Survey of London: Volume 16, St Martin-in-The-Fields I: Charing Cross. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1935.
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CHAPTER 5: IV—THE ADMIRALTY
In 1557 the ground immediately to the north of the Tilt Yard consisted of a piece of waste land which had been used as a carpenter's yard. On 17th February of that year it was leased to Thomas Browne for a term of sixty years at a rent of 26s. 8d. It is described in the letters patent (fn. n1) as a piece of waste ground, enclosed by the fence and wall of St. James's Park, on the south of the messuage in the tenure of John Kempe, together with a shed or hay-house built partly on the park wall, and a cottage on the south side of the ground. On 29th May, 1560, Browne, in consideration of the receipt of £100, surrendered (fn. n2) his lease to the Queen, reserving, however, his interest in the cottage, for which the rent was reduced to 13s. 4d. The remainder of the ground reverted to its former use as a timberyard (fn. n3) for the purposes of Whitehall Palace. Ten years later (18th December, 1570) Browne transferred the cottage to Sir Francis Knollys, (fn. n4) who in 1572 obtained a new lease from the Crown for sixty years at a rent of £6 13s. 4d. of not only the cottage but a portion of the timberyard. The measurements are given as follows: (i) "The soyle, parcell of the saied voyed ground wherein the saied Cottage is scituate, doethe conteigne in length from the este to the west upon the Northe syde ioyninge upon the Carpenters yarde one hundreth and eightene foote withn the walls, and in length upon the southe syde buttinge upon the highewaye into St James parke and Tylteyarde end conteyninge one hundrethe and fyve foote wthin the walls, in bredth the est ende buttinge upon the highwaye from Charinge Crosse to westmr in lengthe fyftye and one foote, and the weste ende buttinge upon St James parke conteynethe fortye eighte foote." (ii) "As muche more of the saied ground as conteyneth xxxix foote at the weste ende thereof and asmuche at the Este ende, and in lengthe as afore northwarde one hundreth and eightene foote, and also xvj foote more in lengthe and bredthe at the weste end, wch maye be verye well sparyd out of the reste of the saied voyed ground beinge nowe callyd the timber hayes." (fn. n5) The intention of Knollys was "to buylde a convenyent house" on the ground, and in view of the increase of rent asked for an allowance of £160 "towards the chardges of the buylding thereof." The amount actually allowed him was £120. The house, which was duly erected, (fn. n6) passed, on Knollys' death in 1596, to his eldest surviving son, Sir William Knollys, (fn. n7) from whose title of Viscount Wallingford it obtained the name of Wallingford House.
In May, 1602, Sir William entertained Elizabeth "at his residence in St. James's Park." (fn. n8) On 20th March, 1610–11, he (now Lord Knollys) obtained a grant of the house in perpetuity. (fn. n9) The premises are described as "all that our mansion house and all those our gardens, lands, buildings and new structures … now in the tenure … of the said William, Lord Knollys, situated … between the common way … leading from Charing-crose to Westminster on the east, and our garden commonly called the Springe garden in part and our park called St. James Parke in other part on the west, and abutting on a way or passage leading from the aforesaid common way … to our aforesaid park called St. James Parke in part and a certain building now or late in the tenure … of Sir Thomas Walsingham and Awdrey his wife (fn. n10) … in other part towards the south, and on our land or yard commonly called the Tymber yard towards the north, containing on the east side 152 feet (fn. n11) … and on the west side 146 feet." In addition there was included in the grant a part of the timber yard, north of the house, described as "all that part … of land being parcel of our said yard commonly called the Timber yard which is next to and immediately adjoins the north side … of a certain new 'le Gallery' or of the aforesaid new buildings, and extends along the walls of the aforesaid 'le Gallery' from our aforesaid garden called the Springe garden to the aforesaid common way … leading from Charingcrosse to Westminster, and contains in size from the aforesaid wall of the aforesaid new buildings … towards the north 70 feet … throughout the whole width of the same parcel of land." The stipulated rent was £7 13s. 4d. plus 20s. in respect of the part of the timber yard, and liberty was given to build on the latter and to have windows opening on to Spring Garden. (fn. n12) A few years later Knollys (now Viscount Wallingford) fell into disfavour at court owing to enmity between his wife's family (the Howards) and Buckingham. In 1622 a reconciliation was effected, and Buckingham (fn. n13) purchased "all that mansion house comonly called … Wallingford House" for £3,000. (fn. n14) The 70-feet-wide portion of the timber yard was included.
At the time of the purchase Buckingham had apparently been for some little while in occupation. (fn. n15) There are notes of his residence there in the immediately succeeding years. (fn. n16) In August, 1626, however, the house was prepared to accommodate the Duchesse de Trémouille, whose visit lasted until the following February, (fn. n17) and during her stay the duke seems to have been resident at York House. (fn. n18) On 30th January, 1627–8, the duke's second son George (afterwards 2nd Duke of Buckingham) was born at Wallingford House.
