Survey of London: Volume 3, St Giles-in-The-Fields, Pt I: Lincoln's Inn Fields. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1912.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.
XVII.—Nos. 57 and 58 LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS.
General description and date of structure.
By indenture (fn. 1) of 14th July, 1638, William Newton granted to Sir Edward Bellingham, of Newtymber, Sussex, a building plot, 290 feet long from east to west, and 55½ feet broad, (fn. 2) and "distant from the south side of Queenes Street 286 feet to the north side thereof" as a "scite for a messuage, with outhouses and ground for yards, orchard and garden." The house is referred to in a deed, (fn. 3) dated 9th March, 1641, as having been "lately erected … by Sir Edw. Bellingham, Kt., late deceased," (fn. 4) and it may therefore be assumed that the original house on this site was built in 1639 or 1640. This house and that to the north of Lindsey House are shown on the Prospect and the Wilton House picture (Plate 6), and also on the design for the medallion (Plate 7), as slightly lower than Lindsey House, and higher than the other houses adjoining.
In 1730 Charles Talbot, then solicitor-general, purchased the house for £3,000 (fn. 5) and rebuilt it. (fn. c1) By its handsome front the new building would naturally attract attention, and we find that Ralph, in his Critical View of the Publick Buildings, published in 1734, notices it fully. After describing Lindsey House (Nos. 59 and 60), he proceeds: "Sorry I am that the house adjoining to this, so lately rebuilt on the same design, is not like it in all particulars: the alterations which have been made in it are very far from improving it; and what it has gain'd in height, it has lost in proportion, and what is added of decoration, is deviating from simplicity and beauty: the height of the roof is a blemish that the lowness of the wall and portal will hardly attone for. But, that the house suffers in itself, by these ill-judg'd refinements, is not all; it hurts the whole side of the square, which these two houses are properly the centre of, and, if they had been uniform and regular, would have justly appear'd an ornament to the whole; for 'tis my opinion that, in all squares, there should be a capital building, in the middle of each side, which should serve to fix the eye, and give the better air of magnificence to the prospect." (fn. 6)
It will be observed that his complaint is that, as this house had been built higher than Lindsey House, which was before the central and highest house in the row, it destroyed, by its lack of uniformity, the general prospect. If the string course and cornice of the new house had been kept in alignment with the older premises, a central feature would have been preserved, but this shows that any controlling influence which might have previously existed with respect to the buildings in the square was no longer effectual, and that owners could now erect new premises to suit their individual tastes and requirements. Probably, after a lapse of about 90 years, the old premises may have been considered unsuitable by the wealthy solicitorgeneral, whose re-building has certainly given to London a scholarly example of classical architecture.
To describe the facade, which is of stone (Plates 73 and 74) it would be well to compare it with Lindsey House adjoining, which retains its original front. Considering the time intervening between the erection of the two houses, it is remarkable that there is so little change in design. Both facades employ the Ionic Order, the pilasters occupying the combined height of the first and second floors. The pilasters of Lindsey House rest on pedestals, while here they rise directly from the stylobate. Thus the architect increased their width and importance in the same distance between stylobate and entablature. He also adopted the correct classical form of undiminishing pilasters, and thereby was able to have capitals sufficiently large to give the appearance of support to a bold entablature and parapet without the assistance of the masonry between the pilasters. Not so Lindsey House. There the entablature surmounts the walling, and the pilasters are only a decorative feature. The pulvinated, or curved, frieze was still in vogue, and is here employed to enrich the entablature. The pediments to the windows at the first floor level line with those of Lindsey House. With their architraves, they are kept subordinate to the main order, in contrast to those of Lindsey House, which are prominent and important features in the composition. Above these pediments and beneath the sills of the windows of the second floor is a plain surface of masonry, giving required breadth to the design.
