frequented thoroughfares in the neighbourhood of the Horse Guards or the Houses of Parliament. A knot of followers instantly fell into his wake, augmenting as he proceeded. Shopkeepers rushed to their doors, or peered out of their windows, to catch a glance of him. 'The Duke!' passed from lip to lip. You could see in the countenance of all sorts of people as they approached and passed—and all sorts of people is a wide word in the streets of London—a pleased expression as they recognised the duke. It was less striking to observe the respectful greetings of the better-conditioned classes, than the cordial interest which the common people evinced in the great captain. The omnibus-driver would point him out to his outside passengers; the cad on the steps behind, to his 'insides.' The butcher's boy, as he dashed along on his pony, drew bridle to look at the duke. Cabmen, cadgers, costermongers, and gamins, gentle and simple, young and old, paused for a moment to gaze at the man whom they delighted to honour."
To write a complete biography of "the duke" would be altogether beyond our province, for to do that would be almost equivalent to writing a history of Europe during the time in which he lived. Suffice it then for us to say that he was the third son of Garrett, first Earl of Mornington, and brother of the Marquis Wellesley, and that he was born in 1769. Entering the army in 1787, he commenced his actual service in the field in 1794. Shortly afterwards, he was returned to the Irish Parliament for the borough of Trim, County Meath; and in 1806, he was chosen to represent Newport in the House of Commons. In the following year he was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland. His Grace was for upwards of a quarter of a century Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, and besides the honours and emoluments bestowed upon him for his brilliant services by the British Government, he received almost every foreign order of distinction, to the number of seventeen. As a parliamentary orator he spoke plain and to the point, and his correspondence was remarkable for its laconic brevity. To sum up, in the words of one of his biographers, it may be said that "throughout his long career, he appears the same honourable and upright man, devoted to the service of his sovereign and his country, and just and considerate to all who served under him. As a general, he was cautious, prudent, and careful of the lives of his men; but when safety lay in daring, as at the battle of Assaye, he could be daring in the extreme. He enjoyed an iron constitution, and was not more remarkable for his personal intrepidity than for his moral courage. The union of these qualities obtained for him the appellation of the 'Iron Duke,' by which he was affectionately known in his later years. . . . His tastes were aristocratic, and his aides-de-camp and favourite generals were almost all men of family and high connections. Altogether, he was the very type and model of an Englishman; and in the general order issued by the Queen to the Army, he was characterised as 'the greatest commander whom England ever saw.'"
On the 14th of September, 1852, the "great Duke" died at Walmer Castle, his official residence as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. On that morning his valet called him as usual at six o'clock. Half an hour afterwards he entered the room and found his master ill. At four o'clock in the afternoon, after an epileptic fit, the great soldier breathed his last. Of all his crowd of illustrious friends, only two were near him—Lord and Lady Charles Wellesley, who were staying on a visit. So little did he anticipate death that he had appointed that day to meet the Countess of Westmoreland at Dover to see her off by packet to Ostend. The chamber in which he died had much the appearance of that at Apsley House described above; it was a little room with a single window, which served as his library and study, and an iron bedstead three feet wide, with a three-inch mattress.
Apsley House stands between two other memorials of the illustrious duke—the colossal figure mounted on horseback surmounting the arch which leads to Constitution Hill, and the statue of Achilles in Hyde Park. The first of these statues was modelled by Mr. Matthew C. Wyatt and his son, James Wyatt; it occupied three years, and is said to have taken more than one hundred tons of plaster. It represents the duke upon his horse "Copenhagen," at the field of Waterloo. The duke sat for the portrait, which is considered very striking. Mr. John Timbs tells us that "the group is cast in about eight pieces, which are fastened with screws and fused together, thirty men being often employed at one time upon the bronze. It was conveyed upon an immense car, drawn by forty horses, to the Green Park Arch, September 26th, 1846, and was raised by crabs. The entire group weighs forty tons; is nearly thirty feet high; and within half of the horse eight persons have dined." The erection of this statue, which cost about £30,000, originated from the close contest for the execution of the Wellington statue in the City. The archway on which this statue stands was erected by Mr. Decimus Burton, in 1828. It is Corinthian, and on each face are six fluted pilasters, with two fluted columns, flanking the single archway, raised upon a lofty stylobate or plinth, and supporting a richly-decorated entablature, in which are sculptured alternately "G. R. IV.," and the imperial crown within wreaths of laurel. The massive iron gates, bronzed, are enriched with the royal arms in a circular centre. "On fine afternoons," writes Mr. John Timbs, "the sun casts the shadow of the duke's equestrian statue full upon Apsley House, and the sombre image may be seen gliding, spirit-like, over the front."