Buckingham was assassinated on 23rd August, 1628, and the duchess seems soon after to have let the house to Lord Weston, the lord treasurer, who was certainly in occupation of the premises in May, 1630, (fn. n19) and the following note (fn. n20) written a few days after his death: "The Dutchess of Buckingham was married about a Week since to the Lord Dunluce (fn. n21) and are to live at Wallingford-house, whence the Treasurer's Family removes," shows that he had continued to reside there. (fn. n22) The house did not, however, with the death of the Lord High Admiral, cease to be used for admiralty business, and numerous documents are extant (fn. n23) showing that the Lords of the Admiralty held meetings there until 1634. The next occupant of the house of whom we have information is the Marchioness of Hamilton, who died there on 10th May, 1638. (fn. n24) In the early part of 1649 (fn. n25) the Duke of Richmond and Lenox was in occupation. (fn. n26) The duke's name in respect of what is probably Wallingford House is given in the ratebooks for 1641 ("Duke of Lennox iiijli"), 1647 and 1648 ("Duke of Richmond," nil and £4 respectively), but in the two latter years there is also an entry: "The Lady Covell at Wallingford House," £1. On 14th December, 1649, the Committee for Advance of Money granted Wallingford House to Edward, Lord Howard of Escrick, for a year from the following Christmas at a rent of £40, and at the same time ordered that "the Earl and Countess of Rutland, who inhabit Wallingford House, avoid possession of the same in 14 days." (fn. n27) It was subsequently provided that "after the Expiration … of a Lease made to the Lord Howard of Estrick … of Wallingford House … late the Inheritance of George Duke of Buckingham … The same shall … remain for ever, to the use of the Commonwealth to be disposed as the Parliament shall order." (fn. n28)
Lord Howard's rent seems to have been difficult to collect. (fn. n29) After his year's tenancy had expired the Earl of Rutland (fn. n30) resumed occupation. In 1652 the trustees for the sale of fee farm rents sold the rent of £8 13s. 4d., due from the owner of Wallingford House, to Edward Keeling for the sum of £112 13s. 4d. (fn. n31)
Rutland's residence at Wallingford House was from 1649 to 1655, with the exception of the one year during which Lord Howard was there. (fn. n32) An inventory of the earl's goods at Wallingford House, dated 30th May, 1655, very shortly before his removal, is preserved at Belvoir Castle. In all, fifty-four rooms are mentioned, and the published summary (fn. n33) contains references to the Long Gallery, the Great Drawing Room, the Dining Room, "my Lord's Closett," Mrs. Wootton's chamber, the Gallery over the Chapel, the White Parlour, "my Ladyes Chamber," and the wardrobe.
The ratebook for 1655 brackets with the name of the Earl of Rutland that of "Lord Fleetwood." (fn. n34) Fleetwood took up his residence at Wallingford House immediately on his return from Ireland, (fn. n35) and remained there until nearly the end of the Commonwealth. (fn. n36)
At the Restoration Wallingford House reverted to Buckingham (the 2nd Duke), who seems to have lived there until 1672, (fn. n37) and it was from that house that the body of Buckingham's friend, the poet Cowley, was in 1667 taken to be interred in Westminster Abbey. (fn. n38) The duke had left the house before 1673, and it may be surmised that he had removed into the new house built for him on a portion of the site of No. 10, Downing Street. (fn. n39)
On the removal of the duke the house was taken by, or for the use of, Lord Clifford, (fn. n40) appointed lord treasurer in November, 1672. Clifford was certainly in occupation before 15th January, 1672–3. (fn. n41) His stay was brief. In June, 1673, he resigned the treasurership and Sir Thomas Osborne (afterwards Earl of Danby) was appointed in his place. On 25th July we are told that the latter was very ill, "but Wallingford house he removes to as soon as my Lord Clifford has left it." (fn. n42) Evelyn visited Clifford at Wallingford House on 18th August and found him preparing to leave for Devonshire. "He was packing up pictures, most of which were of hunting wild beasts, and vast pieces of bull-baiting, bear-baiting, etc. … Taking leave of my Lord Clifford he wrung me by the hand, and looking earnestly on me, bid me God b'ye, adding, 'Mr. E., I shall never see thee more'." In less than a month he was dead.
On Clifford's removal Osborne (fn. n43) (now Viscount Latimer) moved in at once. (fn. n44) The last ratebook showing "My Ld. Treasurer" at the house is that for 1677, but there is a report by him headed "Wallingford House," dated 2nd May, 1678. It seems probable that during the latter part of this period he used the house more as an office than as a private residence. For the latter he had the Cockpit lodgings, where the large works of rebuilding and repair carried out for him (and which may have been the reason for his going to Wallingford House) were apparently finished in 1674. (fn. n45)
According to the ratebooks the Duke of Buckingham then returned, his name first appearing in the book for 1678 and continuing until 1686 (he died in 1687), after which the "Dutches of Buckingham" is given until 1692.
On 16th March, 1693–4, the Duke of Buckingham's trustees leased (fn. n46) Wallingford House to Edward Hayes in trust for John Evans for a term of sixty-one years at a rent of £480 a year, and in the course of the next few months the house was razed to the ground. (fn. n47)
The First Admiralty.
The demolition of Wallingford House offered an opportunity for the erection, in a convenient spot, of a building for use as an Admiralty Office, and Sir Christopher Wren was ordered to submit a report. This was evidently favourable, (fn. n48) for on 28th August, 1694, the Lords of the Admiralty directed (fn. n49) the Navy Board to pay the Admiralty Solicitor the sum of £500 "for his paying Advance Money for building a new house for an Admiralty Office." Details are given in an agreement dated four days later (1st September, 1694) between John Evans, "Carpenter," and "the Principall Officers & Commisioners of their Matys Navy … for & on behalf of their Matys." (fn. n50) In this document Evans agrees to set out a portion of the site, comprising 115 feet in length "fronting the Spring Garden backwards," and abutting south on the house and ground of William Blathwayt (on the site of Admiralty House), and 45 feet in depth, beginning from Spring Garden on the west and running eastward towards the intended court fronting the high street that leads from Whitehall to Charing Cross, and on the ground to build "with well-burnt brick & Substantiall Tymber … a Sufficient Pyle of Buildings for the Use & Service of ye Rt Honble ye Comrs for Executing ye office of Lord High Admirall." It was provided that the walls of the new building were not to be set upon any part of the old foundations. The height of the various storeys was specified as: cellar, 8 feet "if the water permits"; 1st storey, 15 feet; 2nd storey, 13 feet; and 3rd storey, 9 feet. The building was to be finished before Midsummer Day, 1695, and was then to be leased to the Admiralty for eleven years at a rent of £400 a year, £500 being paid in advance and deducted from the first five years' rent at the rate of £100 a year.