Ralph comments on the poorness of the original entrance. In this he was probably correct; but it was rectified by Sir John Soane about 1795, when the premises were divided by a central party wall and other important alterations effected. Plans of his alterations (Plate 75) have been extracted from Sir John Soane's Academy lecture drawings, dated 1809, in the Soane Museum Collection of Town Houses. Some of the drawings of the front include the new porch. It is semi-circular on plan, with coupled columns of Roman Doric design in the centre and three-quarter engaged columns at the sides, cleverly masking the weakness of the double entrance, and making a sufficiently prominent central feature. Upon close examination, it can be noticed that the new masonry does not bond with the old.
The plans show how the party wall was made by Soane to intersect the old stone vaulting over the basement. It also necessitated the closing of the first floor central window and the dividing of that on the second floor. Curved ends abutting on the party wall were planned to the front rooms of the first floor, and in the rear room of No. 57 was designed at one end an alcove with columns—a favourite device of the period. These do not now exist.
In the first floor front room of No. 57 is a well-carved marble chimneypiece (Plate 76) of late 18th-century design, marked as new on Soane's plans, and a doorway of good design gives access to the back room at the first floor level of this house.
Condition of repair.
|(fn. 7)In 1666.||Earl of Sandwich.|
|" 1667.||Sir George Carteret.|
|(fn. 8)Before 1675 until his death in 1699.||Sir James Langham.|
|In 1700.||Lady Langham.|
|" 1703.||Lord Guernsey.|
|" 1708.||Lord James Russell.|
|" 1715 and 1723.||Lady Elizabeth Russell.|
|Before 1730 to 1782.||The Lords Talbot.|
|In 1783.||Executors of Lord Talbot.|
|1786–1793. (fn. 9)||Earl Mansfield.|
|1799–1805.||Sir John Skinner.|
|1806–8.||The Hon. Rd. Ryder.|
|1796–1809.||Sir J. Nicholls.|
Edward Montagu, or Mountagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich, was a son of Sir Sidney Mountagu. In November, 1642, when he was only 17, he married Jemimah, eldest daughter of John, afterwards Lord, Crew, (fn. 10) and, possibly under his influence, joined the parliamentary party and fought at Lincoln, Marston Moor, Naseby, and Bristol. He entered parliament for Huntingdon, and, although taking no part in the king's trial or execution, he co-operated with the council of state, and was intimate with Oliver Cromwell. In 1656 he was appointed conjoint general at sea with Blake. He supported Richard Cromwell but, after the latter's resignation, he took a great share in bringing about the return of Charles. Amongst other rewards, he received in July, 1660, the title of Earl of Sandwich. Much of the negotiation connected with the marriage of Charles to Catherine of Braganza was entrusted to him, and the young queen was brought to England under his charge.
Early in 1664 he took a house in Lincoln's Inn Fields at a rent of £250 a year, (fn. 11) a sum which Pepys (formerly his secretary) considered excessive. (fn. 12) The house is shown by the Hearth Tax Roll for 1667 to have been Nos. 57 and 58.
He commanded one division of the English fleet at the battle of Lowestoft in 1665, and the decisive movement which led to the defeat of the Dutch was made by him. In the same year he was appointed commander-in-chief. An attempt in August to seize some Dutch East Indian ships at Bergen failed, but in September nine were captured at sea. Sandwich, either through carelessness or ignorance, or as his enemies alleged, through greed, allowed some of the spoil to be divided at once among the fleet, thus offending the king and the Duke of York, and giving his enemies an opportunity for attacking him. As a compromise he quitted the command and was appointed as ambassador extraordinary to Madrid. He left town on 23rd February, 1666, and Pepys has placed on record his visit to him at Lincoln's Inn Fields on the morning of that day in order to pay his respects. Sandwich seems to have let the house to Sir G. Carteret, whose son Philip had married the Lady Jemima, one of Sandwich's daughters.
The earl's mission was very successful, the treaty which he negotiated having, according to Pepys, (fn. 13) been "acknowledged by the merchants to be the best peace that ever England had with them." On the outbreak of war with the Dutch in 1672 he was second to the Duke of York in command of the English fleet, but at the battle of Southwold Bay in that year the vessel, the Royal James, on which he was, blew up with the loss of nearly all on board, including Sandwich himself.
