The United Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of
General description and date of structure.
The present Freemasons' Hall and buildings connected therewith
occupy the sites of two original houses and parts of two others. These
were reckoning from west to east: (i.) the eastern half of Bristol House;
(ii.) Rivers House; (iii.) the house on which the statue of the Queen was
placed; (iv.) the western half of Conway House.
The origin of (i.) has already been described. (fn. 1) It was, in its turn,
divided into two in 1812 or 1813, (fn. 2) and seems to have been demolished
between 1840 and 1846.
(ii.) The house to the east of Bristol House is easily identifiable with
that which is described in a deed (fn. 3) dated 31st July, 1641, as abutting on the
west "upon another mesuage of the same building now in the occupacion
of the Earle of St. Albans [i.e., Clanricarde]." The premises had a frontage
of 44 feet upon Queen Street, and the ground extended southward 200 feet or
"neere thereabout" to the garden of Humfrey Weld. The eastern boundary was "a new messuage where the statue of the Queenes Majestie is
placed." It is mentioned that the Countess Rivers then had tenure
of the house, which had previously been in the occupation of "the ledger
Embassador of the King of Spaine." As the house is mentioned as being
in existence and in fact occupied by the Spanish Ambassador on 22nd
January, 1637–8, (fn. 4) its erection may be assigned with certainty to the year
The original house was pulled down in 1739, and on the site two
houses were built fronting Great Queen Street, and a number of others on
the ground behind. (fn. 5) In the centre of the Great Queen Street frontage was
an archway leading to the premises in the rear, and known as Queen's
Court. (fn. 6) Whether this simply reproduced a feature of the old mansion
(there were similar archways on the west side of Bristol House and the east
side of Conway House), or whether it was consequent on the necessity for
communication between the street and the new houses behind, is uncertain.
(iii.) It has been seen above that the next house eastwards was "a
new messuage where the statue of the Queenes Majestie is placed." This,
therefore, is the house referred to in an indenture (fn. 7) of 20 May, 1674, as
"fronting upon the streete called Queene Street, wherein is made a nichy
or place for a statue to be placed in." The property is said to contain 44 feet
frontage, to extend southwards 200 feet, and to have belonged originally to
Anthony Wither. It may thus be identified with the messuage and
garden in St. Giles-in-the-Fields referred to as having been sold in
1637 by William Newton to Anthony Wyther, (fn. 8) so that in this
case also 1637 was the date of erection. The statue of the Queen,
which was gilt, was pulled down in 1651, (fn. 9) which accounts for the fact
that the deed of 1674 could only record the existence of a niche, with
no statue. At some time between 1702 and 1709 the premises were
divided, not lengthwise but breadthwise, a passage being formed to lead
from the street to that house which was in the rear. In 1774 the
houses were purchased by the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons.
(iv.) The fourth house is mentioned in a deed (fn. 10) of 20th December,
1641, as "all that capitall messuage or tenement with one yard, one court
and one garden plott, stable, coachhouses and outhouses, as they are now
erected, built and inclosed with brick wall to the same belonging or therewithal now used or enjoyed, scituate and being in Queene Street … now
being in the tenure or occupation of Edward, Lord Viscount Conway and
Killultagh which … conteyneth in front towards Queene Street 88 feet …
and the said messuage, yard, court and garden plott doe extend from the said
streete backward towards the south unto the garden of Humfrey Weld, Esq.,
199 feet or thereabouts, scituate lying and being between the messuage, yard
and garden plote of Anthony Wither, Esq., now in the tenure … of the
Lord Awbyney on the west, and the me⋅suage of Peter Mills, bricklayer,
now in the tenure of the Countess of Essex. And also all those greate
gates and gateway (fn. 11) over which some part of Peter Mills messuage is erected,
leading out of Queene Street into the courtyard and garden, with liberty of
way by a dore made or to be made out of the south-east corner of the said
garden in by and through a way and passage of 8 feet in breadth intended
to be made by William Newton over the sewer … and to lead into …
In 1696 the house was in a dangerous condition, and an Act of
Parliament was obtained authorising its repair and letting on lease for 51
years (fn. 12) . The house was still in existence in May, 1743. (fn. 13) . By November
of the same year, however, it had been demolished, and on its site four
houses, each 22 feet wide, had been erected, or were then in course of
erection on the Great Queen Street frontage.
Having thus dealt with the history of the earlier buildings on the site,
it remains to describe the various processes by which the existing premises
came to be erected. We will therefore return to the purchase, in 1774,
by the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, of the house on which
the statue of Queen Henrietta Maria had formerly stood.
This site is now occupied by the eastern half of the main block,
including the Temple. The premises (as shown on the plan and elevation
Plate 22) consisted of a house facing the street and a small house at the
back adjoining the garden, which was probably used subsequently as a
museum. The former was let on a short lease to a Mr. Brooks, paper
stainer, and the latter became the original Freemasons' Coffee House or
Tavern, a portion being fitted up as offices (with Committee Room) for
the use of the Grand Lodge. The front house was in design similar to Nos.
55 and 56, except that the elevation showed a parapet, added in 1779,
and the front of the ground floor storey had also been considerably altered.
"Notwithstanding the large expenditure in repairs and alterations of
the old premises … it was found that, as the business increased, they
were ill adapted for tavern purposes; the Grand Lodge therefore, on
the advice of Thomas Sandby, Esq., R.A., Grand Architect, and William
Tyler, Esq., P.G. Steward, another eminent architect, decided to demolish
the old buildings and erect instead a large tavern connected with the Hall,
with suitable accommodation for the Grand Secretary and the meetings
of Lodges and other Societies. This was a serious undertaking in view
of the fact that the Hall was not yet paid for and the amount received for
its use was barely enough for working expenses—still it was, no doubt,
the right thing to do, considering the great age of the structure." (fn. 14)
The Hall (or Temple) was built in 1775 by Thomas Sandby, and
was opened on 23rd May, 1776. The tavern was built in 1786 by
William Tyler, and a view of the front is preserved in the Grand Lodge
Library (Plate 23).
The Temple is the only remaining structure of this period. It is
rectangular in shape, 78 feet long, 38 feet wide, and about 58 feet high. It
was designed to represent the interior of a Roman Doric Temple. The
side walls are enriched with pilasters, and the ends with attached columns.
A gallery is placed over the vestibule at the entrance end. It is fitted
with an ornamental balustrade stretching between the columns, which here
rise clear and support the main entablature. Opposite is a small apse
which contains a statue of the Duke of Sussex, executed by E. H. Bailey
in 1839. In the original design a small gallery was placed in either angle
of this end of the Temple, but these were not replaced after the fire
of 1883. Illustrations of the Temple before and after the fire are
preserved in the Grand Lodge Library. The ceiling is flat, with an enriched
modelled ornament somewhat out of keeping with the rest of the design.
It is connected with the cornice of the order by a deep cove pierced with
semi-circular windows, but those originally existing on the east side
have been lately filled in. The decorations are in excellent taste, and
treated with soft colouring, the mouldings and enrichments being picked
out in gold, the whole generally harmonising with the portraits and other
paintings and panels on the walls.
The disastrous fire at Freemasons' Hall, Great Queen Street - the scene of
The vestibule to the Temple (see Plate 28) is paved with mosaic
brought by Mr. W. H. Mordsley from Jerusalem, and laid in position in
1873, the inscription on the floor being as follows:—
"This pavement formed of antique tesseræ collected at
jerusalem by the w. Henry mordsley, p.g.d., and presented
by him to the grand lodge was laid in the fourth year of
the grand mastership of h.r.h. albert edward, prince of
wales, a.l., 5877.
