XXIX.—QUEEN'S HOUSE, No. 16 CHEYNE WALK.
(FORMERLY KNOWN AS TUDOR HOUSE.)
Ground landlord, leaseholders, etc.
Ground landlord, Earl Cadogan. Leaseholder, the Hon. Sir William
General description and date of structure.
Queen's House is the second house in point of size in Cheyne Walk,
but although it has 10 feet less in frontage than No. 6, and has not enjoyed the
same immunity from change, its design is more striking and original, and its
features excite more interest
in the eyes of the artist and
connoisseur. Its architectural
pre-eminence depends very
largely upon the wealth and
beauty of its ironwork, both
within and without, which is
equal to the very best of the
kind. There is a peculiar fascination in the study of the
design of wrought ironwork,
a craft which has played such
a conspicuous part in the
development of English architecture during the later
Renaissance, and nowhere
among examples of similar
size is there a better instance to be seen of its chief
grouping, skilful contrast of
plain bars with panels of scroll
work, graceful outline, and
beautiful workmanship—than in the gate and railings
of Queen's House. We have
before remarked that Chelsea
is rich in wrought ironwork.
Not only is this the best example, but it is also the best preserved. There were other gates in Cheyne Walk,
just east of Manor Street, which, we may conclude from the evidence of old
drawings, were from the same hand as those at Queen's House, but they have
disappeared, and the other ironwork which we have considered lacks the strong
personal character which the best work displays. (fn. 1) Attention should be directed
to the clever way in which the gate is built up, with its arched bar and ornamented
spandrils; to the fine pilasters on each side with four stout standards surmounted by good cast-iron vases; to the masterly lines of the cresting, enclosing the monogram of the first owner, Richard Chapman, in which the delicate
leaf ornament is properly subordinated to the stronger lines of the main curves;
and, lastly, to the excellence of the spearheads on the railings and the particularly
fine panels that divide the latter into bays.
Queen's House, Plan.
Measured and drawn by Percy W. Lovell
Within the gates is a paved court, and a flight of five steps leads over
the basement area to the front door, which stands within a recessed porch. To
these steps there are some delicate little railings, consisting of panels of wroughtiron scroll-work with two bars between each.
The external appearance of the house is much as it was in 1717 when,
having been erected by John Witt, the builder, who acquired so many of the
plots of the old Manor garden, it was leased to Richard Chapman. The chief
alteration, which, perhaps, has become to many Chelsea residents its most familiar
feature, is the large bay window to the first and second floors that has been
inserted in the centre of the front elevation, and which, although made of
timber and plastered over, has been coloured red to match the brickwork as
far as possible. Formerly the house had a plain characteristic Georgian front
that depended for its effect on its well-proportioned windows, on its broad
rusticated pilasters and string-courses of brick and the bold pediment brought
forward upon carved brackets. The little figure of Mercury which used to
crown the pediment (see Plate 67), and had endeared itself to many a passer-by,
was added during the tenancy of Rev. H. R. Haweis, but during the recent
restoration of the house by Mr. Edwin L. Lutyens it fell to pieces, being
merely a figure cast in some ephemeral composition. Queen's House and No. 4
Cheyne Walk are the only houses which have the very large key-stones to the
arches over the windows.
Passing for a moment to the back of the house we see that the quaint
garden front is in striking contrast to the one towards the road. The 18th
century element seems somehow lacking, and the grouping of the two bold wings
and deeply-recessed centre is reminiscent rather of the Lincoln's Inn gateway in
Chancery Lane than of a Georgian front. The effect is, perhaps, accidental and
due to the unusual plan, for one recognises in the projections on the wings the
idea of simple brick pilasters, and although there is no cornice the brick stringcourses are carried round as in the front. Its unusual character may, however,
have given rise to the name of "Tudor House," which it bore until altered
by Mr. Haweis. In the view on Plate 72 it may be seen that one or two of the
old sashes remain, but the large mullioned window shown on the ground floor, a
tasteless modern insertion, has been removed since the photograph was taken
and replaced by three sash windows to match the old.
