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, probably Thomas Cubitt, 1836
On 2 November 1675 the Earl of St. Albans and Baptist May granted this site to Fleetwood Sheppard of London, gentleman, in trust for Sir Cyril Wyche, one of the early Fellows (and later President) of the Royal Society; (fn. 2) a rent of £11 2s. was reserved. (fn. 1) In August 1674 Wyche was said to be 'now building a house in the square in St. James's fields' (fn. 3) and was in occupation of it in 1676 and 1677. (fn. 4) From 1686 to 1733 the house was inhabited by the collector of vertu, the eighth Earl of Pembroke, who in his will (fn. 5) left as heirlooms the plate, pictures and furniture in the St. James's Square house 'and also all the Books in my Library in St. James's Square which are bound in Turkey or Morocco Leather (not only because they are scarce but of great use in Literature)'. If Lord Pembroke embellished the interior of the house no record of it survives: the views of the square in c. 1722 and c. 1752 show an apparently unaltered seventeenth-century exterior. In 1752 the house was empty, in 1753 the rates were paid by John Price, in 1754 they were paid by Lord Baltimore and in 1755 by John Price once more, before the tenth Earl of Pembroke moved in. It is not known whether John Price was the carpenter of that name. (fn. 6) The house was again empty in 1759–62 and 1799–1805. It is not clear whether the house shown in Ackermann's view of 1812 (Plate 131) had been rebuilt or was the original house with a stucco façade.
From 1833 the house was occupied by Lord King (later Earl of Lovelace) who probably bought the house at about that time. In July 1835 he married Byron's daughter Ada, and in the following year had the house demolished and rebuilt. (fn. 4) The work is attributed to Thomas Cubitt (fn. 7) and has considerable affinity with his two great houses at Albert Gate, all appearing to derive from the earlier houses of Adelaide Crescent, Hove, designed by Decimus Burton shortly before 1830. (fn. c1)
The Italianate front (Plate 200a) is of brick, faced and ornamented with stucco. It is a bold design, outvying its neighbours in scale and richness, three bays wide and three lofty storeys in height. The windows and doorway of the ground storey are round-arched and set with plain margins in an arcade, the face of which is V-jointed, the arches rising from a plain impost. The doorway in the right-hand bay is sheltered by a porch formed of plain-shafted Doric columns, with respondent antae, supporting a triglyphed and mutuled entablature, its cornice being returned and continued across the rest of the front to form a balcony, supported by scrolled console-brackets. This balcony has a balustrade of waisted (Bramante) balusters between solid dies. The upper part of the front is bounded by long-and-short chamfered quoins, and presents a plain face mockjointed to represent ashlar. Each of the three first-floor windows is dressed with a moulded architrave, flanked by panelled pilaster-strips and consoles supporting a plain frieze and a low-pitched triangular pediment. The three second-floor windows have moulded architraves, rising from a sill-band of guilloche ornament. The three atticstorey windows are secreted between the massive scroll-consoles which support the cornice of the deep crowning entablature.
In plan (fig. 27), the house is divided by transverse walls into three parts, the front containing, on the ground floor, a large room on the west and a spacious entrance hall on the east. This leads directly into the staircase hall, with an ante on the east which is open, through an Ionic colonnade of three bays, to the square well where the stone stairs rise against the south, west and north sides to a first-floor landing gallery extending along the east and south sides. Beyond the staircase-hall ante is a large room, entered through a Corinthian screen of three bays and having a large canted bay at its north end. On the west side of this room is the service stair and a passage leading to a long narrow wing at the rear, with another stair at the end of it. Beyond the canted bay and flanking the wing is a later addition, consisting of two linked octagonal compartments, both top-lit, and a short staircase with a glazed barrel-vault, leading to a large, almost square, room with a fireplace at each end and three windows overlooking Ormond Yard. The drawing-room suite, on the first floor, consists of a large front room, the full width of the house, linked by a top-lit ante to the back room (Plate 200c), which is bay-ended like the room below.
Although the front is Italianate, the interior was originally decorated in the 'Grecian' taste, with a discreet use of stock ornaments in cast plaster—cornices of anthemion and honeysuckle ornament, and borders of grape-vine surrounding ceilings modelled with large but shallow square coffers. The original marble chimneypieces have squat pilaster jambs and entablature lintels. But these chaste decorations were not enough for a later occupant, who covered the walls in the drawing-room suite with French Rococo panels and rich friezes, and installed elaborate doorcases in the same manner. The front room on the ground floor lacks this Rococo embellishment, but has a splendid mid eighteenth-century marble chimneypiece, richly carved, which is the subject of an illustration in fig. 119 of Francis Lenygon's Decoration in England from 1660 to 1770.
The staircase hall is little changed. The walls are quite plain except for a band of anthemion ornament at first-floor level. The skylight is surrounded by a deep cove, its face covered with lowrelief scale decoration, and a boldly modelled palm branch in each angle. The cast-iron balusters of the stair railing are of two patterns, used alternately, both basically the same but one enriched and wreathed with ivy. The cove surrounding the skylight in the drawing-room ante is Graeco-Egyptian in character, and also has palm branches in each angle (Plate 200b). The upper part of the house, and the later additions on the ground floor, are of little interest.