F.P. Cockerell, Gd. supt. of works."
In 1815 the two houses comprising the western half of Conway
House were acquired by the aid of Sir John Soane. These were connected
by openings, and used by the Grand Lodge. Shortly afterwards, Soane
commenced the designing of additional premises at the rear of these two
houses. In 1828 building operations were begun, and in the following
year the works were completed. The Grand Lodge in 1832 thanked Sir
John Soane for his completion of the work and for his donation of £500. (fn. 15)
Plate 27 is a reproduction of a pen and ink drawing in the Soane
Museum, probably by Soane himself, showing his design for the new Hall
of the Tavern. It is evidently the original sketch for the elaborate water
colour drawing, in the Hogarth Room, executed by either J. M. Gandy,
A.R.A., or C. J. Richardson. This hall did not long exist. In 1863 the
two houses on the site of Rivers House were demolished, together with all
the Tavern and Grand Lodge premises, excepting Sandby's Temple, and
preparations were made for the erection of a new building after designs by
F. P. Cockerell, son of Professor C. R. Cockerell, R.A. The foundation
stone was laid on 27th April, 1864, and the building was finished in 1866.
The exterior is shown on Plate 24 and the principal features of the interior
not already mentioned, are the staircase (Plate 28) and the first floor
corridor. (fn. 16)
In 1899 a western wing on the site of the eastern half of Bristol
House (fn. 17) was added, from the designs of Henry L. Florence, to provide more
accommodation for the Grand Lodge, including a Library and Museum.
The most recent alterations and additions to the Tavern were made in 1910,
when these premises were named "The Connaught Rooms." These works
were carried out by Messrs. Brown and Barrow. Very little of Cockerell's
work in the Banqueting Hall has been retained.
Freemansons' Hall, Plan of Principal Floor before the alterations of 1899.
Condition of repair.
The premises are in excellent condition.
Bristol House, Eastern Half
After the division of Bristol House into two about 1684, the first four occupants
of the eastern half (Nos. 57–58) were (fn. 18) the Earl of Wiltshire, the Earl of Stamford,
Henry, Viscount Montagu, and the Portuguese Envoy.
Charles Powlett, afterwards second Duke of Bolton, second and eldest surviving
son of the first Duke, was born in 1661. During the lifetime of his father he was
known as the Earl of Wiltshire. He accompanied the Prince of Orange on his expedition in 1688, having a few months previously gone over to Holland, and was one of
the advanced guard who entered Exeter with him. He seems to have stood high in
William's favour. He succeeded his father in the dukedom in 1699, and was made
Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland in 1717. He continued to occupy a fairly prominent
place about the court until his death in 1722. His residence in Great Queen Street
began in 1684, or a little later, and he was still in occupation of the house on 22nd
April, 1689. (fn. 19)
Thomas Grey, second Earl of Stamford, born in 1654, was the only son of Thomas
Grey, Lord Grey of Groby. He succeeded his grandfather in the earldom in 1673.
In 1681 he was arrested on a charge of complicity in the Rye House plot, and remained
in the Tower until March, 1686. On the landing of the Prince of Orange he took
up arms in his favour, and afterwards was appointed to numerous official positions,
becoming Lord Lieutenant of Devonshire, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster,
and President of the Board of Trade and Foreign Plantations. On the accession of
Anne, he was dismissed from all his offices, but afterwards regained his position at the
head of the Board of Trade. He died in 1720. His residence in Great Queen Street
must have terminated some time before 1703, at which date "Henry Browne" is
shown in occupation.
Henry Browne, fifth Viscount Montagu, was born some time before 1641. (fn. 20) He
succeeded his brother Francis in the title in June, 1708. His residence at the house
in Great Queen Street commenced some time, probably not long, before 1703, (fn. 21)
and lasted at least until 1715, (fn. 22) possibly until his death, which occurred in 1717
at Epsom. (fn. 23) He was succeeded in the title by his son, Anthony, who three years later
married Barbara Webb, to whose mother, Lady Barbara Webb, daughter of Lord
Belasyse, the eastern half of Bristol House had come by way of bequest.
After the occupation by Lord Montagu the house was used as the residence
of the Portuguese Envoy. (fn. 24) The earliest mention of him as occupying the house
is dated 5th March, 1718–9. (fn. 18) How long the Embassy was situated here is uncertain.
The house is referred to in Sir Godfrey Kneller's will, (fn. 24) dated 27th April, 1723, as "now
in the possession of the Portugal Envoy." In a codicil, dated 18th July, in the same
year, it is described as "now or late in the occupation of the Portugal Envoy,"
and Kneller states that the premises are much out of repair, and that he proposes
to spend a sum of £200 in works. It would almost seem therefore that the envoy
left the house between April and July, 1723, and some confirmation of this suggestion
is found in the fact that in the Westminster sewer ratebook, dated 18th July, 1723,
the name, not of the Portuguese Envoy, but of Sir Godfrey Kneller, the owner,
appears for the house.
After the departure of the Portuguese Envoy, the house was used for the
purposes of the Great Wardrobe. (fn. 25) The parish ratebooks from 1730 (the earliest
extant) until 1748 show "Thos. Dummer, Esq.," the deputy (fn. 26) of John, Duke of
Montagu, keeper of the Great Wardrobe, as in occupation.
The occupants of Nos. 57–58 from the time of the Great Wardrobe were as
|1777–82.||Richard Brinsley Sheridan.|
|1782–90.||A. and E. Boak.|
|1791–||Boak and Banson.|
For particulars as to Benjamin Wilson, see under Nos. 55–56, Great Queen
Street (p. 57).
Richard Brinsley Sheridan, son of Thomas Sheridan, actor and "orthoepist,"
was born in Dublin in 1751. When he was nineteen years of age, his father settled
at Bath. In the winter of 1773, soon after his marriage with Miss Linley, the couple
came to live in London, (fn. 27) and Sheridan essayed to earn his living by writing. In
January, 1775, The Rivals appeared, and by the end of the year Sheridan had become
a favourite with playgoers. Next year he became manager and part-proprietor of
Drury Lane Theatre. In 1791–4 the theatre was pulled down and rebuilt, and the
expenditure greatly exceeding the estimate, Sheridan undertook to pay the liabilities
thus incurred. The destruction of the new theatre by fire, however, in 1809, involved him in financial troubles which continued until his death. As a dramatic
writer he far excelled all his contemporaries. His chief plays were: The Rivals,
St. Patrick's Day, The Duenna, A Trip to Scarborough, The School for Scandal, The
Critic, Pizarro. From 1780 he was no less prominent in political than in literary
life. In September of that year he entered the House of Commons as member for
Stafford, and soon became noted as an orator. For two periods of short duration
in 1782–3 he was respectively under-secretary for foreign affairs and secretary to
the Treasury, and in 1806–7 was treasurer to the Navy. Among his most noteworthy
oratorical achievements must be placed his speeches in connection with the trial of
Warren Hastings. His last speech in Parliament was made in June, 1812. Soon after
his entry into Parliament he had become personally acquainted with the Prince of
Wales, and ever after acted as his confidential adviser. Sheridan died in Savile Row
in July, 1816, and was awarded a public funeral in Westminster Abbey.
