Survey of London: Volume 18, St Martin-in-The-Fields II: the Strand. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1937.
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CHAPTER 2: NORTHUMBERLAND HOUSE
History of the Building.
In 1573 "William Cooke of London Esquier" brought an action in Chancery (fn. 54) to establish his claim to certain properties which he described as "one messuaige or Inne nowe or late called the signe of the rose togeathers wth two curtilaiges and all the howses, barnes, stables and other heredittaments to the same belongynge scituate in the parrisshe of St. Martyn in the Feildes. … And allso … one other messuaige … to the … rose nexte adioyninge. … And allso … all that Waye or entrye leadinge from the barnes and stables of the said messuaige called the rose unto two gardeyns lyenge togeather towardes the ryver of Thamys And allso … all those two gardeynes and one ponde nexte adioynynge thereunto togeathers … wth all those howses yardes edyfycions buyldinges lande … and other heredittaments … on the South Syde of the Quenes high waye leadinge to charinge Crosse." (fn. n1) William Cooke died in 1589 leaving to his wife, Frances, his "capitall messuage or mansion house with the garden in the parishe of St. Martyn in the Feildes." (fn. 56) In each of the ratebooks for the years 1599 to 1604 Mrs. "Francis" Cooke and her son, Sir William Cooke, are entered as paying rates for adjoining properties near Charing Cross, but in 1605 their names are omitted and that of the Earl of Northampton appears in a corresponding position. In that year Widow Cooke and Sir William Cooke sold to the Earl "two messuages, a cottage, three curtilages, two gardens and two acres of ground in the parish of St. Martin in the Fields."
In 1608–9 Northampton purchased (fn. 57) from Robert Reade three messuages and two gardens, obviously part of the Rounceval property, and this and the ground purchased from Cooke formed the site on which Northampton House was built and its garden laid out. It is evident that the Cooke property was considerably larger than the whole of Rounceval and, since only a small portion of the latter was used by Northampton, it is a distortion of the facts to state that Northampton (or Northumberland) House stood on the site of the hospital.
In 1606 Northampton obtained (fn. 58) from the Crown a 60 years' lease of half a ditch running between his ground and Scotland and abutting partly on "ground of — Appesley now in the tenure of Anne Cooke widow" and flowing into the Thames. In 1611 he was granted the same property in perpetuity. (fn. 59) Northampton bought the greater part of Rounceval from Sir Robert Brett in 1613 (see p. 5), and in the following year he purchased from Michael "Apesley" certain messuages to the east of his own ground (see p. 23). These purchases were probably made for the purpose of straightening out the walls of his garden, but only a small portion of the ground was used in this way, the rest, as stated above (see p. 5) being bequeathed by the Earl to the Hospital of Holy Trinity, Greenwich.