Sir George Carteret, son of Helier de Carteret, of St. Ouen, Jersey, was born some time between 1609 and 1617. He early obtained sea experience, and in 1639 was appointed comptroller of the navy. During the Civil War he captured Jersey in the royal interest, whence he carried on a vigorous privateering war against English trade. In 1646 he was created by prince Charles knight and baronet. On 12th December, 1651, he was forced to surrender the island to the forces of the Commonwealth. At the Restoration he was appointed treasurer of the navy, a position which he held until 1667, when he exchanged it for that of deputy-treasurer of Ireland. After Sandwich's departure for Spain he took up his residence at Nos. 57 and 58, Lincoln's Inn Fields. (fn. 14)
Sir James Langham, who seems to have been the immediate successor of Sandwich and Carteret in the occupation of the house, was the second baronet, his father, John Langham, having been granted a baronetcy at the Restoration as a recompense for his sufferings in the royal cause.
In 1703 "Lord Guernsey" is shown in occupation. This was the Hon. Heneage Finch, second son of the first Earl of Nottingham. In 1679 he was made solicitorgeneral, and as such exerted himself to obtain the condemnation of Lord Russell in 1683. For this fatal error he may, perhaps, be held to have partly atoned by his giving up his lucrative office three years later rather than defend the dispensing power claimed by James II., and by the conspicuous part borne by him in the defence, in 1688, of the seven bishops. In March, 1703, while residing at Lincoln's Inn Fields, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Guernsey, and on the accession of George I. was created Earl of Aylesford. He died in July, 1719. His residence at No. 57–8 could have lasted only a few years, for before 1708 he had been succeeded by the brother of the man whom he had wronged.
Lord James Russell was the third son of William, 1st Duke of Bedford, and younger brother of William, Lord Russell, who five and twenty years previously had been executed in the open field in front of this house. Lord James died in June, 1712, leaving his widow, Lady Elizabeth, in occupation of the premises. In 1721 she married a second time, her husband being Sir Henry Houghton, Bt. Precisely how long she continued to reside in Lincoln's Inn Fields there is nothing to show, but it was evidently later than 1723, the ratebook for that year giving the occupant as "Lady Eliz. Russell." The house is referred to in 1730 as "late in the possession and occupation of Sir Henry Houghton, Bart., and Dame Elizabeth, his wife, commonly called Lady Russell." (fn. 15)
In 1730 the house was purchased by Charles Talbot, who built the present
premises. Charles Talbot was eldest son of William Talbot, successively bishop of
Oxford, Salisbury and Durham. At first destined for the church, he eventually
devoted himself to the legal profession, and in 1726 was appointed solicitorgeneral. In November, 1733, he was made lord chancellor, and raised to the
peerage as Baron Talbot of Hensol. Both in character and ability he excelled most
of his predecessors and successors on the Woolsack. The poet Thomson, who
was recommended to him by his neighbour, Dr. Rundle, has left a record of the
evenings spent at Talbot's house:
"I too remember well that cheerful bowl,
Which round his table flowed. The serious there
Mixed with the sportive, with the learned the plain;
Mirth softened wisdom, candour tempered mirth;
And wit its honey lent, without the sting." (fn. 16)
He died of heart disease in February, 1737, at his house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, (fn. 17) in the 53rd year of his age, and was succeeded in the title and in possession of No. 57–8 by his eldest son William, who was advanced to an earldom in 1761. He died in 1782.
It may be mentioned that John Forster had chambers in No. 58 from 1834 until 1856. Charles Dickens often visited him there, and located in this house the residence of Mr. Tulkinghorn in Bleak House. It was here also that, in 1844, he read The Chimes to a brilliant company of friends.
The Council's collection contains:—
* Front elevation (photograph).
* Elevation, plan and section of front (measured drawing).
* Plans of basement, ground and first floors between 1800 and 1810 (copy of measured drawings).
Ornamental doorway (No. 57) at first floor level (photograph).
* Chimney-piece (No. 57), front room on first floor (photograph).