A further agreement with Evans dated 23rd March, 1694–5, (fn. n51) states that the building, or great part thereof, had then been erected, and provides that, in consideration of another £500 to be paid to Evans at once and a further £100 on 24th June, he should during the next eleven years restrict his buildings on the remainder of his plot in the following way. The courtyard in front of the Admiralty Office was to be left clear of buildings for a space of 44 feet in depth and 78 feet in length; the new buildings fronting the street were to be "only One Story from ye Ground and contain Twelve feet from the first floor to the Ceiling" and their roofs "to be made Flat and cover'd with Lead, with Rails & Banisters wth a Mondilion Cornice fronting the said Street around ye Topp of ye said Erection & building for the better ornamt thereof"; and there was to be a space of 10 feet between these buildings (which were to be finished before 24th June) and the courtyard, "[on] which said Tenn Feet backward part of the said New Buildings so to be erected pillars shall be sett upp in ye Nature of Piazzas, being floor'd & covered at Topp … which is hereby intended as an enlargement of ye said Court in depth for conveniency of dry walkg therein."
The Admiralty took possession of the new building in June, (fn. n52) and in July applied to the Treasury, stating that it was the King's pleasure "to grant part of Old Spring Garden on the back side of Willingford (sic) House in fee for the use of the Lord High Admiral of England, or the Admiralty Lords, as necessary to the Office of Lord High Admiral kept at Wallingford House," (fn. n53) and praying for the passing of a grant. This was done, and the portion of the Spring Garden so taken was utilised as the Admiralty garden. (fn. n54)
A view of the new buildings, including the one-storey erections facing the street, is given in the view of Whitehall in 1695–8, ascribed to Knyff (Plate 58.) Kip's Prospect, circa 1710 (see p. 9), shows the rear of the premises, facing the Park and numbered 39. The building is noticed by Hatton (fn. n55) and Strype. (fn. n56)
Whatever the reasons were that led the Lords of the Admiralty merely to take an eleven years' lease of the building, they must soon have ceased to operate, for before 1720 the Admiralty had acquired the freehold of not only the Admiralty Office, but (with one exception) of all the other houses on the site of Wallingford House, including the buildings between the street and the courtyard. The latter are particularised (fn. n57) (with their rents) as follows:
They had also purchased the lease of a house on the north-west side of the Admiralty Office, the site of which had formed part of the 70–feet strip of the timber yard, (fn. n58) and had been rented by the owners of Wallingford House for use as a garden, but had not been included in the sale of the house. The total expenditure had amounted to over £18,000, made up as follows: (fn. n59)
|To John Evans (Contractor for Building the Admiralty Office) According to Agreement, by way of Advance of Rent … by Order from the … Lords of the Admiralty … 28th Augst 1694||500||0||0|
|To Ditto on consideration of his not building any Edifices to incommode the Lights of the Office or incumber the Court before the Same||(fn. n60) 500||0||0|
|To Ditto for Purchase of the Vaults, under the Yards belonging to the Office, by Order from the … Lords of the Admiralty … 7th June 1697||250||0||0|
|To Ditto for Purchase of the Admlty Office & other Buildings (fn. n61) Contiguous thereto, according to Contract for the Same Pursuant to an order from the … Lords of the Admlty 22d Apr1 1698||(fn. n62) 10050||0||0|
|To D°. for Rent of the Admlty Office & one House Adjoyning thereto, Ending ye 25 Mar: 1698||li||s||d||0747||6||0|
|To D°. for building a brickwall round ye Garden, & Gardiner's house, Levelling the Ground, & for Gravel & Mould for the Gardens according to the Measurement & Appraisement by Sir Christopher Wren||364||15||0|
|To Mr. John Fawler being so much paid by him in part of ye said Service||200||0||0|
|To Francis Cook the Gardiner for his Disbts & Service done in the said Garden||49||11||0|
|To the Collectors of the King's Taxes||33||15||0|
|Being all paid pursuant to an Order from the … Lords of the Admlty Dated … 15th August 1698. To D°. for Purchase of two Houses (fn. n63) Contiguous to the Office & Buildings Adjoining thereto pursuant to an Order from the … Lords of the Admlty … 21st Septembr 1699||2100||0||0|
|Payment By Bill to Mr. Robert West|
|For purchase of a Term in his House (fn. n64) adjoining to the Admiralty Office by Order from the Rt Honble the Lord High Trea[su]rer Signifyd by Letter from William Lowndes Esqr … Dated 5th of January 1712||400||0||0|
|To Mr. Browning for the Purchase Money paid for the House, & sheads (fn. n65) near the Admiralty Office … by Order from the … Lords of the Admiralty … 2d July 1720||3712||0||0|
These proceedings did not escape notice, and an interesting sidelight
is thrown upon them by the following, not entirely unbiassed, criticism (fn. n66)
made in 1699:
"… the King has been put to a vast charge in purchasing and fitting the Admiralty Office, and at a time when there was an extraordinary scarcity of money; and the frequent alterations made in the office, Sir Robert Rich's house, the Secretary's and doorkeeper's apartments, are vastly more than the 300l. per annum paid for the old Office in Duke Street, besides the landlord's tax and the Lords giving the man, whom they purchased the office of, the place of purveyor of the navy at Portsmouth (fn. n67) —an employment of consequence, trust and difficulty—though he was never in the navy before, and no ways qualified for such a place; but this was given him as a consideration for keeping him out of his purchase money for a considerable time, notwithstanding they paid him interest for it, and, immediately before this session of parliament, they contracted with him for two houses more in the Admiralty Court, for some of their creatures to live in, and are in treaty with him for all the low buildings next the street, in order to pull them down because they hinder the view of the Office, and that they would have the whole Court to themselves. But the parliament's calling them to question for some things has put a stop to these proceedings for the present; tho' when the session is done, they design to proceed as formerly.
"The house Sir Robert Rich lives in cost the King 3,000l. or thereabouts, and was purchased on pretence of keeping the Admiralty Court there; but Rich has got it now for his own use, and let his house in Soho Square; and he puts the King to 500l. a year expense for alterations, furniture, firing, candles, etc., which are all placed to the account of incident charges of the Admiralty Office.
"In making these purchases the Lords of the Admiralty have given 20 per cent. more than any other purchaser would, or the thing really worth; Sir Robert Rich … has the chief government in these matters, and most of the money paid by his private order."