Henry Howard had been in disfavour throughout Elizabeth's reign on account of his association with Mary Queen of Scots and of his Catholic sympathies. He succeeded, however, in ingratiating himself with James VI of Scotland, on whose accession to the English throne he was made a privy councillor. He was created Earl of Northampton in 1604. He gained considerable notoriety on account of his suspected complicity in the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, but nothing was definitely proved against him. He died on 15th June, 1614, at Northampton House, and, as Warden of the Cinque Ports, was buried in the chapel of Dover Castle. (fn. n2)
Northampton's nephew, Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk, who had fought against the Armada, succeeded his uncle in the ownership of the house which subsequently became known as Suffolk House. He was created Lord High Treasurer in 1614, but was suspended from office in 1618 for embezzling funds and extorting money unjustly. He managed, however, to retain the King's favour, and the greater part of the fine imposed upon him was remitted. He died at Suffolk House in May, 1626. The ownership of the house passed successively to his son, Theophilus, 2nd Earl of Suffolk, who died there in June, 1640, and his grandson, James, the 3rd Earl. In 1642, Lady Elizabeth Howard, second daughter of Theophilus, married Algernon Percy, 10th Earl of Northumberland, and by her marriage settlement Suffolk House "was transferred to the bridegroom, upon his payment of £15,000 to his wife's family." (fn. 60) Thenceforth it was usually referred to as Northumberland House. Northumberland, though he sided with Parliament during the Civil War, was a man of moderate views and pursued as far as possible a policy of conciliation. He suffered no deprivation at the Restoration, and after his death in 1668 Sir William Temple wrote of him that "there was no man perhaps of any party but believed, honoured, and would have trusted him." (fn. 61) (fn. n3)
In the Smithson collection of drawings (now preserved at the R.I.B.A.) is a plan entitled "The Platforme of my Lord of Northamton's house in London." This plan is not dated, but other drawings in the collection bear dates ranging from 1599 to 1632. There is little doubt that it is either a design for, or an early plan of, Northampton House, which, as is shown above, was erected in 1605–9. It will be noted that buildings which include "the halle" are shown extending across the south side of the courtyard, a refutation of the theory that the southern range was not erected until circa 1650 (see below). The earliest known view of the garden front of the house is the drawing by Hollar in the Pepysian Library reproduced on Plate 2a. Hollar's Bird's-Eye View of London, published in 1647, gives a similar representation, and it is, therefore, evident that the garden front was built before that date. It was almost certainly erected at the same time as the rest of the building. (fn. n4)
Probably the earliest view showing the front of Northampton (or Northumberland) House is the drawing by Vertue, which is reproduced on Plate 4. (fn. n5) In the views by Maurer (dated 1740) and Scott (circa 1747), the front appears to be somewhat dilapidated, but there is no reason to think that it had undergone any substantial alteration since the time of its erection.
There is a note in Evelyn's diary under date of 31st August, 1654, that he "went to Audley End, and spent some time in seeing that goodly place built by Howard, Earl of Suffolk, once Lord Treasurer … instead of rails and balusters, there is a border of capital letters, as was lately also on Suffolk House, near Charing Cross, built by the same Lord Treasurer." An entry in the burial register of St. Martinin-the-Fields refers to the death of a young man through the fall of the letter S from this parapet during the funeral of Anne of Denmark in March, 1618–19.
John Evelyn visited the collection of pictures at Northumberland House in June, 1658, and noted in his diary that "the new front towards the gardens is tolerable, were it not drowned by a too massy and clumsy pair of stairs of stone, without any neat invention." This remark has been interpreted as meaning that there was no garden front to the house until this date, and a MS. note by Inigo Jones in his copy of Palladio (now preserved at Worcester College, Oxford) to the effect that the frontage of Northumberland House towards the Strand was 162 feet long and that the courtyard was 81 feet square, appears to be the basis on which the theory has been built that Inigo Jones was responsible for the alterations carried out at this period. Inigo Jones died in 1652, and though it is possible that a design executed by him may have been utilised by Northumberland the probabilities are against it. (fn. n6)
The immediate successors of the 10th Earl of Northumberland in the ownership of Northumberland House do not seem to have carried out any important alterations there. Josceline, the 11th Earl, died in 1670, leaving as his heir his three-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, a rich morsel for potential suitors. She was brought up by her grandmother, the Dowager Countess, and, at the age of 12, was married to a sickly youth of 15, Henry Cavendish, Lord Ogle, who died in the following year. In the summer of 1681 she was married to "rich and senseless" Thomas Thynne of Longleat, a man more than twice her age. In the following November, Lord Fauconberg wrote (fn. 64): "My Lady Ogle went from Northumberland House yesterday but whither is not yet known, only she left a letter for her grandmother upon the table to this effect, viz.:—That having a perfect aversion and detestation to Mr. Thinn and fearing that she could not be free from his importunities by any other method than concealing herself, had obliged her to retire. …" She fled for protection to Lady Temple at The Hague. Thynne was murdered in Pall Mall by hired assassins on 12th February, 1681–2, at the instigation of Count Charles Königsmark, who had been a rival suitor for the Countess. In May she was married to Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset, who survived until 1748, having outlived his wife by some 25 years, and having acquired her property, including the house at Charing Cross.
