Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1960.
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On 11 June 1675 the site of this house was agreed to be granted to Sir Thomas Clarges, at a reserved ground-rent of £19 17s. 10d. per annum. (fn. 4) In December 1677 St. Albans and Baptist May performed this covenant, a little belatedly, by granting the site to William Livesey in trust for Clarges. (fn. 5) The house had been built by 1676, when it appeared in the ratebook in the occupation of Laurence Hyde, Clarendon's son and later Earl of Rochester, who was also rated for the house in the following year: for most of this time he was residing out of England on diplomatic missions.
The Clarges retained the freehold for some sixty years, but the history of the house, like that of its neighbour in the north-west corner of the square, No. 14, is one of frequent changes of inhabitant. (fn. 1)
Sutton Nicholls's view of c. 1722 (Plate 128) shows that it then still retained its original external appearance. An inventory of 1729, when the Duke of Beaufort took a lease of the house, (fn. 6) does not give any very interesting information about the house, but mentions garden furnishings: 'a Gilt Figure upon a Stone Pedestal—two Leaden Figures upon the Wall and two Urns—A Leaden Cestern and pumps—A Garden Settle'. In 1735 George Clarges sold the house for £3200 to Sir Henry Liddell (later Lord Ravensworth). (fn. 7) From 1734 to 1737 inclusive the house stood empty and was probably rebuilt at this period, (fn. 8) substantially in its present form, for the incoming owner, who about this time was described as living 'at a great expense'. (fn. 9) Lord Ravensworth, and later his widow, occupied the house until 1794. In 1753 he paid Matthew Brettingham, senior, £21 (and/or 25 guineas) 'for Plans Drawings and attendance . . . in St. James's-Square'. (fn. 10) No further detail of any work done at this time is known nor whether the payment may have been retrospective. (fn. 2)
In about 1784 John Soane supervised the painting of the exterior of the house for the Dowager Lady Ravensworth. (fn. 11) For most of 1795–7 the house was empty (fn. 8) before it was taken by the third Duke of Roxburgh; some redecoration of the drawing-room was carried out at this time. (fn. 12) The third Duke kept his fine and famous library here, where it was sold by auction in 1812. (fn. 3) Ackermann's view taken in that year (Plate 131) shows the front substantially as at present, although the third-storey windows and the parapet have since been altered. The Roxburghs then vacated the house and it was held on further short tenancies until 1836 when it was sold for £17,500 by the trustees of the Duke of Atholl to the Windham Club, (fn. 13) which remained here until 1941.
The Windham House Club was established in 1828 as a 'place of meeting for a Society of Gentlemen all connected with each other by a common bond of literary or personal acquaintance'. It took its name from the house, No. 106 Pall Mall, where the Right Hon. William Windham, M.P., had lived for a number of years prior to his death in 1810. This house may have been the first home of the club, but if so only for a few months, as it occupied the site of the Travellers' club-house, the building of which began early in 1830. In 1829 the Windham House Club migrated to No. 10 St. James's Square, changing its name to the Windham Club in the same year; it remained there until its removal to No. 13 in 1836. (fn. 14)
In 1846 two green marble chimneypieces by W. T. Kelsey were installed (fn. 15) and some redecoration was presumably carried out after a fire in 1850. (fn. 16) In about 1863–6 David Brandon built additional rooms at the back which were replaced by a coffee-room in 1910. (fn. 17) Some structural work was supervised in about 1877 by the District Surveyor. (fn. 18) Another fire in 1884 was followed by the conversion of the front room on the third floor into a billiard-room: it was perhaps at this time that the third-storey front windows were enlarged. In 1891 the library and little drawing-room on the principal storey were thrown into one. (fn. 19) The appearance of the house in 1895 is recorded by Dasent (page 136). The chimney-stack in the centre of the parapet has been added since, perhaps in 1910. (fn. 20)
In 1941 the Windham Club left the house and was accommodated by the Travellers' Club. In 1945 it amalgamated with the Marlborough and Orleans Clubs, to form the Marlborough-Windham Club (see page 344) (fn. 21) which sold the house in the square in 1950. (fn. 22)
Although much altered inside, and to a lesser extent outside, the house is substantially that built probably between 1735 and 1737 and perhaps from Matthew Brettingham's designs. Considerable additions have been made on the north and west sides, but the original plan of the house has not been obscured.
The plan is a deep rectangle, equally divided on the ground storey by a stout wall, with a front and back room on the east, and a front and back room flanking the service stair on the west. Each room has two windows, and a fireplace in the party-wall, except the west front room which is the entrance hall, with one window west of the doorway and an archway in the west wall opening to the main staircase, which occupies an oblong compartment lying behind the north wall of No. 14. In front, on the principal storey, is the lofty drawing-room, three windows wide, approached through an ante-room from the main staircase, and at the back were two rooms, now united. The two back rooms of the chamber storey have retained their original form, but the front part of this storey, which is raised above the drawingroom, has been remodelled.
Brettingham may well have designed the front (Plate 149a), which is a simple composition in the English Palladian style, three storeys high and four windows wide, with the doorway flanked by one window on the west and two on the east. The ground storey is now faced with stone, evenly coursed and chamfer-jointed, with voussoirs and a plain keystone to the round-arched doorway, and to each straight-headed window. The upper face is of brick, including the die of the pedestal to the principal storey, but this brickwork has been resurfaced, stained black, and mock-pointed to give an all-over pattern of headers. The tall openings of the four evenly spaced windows in the principal storey now reach to the plinth of the pedestal, but this must be an alteration involving the removal of a blind balustrade or part of the pedestal. Each opening is dressed with stone—a moulded architrave, narrow pulvino-frieze and cornice—and is furnished with a segmental-fronted railing of ornamental ironwork. The chamber-storey windows also have been lengthened, but each has its original frame of a moulded stone architrave, broken in at the sides. A block-cornice and high blocking-course of stone finish the front, to which has been added a central chimney-stack of brick, flanked by consoles and crowned with a broken segmental pediment of stone.