In spite of the expenditure that had been incurred, the new building had only a brief existence. On 2nd February, 1722–3, the Lords of the Admiralty resolved: "That a Memorial be laid before his Majesty in Council humbly informing his Majesty of the bad condition of this Office and the Range of Buildings appertaining thereunto, and praying his Mats pleasure whether, as the Workmen have proposed, the Same Shall be taken down and other Buildings erected in their room." (fn. n68) On 25th March an Order in Council was obtained "approving of the Estimate [by Ripley, see below] and Scheme of Building a New Admiralty Office and Range of Buildings belonging to the Same and directing" the Lords of the Admiralty to provided themselves "with a Convenient Place for executing the Business of the Office until the Said Buildings can be finished." (fn. n69) The temporary home of the Admiralty was established in St. James's Square, (fn. n70) and in May, 1723, the building was demolished. (fn. n71)
The Present Admiralty.
Thomas Ripley, (fn. n72) who had built the recently-erected Custom House, was appointed architect for the new building, and on 5th March, 1722–3, submitted (fn. n73) an estimate amounting to £22,400. Proposals for the extension of the site northwards and southwards by taking in the two adjoining houses were considered, but rejected. (fn. n74) To facilitate the erection of the building the Board of Ordnance was induced to remove part of the Gun House in St. James's Park, "for that otherwise the Said Buildings cannot be carried on in the manner directed by his Majesty's Order in Council." (fn. n75) The mahogany to be used in the building was brought from Jamaica. (fn. n76) The building was to a certain extent ready for occupation in September, 1725, but was not completely finished until over a twelve-month later. (fn. n77) As in the case of Ripley's recent work at the Custom House, (fn. n78) the cost far exceeded the estimate. On 20th December, 1728, Ripley, "who hath been employed in building this Office and the Houses adjoining thereunto," was called before the Board of Admiralty, "and acquainted that upon Our looking over the Bills & Papers relating to the same, We found that the Expence hath very much exceeded the Estimate which was first made, and approved of in Council; and … it was recommended to him to prepare, and lay before Us in one distinct Account, the several Articles by which the Charge of the aforesaid Building, have so very much increased." (fn. n79) Unfortunately this detailed account has not been found.
A view of the building in 1731 with the stone wall as existing at that date is given in 58. The wall lasted until 1760. In 1759 the Westminster Bridge Commissioners informed (fn. n80) the Admiralty that they required a portion of the courtyard in connection with their scheme for street widening (see appendix). The Lords of the Admiralty were not inclined at first to assist the commissioners, (fn. n81) but subsequently an agreement was come to by which the Commission was to pay the Lords of the Admiralty £650 and, in addition, give them so much (24 feet wide by 25 feet deep) of the site of the house adjoining the Admiralty on the north as had been left over from the widening. In consideration of this the Admiralty agreed (fn. n82) to clear a portion of the courtyard containing in length 124 feet and in depth 16 feet "by taking down and Carrying away the Brick Wall and other Erections … now standing thereon," to pave it "with proper Coachway and Footway Pavements," and "to Cause a New Stone-Wall with one large Gate and Two Doors to the same and other Conveniencies to be erected … for Fencing … so much of the said Admiralty Court-Yard as shall remain after the said Street shall be widened." The work of demolition of the old wall and erection of the new was entrusted to Robert Adam, whose accepted estimate of the cost was £1,293 11s. (fn. n83) The porter's lodge, etc., at the northern end of the wall covers the site of the additional 24 feet frontage. The new wall (148 feet) thus corresponds exactly (except that it is situated 16 feet further west) with the original frontage of Wallingford House.
A brief reference to the apparatus formerly in use at the Admiralty for receiving messages from the coast may not be thought out of place. On 28th January, 1796, an apparatus (represented in Plate 79) of this kind was installed. Rude and ineffective as it must have been in comparison with the modern wireless installation crowning the Admiralty roof, it evoked enthusiastic admiration at the time. Twenty years later an improved apparatus was set up. "The improved semaphore has been erected on the top of the Admiralty. It consists of a hollow mast of 30 feet, on which two arms are suspended when not making signals. There is also one erected in West Square, Lambeth, and in a few days the experiment of communicating to Sheerness will be made." (fn. n84) A view of the Admiralty showing the semaphore in operation is reproduced on p. 59.
The block facing Whitehall is U-shaped on plan with an Ionic pedimented portico as the central feature of the elevation, and contains a carved cartouche bearing the Admiralty badge in the pediment (Plate 62.) The exterior is in brick with stone dressings, and consists of three storeys with rusticated quoins and a heavy stone cornice and frieze. Similar treatment is carried out to the rear elevation. The portion of the latter shown in the illustration here reproduced was demolished when the new buildings were erected on the site of the garden. The proportion of the columns to the portico was not improved when the screen was built across the front of the courtyard by Robert Adam in 1759–61 (Plate 61 and 65) This screen consists of a central arched carriageway with a series of Doric columns on each side supporting an entablature with slightly advanced wings, which have their wall surfaces occupied by semicircular headed niches (fn. n85) and finished with pedimented gables containing carvings representing respectively a Roman prow and the bow of a British man-of-war, the work of a Dutch sculptor, Michel Henry Spang, who died in 1768. The central archway has a balustraded parapet between pylons which, breaking forward, are surmounted by hippo-griffs with carved dolphins in panels below. In the back wall of the screen are two doorways for pedestrians, which were, until recently, filled in, and two new entrances formed by the removal of the central column on each side and openings made in the wall. This piece of vandalism was carried out during 1827–28 at the request of the Duke of Clarence, when Lord High Admiral, to afford better facilities for the manipulation of his carriage. This treatment caused the central archway to become redundant.
The portion of the building which projected beyond the north wing at the eastern end was carried out at a later date and the general lines of the main building were followed. This has recently been refronted and merged in the design of the new bank premises of Messrs. Glyn, Mills and Co.
Internally, with the exception of some rooms on the principal floor, the building does not possess any special features of architectural interest. Some of the rooms on that floor, including those formerly used as residential quarters, are panelled and have mantelpieces in marble (see Plates 77 and 78).