In the 1720 edition of Strype's Stow the house is described as "a noble and spacious Building; having a large square Court at the Entrance, with Buildings round it. "The condition of the building was, however, becoming unsatisfactory and in 1738 it was surveyed by Sir Thomas Bootle and the architect, Robert Morris. The latter advised that all the towers or turrets should be removed, but Bootle, who thought the towers "of great ornament to the house," stated that it was only the tower at the north-west corner which was unsafe and suggested that this should be taken down "to the leads," underpinned and rebuilt. (fn. 65) Morris was of opinion that the "large cracks in the Wall of the … Turret and a very great defect in the Foundation thereof … were occasioned by the sinking a cellar story" in the house adjoining on the west. In 1742–3, therefore, Somerset obtained powers by Act of Parliament to purchase that house (on the site of the house afterwards known as No. 1, Whitehall, see p. 9) which had been entailed on the heirs of Sir William Dodwell. The repairs were still incomplete when the Duke died in 1748, but they were continued by his son, Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset, who was created Earl of Northumberland in 1749. A detailed account of the alterations is contained in a letter written by his wife to Lady Luxborough in June, 1749 (fn. 66): "My Lord will do a good deal to the front of the house, in order to make it appear less like a prison; he builds a new wing on the right-hand side of the garden, which will contain a library, bed-chamber, dressing-room, and a waiting-room. … All the sashes, doors and ceilings in both apartments must be entirely new, and the floors in my Lord's; the staircase is very noble, but will require as large a lanthorn as that at Houghton. … The chimney pieces in both apartments are to be all new. … He lays two rooms together in the right wing of the court, on the ground-floor, in order to make a chapel, with a Gothic wainscot, ceiling, and painted windows; there is to be a Dutch stove in it, which is so contrived as to represent a tomb with an urn upon it. The court is to be paved and the footway altered, and my Lord is in treaty for nine houses on the other side of the way, in order to pull them down and build stables (for there are none belonging to the house), whose gates are intended to open directly against those of the court; if he can agree for this purchase, he will widen the street in that part about 8 ft."
Algernon, 7th Duke of Somerset, died in February, 1749–50, and was succeeded in the Earldom of Northumberland by his son-in-law, Sir Hugh Smithson, who was created Duke of Northumberland in 1766. In addition to buying houses on the north side of the Strand, the new Earl purchased from the Duke of Chandos the remainder of a crown lease of part of Scotland Yard adjoining the river "in order to carry down his garden and open a view from his house to the Thames." (fn. 67) In 1753 he applied for a lease of part of the storeyard lying between his freehold and his leasehold premises and obtained it in spite of the objections of the officers of the Board of Works. (fn. 68) This ground is shown on the plan on the opposite page.
At the same time he erected a picture gallery on part of his garden.69 Horace Walpole in a letter written to Sir Horace Mann in May, 1757, made some caustic comments concerning this gallery and its contents, "Lord Northumberland's great gallery is finished and opened; it is a sumptuous chamber but might have been in a better taste. He is wonderfully content with his pictures, and gave me leave to repeat it to you. I rejoiced, as you had been the negotiator—as you was not the painter you will allow me not to be so profuse of my applause." Most of these pictures were copies, not originals.
Dodsley's London and its Environs, published in 1761, gives a view of the south front after the alterations were completed with the "two new wings … being above 100 feet in length, and extending from the garden front towards the Thames." A good view of the front of the house is given in the engraving from Canaletto's drawing of Charing Cross published in 1753 (Frontispiece).
