CHAPTER 13: XCII—NO. 14 DOWNING STREET (DEMOLISHED)
History of the Building.
Among the premises leased to James Steadman by Charles Downing
on 17th April, 1723, (fn. 1) was "All that Messuage … Scituate … in
a place heretofore called Hampden Garden … at the West end of a Street
there now called Downing Street … containeing in length on the North
part thereof Fifty Foot, on the South part thereof Fifty Foot, and in breadth
from North to South on the West part thereof Forty six Foot and on the East
East part thereof, and upon a Terras adjoyneing to Saint James's Park Wall
on the West, and upon the Garden of the Dwelling house of—Bushverighet (fn. 2)
on the South, and upon one other house of
the said Charles Downings, late in the Tenure
of Thomas Fredrick Esquire Deceased on the
North." The premises are obviously those
marked 1 on the plan of 1749 (Plate 106).
Whatever was the case with Nos. 2 to 4 on
that plan, it would seem that No. 1 was not
entirely rebuilt in 1722–3, for it is referred
to in the latter year as "now under repair and
lett to the Lord Harcourt" (see p. 154). This
house was also included in the sale on 24th
November, 1772, by the Downing Trustees
to William Maseres (see p. 142), who, on
29th October, 1774, leased (fn. 3) the premises for
31 years from the following Christmas to
Henry Hunt, when they are described as
"late in the Tenure … of the Right Honble
Richard, Earl of Scarborough." On 23rd
May, 1782, Hunt's lease, which had come
into the hands of Walter Scot, (fn. 4) was purchased by Sir John Eden, (fn. 5) who,
six years later (3rd May, 1788), also acquired the Downing lease. (fn. 6) On
10th September, 1798, Eden sold the premises to the Crown, (fn. 7) and they were
henceforth until their demolition used for the purposes of the Colonial Office.
Extract from plan lithographed by Standidge and Co. (? 1857) preserved among the Council's records, showing ground plans of Nos. 12 and 14, Downing Street
A view of the house in 1827 is contained in Plate 142, and a ground
plan of Nos. 12 and 14 (taken from a plan made about 1857) is given on
the opposite page.
When, in 1856, Parliamentary sanction was obtained for the erection
of new Government offices on the south side of Downing Street, it was felt
that the demolition of the adjoining buildings would jeopardise the Colonial
Office. In 1861–2 the house had been so weakened by the adjacent excavations that its demolition became imperative. Some portions were accordingly
taken down, but the remainder of the house was not demolished until the
spring of 1876, (fn. 8) certain chimneypieces of architectural merit being retained
for incorporation in the new building (see Plates 143, 144, 145).
The following is a list of occupants of No 14, Downing Street, from 1723 until it was taken
over for official purposes in 1798.
|1726–30||Marquess of Blandford|
|1731–49||(Sir) Watkin Williams Wynn|
|1752–54||Duchess Dowager Junr. of Somerset|
|1763–66||Earl of Scarbrough|
|1775–97||Sir John Eden|
The ratebooks for the year 1723–5 show Lord Harcourt at what was afterwards No. 14,
Downing Street, and his residence is confirmed by the description of No. 12 in 1723 (see p. 154)
as bounded on the south by "a messuage … now under repair and lett to the Lord Harcourt."
Simon Harcourt, 1st Viscount Harcourt, son of Sir Philip Harcourt, of Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire, was born about 1661. He was called to the Bar in 1683, and was appointed Recorder of
Abingdon. He entered Parliament in 1690 as M.P. for that borough, which he represented for
the next 15 years. In 1702 he became Solicitor-General and was knighted. Five years later he
was made Attorney-General. He resigned in less than a year, but was again appointed in 1710.
