CHAPTER 7: LXVII—No. 1 HORSE GUARDS AVENUE (FORMERLY No. 4 WHITEHALL YARD)
The premises are the freehold of the Crown and are used for the
purposes of the Ministry of Transport.
History and Description of Structure.
In 1718 Robert Darcy, 3rd Earl of Holderness, applied for a lease
of a piece of ground within the precincts of Whitehall. The report on his
petition. (fn. 1) described it as part "of the ruins of the said Pallace" and "almost
covered. with heaps of Rubbish," (fn. 2) 115 feet long from east to west, and 80
feet wide, adjoining south on Lord Herbert's ground (Pembroke House),
west and north on other ruins of the Palace, and east on the Thames. The
lease was granted, (fn. 3) and the earl in due course erected "for his own habitation" a house which was afterwards divided into two. (fn. 4) From some early
allusions (fn. 5) it is clear that the house was practically from the beginning in
the occupation of a Mrs. Darcy (perhaps the earl's mother, for his father was
never during his lifetime the heir to the earldom). The earl died in 1722,
and the ratebooks for 1723–4 (the earliest available) include the names of
Lady Holderness (fn. 6) and Col. Darcy, one or both of which may refer to this
The next occupant of whom we may feel certain (fn. 7) is the Duchess of
Leeds, who is mentioned in the sale of 1744 (see below) as a previous occupant
of the house. The ratebooks from 1730 to 1738 show the duchess in the
vicinity, and a report, (fn. 8) dated 2nd April, 1729, on a petition by the Earl of
Pembroke, gives the north-eastern boundary of Pembroke House as the
house in the occupation "of the Duchess of Leeds." This last statement
makes it certain that Bridget, (fn. 9) wife of the 2nd Duke, is the person referred to,
as she was the only Duchess of Leeds living in April, 1729. (fn. 10) The ratebooks
must, however, be incorrect in showing her at the house as late as 1738, for
she died on 11th March, 1733–4. (fn. 11)
About the year 1738 (see p. 157) the house was divided, and the ratebook for 1742 shows Lord Holderness (the 4th Earl) in occupation of the
southern (and larger) portion of the premises. In the same year the earl
obtained a reversionary lease of the whole of the property for 42½ years from
18th July, 1749, and on 23rd July, 1744, he sold (fn. 12) his interest in the southern
house to John Waple, in trust for Audrey, Viscountess Townshend. (fn. 13) Lord
Holderness seems to have remained in occupation until shortly after the sale, (fn. 14)
but it was some time before Lady Townshend moved in. (fn. 15) In 1775 she
(then dowager viscountess) obtained a reversionary lease of the house for
32½ years from 29th January, 1792. In the report (fn. 16) on her memorial it
was stated that the house had been rebuilt since its separation from next
door, and its front set back about 17 feet further than the old house. The
measurements were 60 feet 7 inches in front and 98 feet 2 inches in length.
It was still "in the tenure or occupation" of Lady Townshend, and it seems
probable that she continued in residence until her death in 1788. (fn. 17)
In the same year the house was sold by her executors to Michael
Angelo Taylor. (fn. 18) It was then in "so decayed a state as to be scarcely habitable," (fn. 19) and Taylor in 1793 began the erection of a new house. In the
course of the next ten years the north part of the house had been entirely
"rebuilt in a most substantial manner, and the other part stripped to the walls,
and entirely refitted and raised two Stories higher." Taylor had moreover
enlarged the garden by embanking the Thames opposite his house. (fn. 20) In
1805 he obtained a new lease for a term of 89 years, commencing on 5th
April, 1803. On its expiry in 1892 the premises were taken over for official
use by the Board of Trade.
The house, known commonly as Michael Angelo Taylor's House,
comprises a semi-basement with three storeys over, and an attic in a slated
mansard roof to the main portion (Plate 60).
The northern part of the west front is in plain brickwork, relieved
with stone bands at the old ground line and the level of the window-sills on
the first floor, and is surmounted by a stone balustraded parapet above a
moulded cornice. The ground-floor windows are semi-circular headed
within a recessed face. The entrance doorway has a large semi-circular
fanlight with radiating bars, but it has been obscured by the addition of a
modern porch. The latter is faced with stucco and has Grecian Corinthian
columns, which carry an entablature supporting a high balustraded parapet
screening the flat roof. The southern portion of the west front is treated as
a wing and is more restrained, the parapet being in plain brickwork without
any balustrading. Owing to the alteration of levels due to the construction of Horse Guards Avenue, it has been necessary to form some steps
to the approach, and the old party wall, which, by the demolition of the
adjoining premises on the north side, has now become an external wall, has
been cemented over, and attempts made at relief by the insertion of horizontal
stone bands. The river or garden front is in plain brickwork, with the windows of the northern portion to the old ground and first floors carried down
to their respective floor levels (Plate 61). The centre window on the ground
floor originally opened out to a terrace, whence a double horse-shoe staircase
led down to the garden and river beyond. This, however, was destroyed
when Horse Guards Avenue was formed.