His occupation of the house in Great Queen Street is shown by the parish ratebooks to have lasted from 1777 to 1782. (fn. 28) The former date is confirmed by a letter
from W. Windham, dated 5th January, 1778, directed to "Ric. Brinsley Sheridan,
Esq.," at "Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields." (fn. 29) It is said that on the day
of Garrick's funeral (1779), after the ceremony was over, Sheridan "spent the remainder
of the day in silence, with a few select friends, at his residence in Great Queen
Street." (fn. 30)
The first occupant of the house immediately to the east of Bristol House, occupying the site of what were afterwards Nos. 59 and 60, Great Queen Street, was the
Spanish Ambassador, who has been shown above (fn. 31) to have been in residence on 22nd
January, 1637–8. A reference to his occupation of the house occurs in the following:
"May 10, 1638. The Spanish Ambassador, the Conde de Oniate, accompanied
with an Irish gentleman of the order of Calatrava, in the Holy Week, came to Denmark
House to do his devotions in the Queen's Chapel there. He went off thence about
10 o'clock, a dozen torches carried before him by his servants, and some behind him.
He and the Irish gentleman were in the front with their beads in their hands, which
hung at a cross, some English also were among them; so that with their own company
and many who followed after, they appeared a great troop. They walk from
Denmark House down the Strand in great formality, turn into the Covent Garden,
thence to Seignior Con's house in Long Acre, so to his own house in Queen's Street." (fn. 32)
Writing to Sir John Pennington from the Earl of Northumberland's residence [i.e.,
probably next door] on 21st November, 1638, Thomas Smith says: "The Spanish
Ambassador was robbed here last night of all his church plate. The thieves are
not heard of." (fn. 33)
In July, 1641, the Countess of Rivers purchased the house, being already in occupation of the premises. (fn. 34) This was Elizabeth, eldest daughter and co-heir of Thomas
Darcy, Baron Darcy of Chich, afterwards created Viscount Colchester and (on 4th
November, 1626) Earl Rivers. She married, in 1602, Sir Thos. Savage, Bt., of Rock
Savage, Chester, who was created Viscount Savage on the same day that his fatherin-law was raised to the earldom. He died in 1635, and in April, 1641, about
fifteen months after her father's death, his widow was created Countess Rivers for
life. She died in March, 1651.
The Subsidy Roll for 1646 contains among the few items relating to the south
side of Great Queen Street, one, "The Lady Savige her house," which undoubtedly
refers to the Countess Rivers. That she was resident at the house that year appears
from the fact that in April, 1646, she petitioned (fn. 35) the House of Lords, stating that
her houses in Suffolk and Essex, with all her personal estate, had been utterly wasted
and destroyed, so that if she and her family were forced to leave their present residence
they must be exposed to a misery not to be expressed. She pointed out that both
she and her servants had taken the negative oath, and therefore she prayed for a
licence for herself and family to remain in her house in Queen Street.
Elizabeth, Countess Rivers.
On the Countess's death the house presumably came into the possession of her
son, the second Earl Rivers. John Savage, born before 1610, succeeded his father
as Viscount Savage in 1635, and his maternal grandfather as Earl Rivers in 1640.
He died in 1654, and was succeded by his son Thomas, third Earl Rivers, born before
1626. (fn. 36) The third Earl's residence at the house in Great Queen Street was divided
into two periods, the house having apparently been let for some time circ. 1670–80.
That the Savage family were in occupation in 1658 is clear from the terms of a
letter (fn. 37) dated 24th September in that year from Sir William Persall:
"Our Queen Street news is ill; my Lady Rivers (fn. 38) is in a very ill condition
of health." The Hearth Tax Rolls for 1665 and 1666 (fn. 39) give the name of the Earl
in connection with the house, and to this period is apparently to be assigned
the further letter (fn. 40) dated 3rd October, in an unknown year, by Sir William Persall,
in the following terms: "Give me leave to render you the history of our Queen Street
family, and the reason of the bill on the door which found at my coming up. They
had intelligence that the constables were to come and present the names of all church
absentees popishly affected; (fn. 41) so they consulted in my absence and resolved to set the
bill on the door, and give it out my Lady Rivers was in the country, Sir Francis Petre (fn. 42)
in common garden (fn. 43) out of the parish, Sir Will. Persall gone to live at his house in
the country, none but servants left; when everyday half-a-dozen coaches come to
visit us, and the baskets of meat as full as ever, and two or three brewers still carrying in ale and beer; and all for Tom Browne, who, poor man, is already half damn'd
with telling of lies to all that come to inquire of us, as well friends as others. But
they have given us in, as Tom Brown reported that we were all gone except my Lady
Mary, (fn. 44) who is but fifteen, and so incapable to take the oath, and yet I hear they have
taken our names again."
In the Hearth Tax Roll for 1673 Col. Thos. Howard is shown as occupying the
house. He was succeeded by "Lord Obryant" (Hearth Tax Roll for 1675). This
is undoubtedly Lord O'Brien, afterwards the second Earl of Inchiquin.
William O'Brien, son of Murrough O'Brien, sixth Baron and first Earl of Inchiquin,
was born about 1638. He was brought up in London at the house of Sir Philip
Perceval, and afterwards saw much military service with his father in France and
Spain. In 1660 they were both captured by an Algerian corsair, and carried into
Algiers, but were subsequently ransomed by the English Government. His residence
in the house in Great Queen Street seems to have begun about November,
1673. Writing to Williamson on the 28th of that month, (fn. 45) he says: "I rejoice at
nothing more in my remove to Queen Street than to be able to assure you that besides
a hearty welcome, there is a couple of good rooms at your command." Again, on
20th February, 1673–4, (fn. 46) he writes to Williamson with reference to the latter's German
voyage, adding that "your poor friends in Queen Street wish you really as well as any of
those that contrive this voyage for you." A few weeks afterwards he was appointed
captain general of the forces in Africa and governor and vice-admiral of Tangier, a
position which he held for six years. He succeeded his father in the title on 9th September, 1674. On the Revolution he supported William III. and in 1690 was
appointed captain-general and governor of Jamaica, where his troubles with the
French and negroes, increased by his want of tact, undoubtedly shortened his life.
He died in January, 1691–2.
The ratebook for 1683 shows the house again in the occupation of Earl Rivers.
He died in 1694 at the house in Great Queen Street. (fn. 47)
The Jury Presentment Roll for 1698 shows "Lady Rivers" at the house, but
whether this refers to the widow of the third Earl (fn. 48) or the second wife of the fourth
Earl (fn. 49) is not known.
In the ratebook for 1700 no name appears against the house, but in those for 1703.
and 1709 Earl Rivers is shown in occupation. Richard, the fourth Earl ("Tyburn
Dick") was handsome, brave, and a most notorious rake. As Lord Colchester (a title he
obtained after his elder brother's death), he had been the first nobleman to welcome the
Prince of Orange on his landing. During William's reign he saw a great deal of military
service in Ireland and on the Continent. Being strongly recommended by Marlborough, he was in 1706 appointed to the command of a force originally intended
for a descent on France, but afterwards diverted to Portugal. Rivers was, however,
superseded within a few weeks after his landing and returned home. He owed much
to Marlborough's influence, but being unable, in 1709, to induce him to support
his candidature for the position of constable of the Tower, he paid court to the other
side, and the grant to him of the appointment on the recommendation of Harley was
the first sign of the coming fall of the Whigs. High in favour, he was in 1710 sent
on a delicate political mission to Hanover, and in 1711 was created master of the
ordnance. He died in August, 1712, at his house at Ealing Grove.