Of the statue of Achilles, erected in the duke's honour by the ladies of England, we shall have more to say when we come to our chapter on Hyde Park. It has not, however, been by the aid of statuary alone that the memory of the duke has been kept alive; for it is said that within twentyfive years after he fought his last crowning battle, there were already in Europe seven bridges, nine museums, seventeen public squares, and twenty streets, which bore the name of Waterloo. How many more have been added since we can scarcely estimate.
We have already mentioned the toll-gate at Hyde Park Corner, and the old lodge adjoining it, which stood by the entrance into the Park. Appended to it was a small cottage, known to the public as the "Curds-and-Whey House." The lodge was joined on to Knightsbridge by a brick wall, which, as well as the old lodge and the "Curds-and-Whey House," was taken down about the year 1825, when a new lodge of stone was built, and the wall superseded by a light iron railing. About the same time, a small strip of ground was taken off the south-east corner of the Park, in order to form a garden for Apsley House; but the Duke of Wellington was not very popular at the time, and the encroachment on the public rights stirred up not a little bad feeling against him, an invidious parallel being drawn between his Grace and John, Duke of Marlborough, whose house was built on a site subtracted from St. James's Park.
"Hyde Park Corner is a worthy terminal mark to a great metropolis," observes Charles Knight. "To one who has been 'long in city pent,' the view from the Achilles along the elm row, towards the Serpentine, has a park-like appearance, that makes him feel out of town the moment he reaches it. To the traveller from the country, on the contrary, the view across the Green Park, towards Westminster Abbey, is truly courtly and metropolitan. The triumphal archways on either side corroborate the impression of stately polish; the magnificent scale of St. George's Hospital is worthy the capital of a great nation; . . . and Apsley House seems placed there in order that the 'hero of a hundred fights' may keep watch and ward on the outskirts of the central seat of power of the land whose troops he has so often led to victory."
In our view of this spot, on page 283, is shown the old toll-gate which formerly stood here. It had a milestone nestling under it, which gave it quite a rural appearance. It would have been amusing to have stood by the side of the old toll-gate, and to have seen the "quality," as people of rank and fashion were then styled, collecting just before the expected arrival of the great earthquake, which, it was prophesied vehemently, was coming to demolish the City and its suburbs. Charles Knight tells us, in his "London," that "for some three days before the date fixed, the crowds of carriages passing Hyde Park Corner westwards, with whole parties removing into the country, was something like a procession to Ranelagh or Vauxhall." This occurred in the month of April, 1750, and is thus recorded in a newspaper of that date:—
"Incredible numbers of people, being under strong apprehensions that London and Westminster would be visited by another and more fatal earthquake on this night, according to the predictions of a crazy life-guardsman, and because it would be just four weeks from the last shock—as that was from the first—left their houses, and walked in the parks and the fields, or lay in boats all night; many people of fashion in the neighbouring villages sat in their coaches till day-break; others went off to a greater distance, so that the roads were never more thronged, and lodgings were hardly to be procured even at Windsor; so far, and even to their wits' end, had their superstitious fears, or their guilty consciences, driven them."
This going off to Kensington, or Hounslow, or Windsor, to avoid the earthquake, reminds one of the old Duchess of Bolton, who, on Whiston's prophecy of the approaching destruction of the world, prudently resolved to be off to China, in order to escape so inconvenient an accident. Lady Hervey writes to her friend, Mr. Morris, with reference to this silly panic: "The Ides of March are come, and will, I am persuaded, be past in all safety before you receive this letter, in spite of prophets and prophecies. The newspapers are filled with accounts of a hundred little subaltern earthquakes which have been felt in many different places, but which I take to be only the ghosts of the more considerable one which haunt the timorous. . . . . Fear is an epidemic distemper; there is scarcely anything that is more contagious. I dare say at this minute nine parts in ten of the inhabitants of Westminster are shaking as much from this fear as they would from the earthquake if it was really to happen." That this curious instance of a "popular delusion" was not altogether a groundless panic, may be gathered from the following account, quoted from another publication, printed in the above year:—"On the 8th of March, at half-past five in the morning, the sky being very clear and serene, and the air very warm, the inhabitants of London, and to a great extent round the City, were alarmed by the shock of an earthquake, that came with great violence, especially about Grosvenor Square. This was preceded, about five o'clock, by a continual though a confused lightning, till within a minute or two of its being felt, when a noise was heard resembling the roaring of a great piece of ordnance, fired at a considerable distance, and then instantly the houses reeled, first sinking, as it were, to the south, and then to the north, and with a quick return into the centre."
A parallel to this "popular delusion" may be read in the London Magazine for 1773:—"Paris, May 14.—A report which had prevailed here that this city was to be destroyed by a comet in the night between the 12th and 13th of this month, so terrified many weak and credulous people, that whole families actually quitted Paris on that account, and are gone into foreign countries."