Before we leave this part of the house we may notice a more successful
addition to the building in the shape of the "monogram" railing with its finely cast
masks, which is shown in the view as bordering the area wall, but has since been
removed to the position of the plain rail over the large centre window. The
centre portion of this railing is entirely composed of the interlacing initials RC,
written backwards and forwards—these being the letters that are found upon the
gate—and it would seem by its design to be of about the same date as the house.
We understand, however, that it was a fortunate "find" of Mr. Plimmer, a recent
tenant, and that he bought it because of its appropriateness, "To him that hath
shall be given, "and so Queen's House has added to its store of good ironwork.
Two or three beautiful little iron balconies may be seen in their original position
on the garden front.
Queen's House, Monogram Railing.
Drawn by Edmund L. Wratten
We will now turn to the interior. The first door opens upon a little
hall, paved diagonally with black and white squares. On either side is a front
sitting-room, panelled from floor to ceiling, and with two circular-headed windows
towards the street. On the authority of Sir Edward Burne-Jones we are told
that the overmantel in the east room, formed of Japanese lacquer designs, was
put there by Rossetti, and that he had lined the fireplace with beautiful Dutch
tiles. Madame Blumenthal, who occupied the house until 1908, found that the
latter had been taken away, and she has placed there some fine tiles of her own
collecting. The west room was restored by Mr. Walter Cave, architect. He
designed the fireplace with a bold architrave, in keeping with the old work. It
has also been adorned with Dutch tiles.
Passing out of the hall through a deep archway, within which, on either
side, is a recessed seat, one enters a passage leading right and left and having
a door immediately in front which opens into the dining-room. The passage
communicates with two staircases, one at each end, of which that on the west
leads to the first floor only, while the other connects the basement with all the
upper floors. The latter, or eastern stair, is the most remarkable, and the type
is one that is extremely rare. It is a wood winding-stair, partly circular in plan,
with a beautiful balustrade of forged and hammered iron, and besides this—a
fact that emphasises its uniqueness—the ends of the treads are exquisitely carved
in the form of brackets, which vary in size as they adapt themselves to the
curving string, the enrichments being of the same excellence from the basement
to the second floor. The design of the staircase is most ingenious, and to those
who appreciate the application of iron to this purpose it is very beautiful. In
seeking an example to which we can compare its character and detail we can
only cite the garden balustrade to No. 44 Great Ormond Street, which, until its
removal, was the subject of so much admiration, and which possessed very similar
finials to the standards or "newels."
The original western and principal staircase disappeared many years ago;
Mr. Cave found one of early Victorian date, which he removed. It occupied a
space not very much larger than the spiral stair, for between it and the north wall
was a vestibule leading to the garden, and above, at the height of the half landing,
a small room, used at one time as a chapel or oratory, which exactly filled the
west wing. Mr. Cave's staircase has since been replaced by a larger one from
the design of Mr. Lutyens, and for this purpose the small room has been thrown
open and its space added to the landing. The balusters used in the new staircase are old twisted examples from a house in Battersea on the Norfolk estate.
The landing retains the little chimney-piece of the original room; French
windows lead from it on to a small balcony overlooking the garden. The
panelling here is new and designed by Mr. Lutyens.
To return to the ground floor, the dining-room, which was Rossetti's
studio, is now some 26 feet long by 20 feet wide, including the space between the
two wings of the house; but we are inclined to think that it was not originally
so large. These two wings projecting towards the garden suggest at first sight
the two projecting powder rooms of No. 4; they are, however, much larger in
proportion to the building, and there is no evidence to show that they were ever
ante-rooms to another apartment. It seems rather that Queen's House showed
a step of progress in the matter of design and in the utilisation of the projecting
wing, generally used as an anteroom, but here to be incorporated in a larger
room as in this dining-room or to become a separate self-contained apartment.
This view is supported by the position of the fireplace, which is in the centre of
the east wall. The space occupied by the circular staircase causes a recess in the
dining-room wall, which is skilfully covered by an arcade of two columns and two
pilasters supporting three arches. This, as well as the whole panelling of the
room, is beautifully designed and executed. One regrets that the old chimneypiece has gone, but the present one from the design of Mr. Walter Cave is in
perfect keeping with the character of the room.