The Entrance Hall, which is entered from the portico, has the wall surfaces interspaced with coupled Doric pilasters supporting a frieze and cornice. The principal doorways have pedimented heads and the doors panelled in oak. In a niche facing the entrance is a statue by Baily of Lord Nelson, which is recorded as being the original model for the statue on the Nelson column (Plate 66.) From the ceiling, suspended by a chain with a royal crown, is a brass lamp of late eighteenth-century workmanship which, it is stated, belonged to the old Navy Board. There are also preserved two interesting leather chairs with drawers under (Plate 66.)
In room No. 32, known as the Captains' Room, on the ground floor, Nelson's body lay in state on the night before the burial in St. Paul's Cathedral (Plate 68.) The walls are panelled and the ceiling, like No. 31 adjoining, is vaulted. The ceiling to the corridor adjoining is also vaulted.
The staircase in the southern portion of the building has an iron balustrading (a sketch of which is here reproduced) and leads to the Board Room (No. 36). This staircase was reconstructed when Admiralty House was built in 1786–8. The windows were blocked up by the new building and an elliptical dome with skylight inserted (fn. n86) (Plate 67.)
The southern portion of the main corridor on the first floor has the wall surfaces divided into bays by Ionic pilasters and corbels with entwined dolphins to the frieze. The ceiling is barrel vaulted, divided into panels by bands containing the guilloche ornament (Plate 77).
The Board Room (Plate 69 and 70), the most interesting room in the building, has been the scene of many momentous naval discussions and decisions affecting the nation. The walls, lined with oak, are divided into bays by fluted Corinthian pilasters supporting an enriched entablature containing a modillion cornice. The ceiling, which was reconstructed in 1786, has a deep cove with raking octagonal coffering, and is finished with a flat surface covered with interlacing circles and rosettes. The focal point of the room is the central bay containing the fireplace and wind dial over (Plate 71.) (fn. n87) The marble mantelpiece has a handsome cast-iron fire-back with the arms of Charles II. The wind dial (Plate 72), which is controlled by a vane on the roof, is similar to the one at Kensington Palace. It dates from between 1707 and 1714, and was probably preserved from the former Admiralty building. Faintly mapped out can be seen the British seas and adjacent coast, each country ornamented with its heraldic cognizance, while ships, whales and allegorical figures appear among the waters. The elaborate carved festoons were at one time on the south wall behind the First Lord's chair, and were fixed in their present position in 1847, when the room was renovated and pictures added. The carving, which is executed in pearwood, has been attributed to Grinling Gibbons, and represents festoons containing a medley of fruit, flowers, fishes and nautical instruments and the Royal insignia.
The nautical instruments represented in the carving are those which were in general use in the Navy in the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries, and some are the only contemporary facsimile models now in existence. The following is a list of some of the instruments depicted: On the left-hand side: compasses, ring dial (invented by Oughtred), backstaff, rings numbered 3, 6 and 12, sea astrolabe, forestaff or cross sector and Gunter's (fn. n88) quadrant. On the right-hand side: forestaff or cross staff, a universal ring dial (broken), a sea astrolabe, an ordinary nocturnal, rings numbered 3, 6 and 12, a backstaff (invented by John Davis of Limehouse, circa 1540), a sector and a volvelle on the back of a quadrant for computing tides. The "Eye in Glory" below the royal crown over the centre was one of the emblems popular early in the seventeenth century which survived among the royal cognizances of the later Stuarts in token of their divine all-seeing vision. It practically disappeared with Queen Anne and the last vestige of the doctrine of Divine Right.
Over the doors (fn. n89) on the same side of the room are two paintings of Vandevelde representing naval engagements (Plate 75.) At the other end are two full-length portraits, one of William IV by Beechey (Plate 73.) purchased in 1894, and the other of Lord Nelson by Leonardo Guzzardi, painted for Sir William Hamilton at Palermo in 1799, after the battle of the Nile, and presented to the Admiralty in 1848 by the Rt. Hon. Robert Fulke Greville (Plate 74.)
The handsome grandfather clock shown in Plate 76 bears the Admiralty badge on the scrolled metal face and the name "L. Bradley" of London. It has a walnut veneer case with gilt gessoed ornaments and a glazed door, and dates from circa 1697.
Two verges are also preserved in this room which were carried when the Admirals proceeded to their barge, and are borne on all State occasions to-day. That of the Admiralty has a screw-on silver crest, and bears the maker's mark "I F." It dates from 1662, and was made for James, Duke of York (afterwards James II), then Lord High Admiral. The other (of the Navy Office) has a plain round top. It was made in 1786, when the Navy Board was in Somerset House, and was brought here when the Board was abolished in 1872 (Plate 76.)
Room No. 65 has an interesting marble mantelpiece with tapering pilasters to the jambs and carved medallions over, containing an antique ship's beak and stern respectively. The frieze also has carvings showing an anchor between cross swords (Plate 78.)
Condition of Repair.
Until 1788 the admiralty was the residence of the first lord as well as of other lords commissioners and officials. Attention has here been confined to the first lords, a list of whom during the period in question is given. The dates are taken from the patents.
James Berkeley, 3rd Earl of Berkeley, was born in 1680. He entered the navy and in 1701 was appointed captain. In 1704 he took part in the battle of Malaga under Sir George Rooke. Three years later, when in command of the St. George, he was engaged in the siege of Toulon, and on his return to England with Sir Clowdisley Shovell had a narrow escape from sharing the latter's fate in shipwreck. In 1708 he became vice-admiral. In 1710 he succeeded to the earldom, and in 1717 was appointed first lord of the admiralty, a position which he held until 1727. In 1718 he was made K.G. During the war with Spain in 1719 he was commander-in-chief of the fleet in the Channel, and by special warrant hoisted the lord high admiral's flag. On several occasions during the King's absence in Hanover he acted as one of the lords justices. He died in 1736.