In his will (fn. 50) he left to Mrs. Elizabeth Colleton alias Johnson, (fn. 51) "all my mansion
house called Rivers House, scituate in Great Queen Street," and in the ratebook for
1715 the occupant of the house is given as "Mrs. Eliz. Collington," with a note
"an ambassador's house and gone away."
The next occupant of the house was apparently William, sixth Baron North. (fn. 52)
He was son of Charles, fifth Baron North, who had on his marriage with Catherine,
only daughter of William, Lord Grey of Wark, taken the title of Lord Grey. He
succeeded to the title in 1691. He served with Marlborough throughout the war
of the Spanish Succession, at the end of which he held the rank of lieutenant-general.
During the latter part of Anne's reign his Jacobite sympathies became more and
more pronounced. On the accession of the Hanoverian dynasty he therefore became
an object of suspicion, and on 28th September, 1722, was committed to the Tower
for complicity in Atterbury's plot. (fn. 53) He escaped and was re-arrested, but subsequently was admitted to heavy bail. Shortly afterwards he left the country and never
returned, dying at Madrid in October, 1734. His residence at Rivers House must
have been short, commencing some time between 1715 and 1720, and terminating
either at or before his committal to the Tower in 1722.
In the will of Richard, fourth Earl Rivers, there is mention of "Miss Bessy
Savage," to whom the Earl left £10,000 on condition that she married with the
consent of Mrs. Colleton. "Bessy" was the Earl's illegitimate daughter by the
latter, and in August, 1714, when she was fifteen years old, she married "with consent
of her mother" (fn. 54) the third Earl of Rochford. As Rivers House is found in her
possession, she evidently obtained it, either by gift or bequest, from her mother, to
whom Lord Rivers had left it.
Frederick Nassau de Zuylestein, third Earl of Rochford, was born in 1683, and
succeeded to the title in 1710. His occupation of Rivers House began some time
before 1723, the ratebook for the latter date giving his name in connection with the
house, which continued to be his town residence (fn. 55) until the end of his life. He died
on 14th June, 1738, at his house in Great Queen Street, (fn. 54) and his wife, with but little
delay, married again, (fn. 56) her second husband being the Rev. Philip Carter. Early in
the following year Rivers House was sold (fn. 57) and demolished, two houses being erected
on the frontage to Great Queen Street.
Frederick Nassau de Zuylestein, Earl of Rochford.
The names of the occupiers of these two houses (Nos. 59 and 60) up to 1800
were as follows:—
|1753.||W. G. Freeman.|
The Catherine Clive, who is shown by the ratebooks of 1743 to 1747 as the occupier
of No. 59, Great Queen Street, is almost certainly the famous singer and actress usually
known as Kitty Clive, but apart from Heckethorn's statement, (fn. 58) for which no authority
is quoted, that about the year 1733 she was probably living at No. 56, no evidence to
confirm the fact of her residence in the street has been found. She was born in 1711,
her father, William Raftor, being an Irish lawyer, who supported James II. at the
battle of the Boyne, and afterwards settled in London. Kitty's lack of refinement and
even of the rudiments of education suggests that her training as a child was neglected,
but the story that while engaged in cleaning the steps of a lodging-house she attracted
the notice of some actors under whose auspices she was introduced to the stage is
open to considerable doubt. Her marriage to George Clive, a barrister, was a mistake, and the parties agreed to separate. They were living together in 1734 when
Fielding wrote of her in the preface to the Intriguing Chambermaid. "Great
favourite as you … are with your audience you would be much more so …
did they see you … acting in real life the part of the best wife, the best daughter,
the best sister, and the best friend." She acted generally at Drury Lane, being almost
entirely in Garrick's company from 1746 until her retirement in 1769. Although she
excelled in comedy and character parts of middle and low life, she occasionally essayed
work of a higher character, as, for instance, when she sang the music of "Delilah"
at the first production in 1742, of Handel's Samson. On her retirement she withdrew
to a house at Strawberry Hill, which Horace Walpole had given her some years before, (fn. 59)
and here she died in 1785. Johnson had a high opinion of her acting, and his opinion
of her as a woman is shown by his remarks to Boswell. "Clive, sir, is a good thing
to sit by; she always understands what you say … In the sprightliness of
humour I have never seen her equalled." (fn. 60)
Thomas Vaughan, nicknamed "Dapper" by Colman, was a mediocre dramatist
of the latter part of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries.
One of his chief plays, The Hotel; or the Double Valet, has the preface dated: "Great
Queen Street, 2nd December, 1776." Vaughan is said to have been the original of
Dangle in Sheridan's Critic.
House adorned with the Queen's statue
It has been seen (fn. 61) that the house adjoining Rivers House on the east was built in
1637. Although not certain, it seems very probable that the first occupant was
the Earl of Northumberland. It is known that Northumberland's house adjoined
Conway House, (fn. 62) the next in order to the east from that which is here in question,
but there is no definite evidence as to whether it lay to the east or west of it. It
would, however, seem that the house to the east was not built until 1640, (fn. 63) and as
Northumberland was certainly in residence in Great Queen Street in 1638 it follows,
if the assumption be correct, that his house adjoined Conway House on the west.
Algernon Percy, tenth Earl of Northumberland, was born in London in 1602,
and succeeded to the title in November, 1632. He was much favoured by Charles I.,
who was most anxious to secure his support, and who, as the king himself afterwards
declared, "courted him as his mistress." (fn. 64) He received the Order of the Garter in
1635. In 1636, and again in 1637, he was appointed admiral of the fleet raised by means
of ship money. In March, 1638, he was made Lord High Admiral of England; in July
of the same year he was placed on the committee for Scottish affairs; and in the following March was appointed general of the forces south of the Trent and a member of
the Council of Regency. He had taken up his residence in Great Queen Street
some time before November, 1638, for, beginning in that month, (fn. 65) there are many
letters extant, written by him or on his behalf, headed "Queen Street," "Earl of
Northumberland's house in Queen Street, (fn. 66) My house in Queen Street." (fn. 67) The
last that has been discovered is dated 10th June, 1640. (fn. 68) In February of the latter
year he was appointed general of the forces raised for the second Scottish War, but
he fell ill in August and his place was taken by Strafford. Always dissatisfied with
the king's policy, Northumberland showed himself more and more in sympathy
with Parliament as the conflict drew near, and his position secured to the parliamentary leaders the control of the navy, his dismissal by the king in June, 1642,
coming too late. From this time until the king's death, Northumberland conscientiously acted the role of peacemaker. He strongly opposed the king's trial and
after its tragic conclusion, held entirely aloof from public affairs. On the Restoration he was sworn a member of the privy council, and was appointed lord-lieutenant
of Sussex and of Northumberland, but took no part in politics. He died in 1668.
Whichever of the houses on either side of Conway House formed the Earl's
residence, he had left it before the end of 1641, for according to a deed (fn. 69) of 20th
December in that year, the house to the east of Conway House was then in the occupation of the Countess of Essex, while that on the west, with which we are here concerned,
was occupied by the "Lord Awbyney."