On the first floor the house is again divided by a passage, which connects
the two staircases. This passage is ceiled with the plaster imitation of intersecting vaulting, which was not uncommon in the 18th century, and has at
each end a circular archway with curious spandrel formed by the intersection
of two circles in an oval. The drawing-room, which occupies the whole front
of the house, is a fine room nearly 40 feet in length, and is delightfully
panelled. The new bay adds to its size and interest. Here, as in the diningroom, the chimney-piece was inserted by Mr. Cave for Mr. Frank Lowrey.
On the garden side are two other rooms, the centre being used as a boudoir
and having a good chimney-piece, the other as a bedroom, with a mantel of
Adam design. Both rooms have panelling throughout.
The rooms on the second floor have plain square framed panelling
without mouldings. The present third floor was added recently by Mr. Lutyens.
The basement, of which much has been said in various books on Chelsea, presents nothing more remarkable than the usual sturdy building of the period,
and some of the 18th century "vaulting" above alluded to.
In conclusion, a note may be added regarding the authorship of the
design. While dismissing its ascription to Wren as not only improbable, but
not borne out by the character of the design, we may readily admit that it
was the work of an artist of no inconsiderable merit. Vanbrugh has been
put forward, but the detail is surely from a lighter hand than his. As far as
the close of the second decade in the 18th century public taste in architecture
had been maintained at a high level, many men were skilled in the contemporary style, and we are inclined to think that such an excellent work as Queen's
House would be within the scope of some comparatively unknown architect.
Condition of repair.
The house is in excellent repair.
It is our first duty, following the lead of Mr. Randall Davies, to whose researches we
owe so much, to expose the falsity of the legend which connected Catherine of Braganza
with this house. The initials R.C. on the gate are undoubtedly those of Richard Chapman,
described in the original lease as "of St. Clement Danes, appothecary," for whom the
house was built in 1717; but the fable which arose from the misinterpretation of the
letters (fn. 2) once spread is hard to kill, and whether its inception was due to Mr. Haweis or
not, he it was who effectively crystallised it for future generations by changing the old
name of Tudor House into the misleading title "Queen's House." The name will
probably persist, but the legend must certainly be discarded.
Richard Chapman lived here from 1719 until 1724. The house remained empty
for three years, and was then taken by Alexander Spottiswood, or Spotswood, Colonial
Governor. He had fought at Blenheim in the Earl of Bath's regiment and obtained a
Lieutenant-Colonel's Commission. In 1710 he was made Governor of Virginia, being
superseded in 1722. He died in 1740, shortly after his promotion to the rank of Major–General. His time of residence in this house was from 1728 to 1732. The lease seems
then to have been taken over by Peter Elers, whose name appears in connection with the
house from 1733 to 1742, when the break in the lists occurs. He, perhaps, did not reside
here except for the first year. The house was empty from 1735–1742.
The names that follow in the rate-books are these:—
|1748–1749.||Martha Windham Ash.|
|1750.||Earl of Sutherland.|
|1754.||Dove & Co.|
|1763–1764.||John Christian Newman and afterwards Mrs. Newman.|
|1765–1770.||Dr. John Forbes.|
|1798–1802.||Osborne Denton and afterwards Mrs. Denton.|
Miss Meteyard, the biographer of the Wedgwoods, has said that the brothers Elers
(fl. 1690–1730), who established pottery works near Burslem, were responsible for laying
the foundations of the Chelsea manufactory also. These Elers came to London with the
Prince of Orange, and it is doubtful whether they were ever connected with Chelsea.
Peter Elers, who lived at Queen's House, was the son of Peter Elers the elder, who settled
in England at the accession of George I. He was of an ancient German baronial family.
Peter Elers of Chelsea died in 1753 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. He married
Dorothy, youngest daughter of Peter Carew, of Carew Hall, Pembrokeshire. His son George
and grandson Carew are both buried at Chelsea.
Gryffid Price, the subject of a little eulogy by Faulkner, and by him styled one of His
Majesty's Counsellors at Law, died at his house in Paradise Row in 1787. It seems, therefore, that on leaving Queen's House in 1783 he moved to Paradise Row.