George Byng, 1st Viscount Torrington, was born in 1663. His career at first wavered between the army and the navy, and he actually held commissions in both services. In 1688 he was entrusted with the task of canvassing the navy captains in the interests of the Prince of Orange, and obtained the latter's goodwill. Soon after this he gave up his commission in the army, and devoted himself to service afloat. By 1703 he had risen to the rank of rear-admiral. He took part in 1704 in the capture of Gibraltar and the Battle of Malaga, and was knighted for his services. In 1705 he was made vice-admiral, and in 1708 admiral, and in the latter year repulsed the Pretender's fleet. In 1715 he was made a baronet. In 1718 he was promoted admiral of the fleet, and in the same year gained the notable victory of Cape Passaro, in which he entirely destroyed the Spanish fleet. On his return to England in 1721 he was appointed rear-admiral of Great Britain and treasurer of the navy and was created Baron Southill and Viscount Torrington. In 1725 he was made K.B., and in 1727 became first lord of the admiralty. He died on 17th January, 1732–3. He was father of the admiral Byng who was executed in 1757.
Sir Charles Wager, born in 1666, was the son of a navy captain held in esteem by Pepys. He took part (as second lieutenant) in the battle of Barfleur in 1692, and for the next seven years served in the home waters. From 1702 to 1706 he was chiefly in the Mediterranean with Byng and Shovell. In 1707 he was appointed commander-in-chief at Jamaica, and in the following year, with an inferior force, defeated the Spanish treasure fleet off Cartagena. He returned home in 1709 as rear-admiral and a very wealthy man, and was knighted. From 1715 to 1718 he was comptroller of the navy, and from 1718 to 1733 a lord commissioner of the admiralty. These duties did not, however, prevent his resuming active service from time to time. In 1716 he was made vice-admiral and on several occasions was in command of a fleet, notably in 1727–8 when he blockaded Cadiz. In 1731 he was promoted to be admiral. Two years later he was made a privy councillor and first lord of the admiralty, (fn. n90) a position which he held until 1742. He died in 1743.
John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford, second son of Wriothesley, the second Duke, was born in 1710 and succeeded his brother in the dukedom in 1732. He joined the party hostile to Walpole. In 1744 he became first lord of the admiralty in Pelham's ministry and was very successful. The same can hardly be said of his next position, that of secretary of state for the southern department, to which he was appointed in 1748. He was accused by Pelham of idleness, and was in continual disagreement with Newcastle. He therefore resigned in 1751 and went into opposition. On Newcastle's resignation in 1756 he became lord-lieutenant of Ireland, a position which he held until 1761. In 1762 he was sent to Paris as ambassador for the purpose of settling peace with France. On his return in the following year he quarrelled with Bute, and became lord president of the council in a ministry formed by himself ("the Bedford ministry"), though Grenville was the nominal head. His opposition to a bill for imposing high duties on Italian silks aroused the indignation of the Spitalfields weavers, and his house in Bloomsbury Square was attacked by rioters. He had earned the hearty dislike of George III, and in 1765 was dismissed. Although he took part in subsequent political intrigues he never again held office. He died in 1771.
John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, was born in 1718 and succeeded his grandfather, the 3rd Earl, in 1729. After an education at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, he travelled abroad, returning to England in 1739. He at once entered political life as a follower of the Duke of Bedford, under whom he was in 1744 appointed a lord commissioner of the admiralty. In 1746 he was sent as plenipotentiary to the congress at Breda, and continued to take part in the negotiations for peace until the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748. On the appointment of Bedford to be secretary of state in that year he succeeded him as first lord of the admiralty, from which position he was dismissed in 1751. (fn. n91) In 1763 he was appointed ambassador extraordinary to the court of Madrid, but before he could take up the office he was again nominated first lord. Later in the year he also became one of the secretaries of state. He took an active and disgraceful part in the prosecution of Wilkes, and for his attitude in thus turning against the companion in his own evil deeds was henceforth known as "Jemmy Twitcher." (fn. n92) In 1768 he became postmaster-general, in 1770 he was again one of the secretaries of state, and in 1771 for the third time became first lord, a position which he held for eleven years. During this period incompetence and corruption in the administration of the navy reached its greatest height. His attitude in ordering and pushing forward the court martial on Keppel was publicly denounced, and on the latter's acquittal the mob savagely attacked Sandwich's residence at the admiralty. The circumstances connected with the murder of his mistress, Martha Ray, in 1779 added to his unpopularity, and his retirement in 1782 was hailed with joy. He died in 1792.
George Anson, Baron Anson, second son of William Anson, of Shugborough, in Staffordshire, was born in 1697. His mother was sister of Janet, wife of Thomas Parker, afterwards Earl of Macclesfield and lord chancellor. From boyhood he followed a seaman's career, and in 1716 obtained a commission in the navy. For the next 24 years his career presents no striking incident. In 1740 he was sent out, with the nominal rank of commodore, in command of a squadron consisting of the Centurion and five other ships for service in the Pacific. The voyage which followed, and which lasted for nearly four years, was marked by heroism and resource in the face of sickness and disaster, and by many stirring incidents, which culminated in the capture by the Centurion (then the only ship left, and that with a greatly depleted crew) of the Spanish treasure galleon from Manila for Acapulco. The treasure amounted to half-a-million sterling, and was brought home safely, reaching Spithead on 15th June, 1744. The story of this voyage round the world has always been popular. Anson was at once promoted to the rank of rear-admiral. In 1746, now a vice-admiral, he crushed the French fleet off Cape Finisterre, and was raised to the peerage as Baron Anson. In 1748, in the absence of Lord Sandwich, he became virtual first lord of the admiralty, and in 1755 was actually appointed to that office. He again became first lord in 1757. In 1761 he was made admiral of the fleet, and on 6th June, 1762, died suddenly at his seat at Moor Park.
In the short interval between his two terms of office as first lord he resided at No. 14, Downing Street. (fn. n93) The London Chronicle for 6th–8th February, 1759, contains a note: "Lord Anson lies dangerously ill of a fever at his house at the Admiralty."
