Survey of London: Volumes 31 and 32, St James Westminster, Part 2. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1963.
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New Burlington Street
This was the last street to be built on the estate, c. 1735–9. The only houses of whose building and history anything is known, beyond what appears in the table on page 552, have been demolished. Because of this, and of the high degree of uniformity in the external appearance of the street as first built, the architectural description has not been given separately for individual houses.
As will be mentioned below, what is known of the original exteriors of the houses in this street indicates a close correspondence between them and the slightly earlier houses in Savile Row. This was clearly the result of control by Lord Burlington. His architectural protege, Henry Flitcroft, occurs as mortgagee of houses here (as in Savile Row), but the only representative of Burlington who is definitely known to have controlled the character of an exterior is Daniel Garrett whose 'approbation' was required for the elevation of the office wing at No. 10 in this street. (fn. 3) At No. 8, no architect's supervision is mentioned in the rough draft of the building agreement: the work was examined and valued by Robert Morris. The kitchen, back kitchen and vaults here were specified to be built like those at No. 5 Savile Row. (fn. 4) (fn. c1) (fn. 1)
Like the other main streets on the estate, New Burlington Street was intended for residential occupation by people of substance. But at No. 11 the house was used for five years or more, (fn. 5) before being taken by the first residential occupant, as a place of refreshment known as Burlington Coffee House or Fisher's Coffee House after its proprietor Robert Fisher. (fn. 6)
Perhaps the most interesting house in the street was No. 5. Its exterior conformed to that of its neighbours but its interior was one of the very few known to have been designed for a town house by Nicholas Hawksmoor. It was a late work undertaken only a year or so before his death in 1736. Details of the interior survive in a conveyancer's formulary-book in the British Museum recording an agreement of 1735 between the builders and the first occupant of the house, for the work to be carried out according to Hawksmoor's specifications. (fn. 7) (fn. 2) The evidence of the architectural character of the interior is discussed below. There is no evidence of the circumstances in which a design by so idiosyncratic an artist of an earlier generation was executed behind a Burlingtonian façade of the 1730's. The intending owner, however, was the Dowager Viscountess Irwin, a daughter of the third Earl of Carlisle, for whom Hawksmoor was designing the Mausoleum at Castle Howard. Hawksmoor had drawn a chimneypiece for her, probably in a room at Castle Howard, in 1727 (fn. 8) and had since maintained an acquaintance. (fn. 9) Whether Hawksmoor was subjected here to the same criticisms in the cause of Burlingtonian Palladianism that he suffered at Castle Howard does not appear. The requirement in the builders' specifications that the work should be 'in Taste (as ye term now is)' was, however, no doubt of the aged architect's drafting, and possibly reveals some exasperation on his part.
Hawksmoor had a reputation for sound construction and his concern for this perhaps shows in the requirement that 'the Chimney Funnels of ye sd house shall be made sufficiently wide for a Chimney Sweepers boy to go up within in order to Sweep them' and that their brickwork should be thick enough 'to prevent the wainscott from being fired or burnt'. It was also provided that 'the Kitchen shall be plaistered with a good Ceiling somewhat thicker than common in order to keep the steam and smell of the Rooms below from offending the rooms above'.
The agreement was made by Lady Irwin with the builders Gray and Fortnam, who had already come to an agreement for the site with Burlington in August 1734. (fn. 10) They now, in 1735, undertook to procure a building lease to be made by Burlington to her (which was done by lease dated in January 1735/6). (fn. 10) They undertook to have all the builders' work, apart from the carpenter's and joiner's, completed by September 1736 at a cost of £1040. A separate agreement was made by Lady Irwin with Thomas Knight for the execution of the carpenter's and joiner's work at a cost of £530. The finishing of the house was thus to cost her £1578 in addition to Hawksmoor's fee. She bought the freehold of the site on 2–3 February 1736/7, (fn. 11) and a day or two later wrote to her father that her house was 'now within a tew weeks of being finished and I think a pretty House it will prove of the size.' She went on to speak of an important decorative feature, associated with the work at her father's house: 'I have executed the ceiling I brought from Castle Howard drawn by your Italian, & it looks very magnificent & fine and is allowed by those we have seen it to be as handsome a ceiling as is in town'. It is not known if this was a design by Pellegrini, who painted ceilings at Castle Howard, nor is it known who was responsible for its execution in New Burlington Street. In the same letter Lady Irwin mentions the 'alarm & difficulty' caused her at this late stage of the work by the bankruptcy of Thomas Knight: 'my head Carpenter who performed all my joyners work is broke & undone, he has performed up more work for me than I have yet paid him, but the statue of Bankrupsey is so severe upon those yt pay money in their own wrong yt I have been under a good deal of uneasiness how to proceed in the finishing my House.' (fn. 12) In June of that year Lady Irwin, against her father's wishes, married her second husband, Colonel William Douglas. A gossip reported: 'they say he is a very handsome man, very covetous and very positive and does already find great fault with her laying out too much money upon her House, and in her Dress'. (fn. 13)
A later occupant was Martin Tupper whose father, Doctor Tupper, took the house in 1825, (fn. 14) and who lived here until 1845. From 1848 until 1869 the house was the headquarters of the Royal Asiatic Society.