The oblong entrance hall has one window to the west of the door in the south (front) wall, a door at each end of the north wall (that on the west serving a cupboard), a door in the middle of the east wall opening to the east front room, and in the west wall is a wide round-arched opening leading to the main staircase. Apart from the lincrusta ceiling and the Adamesque arches and panelled tympana added to the north-wall doorways, the decorations are original and Brettingham's hand is immediately suggested by the simple pedestal and the Doric triglyphed entablature of the walls.
The east front and back rooms have been united, with an Ionic screen of three bays replacing the original wall, and the decorations are modern except for an enriched plaster cornice of about 1800. Each room, however, contains an original chimneypiece of white marble, in the true Palladian taste of c. 1740. That in the front room (Plate 149c) is an Inigo Jones design, used by Kent in the south-east room at Chiswick and in the 'old wing' bedchamber at Holkham. It has an egg-and-dart ovolo moulding to frame the opening, and a wide architrave-surround eared and shouldered at the head, decorated with a female mask between drapery festoons that loop over the top of the architrave and reappear through bosses in the angles, to fall in pendants on the jambs. The back room chimneypiece has an eared architrave with enriched mouldings, a plain frieze broken by a tablet carved with a wreath over crossed palms, and a cornice-shelf resting on scroll-consoles above panelled jambs.
The west back room has been divided by partitions, but it retains the original pedestal of wood, with a plain die and carved mouldings to the skirting and cornice-rail, and the windows are furnished with shutters of raised-and-fielded panels in enriched moulded frames, cased in ovolomoulded architraves carved with scallop-shells and darts. The white marble chimneypiece has an enriched architrave, a frieze carved with foliagescrolls flanking a plain tablet, and an enriched cornice-shelf with a fluted cavetto below the corona.
The main stair (Plate 149b) begins with curtail steps on the east side, and rises with stone steps cantilevered from the north, west and south walls of the compartment, finishing at a gallery landing across the east side. The wrought-iron railing, typically early Georgian, is composed of scrolly vase-profiled openwork standards, one to each step, finished with a moulded handrail of mahogany which ramps up at each turn. (fn. c1) In the south wall of the ground-storey stage, framed in a recessed bandarchitrave with a plain keyblock, is a wide apse containing a fireplace. This is furnished with a 'Regency' chimneypiece, following the curve of the wall and composed of a panelled lintel and jambs with lion-mask stops. The walls of the compartment are plain but for the fluted bandcourse at gallery level, and they are finished with an anthemion frieze and an enriched cornice. Above are four plain tympana, formed by the pendentives supporting the oval saucer-dome, which is fringed with an anthemion border and contains an oval skylight. All this plasterwork appears to be of late Georgian date.
The front drawing-room and its ante-room are loftier than the back rooms of the principal storey, but there is nothing to show that this is due to an alteration. Some evidence suggesting that the present height is the original is offered by the design of the drawing-room ceiling, which is in the Jones-Kent manner, being divided by guillocheornamented ribs into a simple arrangement of compartments—a central oval surrounded by oblongs. The plasterwork, however, looks much later than early Georgian (although it may be a restoration) and it is combined with an enriched cornice above a 'Grecian' anthemion frieze. The walls are plain above the simple pedestal, but the large doorway in the middle of the west end wall has a 'Grecian' doorcase, with anthemion-capped pilasters supporting a bold entablature and a blocking-course. Although the doorway in the north wall has a moulded architrave, this is surmounted by an entablature to match that of the west door. The fireplace in the east end wall has a white marble chimneypiece—a delicate design in James Wyatt's manner—finely carved with vaseshaped lamps hanging from ribbon bows on the jambs, and a frieze of anthemion ornament extending between frieze-blocks with paterae, below the enriched cornice-shelf. The tall oblong chimney-glass, in a gilt frame of Regency design, is echoed by the pier-glasses between the three windows, these being dressed with gilt-wood curtain boxes.
The back rooms on the principal storey have been united and greatly altered, but the windows retain their original shutters and ovolo architraves, with carved enrichments like those of the groundstorey windows. In the west room is a white marble chimneypiece of Palladian character (Plate 149d), similar to one designed by Inigo Jones for old Somerset House, and possibly carved after the engraved representation of the Jones chimneypiece on Plate 10 of Vardy's Some Designs of Mr. Inigo Jones and Mr. William Kent. The fireplace opening is framed with a wide flat architrave, bordered with enriched mouldings and eared and shouldered to form a square at each top corner and an oblong in the middle of the lintel. Each of these breaks contains a scrolled cartouche of Jacobean character, with heavy foliage pendants hanging from those in the corner squares, and palm branches flanking that in the middle.
The stone service stair, with a simple railing of wrought-iron bars and a mahogany handrail, gives access to the chamber storey. The two back rooms are similar, and each retains its original form and much of the original decoration. The walls are furnished with a wooden pedestal and the face above was probably hung with silk or paper, but is now boarded and formed into panels with raised mouldings. The six-panelled doors and panelled window shutters are framed with moulded architraves, and in each room the plain ceiling is bordered with an enriched modillioned cornice of plaster. The front room, reached from the stair landing by a short flight of steps, has been entirely reconstructed and is of no interest.