Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1960.
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Architect for rebuilding, (Sir) Edwin Lutyens, 1911
The date on which the Earl of St. Albans disposed of this site is not known, but it was in 1674 that he came to an agreement with John Angier, a carpenter, later described as a 'gentleman' of Westminster, who was to build on it a 'Piatza house'. (fn. 5) Angier (fn. 1) made sub-contracts for the building of No. 7, and agreed that the mason's work should be performed by Abraham Storey, who at about the same time was undertaking the construction of No. 6 adjoining. According to a later Chancery petition from Angier, the Earl, who had evidently not disposed of the property outright, then altered his 'intencion' by 'designeing more masons worke then before', and made a new arrangement by which Storey was to accept payment for the mason's work direct from the Earl. Angier continued to be responsible to the Earl for all the other work. (fn. 5)
By 1676 the Earl had disposed of the property to Angier who appears as the freeholder in the rent-roll of that year, paying the same groundrent of £15 8s. 4d. as was reserved at Nos. 5 and 6. (fn. 6) In the autumn of 1677 Angier was arranging the sale of No. 7 with Robert Hooke, who had negotiated similarly with Storey at No. 6. The purchaser of No. 7 was Richard Jones, Viscount (from 11 December 1677 Earl of) Ranelagh, whom Macky described as having 'spent more Money, built more fine Houses, and laid out more on Household Furniture and Gardening than any other Nobleman in England; he is a great Epicure and prodigious Expensive'. (fn. 7) There was haggling over the purchase price, which was finally settled at £4800, to be paid by instalments spread over three and a half years with a downpayment of £1000. The building was probably not completely finished at this period and in January 1677/8 Hooke performed a service similar to that which he undertook at No. 6 and 'directed Lord Ranelaugh's stairs'. (fn. 8)
The subsequent architectural history of the house, until its rebuilding by (Sir) Edwin Lutyens in 1911, is known only in part. There was perhaps no one complete earlier rebuilding. In 1694 Lord Ranelagh, having recently built a house at Chelsea, vacated No. 7 and was succeeded there by Charles Robartes, second Earl of Radnor, who at about the same time bought the house and almost immediately mortgaged it to Lord Brudenell to secure £2500 lent to him by Brudenell's daughter, the Countess of Newburgh. (fn. 9) The house seems to have been mortgaged throughout all or most of the period of Lord Radnor's ownership and was still mortgaged when it was sold by his sister after his death in 1723. (fn. 10)
Lord Radnor decorated the interior of the house elaborately. Vertue says that 'when he beautify'd his house [he] imploy'd several of the most Ingenious Artists then living in England to paint for him', and dwells at some length on the paintings which could be seen in the house. The staircase was painted by Louis Laguerre. The Dutch painter of still-life, Vanzoon, to whom Lord Radnor was patron, and who lived nearby in St. Albans Street, had provided 'many large pieces for over-doors, chimneys, etc.', and other pieces by Gerard Edema and Van Wyke which Vertue mentions were probably also parts of the scheme of decoration. Vertue lists other paintings in the house, apparently easel-pictures, which were sold after Radnor's death. (fn. 11)
Bowles's view published in c. 1752 (Plate 130) suggests that the interior work carried out at this period was not accompanied by any radical alteration of the seventeenth-century front. Some of the internal decorations still survived in 1895 (fn. 12) and probably lasted until Lutyens's rebuilding.
After Lord Radnor's death the house was owned and intermittently occupied by the Scawen family of Carshalton, Surrey. From them it passed to Earl Brooke, Earl of Warwick, who occupied the house from 1770. (fn. 13) In the previous year, while the house was empty, Joseph Dixon did mason's work, which was perhaps part of a more extensive operation, on Lord Warwick's house in the square, to the value of some £431, under the direction of the builder, Henry Holland. This was probably here, where the rate was increased between 1769 and 1772, rather than at No. 32 (see pages 202–3). The work included the repair of existing and the provision of new marble chimneypieces, (fn. 2) and also plain mason's work in Portland stone. (fn. 14)
The Hollands' connexion with the house continued, for in January 1782 the architect, Henry Holland, junior, of St. George's, Hanover Square, bought the house from the Earl of Warwick. (fn. 15) The new occupant, however, was Richard Barwell, the notoriously rich Anglo-Indian, for whom Holland's father-in-law, 'Capability' Brown, was altering the house and garden at Stanstead in Sussex (fn. 16) and to whom Holland sold No. 7 in January 1783, a year after he himself had bought it. (fn. 17) It was possibly at this time that the house was refronted with the plain brick façade shown in Ackermann's view of 1812 (Plate 131).
From 1797 the house was occupied for more than a hundred years by the Egerton family of Tatton, Cheshire. Probably no radical alterations were made in the structure of the house during this period, although an iron verandah was added to the front by Messrs. Cubitt in 1857. (fn. 18)
After the death of Earl Egerton in 1909 the house was bought by three bachelor brothers, W. F., G. O., and H. L. Farrer, of whom the first and last were solicitors and the second a merchant banker. A country house, the Salutation at Sandwich, Kent, was being built for them by (Sir) Edwin Lutyens, and in 1911 Lutyens rebuilt No. 7 as a town residence for their joint occupation. (fn. 3) In The Lutyens Memorial it is stated that the main walls of the front rooms of the old house were retained. (fn. 19) The house was occupied as a private residence until it was requisitioned by the Government in 1943. (fn. 20) It is at present occupied as offices by the Minister of Labour.