But it is time for us to resume our perambulation. Leaving Apsley House, we now travel northwards, and following in the main the course of Park Lane, we shall, before long, find ourselves at Tyburn, which, for the present, must be the limit of our journeyings in the west of the metropolis, as we are bound to find our way back to the central regions of Bloomsbury, by a route embracing Oxford Street and the large district which lies to the north of it.
Park Lane, in the reign of Queen Anne, was a desolate bye-road, generally spoken of as "the lane leading from Piccadilly to Tyburn." The thoroughfare is, for the most part, open on its west side to Hyde Park, the other side being chiefly occupied by lofty and splendid mansions and terraces. Towards its southern extremity, the "lane" was formerly very narrow and inconveniently crowded; but in 1871 it was widened by the Board of Works, by the removal of one of the mansions in Piccadilly, and the throwing open of Hamilton Place. Before the extension of London so far westward, when this was nothing more than a country lane, or bye-road, shaded here and there by trees, and winding its way along by the park palings, from the toll-gate at Hyde Park Corner to Tyburn, it must have presented a very rural appearance. So lately as the beginning of the last century, the lane was almost, if not quite, destitute of habitation, for in it lived, moping away their existence in an unfinished house, commenced by their eccentric father, the sons of George Bushnell, who sculptured the statues which adorn Temple Bar. "This strange abode," says Mr. Walter Thornbury, in "Haunted London," "had neither staircase nor doors. . . . . Vertue, in a MS. dated 1728, describes a visit which he paid to the house, which was 'choked up with unfinished statues and pictures,' the sad relics of their father's wayward and eccentric genius."
At the point where Park Lane and Hamilton Place meet, there was erected, in 1875, at the cost of £5,000, an ornamental fountain by Thornycroft. The money expended on it was a part of the property of a lady who died intestate, and whose wealth came into possession of the Government. It having been understood that she had often in her lifetime advocated the erection of a fountain here, this was thought the most desirable way to spend the money. The fountain stands on a very advantageous site, between the new and the old roads leading into Piccadilly, some twenty yards in advance of the point of bifurcation. The space is necessarily somewhat triangular, and the sculptor has adapted his design to the place by making it tri-frontal. The great feature in the work is, in accordance with this form of composition, a group of three heroic-size marble statues of the greatest of English poets—Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer; and the summit of the monument, twenty-six feet from the ground, is a gilded bronze-winged figure of Fame, poised with one foot on a globe, blowing her trumpet, and bearing the wreath. Below the columnar pedestal on which these portrait statues stand, are three bronze figures of Muses, seated, and holding their attributes as Tragedy, Comedy, and History. These are so arranged that the Shakespeare is supported by the figures of Tragedy and Comedy, while the Milton stands between Tragedy and History, and the Chaucer with Comedy and History on each side. The principal front is naturally given to the Shakespeare, facing across the Park, while Fame, lifting her trumpet high in the air, looks upward in the same direction. The statue of Milton faces the spectator coming down Park Lane; while Chaucer, his tablets and stile in hand, greets him with a pleasant half-humorous, half-reflective look, as he passes up the old narrow way from Piccadilly. Thus the sculptor has, with the happiest sense of the harmonies arising from mere position, availed himself of every coigne of vantage, and added interest and meaning to his work beyond its ostensible purpose of a fountain. The poet of all time faces the wide expanse of space, while Milton and Chaucer look over the western paths of busy practical life and work.
The first large mansion as we go up Park Lane is Holdernesse House, at the corner of Hertford Street. It is the residence of the Marquis of Londonderry, and stands on a site formerly occupied by the town mansion of the D'Arcys, Earls of Holdernesse, a title long since extinct. It is said that the father of the first Lord Londonderry travelled in the north of Ireland as a commission agent for a Scottish house of business, and that when his son rose to the surface in the political world, he was glad to petition the Earl of Galloway for leave to hook himself on to an obscure branch of the family tree of the Scottish house of Stewart.
The mansion—one of the most spacious and splendid in London—though little known to the world outside, was built, about the year 1850, from the designs of Messrs. S. and B. Wyatt, and commands a charmingly rural view over the expanse of Hyde Park. Here is a magnificent picture-gallery, containing, among other pictures, some full-length portraits of British and foreign monarchs of the present century by Sir Thomas Lawrence, as also a collection of articles of vertu—some of which were presented to the second Marquis of Londonderry by the Allied Sovereigns—vases, and tables of malachite. The sculpture-gallery contains several works by Canova and other great masters.
Great Stanhope Street, a broad thoroughfare, leading up, like an avenue, to the front of Chesterfield House, immortalises the family name of the old Earl of Chesterfield, its builder. Lord Palmerston lived, for many years prior to 1840, at No. 9. Next door, was living Mr. Alexander Raphael, the first Roman Catholic sheriff of London and Middlesex, whose money largely helped to ensure the return of O'Connell to Parliament as member for Carlow. No. 5 was, for many years, the residence of the Duke of Wellington's friend, Lord Fitzroy Somerset, afterwards Lord Raglan; and from this house he started, in the spring of 1854, to take the command of our army in the Crimea, where he died in 1855. No. 15 was for some time the town residence of the gallant Field-Marshal, the first Viscount Hardinge, formerly Governor-General of India, and successor of the Duke of Wellington as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. Facing the entrance to this street, and opening into the park, is Stanhope Gate.