Richard Grenville-Temple, Earl Temple, born in 1711, was the eldest son of Richard Grenville, of Wotton Hall, Bucks. His mother Hester was sister of Richard, Viscount Cobham, on whose death in 1749 she succeeded as Viscountess and a few weeks later was created Countess of Temple. When she died in 1752 Richard succeeded to the earldom and took the additional surname of Temple. He had entered parliament in 1734, and had regularly supported Pitt, who in 1754 married his sister Hester. In November, 1756, Temple was appointed first lord of the admiralty. He held the position for only a few months, being dismissed from office in April, 1757. A few weeks later he became lord privy seal, and was made K.G. in 1760. He resigned with Pitt in 1761, and although several times invited to become first lord of the treasury, never again took office. He died in 1779 as the result of a carriage accident.
George Montagu Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax, was born in 1716 and took the name of Dunk on his marriage with Anne Richards, who inherited the property of Sir Thomas Dunk. He succeeded to the earldom in 1739. From 1748 to 1761 he was president of the board of trade. Under his supervision British mercantile interests were greatly promoted, and the commerce of the American colonies so much extended that he obtained the title of Father of the Colonies. The name of Halifax in Nova Scotia still attests his energy in aiding the foundation of that colony. In 1761 he was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland, in 1762 first lord of the admiralty, and in the same year and 1763 was made secretary of state for north and south respectively. In this capacity he signed the general warrant against Wilkes, for which damages were afterwards awarded against him. Halifax retained his office until 1765, and again became secretary of state in 1771. He died the same year.
George Grenville, born in 1712, was the second son of Richard Grenville, of Wotton Hall, Bucks. Though at first destined for a career at the Bar, he turned his attention to politics, and in 1741 entered parliament as member for Buckingham, a seat which he held until his death. He joined the "Boy Patriots" in opposition to Walpole, and at first acted with Pitt, but after 1760, under Bute's influence, gradually deserted him. At this time he was treasurer of the navy. In 1762 he was appointed secretary of state, but had considerable differences with Bute over the terms of the peace with Spain. Later in the year he was forced to resign in favour of Halifax, whose post of first lord of the admiralty he took. On Bute's resignation in 1763 he became first lord of the treasury and chancellor of the exchequer. His ministry was chiefly remarkable for the passing of the Stamp Act and for the early proceedings against Wilkes. He irritated the King by his tediousness and want of tact, and in 1765 was dismissed. In 1769 he opposed the expulsion of Wilkes from the House. He died in 1770. He obtained the nickname of "Gentle Shepherd," in allusion to Pitt's mocking quotation of "Gentle shepherd, tell me where" in the course of Grenville's defence of Dashwood's cider tax.
John Perceval, 2nd Earl of Egmont, was born in 1711. In 1741 he entered parliament as one of the members for Westminster, but showed so much independence that at the next election (in 1747) he had to seek another seat, and was chosen to represent Weobley. He then attached himself to the Prince of Wales's party and was made a lord of the bedchamber. In 1748 he succeeded to the earldom. His wish to be an English peer was fulfilled in 1762 by his creation as Baron Lovel and Holland of Enmore. In the same year he was made joint paymaster-general, and in September, 1763, became first lord of the admiralty, a position which he resigned in August, 1766. He died in December, 1770. He was an active pamphleteer, his best-known work in this direction being Faction detected by the Evidence of Facts (1743) which has been pronounced "one of the best political pamphlets ever written." He was also an ardent genealogist.
Egmont was succeeded at the admiralty by Sir Charles Saunders. Saunders was born about 1713, and entered the navy in 1727. In 1740–3 he was with Anson in the latter's famous voyage, from which he returned as captain. He took a distinguished part in Hawke's victory of 1747. In 1754 he was appointed treasurer of Greenwich Hospital, and in the same year entered parliament as member for Hedon, Yorks, a constituency which he continued to represent until his death. In the following year he was made comptroller of the navy, and in 1756, then being rear-admiral, was sent to the Mediterranean at first as second in command under Hawke, and afterwards as commander-in-chief. In 1759 as vice-admiral he was in command of the fleet co-operating with Wolfe at Quebec, and his skill, as well as the friendly co-operation between the two, had no little to do with the culminating triumph of the campaign. In 1761 he was made a knight of the Bath. In 1765 he became one of the lords of the admiralty, and in September, 1766, first lord, a position which he resigned in less than three months. He was promoted to be admiral in 1770, and died in 1775.
Edward Hawke, Lord Hawke, was born in 1705 and entered the navy in 1720. His early service was uneventful. On the outbreak of war with Spain in 1739 he took command of the Portland, and served in the West Indies. The ship was old and rotten and nearly drowned her crew, but in 1743 Hawke was appointed to the Berwick and attached to the Mediterranean fleet. In the battle of Toulon in 1744 Hawke gained great distinction, taking the only prize. In 1747 he was appointed rear-admiral and, owing to the illness of Sir Peter Warren, took command of the squadron detached to intercept a French convoy on its way to the West Indies. He gained a complete victory, for which he received the knighthood of the Bath. Later in the year he entered parliament as member for Portsmouth, and represented that constituency for nearly thirty years. In 1748 he was promoted to be vice-admiral and in 1757 full admiral, having in the meantime (1756) been sent out to relieve Byng in the Mediterranean command and send him home for trial. In 1759 he won the great and decisive battle of Quiberon Bay. He had no further service at sea. In November, 1766, he was appointed first lord of the admiralty (fn. n94) in succession to Sir Charles Saunders, and held the position until January, 1771. In 1776 he was created a peer with the title of Baron Hawke of Towton. He died in 1781.