The London Chronicle for 10th-12th January, 1765, contains a note that "Ten magnificent lamps are lately fixed to the front of Northumberland House, which make a very grand appearance," and contemporary news sheets make many references to entertainments given at the house at this period. (fn. n7)
Northumberland House suffered some damages from the mob during the Wilkes' election riots in 1768, but, according to the Annual Register, the Duke had the address to get rid of the rioters "by ordering up lights immediately into his windows, and opening the Ship ale-house, which soon drew them off to that side."
At five o'clock in the morning of 15th March, 1780, a fire broke out at the east end of the second storey of the front of the house "in a room where the servants kept their liveries." According to the account in the Annual Register "the fire raged furiously till eight … [and] by that time had burnt from the east end to the west, there being no party wall in the whole range of building. The roof is destroyed as are also the first and second floors, at the former of which it stopped, the rooms on the ground floor being most of them arched with brick." The front was again rebuilt. Its final appearance can be seen in the photographs taken just before its demolition in 1874 (Plates 56).
In 1823 some small alterations were made at the south-east corner of Northumberland House garden to enable the Duke to have a carriage entrance into Great Scotland Yard. (fn. 70) Four years later Hugh, 3rd Duke of Northumberland, obtained a grant of the freehold of his property in Scotland Yard held by Crown lease in exchange for "a Freehold Plot of ground with Six Houses of Trade … thereon, four of them numbered 1, 2, 3 and 4, fronting upon the High Street at Charing Cross, directly opposite to the Facade of Northumberland House, and comprising the Northumberland Coffee House (No. 4) and two others on the west side of St. Martin's Lane, Nos. 148 and 149." These houses were acquired by the Crown in connection with the formation of Trafalgar Square.
The front of Northumberland House, which was executed in brick with stone dressings, extended 162 feet to the Strand and comprised three storeys with a square tower on each flank. The focal point or centre of interest to the main facade was the central bay which was designed in stone as a vertical composition of four horizontal stages (Plate 4). The lower contained the arched entrance with a high mullioned oriel window above. On each flank were niches between decorative pilasters, such treatment being repeated at each stage. The design of this central bay bore a striking resemblance to that at Bramsill, Hampshire, a house which furnishes a good example of the domestic architecture of the reign of James I. In later years the front was dominated by the famous Percy Lion (fn. n8) which was erected circa 1749, and surmounted the central bay a stage above the main parapet. Below the lion was the inscription "ALG—D.S.—1749—C.N.—REST" recording the work carried out by Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset. Lower down on each side of the pierced parapet to the oriel was carving depicting on the one side a phœnix below a ducal coronet with the initials A.S. above, and on the other side an earl's coronet and a crescent with P.N. above. (fn. n9)
The square flanking towers already referred to were carried up two extra stages and completed with characteristic lead cupolas. The two towers on the garden side (shown in the Hollar view, Plate 2a) were removed during the 1749–58 alterations. All the towers, with one exception, contained a staircase. The front towers were reduced in height after the fire in 1780 when the main front was rebuilt. The wall surface to the main facade between the central bay and the towers contained windows to the two upper storeys with corresponding recessed niches to the lower storey and over all was a high parapet interspaced with pierced panels. There is a very good model of the Strand front preserved at Syon House, and at the London Museum there is an interesting model, prepared by Mr. Walter Godfrey, based on the Smithson plan, giving a conjectural reconstruction of the original house.
No complete record showing the architectural treatment of the inner courtyard is available, but photographs (two of which are reproduced on Plates3a, 7a) taken just prior to its demolition show the general wall surface in plain ashlar, with rustications to the entrance gateway and a carved keystone, also a three-light window above. The southern side of the courtyard is shown on the Smithson plan with a series of detached columns forming a "cloyster" which, in the 1720 edition of Strype's Stow is described as a "piazza with buildings over it." The arcading treatment (Plate 3a) was filled in circa 1765 by Robert Mylne, who also carried out extensions to the wings and altered the great external staircase to the garden front. (fn. 72). It is uncertain when this great staircase was added, as no external stair is indicated on the Smithson plan, and access to the garden was presumably by means of the screens to the hall. It was, however, referred to by Evelyn in 1658 (see p. 12). A view of the house from the garden prior to its demolition is given on Plate 3b, which shows a veranda of early nineteenth-century date constructed across the front above the main floor.