Tilney Street, the next turning northward, connects Park Lane with South Audley Street. At his
house in this street, in 1787, died, at an advanced
age, Soame Jenyns, the well-known man of letters,
essayist, poet, and convert from infidelity, and many
years M.P. for Cambridge. His kindly and genial
character made him very popular in society; but
his various writings have come, for the most part,
to be forgotten. It is said that no words of illnature or personality ever passed his lips, except
his memorable epigram and epitaph—for it is both—on Dr. Johnson:—
"Here lies Sam Johnson. Reader, have a care;
Tread lightly, lest you wake a sleeping bear.
Religious, moral, generous, and humane
He was; but self-sufficient, proud, and vain;
Fond of, and overbearing in, dispute;
A Christian and a scholar—but a brute!"
The house No. 6 in this street was the last town residence of Mrs. Fitzherbert, who was, no doubt, the lawful wife of George IV. She died in 1837, leaving her house to the Damer family. At No. 5, lived the Lord Yarmouth of the Regency, before his father's death raised him to the House of Peers as Marquis of Hertford.
Dean Street is the name by which a narrow and winding thoroughfare, leading behind Dorchester House into South Audley Street, is dignified. It is clearly only an enlargement of a rural bye-road, probably worn by the wheels of carts and wagons proceeding from the market-gardens of Pimlico to the market in the Brook Field, already mentioned. It consists of some half-a-dozen small houses, on one side only of the street, and has few reminiscences, social, literary, or political.
Dorchester House, the residence of Mr. R. S. Holford, the gardens of which face Park Lane on the one side, and Dean Street on the other, is one of the handsomest of the many modern mansions of London. It is in the ornate Italian style, and stands on the site of an older mansion of the same name, which was one of the residences of the late Marquis of Hertford, who died there in 1842. This nobleman, who, as Earl of Yarmouth, was a well-known figure under the Regency, married Mademoiselle Fagniani, the daughter, according to some, of the Duke of Queensberry ("Old Q."), according to others, of George Selwyn, or George Selwyn's butler. Selwyn, it is recorded, left her a fortune of £30,000, two-thirds of which were to pass to Lord Carlisle's family if she should have no children. Lord Yarmouth was a roué and a profligate, but he had one redeeming quality, and that was wit. When Lord Granville resigned his post as ambassador at Paris, Lady Granville gave an evening party, jocosely adding that it was her "funeral." "I believe in a resurrection," said his lordship.
The present mansion was built in 1851–2, from the architectural designs of Mr. Lewis Vulliamy. It is faced with Portland stone, and in plan forms a parallelogram, about 105 feet wide by 135 feet in depth, very nearly the size of Bridgewater House. The grand staircase is of marble, and the interior generally is fitted up with great completeness. The arrangement of the west front, facing Park Lane, is original and effective, the mouldings and dressings generally having been carefully studied. The principal cornice displays a large amount of carving, and its size may be judged from the fact that the stones composing the chief projection of it are each upwards of eight feet square. There is a bold stone screen wall round the house, with a lodge at the south-west corner. "This mansion," says the Builder, "is a very good specimen of masonry, and is built for long endurance. The external walls are 3 feet 10 inches thick, with a cavity of about 5 inches, and the proportion of stone is great, and the bonders numerous; the stones are all dowelled together with slate dowells; and throughout, the greatest care appears to have been taken by the architect to ensure more than usually sound construction. If the New Zealander, who is to gaze on the deserted site of fallen London in some distant time to come, sees nothing else standing in this neighbourhood, he will certainly find the weather-tinted walls of Dorchester House erect and faithful, and will, perhaps, strive to discover the meaning of the monogram which appears on the shield beneath the balconies, 'R.S.H.,' that he may communicate his speculations to some 'Tasmanian Society of Antiquaries,' perhaps not more pugnacious, if less erudite, than our own."
Scattered through the principal apartments of Mr. Holford's mansion is a splendid collection of pictures, mostly by the ancient masters, many of them being of first-rate celebrity. The gallery contains, inter alia, fine specimens of Titian, Velasquez, Tintoretto, Vandyke, Murillo, Teniers, Wouvermans, and other artists. Among the pictures are two of the Caracci series, painted for the Giustiniani Palace, by Agostino and Ludovico Caracci. These famous pictures came to England in the Duke of Lucca's collection, and not being purchased for the National Gallery, after some negotiation with the trustees, they were subsequently exhibited in most of the cities of the United Kingdom, before they were separated to pass into the hands of private gentlemen. Then there are several of Rubens' exquisite sketches, among them the slight one for his "Entry of Henry IV.," in the Luxembourg collection, and the "Assumption of the Virgin," for the picture over the high altar in Antwerp Cathedral. Claude and the two Poussins are represented by brilliant landscapes. Altogether, the gallery ranks among the most important private collections in England. Mr. Holford has also a magnificent library, well stored with rare and curious books, among which are the editio princeps of Walton's "Compleat Angler," and Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress," both lately reproduced in fac-simile by Mr. Elliot Stock.
