Survey of London: Volume 14, St Margaret, Westminster, Part III: Whitehall II. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1931.
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CHAPTER 6: LXXXVII—DOVER HOUSE (FORMERLY KNOWN AS YORK HOUSE AND MELBOURNE HOUSE)
History of the Structure and Site.
The greater portion of the site of Dover House was in 1670 covered by the lodgings of the Duke of Ormonde (James, the 1st Duke) and Colonel Darcy. When reporting on the subject of a new lease of the premises in 1696, Wren stated that he understood ("wee are very credibly informed") that the greater part had been built at the cost of the first Duke. (fn. n1) As Ormonde only arrived in London with Charles II at the end of May, 1660, and was certainly in occupation of the premises in August of that year, (fn. n2) it is difficult to imagine that they had been erected in this short interval, and it is necessary to suppose that he found some building on the site, and afterwards to a large extent reconstructed it. What the original building was, there is practically no evidence to show. (fn. n3) As has already been pointed out (see p. 38), it is probable that a portion of the site had at one time been occupied by the little open tennis court. (fn. n4)
On 1st February, 1674, an order was given (fn. n5) for "a new brick building to be errected adioyning to the lodgings belonging to His Grace, the Duke of Ormond, Lord Steward, being about seventy foot in length and about Twenty foot in front towards the parke, at the cost and charges of the Right Honoble the Earle of Ossory, (fn. n6) and to have and possesse the same for his owne use." The rear wall of these premises is probably indicated by the thickened line (21 feet 4 inches long) shown on the plan of the Ormonde property in 1696 (see p. 58). This site agrees perfectly with the representations of the building in the views reproduced in Plates 3, 4 (see p. 103).
Col. Darcy also was in occupation soon after the Restoration, for a reference (fn. n7) occurs to works done in July, 1660, to "Mr Darcyes lodgings." The Darcy rooms had originally formed part of the duke's premises. (fn. n8) On 23rd September, 1689, "those roomes under the staires going into St. James Parke out of the long Gallery in Whitehall in which Mr. Darcy did lodge" were ordered to be delivered to Richard Hampden, (fn. n9) who in the following year became Chancellor of the Exchequer. He resigned in February, 1693–4, being succeeded by Charles Montague, and on 24th July of that year, an order (fn. n10) was given "to marke ye roomes under ye Great Staires going into St. James's Parke for ye Rt. Honble Charles Montague Esqr. Chanler of ye Exchequer, which do belong to his Office."
Ormonde died on 21st July, 1688, (fn. n11) and in 1696 the 2nd Duke, his grandson, applied for a new lease. In Wren's report, (fn. n12) dated 24th March of that year, on the application, we have the first description of the Ormonde premises. They adjoined the Holbein Gate, and intermingled with them on "ye Second Story" (fn. n13) were (i) a "publick Gallery" (the Tilt-yard Gallery) and (ii) another passage leading from the gallery southward towards the Cockpit. They are described as bounded on the south by the Lord Chamberlain's lodgings, on the west partly by Mr. Montague's lodgings, (fn. n14) and partly by St. James's Park and the passage leading to the Cockpit buildings, north by the Tilt Yard, and east by the open way (now thrown into Whitehall) leading to King Street. The plan accompanying Wren's report is here reproduced. A lease of the property for forty-two years was granted, the two galleries referred to being excepted therefrom.
The evidence of the ratebooks shows that from 1710 to 1715 the lodgings were in the occupation of the Earl of Arran, Ormonde's brother. In the latter year Ormonde joined the Old Pretender, and was attainted for high treason. The grant became forfeit, (fn. n15) and in the following year (1716) we find the house in the occupation of Hugh Boscawen, (fn. n16) Comptroller of the Household. On 19th July, 1716, notice was given to Sir Christopher Wren that His Majesty had been "Pleased to give Leave to the Right Honourable Mr Boscowen … to fitt up the Lodgings appointed him att the Cockpitt att his Own Expence," and about the same time (12th July) Boscawen was granted permission "to enclose the Passage Gallery from Mr Secretary Stanhopes Lodging to the Park Stairs, and the Great gallery from Mr Vanhulls to them, and to Pull downe ye said Stairs: also to enclose a Little part of the Ground in ye Park [and] to keep the materialls when Pull[ed] downe till such time as the Building is finished." (fn. n17)
It is obvious that the demolition of the Park Stairs must have involved the destruction of the Darcy rooms, which were underneath, and the plan accompanying the lease of the premises to Boscawen (fn. n18) (which was granted in 1717, for a period of 31 years) shows that this was the case. The premises are described as "all that Mesuage Tenement or Lodging … scituate in or near that part of the Palace of Whitehall called the Cockpitt … on the West Side of the Street leading from Charing Cross to Westminster, abutting on the said Street East, on the House or Lodging in the Poss[ess]ion of the … Lord Viscount Stanhope South, on St. James's Parke West, and on the Tilt Yard North, containing in Front to the said Street One hundred and One Feet, … Which said Premises are irregular and consist of many Breaks," except such rooms built over any part of the premises which belonged to Lord Stanhope, and any rooms standing above the premises in the possession of William Van Huls. (fn. n19) Boscawen's expenditure in repairing and rebuilding the premises was estimated at £2800.