The new gallery, erected circa 1749 (see p. 15), was a splendid apartment. According to Dodsley (fn. 73) it was "106 feet long, the breadth being a fourth part of the length, and the height equal to the diagonal of the square of the breadth." It was ornamented with a modillion cornice and decorated frieze and had a coved and panelled ceiling containing classic figures, all of which were "richly guilt." (fn. c1) The gallery contained twin fireplaces in statuary marble decorated with figures of Gauls carved by Roubiliac and a high overmantel comprising a large framed panel enclosing a portrait, and flanked with carved female figures supporting a broken pediment (Plate 10). The decorations were in all probability designed by Robert Morris.
The great marble staircase which was designed by Thomas Cundy (fn. c2) is illustrated on Plate 7b, and if it is in the same position as the one referred to by the Duchess in 1749 (see p. 14), must have been redesigned with the walls faced with marble, although the "lanthorn" may be the same or an adaptation. In 1770 Robert Adam was commissioned by the Duke to carry out certain internal decorations in the dining- and drawing-rooms and elsewhere. (fn. 74) Some beautiful drawings, including one of an ornamental ceiling, are preserved at the Soane Museum, showing his treatment. Two of these are reproduced here (Plates 9a, 9b). Drawings of the marble mantelpiece are also preserved. This chaste example of Adam's work has been refixed at Syon House and is illustrated on Plate 12. Some of the furniture designed by Robert Adam for these rooms is also preserved at Syon House together with two water-colour drawings depicting the furnishings and decorations prior to the demolition of Northumberland House (Plates 8a, 8b). The magnificent Sèvres vase, which was given by Charles X to the Duke when ambassador, is now at Syon House and is shown on Plate 11.
The remains of the stone gateway to the inner courtyard (see Plate 7 ), which were removed from Northumberland House at the time of its demolition, are preserved in the gardens of Tudor House, Bromley-by-Bow. (fn. n10)
Although the Earl of Northampton bought certain properties in what afterwards became Hartshorn Lane (see p. 23) he does not seem to have acquired the small strip of ground adjoining the east side of his house at the northern end. The first definite reference to this property that has been found is in the ratebook for the year 1622, when Sir Henry Vane was rated for the house immediately to the east of Northampton's. (fn. n11) In 1637 Vane wrote to the Lord Mayor of London asking for a quill of water to his house "at Whitehall," (fn. 62) and there are several letters among the State Papers addressed to him "at his house near Charing Cross." From 1612 onwards Vane held important offices at Court, and in 1640 he was appointed Secretary of State in place of Sir John Cooke, but at the outbreak of the Civil War he joined the opposition, though he did not play so prominent a part against the King as his eldest son, Sir Henry Vane the younger. The elder Sir Henry died in 1655 leaving (fn. 75) to Thomas Twisden, Nicholas Brattle and Nicholas Pendleberry as trustees for his children, the greater part of his property including "my silver … silver Plate, Jewells, rings, household stuffe and goods in my now dwelling house … in the parish of St. Martin in the fields … and … one Indenture of lease bearing date [16th June, 1649] made to mee from Edward Apesley esquier of certaine Tenements and stables in Saint Martins in the fields."
The Charing Cross house had been settled on Sir Henry Vane the younger (fn. 76) in 1640 at the time of his marriage to Frances, daughter of Sir Christopher Wray. In Ludlow's Memoirs under date 21st August, 1656, there is the entry: "Sir Henry Vane, according to his promise, being come to his house near Charing Cross, the Council sent a messenger thither to require him to attend them, which he did, and was there charged by Cromwell with disaffection to the government, which he had demonstrated by a late writing published by him, with a seditious intention. The paper was called 'A Healing Question proposed and resolved' and contained the state of our controversy with the King." From September till December, 1656, Vane was imprisoned in Carisbrooke Castle, but after his release he was again elected to Parliament and was appointed a commissioner of the navy and a member of several committees. He was expelled from Parliament in January, 1660, because of his compliance with the domination of the army officers, and was excluded from the Act of Indemnity after the Restoration. He was kept in close confinement in the Tower for some time and was finally executed on Tower Hill on 14th June, 1662.