On the north side of Dorchester House is South Street, which runs into Hill Street, Berkeley Square. In this street stood the Roman Catholic chapel belonging to the Portuguese Embassy, and called after it the Portuguese Chapel. The building was removed about the year 1845, when it was superseded by the Jesuit Church in Farm Street, as already mentioned. In this street (at No. 39) lived Lord Melbourne, while occupying the post of Premier. In 1835, Mdlle. D'Este, daughter of the Duke of Sussex, lived at No. 36; and at No. 33, Lord Holland. In this street, also, lived Vice-Chancellor Sir John Leach.
Chapel Street is so called on account of its proximity to Grosvenor Chapel. In it, in 1841, lived General Sir Robert Thomas Wilson, who having gained laurels in Egypt under Sir Ralph Abercromby, and subsequently in the Peninsula under Wellington, became involved in the unfortunate matter of Queen Caroline, and for his censure of the course pursued by the members of the Crown, was degraded and dismissed from the army; he was, however, subsequently reinstated, and attained the rank of general. He was for many years M.P. for Southwark; and for some time, just before his death in 1849, he held the post of Governor of Gibraltar.
Of Mount Street, which runs parallel with Chapel Street, across the middle of South Audley Street, we have spoken in a previous chapter.
A fine and spacious mansion, No. 21, between Mount and Upper Grosvenor Streets, was for many years the residence of the Marquis of Breadalbane, and afterwards of Lady Palmerston, who lived here in her widowhood.
In Upper Grosvenor Street lived William, Duke of Cumberland, more frequently known as "the butcher," on account of his wholesale massacre of the conquered Jacobites after the battle of Culloden, in 1746. Here he died, somewhat suddenly, at the end of October, 1765.
The corner house of Park Lane and Upper Grosvenor Street, formerly numbered 1, Grosvenor Gate, was the residence of Mr. Benjamin Disraeli for more than thirty years, including the period of his first Premiership. It had belonged to Mr. Wyndham Lewis, for a short time his colleague in the representation of Maidstone, whose widow (afterwards Lady Beaconsfield) he married in 1839, soon after her first husband's death. He occupied it down to the year before his second Premiership.
On the south side of this street is Grosvenor House, the town residence of the Duke of Westminster. It was formerly called Gloucester House; and in it lived the Duke of Gloucester, younger brother of George III., for whom it was originally built. It is separated from the street by a handsome open stone colonnade or screen, of classic pillars, connecting a double arching entrance, above which are pediments sculptured with the family arms, and panels with the four seasons above the foot entrances; the metal gates, and other portions of the screen, are enriched with foliage, fruit, flowers, and armorial bearings. This screen was completed in 1842, from the designs of Mr. T. Cundy, who also erected, in 1826, after a beautiful example of the Corinthian order, the western wing of the mansion, containing the picture-gallery, one of the finest private galleries in Europe. Few sights are more attractive to strangers than galleries of paintings and statues; and although we are sadly deficient in public collections of such works of art, yet it may safely be asserted, that no country in Europe can boast of such magnificent private galleries as England, and no capital as London. Unlike Paris in this respect, most of the picturegalleries in London are the property of private individuals; but they are generally accessible by special application or a personal introduction.
The celebrated "Grosvenor Gallery" was commenced by Richard, first Earl Grosvenor, by the purchase of Mr. Agar's pictures, as a nucleus, for 30,000 guineas. The collection has since been considerably increased by various purchases. The gallery contains specimens of Claude, the Poussins, Raphael, Murillo, Snyders, Rembrandt, Rubens, Velasquez, Titian, Guido, Paul Veronese, Vandyke, Cuyp, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Hogarth, Vandervelde, and, indeed, of nearly all the great masters, ancient and modern. Hogarth's "Sigismonda," which is among them, as we know from one of the painter's private letters, was executed in 1764, the last year of his life, at the earnest request of Sir Richard Grosvenor.