George Stuart, ninth seigneur D'Aubigny, was the fourth son of Esmé, third Duke
of Lennox. He married Catherine Howard, eldest daughter of the second Earl of
Suffolk (fn. 70) On the outbreak of the Civil War he embraced the royal cause, and was
slain at Edgehill in October, 1642.
The exact period of his residence in the house in Great Queen Street is uncertain. Assuming that the Earl of Northumberland was the previous occupant,
D'Aubigny must have entered into occupation some time between May, 1640, and
December, 1641. Some ground for assuming that he had at the latter date quite
recently taken up his residence here may be found in the fact that in a deed dated
31st July, 1641 (fn. 71) , relating to Rivers House, the premises mentioned as the eastern
boundary are simply referred to as "a new messuage where the statue of the
Queenes Majestie is placed," without any occupant's name being given. This detail
is, on the contrary, given in the case of the western boundary of the property,
and it seems likely that the omission in the former case is due to the fact that the
house was then unoccupied. Too much weight, however, cannot be assigned to
The next mention of the house is in October 1645, when it was in the occupation
of Colonel Popham. (fn. 72) From the following, dated 24th February, 1653, it would
appear that either before 1645, or between then and 1653, Lord Montagu had
acquired an interest in the house. "Upon hearing of Colonel Alexander Popham,
a member of Parliament, concerning the house which he holds from ye Lord
Mountague scituate … It is ordered that ye said Colonel Popham
doe pay 2/3 of the rent due for ye said house to ye use of ye Commonwealth which is
sequestered for the recusancy of the said Lord Mountague." (fn. 73) Afterwards Lord
Montagu himself resided at the house, the Hearth Tax Rolls for 1665, 1666 and 1673
giving his name in respect of the premises. (fn. 74)
Francis Browne, third Viscount Montagu, the only son of Anthony Maria
Montagu, the second Viscount, was born in 1610, and succeeded to the title in October,
1629. He died in November, 1682. (fn. 75) The Hearth Tax Roll for 1675 shows Lady
Montagu (fn. 76) at the house.
The next occupant whose name is known was "Lord Dilleage," (fn. 77) of whom
nothing can be found.
In two much later documents (fn. 78) it is stated that before the division of the
house into two it formed the residence of the Marquess of Normanby, and
the Jury Presentment Roll for 1698 shows the Marquess in occupation of the
house in that year. This was John Sheffield, son of Edmund Sheffield, second Earl
of Mulgrave. He was born in 1648, and succeeded to the earldom ten years later.
He saw both naval and military service during the reign of Charles II., and in 1680
commanded an expedition for the relief of Tangier. With James II. he was in high
favour. At the Revolution he quietly submitted, but was for several years in opposition
to the court party. In 1693–4 he showed signs of a desire to support the
government, and in May, 1694, was encouraged in his attitude by being created
Marquess of Normanby. Two years latter, however, he resumed his policy of
opposition. On the accession of Anne he was at once taken into favour and appointed
Lord Privy Seal. In March, 1703, he was made Duke of Buckingham and Normanby,
and later on was appointed one of the commissioners to arrange the treaty of union with
Scotland. In 1710 he became Lord President of the Council. On the arrival of
George I. he was removed from all his offices. He died in February, 1721, at Buckingham House, St. James's Park.
He was not only a munificent patron of literature, Dryden and Pope particularly
being under obligations to him, but also himself an author. Chief among his writings
were: Essay on Poetry, Essay on Satire, Account of the Revolution. Mention should
also be made of his extraordinary revision of Julius Cæsar, which he broke up into
two plays and rewrote, and into which he introduced love scenes.
The period of his residence at the house in Great Queen Street cannot be exactly
determined. He was not there in 1683, but a letter from him (as Lord Mulgrave)
to Dykevelt, headed "Queen Street," dated, "March 8th," and assigned to the
year 1691, (fn. 79) affords some evidence towards limiting the date of the beginning of his
occupation. His removal from the house seems to lie between 1698 and 1700, the
ratebook for the latter year having no entry in respect of the house.
In 1702 the house was purchased of William Withers by Robert Lane and Jonathan
Blackwell, (fn. 80) apparently on behalf of their brother, Ralph Lane, an eminent Turkey
merchant. Lane divided the house, letting off the portion fronting the street, and
reserving for his own use that in the rear. This he used as his own house (fn. 81) until his
death in 1732. By his will, (fn. 82) dated 15th June, 1726, he left his "two messuages or
tenements" in Great Queen Street to his wife Elizabeth for her widowhood, and the
reversion to his brothers in trust for his daughters, the Lady Parker (fn. 83) and Byzantia. (fn. 84) A
codicil of 6th July, 1728, however, revoked this and settled the property on his wife
The widow is shown in the ratebooks as occupying the house from 1733 to 1753
inclusive. She died in March, 1754, leaving (fn. 85) her "two freehold messuages scituate
in Great Queen Street … one of them being in [her] own occupation, and the
other adjoyning thereto, in the occupation of Mr. Hudson," to her grandson, George
Lane Parker, the younger son of her daughter and the Earl of Macclesfield.
In 1764 Parker sold (fn. 86) both of the houses to Philip Carteret Webb, who was
already in occupation of the house in the rear, having, in fact, succeeded Mrs. Lane
in the year in which she died.
Philip Carteret Webb was born about 1700. In 1724 he was admitted attorneyat-law, and soon acquired a great reputation for knowledge of records and of precedents
of constitutional law. He was employed in connection with the prosecution of the
prisoners taken in the rebellion of 1745, and in that of John Wilkes. For his share in
the latter he incurred great obloquy, culminating in 1764 in a trial for perjury, in
which, however, the jury returned a verdict of "Not guilty." When in January,
1769, he was charged in the House of Commons with having used the public money
to bribe witnesses against Wilkes, counsel pleaded on his behalf that he was now blind
and of impaired intellect, and the motion against him was defeated. He died in
the following year, leaving (fn. 87) all his property to his wife Rhoda.
Webb was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and of the Royal Society. He
had acquired large collections of MSS., coins and medals, marble busts and bronzes.
His widow married, in 1771, Edward Beavor, whose name is found in the ratebooks in connection with the house from that date until 1774. On 16th November,
in the latter year, the two houses were sold (fn. 88) to Trustees for the Freemasons, who have
ever since held the property.
It is now time to return and trace the history of the other of the two portions
into which Lane had divided the house, viz., that part which fronted Great Queen
The ratebook for 1709 gives "the Bishop of Salisbury" as the name of the
occupant at that time. This must refer to the famous Gilbert Burnet,
who held the see of Salisbury from 1689 until his death in 1715. He was
born in Edinburgh on 18th September, 1643, and having, as a precocious boy,
entered the Marischal College of Aberdeen at the age of ten, he became master
of arts by the time he was fourteen. The next few years were devoted to the
study of divinity and history and to travel. In 1665 he was appointed minister
of Saltoun, but resigned in 1669, when he became professor of divinity at Glasgow
University. He made several visits to London, and in 1674, having incurred the
jealousy of Lauderdale, he resigned his professorship and settled in London. In
1675 he was made chaplain to the Rolls Chapel, the lectureship to St. Clement's
being added shortly afterwards. In 1676 he took a house in Lincoln's Inn Fields,
next door to Sir Thomas Littleton, and stayed there apparently for six years. (fn. 89)
Littleton at some time between 1675 and 1683 occupied No. 52, Lincoln's Inn
Fields, (fn. 90) and though, in the absence of more definite information, it cannot be
proved that this was the house he was occupying in 1676, it is extremely probable
that this was the case. If so, Burnet's house was No. 51, as it is known that Nos.