The present front is of dull-pink brick dressed with stone, being four storeys high and five windows wide (Plate 202a). As the fenestral pattern of the first three storeys closely resembles that of the previous front, and the new brick face projected some five inches beyond the neighbouring house-fronts, it must appear that Lutyens refaced the existing wall and added the fourth storey, which is disproportionately tall. The window openings have flat heads of gauged bricks with keystones, both their heads and jambs being of a darker red brick, while within them are sashes subdivided by thick glazing-bars and set in box frames. There are broad stone bandcourses above the heads of the windows in the ground and third storeys and another narrower one immediately beneath the tall second-storey windows. An entablature surmounted by a balustrade completes the elevation and behind it are three pedimented dormer windows. Only in the treatment of the main entrance, which occupies the second bay from the west in the ground storey, is there a small Lutyens idiosyncrasy. The panelled double doors are framed by a shouldered architrave the raised keystone of which is decorated with a foliated cartouche, while above it is a large panel carved with fruit and flowers. Before the entrance is a pedimented porch supported on paired Ionic columns, the latter being unusual in that the square outer column of each pair has the round inner column attached to it and set slightly forward. The area railings are probably an eighteenth-century survival.
The internal arrangement of the house is interesting, the plan being approximately an 'H' with the middle wing lit from each side and the principal rear rooms at a mezzanine level. (fn. 4) The decoration is largely of a late seventeenth-century character and is very simple apart from the inner hall and staircase, the dining-room at the rear and the huge library above it.
The square entrance hall, which is entered towards one corner, has a mutule cornice apparently of early or mid eighteenth-century date and in the front room the carved architraves and shutters to the window openings are of the same period. The inner hall is lined with oak panelling framed by fluted Doric pilasters, the central portion having a barrel-vaulted ceiling on the axis of the staircase, which rises between the enclosed service stair to the west and a cloakroom to the east. At the first quarter-space landing a central doorway leads into the dining-room which, with a small servery, occupies the full width of the house. The room has a curious arrangement of Ionic columns before the servery, resembling an eighteenth-century bed-recess, and above the entablature there is a small cove rising to a plain ceiling. The staircase is of oak, for the most part with heavy turned balusters, and continues above the cloakroom. round a narrow well, to the upper hall where a further flight of steps gives access to the library (Plate 202c). The whole arrangement of steps and landings is in marked contrast to the formal character of the upper hall itself, with its four long windows on either side.
The drawing-room and ante-room at the front of the house are modest in character but the library is the full width of the site and its barrel-vaulted ceiling rises into the second storey (Plate 202d). The oak fittings have fluted Corinthian pilasters and engaged columns supporting a full entablature with pediments to the bookcases, window openings and chimney-breasts, and richly carved festoons and drops of fruit and flowers, the two chimneypieces being of black and white marble. The ceiling is divided by ornamented ribs, with panelled compartments at either end, and is intersected by smaller vaults over each bay of the room.
The second and third floors have two bedrooms in front with one bathroom between them and another flanking a spine corridor which is lit from the west. On the third floor the same arrangement is repeated at the rear above the library, and the garret storey contains bedrooms for servants. The following six chimneypieces, which may have belonged to the old house, are installed in the principal bedrooms.
1. On the second floor in the east room: late eighteenth-century, of white and brown marble, the plain surround flanked by simplified Corinthian pilasters ornamented with drops, supporting a narrow architrave, a frieze with a tablet bearing a tazza and end blocks with enriched paterae, and a plainly moulded cornice-shelf. This is perhaps the chimneypiece provided in 1769 for the diningroom by Joseph Dixon (see above). 2. In the west room: mid eighteenth-century, of wood with marble slips, the lugged architrave and corniceshelf having carved mouldings and the frieze a fret pattern with a plain central tablet. 3. On the third floor, in the east front room: mid eighteenth-century but perhaps altered, of wood with marble slips, having carved mouldings to the lugged architrave and cornice-shelf, the frieze bearing an urn and scroll decoration. 4. In the west room: generally similar to the last but probably late eighteenth-century, with a deep fluted frieze and a curious cornice-shelf with a carved bed-moulding. 5. At the rear in the east room: probably late eighteenth-century, of wood with marble slips, carving to the lugged architrave, a fluted frieze with blocks bearing enriched paterae and a plain dentil cornice. 6. In the west room: of white marble and probably late eighteenth-century though now difficult to see, the opening flanked by tapered and fluted pilasters, the frieze fluted and having blocks decorated with anthemion ornament and a tablet with a festooned and enriched patera, the cornice-shelf being plainly moulded.
The rear elevation of the house (Plate 202b) is faced with the same brick as the front but has few stone dressings and is less conventional in design. The ground- and first-floor windows are square-headed and above a plain storey-band is an unpierced wall where the vault of the library rises into the second storey. The third-floor windows have pronounced segmental heads with a brick impost-band and the dormers to the fourth floor are flush with the wall face, the hipped, tiled roof being stopped each side of them but the gutter being carried across in front. On the ground floor the three central windows open on to a raised terrace with an iron railing, and beneath the courtyard are rooms lit from wells in the centre of each side.
The stable building fronting on to Apple Tree Yard at the rear was not rebuilt by Lutyens and despite a good deal of alteration appears to date from the middle or second half of the eighteenth century. It is of two main storeys and is built of pinkish-yellow brick with stone sills and copings, the south front having a recessed centre, two windows wide, and wings of the same width, the eastern one retaining a lunette window in an open pediment.