Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1960.
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This house, which until 1909 was numbered in John Street, stands to the south-west of No. 31 and precedes it in the anti-clockwise sequence of houses in the square. No. 31, more commonly known as Norfolk House, is discussed below.
No. 31a was probably newly built in 1772 when it first appears in the ratebooks, as 'Norfolk New House'. Until 1779 the rates were paid by the Duke of Norfolk, who held the house on lease: in 1777 it was occupied by the widow of the Duke's porter who had previously occupied the house. (fn. 1) For some years during the first decade of the nineteenth century the occupant was George Tappen, architect and surveyor, (fn. 2) and from 1828 to 1837 H. R. Abraham, (fn. 3) the son and pupil of Robert Abraham, the Duke of Norfolk's architect. (fn. 4)
From 1867 to 1932 the Arundel Estate Office occupied the house. (fn. 5)
In 1936 the wooden doorway was inserted and internal alterations carried out to the designs of Brian O'Rorke of Vigo Street. (fn. 6)
The house (Plate 197a) now comprises a basement and five storeys, being built of yellow-pink brick with a narrow two-window front to the former John Street. It is really a late eighteenth-century terrace house of the most modest type, attracting attention only by the incongruity of its surroundings and the curiously elongated appearance given it by the addition, after 1850, of the fourth and fifth storeys. The windows have plastered reveals and flat heads of yellow gauged brick, while the sashes, renewed in 1936, are complete with glazing bars. The doorway, in the north bay of the ground storey, retains its old three-panelled door but has a modern and rather inadequate hardwood surround. Above the heads of the groundstorey openings runs a broad stone bandcourse, and at sill level in the second storey is a narrower bandcourse, also of stone. The fourth storey has at sill level a projecting course of headers, and immediately above the fifth-storey windows, in place of the gauged brick heads, is a crowning modillion cornice of stone, perhaps a re-use. The wider return front, facing north, has one window in the centre of each storey, originally all blind, with a smaller glazed window at the east end of the second storey, but this latter is probably a later insertion.
The plan of the house is very simple, consisting of one room on each floor with a staircase compartment, containing an open well staircase, at the back. (fn. 6)