In the words of Dr. Waagen, in his "Art and Artists in England," Grosvenor House gallery "makes a truly princely appearance, by its extent, the value of the pictures, and the manner in which they are hung. . . . . It is rich in the works of the great painters of the Dutch and Flemish schools of the seventeenth century, and in works of Rembrandt it is perhaps the first in England, after the private collection of royalty." Dr. Waagen also singles out for special commendation pictures by Paul Potter, Gerard Dow, Salvator Rosa, Claude Lorraine, Murillo, and Velasquez. The gallery is a magnificent and lofty apartment, lit only by a lantern from above; a faint and subdued light consequently reaches the lower part, to the great disadvantage of the pictures which are hung low. It contains five fine specimens of Rubens, including "The Wise Men's Offering," "Ixion," and "Sarah sending away Hagar;" the "Visitation of St. Elizabeth," and four others, by Rembrandt.
The following extract from Mr. H. C. Robinson's Diary, under date May 31, 1833, will give a good idea of the merits of this gallery:—"I accompanied——to the Marquis of Westminster's, to see his pictures. The pleasure of seeing them was rather enhanced than diminished by my better acquaintance with the great master-pieces in Italy. There are here some delightful specimens of Claude, which are equal to any on the Continent; there are also capital Rembrandts and Rubenses. It is true that there are but few of the great Italian masters, yet Guido's 'Fortune' (a duplicate) is one of the most beautiful pictures that I know. Westall was here with——, and I could hear him giving the preference in colouring to Sir Joshua's 'Mrs. Siddons' over every picture in the room. The 'Blue Boy' of Gainsborough is a delicious painting."
It only remains to add that the duke very freely allows the gallery to be seen by the working classes; and that, with this end specially in view, has allowed access to it, under certain conditions, on Sundays, an example of liberality and consideration which might be followed in other quarters.
The Duke of Westminster is the head of the family of Grosvenor—a house which, although its connection with the English peerage is scarcely a century old, can lay claim to as noble a descent as any of our Norman houses. In fact, the Grosvenors have been of knightly dignity since the Conquest. Its head was the individual who, towards the close of the fourteenth century, carried on, for five long years, the memorable controversy of Scrope versus Grosvenor, before the High Court of Chivalry, the judges being the Lord High Constable, Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, youngest son of Edward III., and the Earl Marshal, Thomas de Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham. "Kings, warriors, mitred abbots, bishops, statesmen, and poets, appear on the scene. Four hundred witnesses, not one of lesser degree than 'a gentleman having knowledge of arms,' were called on to give evidence—among them John of Gaunt, Owen Glendower, Hotspur, and Geoffrey Chaucer. The question before the Court was such as may well raise a smile now-a-days, when everybody is, forsooth, a 'gentleman,' and when everybody who likes to pay the tax can assume what armorial bearings he pleases, without fear of punishment; it was simply the right to bear a particular plain coat of arms, heraldically described as 'Azure, a bend or.' The plaintiff was Sir Richard de Scrope, of Bolton, the friend and comrade of the Black Prince; the defendant was Sir Robert Grosvenor, a Cheshire knight. We will not attempt to give an outline of the pleadings: suffice it to say, that the decision of the Court was in favour of Scrope, the same arms, 'within a plain bordure argent,'being allowed to Grosvenor—the present arms of the family."
The Grosvenors were raised to a baronetcy in 1621, but did not attain the peerage till the early years of the reign of George III., when Sir Richard Grosvenor was created Baron Grosvenor of Eaton, in the County Palatine of Chester. His lordship was advanced to the dignities of Viscount Belgrave and Earl Grosvenor twenty years later. The second earl was raised to the Marquisate of Westminster at the coronation of William IV. The ducal title was conferred by Her Majesty in 1874. The title chosen by Earl Grosvenor for his marquisate is, at all events, appropriate; for it is from within the boundaries of the fair City of Westminster that the largest portion of the princely rent-roll of the family is derived. It is often said, and generally believed, that the Duke of Westminster's income exceeds that of any other nobleman of the age.
Continuing our walk up Park Lane, we pass, at No. 35, the residence of Sir Moses Montefiore, Bart, the venerable and indefatigable champion of the religious and social interests of the Jewish race in every part of the world.
Dudley House, at the north-western corner of Upper Brook Street, is the residence of the Earl of Dudley, and is also noted for containing a gallery of pictures of the Flemish and Italian schools. The collection formed here by the late earl is described by Dr. Waagen in 1835 as a very mixed one. He enumerates a few by Bellini, Francia, Cuyp, Rysdale, &c., adding, "I looked in vain for the 'Three Graces,' by Raphael, which Passavant saw there." It is understood, however, that the present earl has added considerably to his gallery. There are also several fine specimens of sculpture, including a "Venus" by Canova.
Here lived the eccentric Earl of Dudley, who died in 1833. His lordship, who was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs under Mr. Canning's administration, was somewhat of a bon vivant, as may be guessed from some of the anecdotes handed down about him. During the general depression in 1825–7, Lord Dudley remarked to a friend that his coal-mining income had fallen off during one year, £30,000; "but," he added, "I am a moderate man, and don't feel it. Lord Durham, they tell me, has not bread!"