Mr. Wm. Ascroft writes: "At the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the
last Captain Denton lived here, who purchased at the sale of Don Saltero (1799) some of
the curiosities. Afterwards, the Bayfords, who kept their yacht and took part in the sailing
matches. One of them was distinguished as an amateur sculler, and was the first to win,
in 1830, the Wingfield sculls. … Some of the sons were well-known proctors. Edward
Irving used to visit here, and found in them staunch supporters of his Catholic Apostolic
"Mr. N. Handford, architect and steward of the manor, lived here. He designed and
constructed the Cadogan Pier, and also made designs for the river embankment. His sons,
with the sons of the rector, Charles and Henry Kingsley, used to carry on their chemical
electrotyping and other experiments in the basement. Mr. Geo. Handford, architect, succeeded his father as steward, and he formed a large collection of portraits, some of which
were exhibited at the National Portrait Exhibition at South Kensington and Burlington
House. The majority were sold in a two-days' sale at Christie's."
In 1862 Dante Gabriel Rossetti took Queen's House, and with him lived for a short
time his brother William Rossetti and Algernon Charles Swinburne. Rossetti had taken
a fancy to the house, and had asked, it seems, several of his friends to join him in occupying it. In addition to his brother and Swinburne, George Meredith accepted his invitation,
but he never lived here, as he himself has taken the trouble to point out, in answer to
several statements to the contrary. Rossetti lived here, and continued to occupy the house.
for the most part by himself, almost to the close of his lifetime. Much has been written
of his residence in Chelsea, of his collections of old furniture and pictures, of his bijou
menagerie in the beautiful gardens of Queen's House. He died in 1882, and five years
later the memorial fountain which stands in the Embankment Gardens opposite to the
house was unveiled by Mr. Holman Hunt.
Later occupants of Queen's House have been the Rev. H. R. Haweis, Mr. Frank
Lowrey, Mr. Henry George Plimmer and the late Mr. Jacques Blumenthal, under whose
direction the last alterations were made by the well-known architect, Mr. Edwin L.
Lutyens. Madame Blumenthal parted with the house to Sir William Pickford in 1908.
Alfred Beaver, Memorials of Old Chelsea (1892).
Reginald Blunt, Handbook to Chelsea (1900).
Randall Davies, Pall Mall Gazette (September 4th, 1906).
Hall Caine, Record and Study (1882).
Dictionary of National Biography (D. G. Rossetti).
Eliza Meteyard, Life of Josiah Wedgwood, 2 vols. (London, 1865–6).
In the committee's ms. collection are—
|3242.|| (fn. 3) Plan.|
|3243.|| (fn. 3) General view from the east (photograph).|
|3244.||General view from the west (photograph).|
|3245.|| (fn. 3) Lower part of house and gate (photograph).|
|3246.|| (fn. 3) Wrought-iron gate and railings (measured drawing).|
|3247.|| (fn. 3) Wrought-iron gate (photograph).|
|3248.||View of gate from garden (photograph).|
|3249.||Another view of same (photograph).|
|3250.||Gate railings and piers (photograph).|
|3251.||Panel of railings (photograph).|
|3252.|| (fn. 3) Back view of house (photograph).|
|3253.|| (fn. 3) Iron "monogram" railing (photograph).|
|3254.|| (fn. 3) Iron "monogram" (drawing).|
|3255.|| (fn. 3) Mask from same (photograph).|
|3256.|| (fn. 3) Iron railing to steps (photograph).|
|3257.|| (fn. 3) Hall from dining-room (photograph).|
|3258.||Hall, another view (photograph).|
|3259.||Dining-room, fireplace (photograph).|
|3260.||Dining-room, arcade (photograph).|
|3261.||Present wood staircase (photograph).|
|3262.||Wood staircase, detail (drawing).|
|3263.|| (fn. 3) Iron staircase, from first floor (photograph).|
|3264.||Iron staircase, another view (photograph).|
|3265.|| (fn. 3) Iron staircase, detail of carving (photograph).|
|3266.|| (fn. 3) Passage, first floor, showing iron stair (photograph).|
|3267.|| (fn. 3) Part of drawing-room (photograph).|
|3268.||Drawing-room, bay window (photograph).|
|3269–72.||Drawing-room panelling (four sheets) (measured drawings).|
|3273–75.||Garden, three views (photograph).|