In 1719 he obtained possession of Van Huls' rooms (see p. 22), and in 1721 he applied for and obtained a new lease which included not only those rooms, but a portion of St. James's Park 102 feet long by 62 feet wide, and a part of the Tilt Yard 83 feet long by 25 feet wide. The whole premises now contained 127 feet along the street, 145 feet on the north side towards the Tilt Yard and St. James's Park and 102 feet on the west by the Park. (fn. n20)
Boscawen, who in 1720 had been created Viscount Falmouth, died in 1734, leaving the house to his widow (fn. n21) for her lifetime. In 1738 the latter asked that, in consideration of the great sums she had laid out in repairing the premises, and the further repairs which were necessary, the lease might be extended so as to fill up the existing term to fifty years. The report on the petition stated (fn. n22) that it appeared that there had been an encroachment on the Tilt Yard of about 69 feet 2 inches in length, with a breadth of about 6 feet towards the street and 3 feet towards the Park, on which some additional offices and conveniences had been erected; that, owing to the low situation of the house, considerable expense had had to be incurred in lead and terrace work to keep it dry at Spring tides; and that the late viscount had new-fronted it towards the Park and Tilt Yard; but that in other respects it was an old, bad building, which required "great repairs to support and keep it up." As a result, a reversionary lease of the old premises, as well as a lease of that which had been encroached upon, was granted, (fn. n23) to expire in 1789.
On the death of the viscountess in 1754 the premises came into the market. (fn. n24) In the same year they were purchased by Sir Matthew Featherstonehaugh, and the report (fn. n25) on his petition for a reversionary lease states that "part of the sd Buildings are some of the remains of the palace that were not burnt down [in 1698], & other part thereof was built about 40 years ago, but all of them are in so ruinous a Condition that the petr proposes to pull the whole down & Rebuild." A plan of the premises as then existing was attached to the report, and is here reproduced. On 20th March, 1755, a new lease for 50 years was granted. Sir Matthew duly carried out his intention, (fn. n26) and erected a new house from the designs of James Paine. (fn. n27) This was substantially the house as at present existing. According to Paine, the building was finished in 1758. (fn. n28) Unlike the old premises the new house was not built flush with the street, and in fact occupied the site of the old garden. The owner of the adjoining house to the south, the Duke of Dorset, entered a caveat against this proposal, but withdrew it on condition that Sir Matthew should "leave a vacant space of 15 ft between the House Wch he proposes to erect … & the pales next the Parade, & likewise a vacant space of 11 ft between such House & the Garden Wall belonging to the Duke of Dorsett." on Sir Matthew's protest, however, the restriction was limited to a provision that he should not erect any building, rails or pales higher than the duke's garden wall within 15 feet of the Park, or within 11 feet of the duke's garden wall for the space of 25 feet from the Park. (fn. n29)
Featherstonehaugh in 1774, and in the same year his widow obtained a reversionary lease of the premises for 19 years as from 20th March, 1805. (fn. n30) On 4th December, 1787, she sold the house to H.R.H. Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (fn. n31) The premises are described as "all that piece … of ground whereon a messuage … or lodging … formerly stood, situate in or near that part of the Palace of Whitehall called the Cockpitt … on the west side of a street leading from Charing Cross to Westminster, abutting on the said street east, upon houses or lodgings heretofore in the possession of the Earl of Stanhope and afterwards of His Grace the Dukeof Dorsett south, on St James's Park wall west, and on the Tilt Yard north, containing in front to the said street 101 feet; and all that piece … of ground … part of St James's Park adjoining, containing in length 102 feet and in breadth 62 feet; and also that one other parcel of ground in the Tilt Yard also adjoining, containing in length 83 feet and in breadth 25 feet; all which said pieces … of ground contain together in length toward the aforesaid street … 127 feet, and in breadth abutting on the Tilt Yard and St James's Park north 135 feet and to the west 102 feet, and south on the house heretofore in the possession of the Earl of Stanhope and afterwards of the said Duke of Dorset (except all rooms and chambers built over any part of the of the premises which heretofore belonged to the Duke of Dorset), and all that piece … of ground heretofore an encroachment on the Tilt Yard within His Majesty's Palace of Whitehall, containing in front to the said street 6 feet and in length 69 feet 2 inches, abutting east on the said street, west and north on the said Tilt Yard, and south on the premises above described; which said messuage and other buildings have been taken down, and a large brick messuage … with stables, coach-house … have been erected on the several pieces of ground above described, heretofore in the occupation of Dame Sarah Featherstonehaugh, containing in front to the said street … 139 feet 2 inches, … and next St James's Park … 103 feet 2 inches, on the north side next ground and buildings belonging to the Horse Guards 146 feet, and on the south side … 144 feet."