On one occasion, when the carte of a forthcoming dinner at the "Clarendon" was discussed in his presence, his lordship observed: "My wants and wishes are moderate in such matters. I consider a good soup, a small turbot, a neck of venison with asparagus, and an apricot tart, is a dinner for an emperor—when he can't get a better."
Of his lordship's extraordinary absence of mind, and his unfortunate habit of "thinking aloud," many amusing anecdotes have been in circulation. It is told, as a fact, that when he was in the Foreign Office, he directed a letter, intended for the French, to the Russian Ambassador, shortly before the affair of Navarino; and, strange as it may appear, it obtained him the highest honour. Prince Lieven, who possibly never made any mistakes of the kind, set it down as the cleverest ruse ever attempted to be played off, and gave himself immense credit for not falling into the trap laid for him by the sinister ingenuity of the English Secretary. He returned the letter with a most polite note, in which he vowed, of course, that he had not read a line of it after he had ascertained that it was intended for Prince Polignac; but could not help telling Lord Dudley at an evening party, that he was "trop fin, but that diplomatists of his (Prince L.'s) standing were not so easily caught."
With high birth, wealth, and everything in his favour, Lord Dudley ended in a ridiculous failure. He is tersely described by one of the ladies of the Court of George IV., as "a man who promised much, did little, and died mad." Madame de Staël, however, said of him, that "he was the only man of sentiment whom she had met in England."
Upper Brook Street, which connects Park Lane with the north-west corner of Grosvenor Square, has had at different times some distinguished residents; among others, William Gerard Hamilton, M.P., known as "single-speech Hamilton." In 1763, Lady Molesworth, her brother, and seven other persons, were accidentally burnt in their house in this street.
In 1826, No. 40 was occupied by the wealthy and eccentric Mr. Ball Hughes. In 1841, No. 27 was the residence of the celebrated engineer, Sir John Burgoyne; and at No. 49 lived Lord Ashley (since Earl of Shaftesbury). In this street, too, at one time, resided the Hon. Mrs. Damer, the sculptor. She was a daughter of General Conway, and the widow of Mr. John Damer, who, as we have seen, (fn. 1) whilst quite a young man, shot himself at a tavern in Covent Garden. She was a great friend of Horace Walpole, who left her a life interest in Strawberry Hill.
Portugal Street, which runs north and south from Mount to Chapel Streets, parallel to Park Lane, still commemorates the name of the queen of Charles II. Our readers will not have forgotten that, at one time, this name was given to Piccadilly; and, in all probability, when thus quietly dropped out of use for the great thoroughfare, it was preserved in connection with this modest and retiring street by some lover of the Stuart line of kings. The street is narrow, and consists of little more than a dozen houses, all old-fashioned, and rather gloomy; and there is little more to be said about it.
Park Street, which extends northwards from South Street to Oxford Street, crossing Mount Street, Upper Grosvenor, and Upper Brook Streets, has numbered among its residents at various times a few names which have become famous, such as Sir Humphry Davy, the greatest chemist of his age, who lived at No. 26; Mr. William Beckford, of Fonthill celebrity, who, in 1841, occupied No. 27; Mr. Serjeant Goulburn, who lived at No. 21; and Miss Lydia White, who, in 1827, died at her residence, No. 113. This lady, Mr. Peter Cunningham tells us, was "celebrated for her lively wit and for her blue-stocking parties, unrivalled, it is said, in the soft realm of blue May Fair"—except, it may be supposed, by Mrs. Montague. Sir Walter Scott writes, in his diary, under date of 13th May, 1826, that he "went to poor Lydia White's, and found her extended on a couch, frightfully swelled, unable to stir, roughed, jesting, and dying. She has a good heart and head, and is really a clever creature; but, unhappily, or rather, happily, she has set up the whole staff of her rest in keeping literary society about her. The world has not neglected her. She can always make up a circle, and generally has some people of real talent and distinction." At No. 56, now pulled down, lived, for many years, Baron Parke, both whilst a judge, and subsequently to his creation, in 1855, as a "peer for life," by the name, style, and title of Lord Wensleydale.
In Green Street, which runs eastward from Park Lane into North Audley Street, lived and died the Rev. Sydney Smith, the witty canon of St. Paul's. A native of Woodford, in Essex, he was born in the year 1771, and having entered the Church, became curate of Amesbury, in Wiltshire. "The squire of the parish," says Sydney Smith, "took a fancy to me, and requested me to go with his son to reside at the University of Weimar; before we got there, Germany became the seat of war; and, in stress of politics, we put into Edinburgh, where I remained five years." Here, in 1802, in conjunction with a few literary associates, he projected the Edinburgh Review. In the following year he removed to London, where he soon became "the delight and wonder of society." After holding various preferments, he was appointed, in 1831, one of the canons residentiary of St. Paul's. He published several pamphlets and sermons, and also his contributions to the Edinburgh Review in a collected form; but the work by which he is best remembered is "Peter Plymley's Letters," written to promote the cause of Catholic emancipation, and abounding in wit and irony. Sydney Smith died in February, 1845.