Lady Vane is given in the ratebook for 1659 as the occupant of the Charing Cross house, but Sir Edward Nicholas, who came to England with Charles II in 1660, was rated for the house from 1660 until 1666, when he was replaced by his son, Sir John Nicholas. Nicholas probably obtained a short lease of the property from Vane's heirs, for the freehold remained in the possession of the latter until 1679 when Sir Henry's son, Christopher, and his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Gilbert, 3rd Earl of Clare, sold (fn. 77) it to John Pargiter, "Cittizen and Goldsmith of London." It was then described as "situate … between … Northumberland house on the West … and the messuage … wherein Thomas Woodcock now or late lived on the East" and as abutting on "the Strand towards the North and the Brickwall of the garden belonging to … Northumberland house towards the South." Pargiter died in 1688 leaving (fn. 78) to his son John "all my estate, once one large house, now two houses with one shop, late Christopher Vanes Esqr. next Northumberland House, now the one my habitation, the other called the standard Taverne, Mr. Davies in possession of it, being both in the strand faceing St. Martin's Lane, and the said Mr. Davies newly parted from it being seized on by the Sheriffe the goods within it."
Somerset (afterwards Northumberland) Court was built on the ground belonging to Pargiter circa 1694, when it first appears in the ratebooks. It is described in the 1720 edition of Strype's Stow as "a handsome new built Court, with Houses fit for good Inhabitants." By the will (fn. 68) of Henrietta Pargiter, proved in 1755, the houses in the Court were entailed upon Thomas and Charles Lechmere (sons of her cousin, Elizabeth) and their heirs, with reversion to Anna Maria Bury, wife of William Bury. A deed of trust of the property (fn. 79) was executed by Gerard Dutton Fleetwood of Leatherhead in 1757, in which one of the houses was described as "late in the Tenure of Thomas Chippendale and now of — Mills Taylor at the yearly Rent of Twenty Seven Pounds." Chippendale is shown by the ratebooks to have occupied the first house on the west side of Somerset Court from Midsummer, 1752, until Lady Day, 1753, and it is interesting to note that Chippendale's book of designs, The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director, published in 1754, was dedicated to Hugh, Earl of Northumberland.
The property ultimately descended to William Fleetwood Bury, grandson of the Anna Maria Bury mentioned in Henrietta Pargiter's will. At the beginning of the nineteenth century several of the houses were sold separately, among them No. 6, which in 1807 was bought (fn. 68) by Henry Winchester of the Strand, Stationer. Winchester's cousin married William Clowes, the printer, who moved from Villiers Street to No. 6, Northumberland Court, the freehold of which he bought from Winchester in 1815 at a cost of £576. The house was then described as "formerly in the tenure of —Clarke, being the last house on the west side and south end of the Court and lately burnt down." In 1823 Clowes enlarged his premises by buying up the next-door house, No. 5, and in that year began to make use of steam machinery for bookwork printing. The experiment, which he was the first to try, proved a success, but he was obliged to rebuild the premises on account of a fire, and to defend an action for nuisance caused by his new engines, brought by the Duke of Northumberland. The Duke lost the case, but in 1826 he bought up Clowes' premises at a cost of £15,000. Clowes moved to Duke Street, Southwark, where the firm he founded still carries on business.
The whole of the Duke's property at Charing Cross, with the exception of some of the fittings of the house, was purchased by the Metropolitan Board of Works in June, 1874, for the formation of Northumberland Avenue. (fn. 68)