The duke at once set about improving the premises, and in the following year obtained the royal permission to extend the iron rails before the west front of his house 11½ feet towards the Parade, and to "erect a Portico and extend it across the Footway in the East Front of his said House." (fn. n32) The portico, as well as the well-known circular hall, were thereupon added by Henry Holland, the duke's architect. (fn. n33) Here is reproduced a ground plan of the house showing by hatched lines "the soffeat of the portico proposed to be extended over the Footway, Whitehall." On the other side of the street the duke erected stabling on the site of the old Lottery Office. (fn. n34) On 31st October, 1792, he obtained a reversionary lease of York House, as well as a lease of the Lottery Office, both to expire in 1842.
The duke soon tired of his new residence, and began to covet Lord Melbourne's mansion in Piccadilly (the central portion of The Albany). (fn. n35) Lady Melbourne for her part was quite as eager to obtain York House. An exchange was, therefore, effected, and on 7th November, 1792, (fn. n36) the duke assigned to Melbourne "the Capital Mess[uag]e or Tenement, with the Stables, Coach houses & other Offices thereunto belongg … lately called York House, but now called … Melbourne House," as well as the stabling on the other side of Whitehall.
On 17th November, 1823, Melbourne obtained (fn. n37) an extension of (which otherwise would expire on 31st October, 1842) for a further years and 44 days.
Melbournerne died in 1828, and on 29th September, 1830, his executors sold the premises to the Rt. Hon. George James Welbore Agar-Ellis, (fn. n38) who in the following year was created Baron Dover. Thus Melbourne House became Dover House.
On the expiry of the lease in 1883, Lady Clifden, the widow of Lord Dovers son, who was then in possession, continued to occupy the house for a few years on a yearly tenancy. (fn. n39) In 1885, however, the premises were resumed by the Crown and have since been used for the purposes of the Scottish Office.
Description of the Building
The west elevation, overlooking Horse Guards Parade, is executed Portland stone, and consists of a restrained symmetrical design embracing three storeys and an attic with dormer windows in a slate mansard roof (fn. n40) (Plates 43, 44). The wall surface is rusticated, with the jointing of the ground storey more defined. The ground-floor windows finish at the floor level, and similar treatment is carried out to the principal floor; the windows of the latter, however, are enhanced with architraves springing from panelled dies, and have pedimented heads. The focal point of the façade is a large three-light centre window within an arched recess, divided by Ionic columns dics supporting a moulded head at the springing, above which is a panelled tympanum. The windows to the floor above have moulded architraves. The whole composition is completed by a delicate modillion cornice surmounted by a high balustraded parapet. Subsequent to the erection of the building a verandah with glass-and-iron roof was placed at the first-floor level, but the roofing was removed some years ago.
On either side of the facç are slightly recessed wings, the height of which was originally limited by the agreement with the Duke of Dorset (see p. 61). The southern wing has, however, since been carried up higher, and the symmetry of the front impaired.
The elevation of the main block to Whitehall (Plates 45, 46) is more restrained, and has low projecting wings which formerly contained offices and stabling. The general effect as seen from the road is dominated by the entrance portico and screen wall.
When the Duke of York acquired the premises, Holland altered the old entrance hall at the ground level, and constructed a new entrance which occupied the site of the porter's lodge and part of the open courtyard. His scheme included the circular hall, whence a flight of steps leads to an upper hall on the first floor, formerly the ante-chamber. The entrance comprises a portico of four columns of the Ionic order supporting a pedimented entablature, while a curtain wall extends on each flank to the projecting wings. Detached Ionic columns with, a blocked entablature supporting vase terminals ornament this curtain wall, while the general surface is rusticated, and the whole is crowned with a balustraded parapet above a moulded cornice.