53–4, the house on the other side, was at the same time in the occupation
of the Countess of Bath. After the Rye House plot in 1683 and the
execution of his friend William, Lord Russell, Burnet withdrew to France, and
on his return in 1684 was deprived of his positions. Upon the accession of James
he again withdrew to the Continent, finally accepting an invitation from William
and Mary to settle at the Hague, where he was instrumental in reconciling them. (fn. 91)
He accompanied William to England, was responsible for the form in which William's
Declaration appeared in English, (fn. 92) and was rewarded for his services with the Bishopric
of Salisbury. Notwithstanding a subsequent decrease in favour with William, he
was offered in 1698 the position of governor to the young Duke of Gloucester, and
accepted it on conditions which allowed him to attend to the affairs of his diocese. (fn. 93)
The most lasting achievement of his later years was the provision for the augmentation
of poor livings, generally known as Queen Anne's Bounty, which became law in 1704.
He died on 17th March, 1714–15, and was buried in St. James', Clerkenwell, having
resided at St. John's Court in that parish for some years. (fn. 94) His chief characteristic was
tolerance, which he continually urged, whether towards Scotch Presbyterians in his early
dzys, to Roman Catholics at the time of the "popish plot" in 1678, or to non-jurors
and Presbyterians in his own diocese. His chief literary works were:—History of
the Reformation, published between 1679 and 1714; Exposition of the Thirty-nine
Articles, published in 1699; and a History of My Own Time, which was published
posthumously in 1723 and 1734.
The ratebooks for 1715 and 1720 show "Lady Anne Dashwood" at the house.
Apparently this was Anne, daughter of John Smith, of Tudworth, Hants, widow
of Sir Samuel Dashwood, Lord Mayor in 1702–3, who was knighted in July, 1684,
and died in 1705. (fn. 95) She died on 16th June, 1721. (fn. 96)
In 1723 "Lord Bellomonte" was resident at the house. This was Richard Coote,
fourth Earl Bellamont. He was born in 1683, and succeeded to the earldom in
1708. He was married twice, his second marriage (to Lady Oxenden) taking place
in 1721 at St. Giles-in-the-Fields. On his death in 1766 the earldom became extinct. (fn. 97)
Lord Bellamont seems to have removed to Nos. 55–56, Great Queen Street and to
have left there in 1729 or 1730. (fn. 98)
From 1730 onwards, until the date of acquisition by the Freemasons, the
occupants of the house were as follows:—
|1737.||Earl of Macclesfield.|
George Parker, second Earl of Macclesfield, was born in 1697. He married in 1722
Mary Lane, (fn. 99) and succeeded to the earldom in 1732, at which time he was resident
in Soho Square. (fn. 100) He had a great taste for mathematics, in which he had been instructed by Abraham de Moivre and William Jones, and, aided by James Bradley,
who afterwards, by his influence, became astronomer-royal, erected about 1739
an astronomical observatory at his residence at Shirburn Castle, Oxfordshire. From
1740 until near his death, he carried out a series of personal astronomical observations.
Macclesfield was the principal author of the measure which brought about the change
of style in 1752, and in consequence incurred great unpopularity among the ignorant,
who imagined that they had been robbed of eleven days. In 1762 he was elected
President of the Royal Society, a position which he held until his death in 1764.
Thomas Hudson was born in Devonshire in 1701. He became a pupil of Jonathan
Richardson, the elder, portrait painter (with whose daughter he made a runaway
match), and on setting up for himself in the same profession, soon attained to great
eminence, though his prosperity faded with the rise of one of his pupils, Joshua
Reynolds. (fn. 101) His residence in Great Queen Street began about 1746, (fn. 102) and continued until about 1764, (fn. 103) when he retired to Twickenham (fn. 104) where he died in January,
He was succeeded in his occupation of the house in Great Queen Street by Thomas
Worlidge, (fn. 105) painter and etcher. Worlidge was born at Peterborough in 1700. He
came to London about 1740, and settled in the neighbourhood of Covent Garden,
where he remained for the rest of his life, residing at various times in The Piazza,
Bedford Street, King Street, and, finally, Great Queen Street. He first made a
name by his miniature portraits, but eventually concentrated his energies on etching
in the style of Rembrandt. He died at Hammersmith in September, 1766. His name
appears in the ratebook also for 1767, and this is explained by the fact that his widow
"carried on the sale of his etchings at his house in Great Queen Street." (fn. 106) Shortly
afterwards Mrs. Worlidge married a wine and spirit merchant named Ashley, (fn. 106) who
had been one of Worlidge's intimate friends, and in accordance with this is the fact
that in the ratebook for the following year (1768) "James Ashley" is shown at the
In 1774, the premises were occupied for a short time by Mary Robinson (née
Darby), afterwards known as "Perdita," who had just got married. Perdita's own
account of the matter is as follows: "On our return to London after ten days' absence,
a house was hired in Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields. It was a large,
old-fashioned mansion, and stood on the spot where the Freemasons' Tavern has
since been erected. This house was the property of a lady, an acquaintance of my
mother; the widow of Mr. Worlidge, an artist of considerable celebrity. It was
handsomely furnished, and contained many valuable pictures by various masters.
I resided with my mother; Mr. Robinson continued at the house of Mr. Vernon
and Elderton in Southampton Buildings." (fn. 107)
Mary, who was born at Bristol in 1758, had spent an unhappy childhood, and
had now, when only sixteen, contracted a loveless marriage. At her husband's request
the nuptials were kept secret, but after four months her mother insisted on their
being made public. After a visit to the west of England and stay of "many days"
at Bristol, she removed from Great Queen Street to No. 13, Hatton Garden, a house
which had been recently built. (fn. 108) Her remarkable beauty caused her to receive many
attentions, and she was neglected by her husband. On his imprisonment for debt,
however, after less than two years' married life, she shared his confinement, and was
for nearly ten months in the King's Bench Prison. She then secured an engagement
at Drury Lane, where she made her first appearance in December, 1776, as Juliet.
Her stage career lasted until May, 1780. When taking the part of "Perdita" in a
performance of the Winter's Tale in December, 1778, she captivated the Prince of
Wales (afterwards George IV.), and after a correspondence in which the writers
signed themselves "Florizel" and "Perdita" she became his mistress for about two
years. He then deserted her, dishonouring his bond for £20,000, payable on his
coming of age. In 1783 she managed to obtain a pension of £500 a year. She never
returned to the stage, but devoted herself to literature. In her own day she was
called the English Sappho, but her reputation in this respect has not endured. She
died, crippled and impoverished, at Englefield Cottage, Surrey, in 1800.
The first occupant of the fourth house on the site of the Freemasons'
buildings seems to have been Lord Conway. A deed, dated 20th December, 1641, (fn. 109)
mentions Edward, Lord Viscount Conway, as then in occupation, and no doubt
the house is identical with that referred to as Lord Conway's residence in Queen
Street in a letter dated 31st March, 1639. (fn. 110)
Edward, second Viscount Conway and Killultagh, was born in 1594, and succeeded
to the title in February, 1631. (fn. 111) Shortly afterwards he was living in Drury Lane. (fn. 112)
His residence in Great Queen Street dates from 1638 or the commencement of
1639, but he did not purchase the house until 17th July, 1645. (fn. 113)
Conway died at Lyons in 1655 (fn. 114) , and was succeeded by his son Edward, the third
Viscount and first Earl of Conway, born about 1623. He held several important military
appointments, and was for two years, 1681–3, secretary of state for the north department. He was the author of a work entitled Opuscula Philosophica. He was married
three times, his first wife being Anne, the daughter of Sir Henry Finch. Lady
Conway was a most accomplished woman, her chief study being metaphysical science,
which she carried on with the utmost assiduity in spite of tormerrting headaches
which never left her. In later life she adopted the tenets of the Society of Friends.
