Survey of London: Volume 5, St Giles-in-The-Fields, Pt II. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1914.
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General description and date of structure.
The origin of these premises, comprising the two easternmost of the four houses built in 1743 on the site of Conway House, has already been described. (fn. 1) In 1889 the houses, which had for many years been used for the purposes of Bacon's Hotel, were occupied by the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons. The exterior and most of the interior has been rebuilt or modernised, with the exception of the two rooms on the first floor facing Great Queen Street, which appear to date from the rebuilding in 1743. The Board Room, to the east, has a fine carved deal mantelpiece and overmantel (Plate 29). The mantelpiece has a carved head, representing Bacchus in the frieze and scrolls at the sides. The overmantel takes the form of a picture with a carved frame and bold broken pediment over; the tympanum is filled with a finely carved basket containing flowers and fruit. The other feature of the room is a decorative ceiling (Plate 30), having a large central medallion representing children.
The Grand Secretary's room has also a decorative plaster ceiling (Plate 31), with four oval medallions containing trees and flowers. The chimney–piece is a modern replica in wood and plaster of the one already mentioned.
Condition of repair.
Henry Shiffner, on leaving the house in Great Queen Street, removed to No. 59, Lincoln's Inn Fields, where he has left permanent traces of his occupation. (fn. 2)
The "Leverton" whose name appears in connection with the first and fourth (see p. 83) of the houses erected on the site of Conway House for the years 1787–91 and 1791 respectively, was almost certainly Thomas Leverton, the architect. The Royal Academy Cataloguesgive the addresses of T. Leverton as follows: 1773–78, 1780–83 (Great Queen Street), 1784–5, 1787 (Charlotte Street, Bedford Square), 1794 (Great Queen Street), 1797 (Bedford Square). The Catalogue for 1792 shows "Leverton" (without initial) at 60, Great Queen Street. Unfortunately, his name does not appear in the Catalogues for the period 1787–91, and thus direct confirmation of his identity with the occupier of the houses in question is not possible. It may be added that there is no mention in the ratebook of any "Leverton" at No. 60 in 1792, and Leverton's residences in Great Queen Street in the other years mentioned (fn. 3)would seem to have been in lodgings, as no trace of them can be discovered.
Isaac Hawkins Browne, poet, was born in 1705 at Burton–on–Trent, his father being vicar of the parish. Although called to the Bar he did not take up his profession in earnest. He was twice M.P. for the borough of Wenlock. His chief English works were a poem on Design and Beauty, and an ode entitled A Pipe of Tobacco, but his principal achievement was a Latin poem De Animi Immortalitate. He died in 1760. Mrs. Piozzi relates that Dr. Johnson said that Browne was "of all conversers … the most delightful with whom I ever was in company; his talk was at once so elegant, so apparently artless, so pure, and so pleasing, it seemed a perpetual stream of sentiment, enlivened by gaiety, and sparkling with images." (fn. 4) Johnson also used Browne as an illustration of the proposition that a man's powers were not to be judged by his capacity for public speech: "Isaac Hawkins Browne, one of the first wits of this country, got into Parliament and never opened his mouth." (fn. 5)
Browne's son, also named Isaac Hawkins, must also have been a resident at the house in Great Queen Street, for he was only eight years old at the time of the removal of the family thither in 1753. He represented Bridgnorth in Parliament for twenty–eight years, and though no orator, when he spoke "his established reputation for superior knowledge and judgment secured to him that attention which might have been wanting to him on other accounts." (fn. 6) He edited his father's poems, and also wrote Essays, Religious and Moral, and Essays on Subjects of Important Inquiry in Metaphysics, Morals and Religion. He died in 1818.
In the Council's collection are:—
(fn. 7)Ornamental plaster ceiling in Board Room on first floor (photograph).
(fn. 7)Carved deal chimneypiece in Board Room (photograph).
(fn. 7)Ornamental plaster ceiling in Grand Secretary's Room, first floor (photograph).