A small vestibule leads to the circular hall (Plate 49), which has a range of eight Doric columns supporting an entablature, while above, upon a shallow drum, springs a saucer-domed ceiling containing a circular lantern light. The columns are executed in scagliola representing Sienna marble, and half of them are on high cylindrical pedestals, screening the passage to the rooms on the ground level of the main building. The remainder of the columns are supported on a curved podium wall, against which finish the ends of the segmental steps leading to the upper hall on the first floor. An external lead dome of a flat pitch forms the roof over the circular hall.
Room No. 4 (Plate 50) on the ground level has a screen of Ionic columns, which was probably introduced when the room was enlarged, and takes the place of the wall shown on the plan of the premises by Paine. This room also contains a decorative marble mantelpiece.
The upper hall (Plate 52), rearranged by Holland, (fn. n41) gives access to the main rooms. It is an eight-sided apartment, and contains a decorative plaster ceiling with an enriched cornice and frieze. The mantelpiece is executed in marble, and has term-shaped angle pilasters with goats' heads and Ionic caps. Above the shelf is a modelled plaster circular panel illustrating a family group.
Room No. 21 has a modillion cornice and an ornamental plaster ceiling, divided into panels by ribs enriched with the guilloche, while the panels are decorated with acanthus leafage, and scrolls (Plate 53). The marble mantelpiece is ornamented with caryatides supporting the shelf, while the frieze contains a delicate design of foliated scrolls (Plate 54).
Rooms Nos. 19 and 20 have plaster cornices with coupled trusses, which support a cove to the ceilings. The coves contain a scrollwork around cartouches bearing the arms of Lord Dover. Room No. 19 has a mantelpiece in marble with Doric columns, which support a frieze containing the fret (Plate 5).
The mantelpieces in some of the other rooms are of a decorative character, and are executed in marble. Room No. 18 has a statuary and Sienna marble mantelpiece, with a central tablet containing a representation of Androcles and the Lion" (Plate 54).
Condition of Repair.
The ratebooks show the house in the occupation of "Sr Matt. Featherstone" from 1756 to 1776. This a mistake, for Sir Matthew Featherstonehaugh, Bt., died on 24th March, 1774, at his house near the Horse Guards." He is described as "member in the last and present parliament for Portsmouth, and before for Morpeth in Northumberland; a governor of St. Thomas's and Middlesex hospitals, and F.R.S." (fn. n42)
According to the rate books for 1777 and 1778 the French Ambassador was then resident in the house. This was the Marquis de Noailles. On the outbreak of war with France in 1778 he was compelled leave, (fn. n43) and the ratebooks for 1779 to 1787 show that he was succeeded in his occupation of the house by Lord Amherst.
Jeffrey Amherst, Baron Amherst, was born in 1717. As a boy he entered the service of the Duke of Dorset, who in 1731 procured him an ensigncy in the Guards. He showed great abilities, and was rapidly promoted until he became lieutenant-colonel in 1756. In 1758 he became majorgeneral, and was sent out by Pitt in command of the expedition to North America. The enterprise was crowned with brilliant success, and Montreal surrendered in 1760. Amherst was appointed Governor-General of British North America, received the thanks of Parliament, and the Knighthood of the Bath. His subsequent proceedings (against the Indians) were not so successful, and he returned to England in 1763. In 1768 he was made Governor of Virginia, and in 1770 of Guernsey. From 1772 to 1782 and again from 1783 to 1793 he was officiating Commander-in-Chief, and from the latter year to 1795 Commander-in-Chief. In 1796 he was made Field-Marshal. In 1776 he had been created Baron Amherst, and in 1787 was re-created with remainder to his nephew. He died in 1797. "His greatest glory is to have conquered Canada; and if much of that glory belongs to Pitt and Wolfe, neither Pitt's combinations nor Wolfe's valour would have been effectual without Amherst's steady purpose and unflinching determination." (fn. n44)
Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany, second son of George III, was born in 1763. From 1781 to 1787 he was on the Continent, studying languages and military tactics. On his return to England he bought Lady Featherstonehaugh's house and resided there for five years. This period included his duel with Colonel Lennox, in which he showed to much advantage, and his marriage. On the outbreak of war in 1793 he was put in command of the English army in Flanders, and miserably failed. On returning in 1795 he was promoted to be Field-Marshal, and in 1798 was appointed Commander-in-Chief. In 1799 he was placed in command of the army destined to invade Holland, and for a second time failed. In 1809 he was forced to retire from his position as Commander-in-Chief owing to the scandal arising from the sale of commissions by Mrs. Clarke, but was reappointed in 1811. He died in 1827. He founded the Duke of York's School, in Chelsea (removed in 1894–5 to Dover) for the sons of soldiers.