Room No. 17, Cornice.
The main staircase has a delicate iron balustrade with a mahogany
hand-rail, and continues in a semi-circular sweep to each floor with a series of
radiating steps. The stone treads are moulded, with shaped outer ends,
which continue through to the supporting wall, forming a moulded soffit. A
decorated band continues around the wall at the floor level (Plate 63).
The southern room on the ground floor (Room No. 17) is a lofty
apartment extending the full depth of the floor, and having a coved ceiling
springing above a wide cornice with panelled modillions and soffit. The
cove finishes against a fretted band, while a floral ornament in high relief
occupies the centre. The windows have panelled reveals, and the doors are
double margin, six-panelled, in mahogany, with moulded and carved casings
(Plate 62). The chair-rail and skirting members are complementary, and
the mantelpiece is designed in wood.
The other main rooms on the ground and first floors have mahogany
doors, similar in character, with decorative casings, while the mantelpieces
are carved in statuary marble.
In Room No. 18, and also on the floor above, are large glazed cupboards designed in the style of the house. They are probably original
The boundary wall to the south side of the entrance forecourt is
constructed in ragstone rubble (Plate 61), which, it is believed, is part of
the remains of the old Palace walling and probably belonged to the buildings
south of the Great Hall and Chapel.
Condition of Repair.
The occupants of the present house, according to the ratebooks and directories, were as
|1793 (fn. 21) –1801||Michael Angelo Taylor|
|1805–34||Michael Angelo Taylor|
|Sir Rainald Knightley, Bt.|
|1889–91||Sir John Henry Puleston|
Michael Angelo Taylor, son of Sir Robert Taylor, architect, was born in 1757. He was
called to the Bar in 1774. In 1784 he became Recorder of Poole, and in the same year entered
Parliament as member for that borough. With one or two breaks he continued a member of Parliament until his death. At first a Tory, and a supporter of Pitt, he gradually adopted Whig views,
and his house in Whitehall became a favourite rendezvous of that party. He was persistent in drawing attention to the defective paving and lighting of the streets of London, and the Act (fn. 22) which he
carried dealing with such matters is still known as Michael Angelo Taylor's Act. He died on 16th
July, 1834, at his house in Whitehall. (fn. 23)
Michael Angelo Taylor.
According to the ratebooks Taylor's residence at the house was broken during the years
1802–4, when Lord Arden is shown in occupation. This was Charles George Perceval, 3rd son
of the Earl of Egmont and brother of Spencer Perceval, created Baron Arden in 1802. He died
on 5th July, 1840, aged 83.
On 22nd October, 1836, the Rev. John Vane, Taylor's executor, sold (fn. 24) the house to Viscount
Henry Hall, 4th Viscount Gage, was born in 1791, and succeeded to the title in 1808.
He was an accomplished mathematician, and at the time of his death in 1877 was the father of
the House of Lords.
The directories show that he was succeeded in the occupation of the house in Whitehall
by his son, Henry Charles, the 5th Viscount, born in 1854. He died in 1912. His residence
at the house lasted until 1888. For the latter year he is bracketed with Sir Rainald Knightley, Bt.,
who was a connection by marriage, his sister having in 1840 married the Hon. Henry Edward Hall
Gage, eldest son of the 4th Viscount. Sir Rainald, who was born in 1819, was in 1892 created
Baron Knightley. He died in 1895.
Sir John Henry Puleston was born at Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd, North Wales, in 1830.
He was M.P. for Devonport from 1874 to 1892, and constable of Carnarvon Castle. He died in
In The Council's Collection are:—
(fn. 25) West elevation of premises (photograph).
(fn. 25) East elevation of premises (photograph).
(fn. 25) General view of staircase (photograph).
(fn. 25) Cornice to Room No. 17 (photograph).
(fn. 25) Detail of door-casing, Room No. 17 (photograph).
(fn. 25) Detail of door-casing, Room No. 18 (photograph).
Detail of door-casing, Room No. 19 (photograph).
(fn. 25) Ground and first-floor plans (measured drawing).
(fn. 25) View of old rubble walling, south side of forecourt (photograph).