She died on 23rd February, 1679, while her husband was absent in Ireland, but in
order that he might be enabled to see her features again, Van Helmont, her physician,
preserved the body in spirits of wine and placed it in a coffin with a glass over the
face. The burial finally took place on 17th April, 1679. She was the author of
numerous works, but only one, a philosophical treatise, was printed, and that in
a Latin translation published at Amsterdam in 1690. Conway was created an Earl
in 1679 and died in August, 1683, leaving his estates to his cousin, Popham Seymour,
who assumed the name of Conway.
Up to 1670 the Earl seems to have resided frequently in Great Queen Street.
The Hearth Tax Rolls for 1665 and 1666 show him as occupier, though the former
contains a note: "Note, Lord Wharton to pay," (fn. 115) and several references to his
residence there occur in the correspondence of the time. Thus on 18th March,
1664–5, he writes to Sir Edward Harley, "Direct to me at my house in Queen Street"; (fn. 116)
in June [?], 1665, he informs Sir John Finch: "I am settled in my house in Queen
Street"; (fn. 117) a letter to him describes how on the occasion of the Great Fire in 1666,
"your servant in Queen Street put some of your best chairs and fine goods into your
rich coach and sent for my horses to draw them to Kensington, where they now are"; (fn. 118)
on 19th October, 1667, his mother writes to him at "Great Queen Street, London"; (fn. 119)
in February, 1667–8, he tells Sir J. Finch that he hopes "you will ere long be merry
in my house in Queen Street, which you are to look upon as your own"; (fn. 120) and on
4th March, 1668–9, Robert Bransby asks for payment of his bill of £200 "for goods
delivered at your house in Queen Street." (fn. 121) On 25th September, 1669, we learn
that a new (or perhaps rather an additional) resident is expected, Edward Wayte
mentioning in a letter that "the room your lordship wished to have new floored
is going to be occupied by Lord Orrery's (fn. 122) daughter, who is coming with her mother
to England." (fn. 123) The visit evidently took place, for on 4th November, 1669, Conway's
importunate creditor, Bransby, writes, in connection with the non-payment of his
account, "I beg the delivery of divers goods in the house in Queen Street, which
are being used by some of Lord Orrery's family, and also of some green serge chairs
lent, which are in your study"; (fn. 124) and again on 15th March, 1669–70: "there are
some goods belonging to me in the house in Queen Street, which are in Lord Orrery's
wearing." (fn. 125) Later in the same year the house seems to have been given up, as Bransby
on 27th September in the course of another pitiful complaint says: "I hear that
you have disposed of your house in Queen Street and sent the furniture to Ragley."
The Hearth Tax Roll for 1673 shows the house in occupation of "Slingsby,
Esq.," who was probably the immediate successor of Conway.
In the absence of more definite information Slingsby cannot be identified.
It is just possible that he was Henry Slingsby, the Master of the Mint, and friend
In the Hearth Tax Roll for 1675 the house is shown as empty, and in the ratebook for 1683 the name of the occupier is given as: "Sir Fr. North, Knt., Lord Keeper
of the Great Seal of England." It is known (see below) that the offices of the Great
Seal were situated in this street in 1677, and there can be no doubt that this
was the house.
It would appear, therefore, that the premises were taken for the purpose of the
offices of the Great Seal some time in the period 1675–77, and consequently during
the time that the seal was in the custody of Finch.
Heneage Finch, first Earl of Nottingham, was born in 1621, the eldest son of
Sir Heneage Finch, recorder of London and speaker in Charles I.'s first parliament.
On leaving Christ Church he joined the Inner Temple, where he acquired a great
reputation and an extensive practice. On the Restoration he became solicitor-general
and was created a baronet. As the official representative of the court in the House
of Commons, he seems to have given every satisfaction to the king, despite the fact that
on at least one important point (the toleration of dissent) he opposed the royal desire.
He was indeed in such favour that the king, with all the great officers of state, attended
a banquet in his house at the Inner Temple in 1661. In 1670, he became attorneygeneral and counsellor to the queen. On the dismissal of Shaftesbury in 1673, he
was made Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, and was raised to the peerage as Baron Finch
of Daventry, and a year afterwards was appointed Lord Chancellor. During his term of
office the well-known burglary took place at the house in Great Queen Street. Under
date of 7th February, 1676–7, Anthony Wood writes: "About one or two in the morning
the Lord Chancellor his mace was stolen out of his house in Queen Street. The seal
lay under his pillow, so the thief missed it. The famous thief that did it was Thomas
Sadler, soon after taken and hanged for it at Tyburn." (fn. 126)
As Lord Chancellor, Finch had the unpleasant task of explaining to the House of
Commons how the royal pardon given to Danby in bar of the impeachment bore the
great seal. He was created Earl of Nottingham in 1681 and died in December, 1682.
"The fact that throughout an unceasing official career of more than twenty years,
in a time of passion and intrigue, Finch was never once the subject of parliamentary
attack, nor ever lost the royal confidence, is a remarkable testimony both to his probity
and discretion." (fn. 127) He was the Amri of Dryden's Absolom and Achitophel.
Francis North, first Baron Guilford, was the third son of Dudley, fourth Baron
North, and was born in 1637. He entered the Middle Temple in 1655, and at once
gave himself up to hard study. He was called to the Bar in 1661, and seems very
early to have acquired practice. His first great case occurred in 1668, when he was
called upon, in the attorney-general's absence, to argue in the House of Lords for
the King v. Holles and others. He at once sprang into favour and became king's
counsel. In 1671 he was made solicitor-general and received the honour of knighthood. In 1673, he succeeded Finch as attorney-general, and in 1675 was appointed
chief justice of the common pleas. On the death of the Earl of Nottingham in 1682
he succeeded him as Lord Keeper, and from that day, his brother Roger says, "he
never (as poor folks say), joyed after it, and he hath often vowed to me that he had
not known a peaceful minute since he touched that cursed seal." (fn. 128) In 1683 he was
raised to the peerage as Baron Guilford. From this time his health began more and
more to fail, and though he continued diligently to perform his duties, he was compelled
in the summer of 1685 to retire to his seat at Wroxton, Oxfordshire, taking the seal with
him and attended by the officers of the court. Here he died on 5th September, 1685,
and the next day his brothers, accompanied by the officials, took the seal to Windsor,
and delivered it up to the king, who at once entrusted it to Jeffreys.
George Jeffreys, first Baron Jeffreys of Wem, was born in 1648 at Acton in
Denbighshire. He was ambitious to be a great lawyer, and after overcoming with
difficulty his father's objections, he was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1663. He was
called to the Bar in 1668, and by his wit and, convivial habits making friends of the
attorneys practising at the Old Bailey and Hicks's Hall, he soon gained a good practice.