Peniston Lamb, 1st Viscount Melbourne, son of Sir Matthew Lamb, was born in 1748. He entered Parliament in 1768 as member for Ludgershall, and in the same year succeeded to the baronetcy. He was elevated to the peerage of Ireland in 1770 by the title of Lord Melbourne, Baron of Hilmore, and was created a viscount in 1781. In 1815 he became Baron Melbourne in the peerage of the United Kingdom. He died in 1828 "at Melbourne-house, Whitehall." (fn. n45)
William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, was born in 1779 in Melbourne House, Piccadilly, but must have spent part of his boyhood in Melbourne House, Whitehall. (fn. n46)
He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1804 he was called to the Bar, but in the following year, on the death of his elder brother, gave up the law for politics. In 1806 he entered Parliament. In 1827 he was appointed Irish Secretary by Canning, but resigned office in the following year with the rest of the Canningites. He succeeded his father as viscount in 1829, and in 1830 became Home Secretary in Grey's ministry. He had an exceptionally difficult task in dealing with a country on the verge of revolution. On the resignation of Grey in 1834 he formed a ministry, but was forced to retire in favour of Peel at the end of the year. The latter, however, was unable to carry on, and in April, 1835, Melbourne's second term of office began, and lasted for six years, during the last four of which he acted as adviser to the young Queen. He died on 24th November, 1848. Melbourne seems to have entered into occupation of the Whitehall house on his father's death, and the issues of Boyle's Court Guide for the years 1830 and 1831 (implying a residence in 1829–30) show Viscount Melbourne, (fn. n47) the Hon. Sir F. Lamb and the Hon. George Lamb at the house. As it was sold to Ellis in September, 1830, Melbourne's occupation must have ceased at that date. (fn. n48)
George James Welbore Agar-Ellis, 1st Baron Dover, only son of Henry Welbore AgarEllis, 2nd Viscount Clifden, was born in 1797. In 1818 he entered Parliament as member for Heytesbury. At his initiation the Government in 1824 purchased the Angerstein collection of pictures, and thus formed the nucleus of the present National Gallery. In 1830–1 he was Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests. He was created Baron Dover in 1831, and in 1833 "died at Dover House, Whitehall." (fn. n49) He was a trustee of the British Museum and the National Gallery, and a generous patron of the fine arts.
After his death, his widow, according to Boyle's Court Guide, continued at the house until her death "at Dover House" (fn. n50) in 1860. From 1848, however, the name of Viscount Clifden is associated with her. This was Lord Dover's son, who had succeeded his grandfather as viscount in 1836. He died in 1866, and from that date until the house was taken over for official purposes in 1885 it was in the occupation of his widow, who in 1875 married Col. Sir Walter George Stirling.
In the Council's Collection are:—
|(fn. n51) Plan of principal storey and attic.||(photographs of plan and drawings in Paine's Plans, Elevations, etc., of Noblemen's Houses.)|
|(fn. n51)Plan of principal storey and attic.|
|(fn. n51)Elevation of east front within the court.|
|(fn. n51)Front to the Park with additions.|
|(fn. n51)Section of premises.|
As at present.
(fn. n51)Plans of premises (measured drawing).
(fn. n51)Elevation to Whitehall (measured drawing).
(fn. n51)Elevation to Horse Guards Parade (photograph).
(fn. n51)View of premises facing Horse Guards Parade (photograph).
(fn. n51)View of premises facing Whitehall (photograph).
View of front courtyard (photograph).
(fn. n51)Longitudinal section through premises (measured drawing).
(fn. n51)General view of circular hall (photograph).
General view of staircase in south wing (photograph).
(fn. n51)View of screen to Room No. 4 (photograph).
(fn. n51)View of mantelpiece in Room No. 4 (photograph).
View of mantelpiece in Room No. 6 (photograph).
(fn. n51)Views of upper hall (photograph).
(fn. n51)Detail of plaster cove to Room No. 19 (photograph).
General view of plaster cove to Room No. 19 (photograph).
(fn. n51)View of mantelpiece in Room No. 19 (photograph).
(fn. n51)Ornamental plaster ceiling to Room No. 21 (photograph).
(fn. n51)View of mantelpiece in Room No. 21 (photograph).
(fn. n51)View of mantelpiece in Room No. 18 (photograph).
(fn. n51)General view of vaulted passage on second floor (photograph).
(fn. n51)View of mantelpiece in Room No. 30 (photograph).