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 17: ADAM STREET
At the time when the Adelphi was built the custom of numbering houses was just coming into general use, and the Adelphi houses though they were at first referred to according to their position in the street (see e.g. the lottery particulars quoted on p. 100) were soon given numbers. The intersecting streets seem, however, to have caused the numerators some difficulty, and most of the corner houses were numbered in two streets. In Adam Street the east side was numbered consecutively 1–11 from south to north, but Nos. 12–15 appear to have been assigned to the houses at the corners of the Strand. Nos. 16 and 17 were on the west side between the Strand and John Street. They were pulled down circa 1920. No. 18 was also numbered in John Street. No. 19 lay between John Street and Adelphi Terrace and was demolished with the rest of the island site in 1936. No. 20 was renumbered as 1A, Adelphi Terrace, in 1845.
Nos. 1 and 2.—These premises correspond in position and design to those at the south-west corner of Robert Street. The south front has the characteristic ornamental pilasters, while the attic storey has on the return face a shallow pediment containing a cartouche bearing the arms of Adam (Plate 71a).
At some time during the nineteenth century a one-storey building was erected on the southern forecourt (see Plate 71a), thereby impairing the general appearance of the front. Since 1906 a second storey has been added (Plate 71b). The entrance to Nos. 1 and 2, which, during the greater part of their existence, have been combined, has a wood casing with carved pilasters and frieze. On each side are interesting cast-iron lamp standards similar to those of No. 13, John Street, illustrated on Plate 100a.
The entrance hall has a screen of Doric columns and beyond it the main staircase continues by a series of oak winders to the first floor (Plate 75b). The landing has an arched recess enclosing Ionic columns and responds supporting a blocked entablature, and double mahogany doors with carved mouldings to the panels. The staircase well, semicircular on plan, continues to the top floor and is provided with a skylight. The passage way continues across the side of the well to the upper floors while a decorative band indicates the floor levels. The north room on the first floor has a ceiling with a circular design enclosing a painted panel, and there is also a good carved pine mantelpiece, which was originally in Adelphi Terrace (see Plate 84a).
No. 3.—With the exception of a decorative ceiling to the front room on the principal floor, the premises are devoid of any internal features of interest. The ceiling has a circular device with small panels containing painted classical subjects, but is not on the whole a very successful composition.
Nos. 4 and 5 have a carved doorcase forming a common entrance and stairs screened by a glass enclosure. On the first floor the front room to No. 4 has the ceiling decorated with a broad oval band containing a series of medallions between vases and swags (Plate 106a). The front room on the first floor of No. 5 is well proportioned. It has a ceiling of geometrical design and a painted central panel. The mantelpiece is of carved pine which has been carefully pickled. There is also a good contemporary cast-iron grate (Plate 106b).
No. 6.—The front room on the principal floor has an ornamental ceiling consisting of a central panel surrounded by eight plaster medallions containing classical subjects interspaced with radiating foliated bands and scrolls.
No. 7.—The front of these premises is more ornate than that of the adjoining houses, as it forms the climax of the vista from the western end of John Street (Plate 92). The exterior is divided into three vertical bays by ornamental pilasters while the attic storey terminates with a shallow pediment containing a cartouche similar to that on the southern front of No. 1. The windows still retain their cast-iron balconies. The entrance has a semicircular fanlight with radiating bars, and carved pilasters and frieze to the door case. The front room on the chief floor has an ornamental ceiling with a painted central panel.
No. 9.—The front room on the first floor has a good ceiling with a painted oval centre panel and a handsome statuary marble mantelpiece which was formerly in No. 4, Adelphi Terrace (Plate 79a). The cellars under the roadway parallel with the front of this house are known locally as Fagin's kitchen and have been recently fitted up as a board room, etc. They make very good lofty barrel-vaulted rooms.
No. 10.—The design of the ceiling of the front room on the principal floor consists of an oval band of ornamentation representing vases and wreaths similar to that in No. 4 (see Plate 106a). The wood mantelpiece conforms to the curved face of the wall of the room.
Condition of Repair.
Nos. 1 and 2—Institution of Naval Architects; No. 3—Messrs. Hardisty, Rhodes & Hardisty; Nos. 4 and 5—Mr. George Gee; No. 6—Actors' Benevolent Institution; No. 7—The Lancet; Nos. 8 and 9—Russell House (Adelphi) Ltd.; No. 10—Captain Alan Dower, M.P.
Nos. 1 and 2.— The first occupant of No. 2 was John Arnold, one of the earliest makers of marine timekeepers and the first to give them the name of chronometers. He made several improvements on the instruments with which John Harrison had won the reward offered by Parliament for a method of finding the longitude at sea. He also perfected a standard model which could be produced in comparatively large quantities by skilled workmen. His contemporary, Thomas Earnshaw, was working along much the same lines, and there was considerable rivalry between the two men. In 1780 Arnold published a book at No. 2, Adam Street, which contained "An Account of the Going, during Thirteen Months, at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich of a Pocket Chronometer Invented and Made by John Arnold." Arnold's son, John Roger Arnold, afterwards had a clockmaker's shop at No. 84, Strand.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century Nos. 1 and 2 were in the same occupation. The Rev. Vicesimus Knox, miscellaneous writer, took these houses in 1812, when he resigned his post as head master of Tonbridge, a position which his father of the same name held before him, and which his son, Thomas, occupied after him. His original writings soon fell into oblivion, but his Elegant Extracts, of which he published several volumes, retained their popularity for a considerable number of years. After his death, in 1821, his elder son, Vicesimus, continued to reside in Adam Street.
William Butterfield, architect, had his office at No. 4 from 1844–56, and his more famous son of the same name from 1854–89. The latter, among other works, designed the churches of All Saints', Margaret Street, and of St. Alban's, Holborn.
No. 6.—William Adam, the youngest of the four "Adelphi," occupied this house when it was first built. He seems to have looked after the financial and business dealings of the brothers. The only part of the Adelphi buildings which has been definitely ascribed to him is the bridge over William Street, built for Thomas Coutts, but that he had architectural ability is proved by his designs for the Houses of Parliament preserved in the Adam Collection at the Soane Museum. He died in 1822, having outlived the rest of the family by more than 20 years.
Sir Culling Eardley Eardley, who spent a great part of his life working for religious freedom in different parts of the world, used this as his London house from 1859 until his death in 1863. His son, Sir Eardley Gideon Culling Eardley, succeeded him at the house.
No. 8.—Sir Richard Arkwright was rated for No. 8, Adam Street, from 1788 until his death in 1792. He was described by Carlyle as "a plain, almost gross, bag-cheeked, pot-bellied Lancashire man, with an air of painful reflection," and was the inventor of the spinning-frame and the first manufacturer of cotton goods on a large scale through the use of water power and later of steam. During the last 10 years of his life Arkwright was constantly engaged in lawsuits concerning his patents and had frequently to visit London in connection therewith, and it was probably for this reason that he took the house in the Adelphi.
Thomas Brassey, railway contractor, who was responsible for the erection of railways in many parts of the world, had his office in this house in 1848, and Thomas Roger Smith, architect, who designed a number of public buildings in Bombay and London, was there in 1859.
No. 11.—Joseph Locke, civil engineer, who had been articled to George Stephenson in 1823, and was responsible for the construction of many miles of railway in the British Isles and abroad, occupied No. 11, Adam Street, in 1848–51, when he was M.P. for Honiton.