He was appointed common serjeant of the City of London in 1671. He now began
to plead in Westminster Hall, and by somewhat doubtful means he obtained an
introduction to the court. In 1677 he was made solicitor-general to the Duke of
York, and was knighted, and in 1678 became Recorder of the City. Both as counsel
and recorder he took a prominent part in the prosecutions arising from the Popish
Plot, and as a reward for his services in this direction, and for inititating the movement of the "abhorrers" against the "petitioners," who were voicing the popular
demand for the summoning of parliament, he was appointed chief justice of Chester.
The City having complained to the House of Commons of the action of its recorder
in obstructing the citizens in their attempts to have a parliament summoned, the
House passed a resolution requesting the king to remove him from all public offices.
The king took no such action, but Jeffreys submitted to a reprimand on his knees
at the bar of the House, and resigned the recordership, eliciting the remark from
Charles that he was "not parliament proof."
In 1683, Jeffreys was promoted to be Lord Chief Justice, and was soon a member
of the privy council. Shortly afterwards he tried Algernon Sidney for high treason,
conducting the proceedings with manifest unfairness and convicting the prisoner on
quite illegal grounds. On the accession of James II. in 1685, he was raised to the
peerage, an honour never before conferred upon a chief justice during his tenure of office.
In July, after the battle of Sedgmoor, he was appointed president of the commission for the western circuit, and on 25th August he opened the commission at
Winchester. This, the "bloody assizes," was conducted with merciless severity,
but the king was so satisfied that, on Jeffreys calling at Windsor on his return to
London, he was given the custody of the great seal with the title of Lord Chancellor.
During the next three years he vigorously supported the king in his claims to prerogative. He presided over the ecclesiastical commission, and over the proceedings
against the Universities. Jeffreys thus became identified with the most tyrannical
measures of James II., and therefore, when the king in December, 1688, fled from the
country, he also endeavoured to escape. He disguised himself as a common sailor,
but was recognised, and was only saved from lynching by a company of the train-bands.
He was confined at his own request in the Tower, and here, his health having been
seriously undermined by long continued disease and dissipation, he died in April,
1689. His name has become a by-word of infamy, although there can be little doubt
that he was not entirely as black as he has been painted, and no impartial account
can fail to insist on the traditional picture of him being modified in many respects.
Nevertheless, when every allowance is made, the character of Jeffreys is one of the
most hateful in English history.
On his accepting the Great Seal he also took over the house in Great Queen
Street, (fn. 129) but about 1687 he removed to the new mansion, which he had had built
in Westminster overlooking the park. (fn. 130)
For the next few years the history of Conway House is a blank. In 1696 a private
Act (fn. 131) was obtained, which, after reciting that there was a mansion house, with stables
and outhouses, in Queen Street, St. Giles, forming portion of the estate belonging
to the Marchioness of Normanby (fn. 132) (life tenant) and of the estate belonging to Popham Seymour alias Conway, and that the house was liable to fall down from want
of repair, gave authority to arrange with a builder to effect the repairs and to let the
house for 51 years at a proper rent.
The work was evidently carried out without delay, for the Jury Presentment
Roll for 1698 has the entry "Dr. Chamberlain for the Land Credit Office," but little
luck seems to have attended the house during most of its remaining half-century of
The sewer ratebooks for 1700 and 1703 make no mention of the house. Those for
1715, 1720 and 1723, and the parish ratebooks from their commencement in 1730
until 1734 mention it as "The Land Bank." The first entry refers to it as "Empty
many years," and it was still empty in 1720. Certain deeds of later date (fn. 133) allude to
the premises as a "large old house or building commonly called or known by the name
of the Land Bank." (fn. 134)
The Land Bank, as known to history, was an institution founded in 1696, for the
purpose of raising a public loan of two millions on the basis of the estimated value
of real property. Its promoter was Dr. Chamberlain, an accoucheur. (fn. 135) It is unnecessary to give here a full account of the scheme, but it may be regarded as certain
that it would never have been supported in Parliament but for the satisfaction felt
by many influential members in dealing a blow at the recently formed Bank of
The evidence given above is decisive as to some connection between the house
and this scheme, but no reference to the former has been found amongst the literature
on the Land Bank. (fn. 136) The fact that Dr. Chamberlain was in occupation of the
premises in 1698, two years after the ignominious collapse of the scheme, shows that
the Land Bank still pursued some kind of existence, and, indeed, there is other
evidence that it was surviving in some form in January, 1698. (fn. 137)
The above evidence shows that for many years after Dr. Chamberlain's tenancy
the house lay empty, and not until 1735 is the name of an occupier given. This was
Thomas Galloway, who stayed until 1739. After this, the house again remained
empty, until in 1743 it was pulled down, and its frontage to Great Queen Street
was occupied by four smaller houses. The residents in the two westernmost of
these (the other two occupied the site of Markmasons' Hall) were as follows:—
|1753–57.||Mrs. Barbra Johnson.|
|1758.||W. Westbrook Richardson.|
|1750–61.||Mrs. Eliz. Morris.|
|1792–||Mallard and Richold.|
John Opie, portrait and historic painter, was born in Cornwall in 1761. Instead
of following his father's trade as a carpenter, he took up painting and attracted
the notice of Dr. Wolcot (Peter Pindar), who brought him after a while to Exeter,
and in 1780 to London. Here Opie became known as the "Cornish wonder,"
and, indeed, the fact that he, a carpenter's son in a remote Cornish village, without
any regular instruction or opportunity of studying the work of great painters, should
at the age of nineteen have produced pictures which the most distinguished artists
in the country admired and envied, justified the name. Wolcot's introductions
were the means of Opie securing many valuable commissions, and his popularity
became enormous. During the spring of 1782, his lodgings in Orange Court, Castle
Street, Leicester Square, were thronged with rank and fashion, and after he had moved
to Great Queen Street in the following year, the street was at times blocked with the
carriages of his sitters. His popularity, however, waned as suddenly as it had risen.
This he had expected, and had striven, and continued to strive, to perfect himself in
his art, and to supply the deficiencies in his education. In 1791, he moved from
Great Queen Street to No. 8, Berners Street. In 1805 he was elected professor of painting to the Royal Academy, and the lectures which were delivered only a few weeks
before his death form a contribution of permanent value to the literature of art
criticism. He died in April, 1807, and was buried in St. Paul's.
The Council's collection contains:—
(fn. 138) Plan of premises before 1779 (photograph).
(fn. 138) Elevation of premises in 1779 (photograph).
(fn. 138) Exterior of the tavern in 1811 as designed by William Tyler in 1785 (photograph).
(fn. 138) The facade, designed by F. P. Cockerell (1866) (photograph).
(fn. 138) Elevation of the north end of the Temple, as designed by Thomas Sandby in
(fn. 138) The disastrous fire at Freemasons' Hall. The scene of the conflagration of 1883,
from a woodcut (photograph).
(fn. 138) The Temple, looking south (photograph).
(fn. 138) The Temple, looking north (photograph).
The chair of the Grand Master (photograph).
(fn. 138) View of the New Masonic Hall, looking south, pen sketch design by Sir J. Soane,
Plan of the ground floor before the alterations of 1899 (measured drawing).
(fn. 138) Plan of the principal floor before the alterations of 1899 (drawing).
(fn. 138) Grand staircase (photograph).
First floor corridor (photograph).
(fn. 138) Vestibule to Temple, showing mosaic paving (photograph).
Interior, of Banqueting Hall–Connaught Rooms looking north (photograph).
Three swords in museum (photograph).