Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1960.
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No. 100 Pall Mall: The National Gallery
Before the completion of the present building in Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery of Pictures had been successively housed, from its formation in 1824, in two houses on the south side of Pall Mall, Nos. 100 and 105, (fn. 1) the sites of both of which are now occupied by the Reform Club.
No. 100 stood on part of what is now Carlton Gardens and on part of the site of the Reform Club, having a frontage to Pall Mall of 33 feet and a depth of 46 feet. (fn. 2) The house had a tall late eighteenth-century front of three storeys, built in a shallow segmental bow between plain narrow piers. The ground storey contained two windows to the east of the arched and pedimented doorway, and each upper storey had three equally spaced windows with flat gauged arches.
This house had been occupied from 1787 to 1823 (fn. 3) by John Julius Angerstein (1735–1823), a wealthy merchant of Russian extraction. (fn. 4) At the time of his death in 1823 Angerstein had built up a most important collection of pictures, and when thirty-eight of these were purchased by the Government in the following year to form the nucleus of a national collection, his house was retained as its first home (Plate 42b). Sixty thousand pounds had been voted by the House of Commons on 2 April 1824 for the purchase, preservation and exhibition of Angerstein's pictures, and responsibility for them devolved on the Treasury. The general charge of the collection and building was at first vested in the keeper, William Seguier (see page 489). The collection was opened for the first time to the general public on 10 May 1824.
The powers of the keeper were limited in the following July, when 'a Committee of six Gentlemen' (later to become the board of trustees) was nominated by the Treasury to take over the superintendence of the gallery. (fn. 5)
The 'six Gentlemen' thus nominated were Robert Banks Jenkinson (1770–1828), second Earl of Liverpool and the Prime Minister of the day; Frederick John Robinson (1782–1859), later first Earl of Ripon, then Chancellor of the Exchequer; George Hamilton-Gordon (1784– 1860), fourth Earl of Aberdeen, President of the Society of Antiquaries 1812–46 and Prime Minister 1852–5; Charles Long (1761–1838), first Baron Farnborough, who had assisted George III and George IV in the decoration of the royal palaces; Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827), who had been very active in the negotiations for the purchase of the Angerstein collection and who was later to be the gallery's first important donor; and Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830), President of the Royal Academy. Three years later this number was increased by the nomination of George Agar-Ellis (1797–1833), later first Lord Dover, and (Sir) Robert Peel (1788–1850), both notable art collectors. (fn. 4)
No. 100 Pall Mall was soon found to be too small for the adequate display of the collection, which, through private benefaction and public purchase, had considerably increased in size. In July 1828 the trustees complained to the Treasury that 'If any Offers of Pictures should be made to us on behalf of the Public, we should be totaly unable to display them to advantage, this Circumstance being known may deter persons from making such offers, who might otherwise have been induced to do so.' (fn. 6) Moreover, there were frequent criticisms by members of the public about the dirt and heat of the gallery and the serious damage sustained by the pictures.
In the spring of 1828 the trustees considered the adaptation of part of the King's Mews in Trafalgar Square as a new home for the gallery or alternatively the construction of additional accommodation at No. 100 Pall Mall.
This latter idea had to be abandoned when the trustees were notified in 1830 that part of the Pall Mall site was required for the enlargement of Pall Mall Court (a small passage to the west of the gallery building) into a new thoroughfare to Carlton House Terrace, then Carlton House Street. The Treasury had therefore to agree to the erection of a new building on the north side of Trafalgar Square, (fn. 7) and in 1832 work began on what was to be the permanent home of the gallery. (fn. 8)
Before the completion of the new gallery, excavations connected with the erection of the Carlton Club on the site adjoining No. 100 Pall Mall undermined the foundations of the house and the trustees were forced to find a temporary home for the collection at No. 105, a house five doors to the west of No. 100. (fn. 9) By 21 February 1834 the pictures were installed there and on 3 March the gallery was reopened. (fn. 10) Here it remained until 1838, when the present National Gallery building was completed. (fn. 8)