Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1960.
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Nos. 77–78 Pall Mall
There was a house on the site of No. 78 at least as early as 1670. (fn. 2) It appears to have been rebuilt between 1720 and 1724 by Claudius Amyard, principal and serjeant surgeon to the King, (fn. 3) but the extent of the rebuilding is doubtful, for the rateable value of the house remained unaltered.
In the late eighteenth century a bow window appears to have been inserted at the back of No. 78, but it may have been removed by Sir Walter Stirling as part of the repairs which he carried out in 1800. (fn. 4) (fn. 1) It had certainly disappeared by 1840 when the house was leased to the second Marquis of Ailesbury (then Earl Bruce). (fn. 6) Lord Ailesbury took a further lease of this and of the adjoining house, No. 77, in 1862. By the terms of the agreement, he was to spend not less than £6000 during the following two years on the 'repairing' and 'improving' of No. 77, and on the conversion of the two houses into one. (fn. 7)
No. 77, a much smaller house rebuilt in the second quarter of the eighteenth century, had been described in 1779 as a substantial brick building with offices behind. (fn. 8) This house was now completely rebuilt as part of No. 78. It was finished in brick and Portland cement, the most prominent feature being a large two-storeyed bow window overlooking Pall Mall (Plate 228a). (fn. 7) The new house included a ball-room first used on 10 March 1863 for a ball to celebrate the marriage of the Prince of Wales. (fn. 9) The entrance to the newly enlarged house was through the then existing doorway of No. 78 (fn. 10) and most of the ornamental work on the façade probably dates from this alteration. T. H. Wyatt was the architect and the builders were Messrs. Holland and Hannen. (fn. 7)
In 1882 the Dowager Marchioness of Ailesbury divided the property into two houses, in order to provide accommodation for a member of her family. A separate front door for No. 77 was cut through the east side of the bow window on the ground floor, and the space beyond partitioned off to form a hall passage and front room. The architect in charge of these alterations was Henry Curzon of Lincoln's Inn Fields. He seems to have built a glass conservatory over the portico of No. 78 at the same date. (fn. 7)
When the Dowager Marchioness died in 1892, she bequeathed her interest in Nos. 77–78 Pall Mall to her nephew, Viscount de Vesci. (fn. 7) The lease was purchased from him in 1900 by the Office of Works. The house was then offered to the Crown for use as a grace and favour residence, in exchange for Bushey House, Middlesex, which had been granted by the Crown to the National Physical Laboratory. (fn. 8) Alterations were undertaken in 1901 by the Office of Works to reconvert the two houses into one. The portico and doorway of No. 78 were completely removed, and a new doorway and porch were constructed in place of the bow window on the ground floor of No. 77. The first-floor bow window was not affected by these alterations. By a royal warrant of 9 August 1902, the house was granted to Queen Victoria's daughter, Princess Christian and her husband. At this time it seems to have been known as De Vesci House (fn. 8) but was renamed 'Schomberg House' in 1906. (fn. 11) This has led to much subsequent confusion between Nos. 77 and 78 Pall Mall and the building of that name at Nos. 80–82 Pall Mall.
On the death of Princess Christian in 1923, the house was assigned to her daughters Princess Helena Victoria and Princess Marie Louise. A few internal alterations were made by the Office of Works at this time. In 1927 it was found that the building structure had weakened, and some strengthening was carried out. The house was damaged during the war of 1939–45, and was vacated by the two princesses early in 1947. The property was retained for a time by the Ministry of Works, and in 1950–1 was again divided, No. 77 going to the Oxford and Cambridge University Club, and No. 78 to the Eagle Star Insurance Company Limited. (fn. 8)
Coney's street elevation of 1814 (pocket, drawing B) shows No. 78 as a four-storeyed house with four flat-arched windows in each upper storey and four segmental-headed dormers in the roof. The ground storey had a round-arched doorway in the bay east of centre, fronted by a porch. The upperstorey windows had sills supported by consoles and those of the second storey had cornice-hoods. A bandcourse marked the first-floor level and just below the parapet was a cornice. It seems almost certain that this drawing represents the existing building, although its windows have been decorated with architraves and aprons of Portland cement, and balustrades have been substituted for the parapet and the area-railing. A window has replaced the doorway, but signs of the reconstruction are visible in the surrounding brickwork.
The present front of No. 77 is, by contrast, unmistakably mid-Victorian (Plate 228a). Its yellow brickwork is almost concealed by an elaborate two-storeyed bay window, the ground storey of which serves as an entrance and is finished with a Doric porch surmounted by a balustrade. The upper storey, corresponding in height to both upper storeys of No. 78, is a great Venetian window with a modillion cornice and a panelled parapet at its head. Immediately above the crowning cornice is an ornate, pedimented dormer and a large ogee cupola.
The first-floor front room (Plate 228b) is typical of the interior decoration carried out in 1862–3 by T. H. Wyatt. It is divided into three compartments by rich Corinthian columns supporting brackets and a modillion cornice, each compartment having an ornamented coved ceiling.