In this street lived Lord Cochrane, whose name became notorious in connection with a certain stock-jobbing fraud of a most extraordinary kind, which was played off in the metropolis, and of which we have already given the particulars, (fn. 2) but which may be briefly summarised here. It appears that between eleven and twelve in the forenoon of Monday, the 21st of February, 1814, a person, wearing a white cockade, passed rapidly by the Royal Exchange, in a post-chaise, drawn by four horses, and decorated with sprigs of laurel. Much about the same time a chaise similarly decorated, and a person of the same description within, was seen in the vicinity of Downing Street—not proceeding directly thither, but wandering about, apparently in want of a guide. Much excitement was caused by the appearance of these individuals, coupled with the rumours which had been spread abroad, to the effect that the mission of the man with the cockade was not to the British Government, but to the French princes here; and that he had certainly arrived at the residences of the Prince of Conde and the Duke of Bourbon. One of the actors engaged in this conspiracy, named De Berenger, was traced to the house of Lord Cochrane, in this street. After some lapse of time in consequence of investigations of the committee appointed by the Stock Exchange, these two persons, together with some four or five others, were brought to trial before Lord Ellenborough, "for conspiring to defraud that body, by circulating false news of Bonaparte's defeat, his being killed by the Cossacks, &c., to raise the funds to a higher price than they would otherwise have borne, to the injury of the public and to the benefit of the conspirators." All the persons indicted were found guilty; Lord Cochrane was sentenced to pay a fine of £1,000 to the king, to be set upon the pillory in front of the Royal Exchange, and to be imprisoned for twelve calendar months; one of the other prisoners received the same judgment, and the remainder were sentenced to a year's imprisonment in the Marshalsea. Lord Cochrane was one of the last persons sentenced to the pillory. This punishment he had not to bear, for Sir Francis Burdett vowed that, if necessary, he would stand by his side; and his presence was, in itself, protection from the mob.
Crossing Green Street, at right angles at its western end, is Norfolk Street. No. 22 in this street was once the residence of Lord Overstone, the eminent and wealthy banker, who here had a fine gallery of pictures. In this street lived the Duchess of Gordon. Though strictly pious in her later years, as a middle-aged matron she was a leader of fashion, and the admiration of West-end circles. If it be true that she was ambitious and vain, her ambition and vanity must have been gratified by seeing three daughters married to the Dukes of Bedford, Richmond, and Manchester, and a fourth to the Marquis Cornwallis.
In this street resided Lord William Russell, brother of the fifth and sixth Dukes of Bedford, who, on the 6th of May, 1840, was murdered in his bed by his valet, Courvoisier. From the confession which Courvoisier made, after finding his case was hopeless, it appears that, in the middle of the night, when the family had retired to rest, Lord William, feeling indisposed, dressed himself, and went down stairs, where he found the valet busy in packing up the valuables, apparently with intent to carry them away. He taxed him with his crime, and, telling him he should be discharged the next morning, returned to his bed. Courvoisier, in despair, after waiting some time, seized a carving-knife, went up to his master's room, and, finding him fast asleep, savagely cut his throat. The murderer was tried at the Old Bailey, and, being found guilty, was executed in the following July.
Passing once more into Park Lane, we have to direct our attention to two or three more houses before closing this chapter. The first of these, No. 16, was, in 1826, the residence of the late Lord Ellenborough, some time Governor-General of India; at No. 8 were living the Misses Berry, Horace Walpole's friends; and the large house at the northern end, next to Oxford Street, and backing on to Camelford House, was for many years the residence of the late Duke of Somerset, whose wife, one of the fair trio of Sheridan sisters, sat as the "Queen of Beauty" at the Eglinton Tournament. Camelford House, so called after Pitt, Lord Camelford, has nothing to command special attention, unless it be its mean and dingy appearance. The front of the house is towards Oxford Street, and the entrance at the side, whilst the court-yard at the back is open to Norfolk Street. The second Lord Camelford's body, after his death, in a duel fought near Holland House, was brought back hither, in 1804, and was taken hence to be deposited in St. Anne's Church, Soho, as we have already stated. The house then passed to his only sister, Lady Grenville, who lived here, with her husband, the Premier. She died, aged ninety, in 1863. At one time the house was let to Prince (afterwards King) Leopold and the Princess Charlotte. It has been for many years the residence of Sir Charles Mills, Bart., of Hillingdon Court, Middlesex.
Having now reached the northern extremity of Park Lane, we have on our left the Marble Arch; but of this, and also of Cumberland Gate and Tyburn, we shall speak in subsequent chapters.