A few months before, being without a seat in Parliament, he defended Sacheverell in an eloquent
speech before the bar of the House of Lords, but was prevented from taking further part in the proceedings by his election for Cardigan. In the same year he was appointed Lord Keeper, and in 1711
was raised to the peerage as Baron Harcourt. In 1713 he was made Lord Chancellor. On the
death of Anne he was immediately reappointed, but on the arrival of George I in London, was
deprived of the great seal. In 1721 he was created Viscount Harcourt. In 1727 he was stricken
with paralysis when on a visit to Walpole at Chelsea, and died a few days later at Harcourt House,
In 1722 Harcourt was readmitted to the Privy Council (from which he had been excluded
in 1714). In order to be near at hand, he, a few months later, rented No. 14, Downing Street. (fn. 9)
His residence there lasted about three years, and the ratebook for 1726 shows that he was succeeded
in the occupancy of the house by the Marquess of Blandford. (fn. 10)
William, Marquess of Blandford, was son of Henrietta, Duchess of Marlborough, and grandson of the great Duke. He died at Oxford of an apoplectic fit in August, 1731, but had apparently
left No. 14, Downing Street, before this, for the ratebook for that year shows "Watkin Wynn
Williams" at the house.
Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, born in 1692, was the son of Sir William Williams, of Llanforda, near Oswestry. On succeeding to the estates of his kinsman, Sir John Wynn, in 1719, he
assumed the arms and the additional name of Wynn. In 1716 he entered Parliament as member for
Denbighshire, a seat which he retained until his death. He was one of the most influential and active
Jacobites in the House, and became involved in the rebellion of 1745. He escaped punishment,
however, and afterwards took a much less active part in politics. He died on 26th September,
1749, from the effects of a fall from his horse. He had incurred much odium among Welshmen for
his activities in connection with the persecution of the North Wales Methodists, and his death was
by some regarded as a righteous retribution. His widow (fn. 11) continued to reside for a time at the house
in Downing Street, (fn. 12) and according to the ratebooks was succeeded in 1752 by the "Dutches
Dowager Junr of Somerset."
This was Frances, eldest daughter and co-heiress of Henry Thynne. In 1713 she had
married Algernon, 7th Duke of Somerset, who died in 1750. The duchess died on 7th July, 1754,
at No. 14, Downing Street. (fn. 13) The house was taken in the same year by the Earl of Kildare.
James Fitzgerald, afterwards 1st Duke of Leinster, son of Robert, 19th Earl of Kildare, was
born in 1722. In 1744 he succeeded his father in the earldom, and in the headship of the great
family of the Geraldines. In the rebellion of 1745 he offered to raise a regiment at his own expense
to fight the Pretender. In 1747 he married Lady Emily Lennox, second daughter of the Duke
of Richmond, and was created Viscount Leinster in the English peerage. He now began to take a
prominent part in Irish politics, and his strong action in 1754 against Stone, the Archbishop of
Dublin, gained him immense popularity. In 1761 he was created Earl of Offaly and Marquess
of Kildare, and in 1766 attained the summit of his ambition as Duke of Leinster. He died in
Dublin on 19th November, 1773.
Kildare's residence at No. 14, Downing Street, was very brief, apparently a matter of only
a few months, (fn. 14) and the ratebook for 1755 contains the names of the Duchess of Somerset (which
must be a mistake) and the "Right Honble. Hen. Fox Esqr—Xmas." Thus Kildare was succeeded
in the occupation of the house by his brother-in-law.
Henry Fox, afterwards 1st Baron Holland, younger son of Sir Stephen Fox, statesman, was
born in 1705. After squandering the greater part of his private fortune, he retired for a time to the
Continent, and on his return was elected M.P. for Hindon in 1735. He attached himself to Sir
Robert Walpole, by whom he was presented with the office of Surveyor-General of Works. In
1742, on Walpole's fall, he resigned, but a year later was made a lord of the Treasury. In 1746 he
became Secretary at War. By scheming, at one time with, and at another against, Pitt he became
leader of the House in 1755 and Secretary of State. He resigned in the following year. In 1757
negotiations were almost concluded for his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer, but at the
last moment they fell through, and he accepted the less distinguished, but more lucrative post of
Paymaster-General, which he retained for eight years, amassing a large fortune. In 1762 he deserted
his party to become once more leader of the House, and his unscrupulous conduct during the few
months that he held the position made him the most hated minister in the country. In 1763 he
retired and was created Baron Holland. In 1765 he was compelled to resign the office of Paymaster-General. Out of favour with all parties, he endeavoured in vain to obtain an earldom, and
broken in health, with his ambitions unrealised, he died at Holland House on 1st July, 1774. In
1744 he had secretly married Lady Georgiana Caroline Lennox, eldest daughter of the Duke of
According to the ratebook Fox was succeeded at No. 14, Downing Street, in the course of
1756, by Lord Anson.