Augustus Keppel, Viscount Keppel, second son of William Anne Keppel, Earl of Albemarle, was born in 1725 and entered the navy at the age of ten. In 1740 he served under Anson in the celebrated voyage round the world, and in 1744 was promoted to be commander and post-captain. In 1747 he ran his ship, the Maidstone, ashore near Belle Isle while chasing a French vessel, but was honourably acquitted by a court martial. After the peace of 1748 he was sent as commodore to the Mediterranean to persuade the Dey of Algiers to restrain his subjects' piracy. He was in constant service during the Seven Years' War, and in the battle of Quiberon Bay his ship, the Torbay, was the leading ship. He had served on the court martial which tried Byng, and had exerted himself, in vain, to secure the intervention of parliament. In 1762 he was made rear-admiral, and vice-admiral in 1770. His relations with the first lord, the Earl of Sandwich, were the reverse of friendly, and when in 1778 he received the command of the main fleet, which was in a most unfit condition, he conceived that he had been deliberately placed in a position in which Sandwich would be glad to see him fail. Moreover, one of Keppel's subordinate admirals was Sir Hugh Palliser, who was one of the lords of the admiralty, and in general opinion jointly responsible for the bad condition of the navy. The fight with the French off Ushant which ensued was indecisive owing partly, at any rate, to Palliser's not obeying instructions, and the result was a series of recriminations, as well as a court martial on Keppel. He was triumphantly acquitted amid enthusiastic scenes. The gates of the Admiralty were torn down and the windows of the official residences were smashed. In the following month (March, 1779) Keppel was ordered to strike his flag. On the fall of North's ministry in 1782 he was appointed first lord of the admiralty. He held the position for ten months only, but was again appointed in April, 1783, in the coalition ministry. On the fall of that ministry at the end of the year he retired into private life. He died in 1786.
Richard Howe, Earl Howe, born in 1726, was the second son of the 2nd Viscount Howe (in the Irish peerage) and Mary Sophia Charlotte, daughter of the Baroness Kielmansegge, afterwards Countess of Darlington, mistress of George I. He entered the British navy in the Severn, one of the ships in Anson's squadron in the latter's famous voyage. The Severn, however, failed to round Cape Horn and returned home in 1742. Howe's first command was of the Baltimore on service in the North Sea during the rising of 1745, and he was severely wounded while co-operating with a frigate in an engagement with two large French privateers. In 1755 he was captain of the Dunkirk, and his fight with and capture of the French Alcide was the first conflict in the war. In the battle of Quiberon Bay (1759) he led Hawke's fleet as captain of the Magnanime. In the previous year he had succeeded his brother as Viscount Howe. In 1762 he entered parliament as member for Dartmouth, and continued to represent that constituency until he became a British peer. In 1763–5 he was a lord of the admiralty and in 1765–70 treasurer of the navy. In 1770 he was made rear-admiral, in 1775 vice-admiral, and in 1776 was appointed to the command of the North American station with a commission to treat with the colonists. The Declaration of Independence had, however, already been issued before his arrival. The advent of a superior French fleet compelled Howe to act on the defensive, but he completely baffled the French admiral until the arrival of British reinforcements gave him a decided superiority in arms. He then returned to England (1778) and refused to serve again so long as Lord Sandwich, whom he bitterly mistrusted, remained in office. On the latter's fall in 1782 he was promoted to be admiral, and was created a British peer as Viscount Howe of Langar in Nottinghamshire. Later in the year he was selected to command in the Channel, and in the autumn he carried out the final relief of Gibraltar. This operation, in face of a fleet enormously superior in numbers, was brilliantly executed. In the early part of 1783 and again from 1784 to 1788 he was first lord of the admiralty. In the latter year he was created Earl Howe. In 1794 he won the epoch-making victory of the First of June. In 1797 he was called on to pacify the mutineers at Spithead, and the great influence of "Black Dick," as he was called, with the seamen who trusted him was conspicuously shown. He died in 1799.
In The Council's Collection Are:
(fn. n96) Plan of the Admiralty Office, 1793, from a drawing in the possession of the Admiralty
(fn. n96) (fn. n95) Elevation of new designed Gateway for Admiralty fronting towards Whitehall, from a drawing in the possession of the Admiralty (photograph).
(fn. n96) (fn. n95) Elevation of new designed Gateway for Admiralty fronting towards the Court, from a drawing in the possession of the Admiralty (photograph).
(fn. n96) (fn. n95) Plan of new designed Gateway for Admiralty, from a drawing in the possession of the Admiralty.
(fn. n96) First-floor plan of the Admiralty Buildings, 1896, copy of drawing in the possession of H.M. Office of Works.
(fn. n96) General exterior to courtyard (photograph).
(fn. n96) General view of screen facing Whitehall (photograph).
(fn. n96) General view looking north-west (photograph).
General view looking south-west (photograph).
Details of wings to screen (photograph).
General view of west elevation facing courtyard in rear (photograph).
(fn. n96) View of entrance hall showing statue of Nelson (photograph).
(fn. n96) General view of entrance hall showing fireplace (photograph).
(fn. n96) General view of Captains' Room (No. 32) (photograph).
(fn. n96) General view of northern staircase (photograph).
(fn. n96) View of skylight to southern staircase (photograph).
(fn. n96) General view of corridor on first floor (photograph).
(fn. n96) Board Room, general view showing mantelpiece (photograph).
(fn. n96) Board Room, general view showing southern end (photograph).
(fn. n96) Board Room, general view of mantelpiece and wind dial over (photograph).
Board Room, detail of carving showing nautical instruments, etc. (photograph).
(fn. n96) Board Room, detail of wind dial (photograph).
(fn. n96) Board Room, two paintings of naval scenes by Vandevelde (photographs).
(fn. n96) Board Room, portrait of H.M. King William IV (photograph).
(fn. n96) Board Room, portrait of Lord Nelson (photograph).
(fn. n96) Board Room, detail of grandfather clock (photograph).
(fn. n96) Board Room, detail of two verges (photograph).
Room No. 54, general view (photograph).
(fn. n96) Room No. 55, general view (photograph).
(fn. n96) Room No. 56, general view (photograph).
Room No. 57, general view (photograph).
(fn. n96) Room No. 63, general view (photograph).
Room No. 64, general view (photograph).
Room No. 44, detail of mantelpiece (photograph).
Room No. 57, detail of mantelpiece (photograph).
(fn. n96) Room No. 65, detail of mantelpiece (photograph).