George Anson, Baron Anson, second son of William Anson, of Shugborough, in Staffordshire,
was born in 1697. His mother was sister of Janet, wife of Thomas Parker, afterwards Earl of
Macclesfield and Lord Chancellor. From boyhood he followed a seaman's career, and in 1716
obtained a commission in the navy. For the next 24 years his career presents no striking incident.
In 1740 he was sent out, with the nominal rank of commodore, in command of a squadron consisting
of the Centurion and five other ships for service in the Pacific. The voyage which followed, and
which lasted for nearly four years, was marked by heroism and resource in the face of sickness and
disaster, and by many stirring incidents, which culminated in the capture by the Centurion (then the
only ship left, and that with a greatly depleted crew) of the Spanish treasure galleon from Manila
for Acapulco. The treasure amounted to half a million sterling, and was brought home safely,
reaching Spithead on 15th June, 1744. The story of this voyage round the world has always been
popular. Anson was at once promoted to the rank of rear-admiral. In 1746, now a vice-admiral,
he crushed the French fleet off Cape Finisterre, and was raised to the peerage as Baron Anson. In
1748, in the absence of Lord Sandwich, he became virtual First Lord of the Admiralty, and in 1755
was actually appointed to that office. He again became First Lord in 1757. In 1761 he was made
Admiral of the Fleet, and on 6th June, 1762, died suddenly at his seat at Moor Park. Anson's
residence at No. 14 seems to have practically coincided with the interval between his two terms of
office as First Lord of the Admiralty. The ratebook for 1757 shows him succeeded at the house by
Nathaniel Ryder, afterwards 1st Baron Harrowby, son of Sir Dudley Ryder, Lord Chief
Justice of the King's Bench, was born in 1735. He entered Parliament in 1756 as member for
Tiverton, and retained his seat until 1776, when he was created Baron Harrowby. He died
Ryder's residence at No. 14 lasted, according to the ratebooks, from 1757 to 1762. The
entry in the book for 1763 is "E[mpty] Lady Ryder." This is crossed through and "Ld Scarberrer" written in. Again, this is superseded by "Countess of Scarbrough." "Lady Ryder"
was Ryder's mother, (fn. 15) whose residence can only have been for a short period. Why the "Countess"
of Scarbrough instead of the earl is mentioned in 1763 is a puzzle. The ratebooks for the succeeding
two years give the earl's name.
Richard Lumley, 4th Earl of Scarbrough, was born in 1725 and succeeded to the title in
1752. In 1756 and again in 1765–6 he was Cofferer to the Household, and from 1765 to 1767
was Deputy Earl Marshal of England. He died in 1782.
According to the ratebooks the earl's residence lasted until 1765, and in 1767 he was succeeded by William "Belcher" or "Belchier," (fn. 16) whose residence lasted until 1770. For some years
the house was then empty, but the ratebook for 1775 shows Sir John Eden removed thither from
the next-door house (the present No. 12). (fn. 17) Sir John Eden, born in 1740, was the eldest son of Sir
Robert Eden, 3rd Baronet, and father of Lords Auckland and Henley. He succeeded his father in
the baronetcy in 1755, and from 1774 to 1790 represented the county of Durham in Parliament.
He died on 22nd August, 1812, at the family seat at Windlestone, Durham.
His residence at No. 14, Downing Street lasted until 1797, and the ratebook for the following
year shows the "Rt Honble Hy Dundas" in occupation. Dundas was Secretary of State for War,
an office which at the time included the charge of colonial affairs. He resigned in 1801, and was
succeeded by Lord Hobart. The ratebooks contain no hint that Dundas and, for the years 1801
and 1802, Lord Hobart, were not residents at the house, but that for 1803 shows the house as
"Lord Hobart—Office," and it seems probable that the premises had been used from 1798 simply
as the Colonial Office. (fn. 18)
In the Council's Collection Are:—
(fn. 19) Downing Street in 1827 (photograph of water-colour drawing in the Crace Collection,
(fn. 19) Mantelpieces (5) formerly at No. 14, Downing Street, preserved in the Colonial Office