The street is now of very little architectural interest. The western end has been swallowed up by the return fronts of buildings in Savile Row, and most of the sites which remain are occupied by unimportant buildings dating approximately from the first three decades of the twentieth century. With one exception, however, these buildings preserve the original narrow frontages, so that the scale of the street is not entirely lost.
Two houses on the north side, Nos. 1 and 2, are older than the rest and it is clear from comparison with photographs of 1898 (fn. 15) and 1913, (fn. 16) showing the former Nos. 3–5 and 12–16 (consec.), that these are the much altered remains of the original development. In the copy of the builders' agreements of 1735 concerning No. 5, it is stipulated that 'the form and manner of the front next the Street shall be Conformable to the other fronts in the said Street as agreed to and with ye sd Earl of Burln' (fn. 17) and this seems to have been adhered to rigidly, not only in New Burlington Street but also in Savile Row, where almost identical houses may still be seen. Although the designer of this standard elevation is not known, it is worth noting its close similarity to that of Nos. 9 and 10 St. James's Square, built in 1736, (fn. 18) particularly because of the appearance of Henry Flitcroft, the architect, as mortgagee of Nos. I and 16 New Burlington Street and of Nos. 11 and 18 Savile Row.
Each of the houses illustrated in these photographs contained a basement, three storeys and a garret, except where extra storeys had been added, and had a brick front three or possibly, at Nos. 4 and 5 (for which there is no photograph showing the complete front), four windows wide. The colour of the brickwork is now only discernible in the back wall of No. 2, where it is a reddish brown, but perhaps this was what the builders' agreements for Nos. 5 and 8 (fn. 19) meant when they specified 'grey stocks' for both front and back walls (as at St. Peter's, Vere Street, in 1724 (fn. 20)). The rather narrow windows had flat gauged arches and stone sills, while the doorway had a moulded stone architrave with a cornice on consoles above. The doorway of No. 5 was to have had two stone obelisks for lamps 'like those done in the same Street'. (fn. 17) A broad stone bandcourse finished the ground storey and there were continued sills in the second storey, suggesting a pedestal-course. The front was carried up to form a parapet with a stone coping, below which was a moulded stone cornice continued from house to house. At No. 5 the roof was to have had 'pedament windows as in the other Houses'. (fn. 21) Some of these features can still be seen at Nos. 1 and 2. No. 1 has been heightened by two storeys since 1836, (fn. 22) its ground storey completely altered in quite modern times and its brickwork painted red, but the crowning cornice remains and so do the continued sills in the second storey, although the windows have been lengthened. No. 2 has been heightened by one storey (also since 1836) (fn. 22) and its front resurfaced a dark grey, uniform dressings in cement having been added in early nineteenth-century style. The crowning cornice survives, but there is no bandcourse above the ground storey nor continued sills in the second storey. The architrave to the western doorway is perhaps original but probably not the cornice or the consoles above.
There is no evidence to suggest that any uniformity was enforced in the interiors of the houses. No. 1 has been entirely altered internally, but at No. 2 some features are still distinguishable and these can be related to details given in an auctioneer's notice of 1793. (fn. 23) The first three floors each had two rooms, consisting of dining and breakfast parlours on the ground floor, drawing-rooms on the first (or principal) floor and bedrooms with closets on the second floor, the garrets being given over to three chambers for servants. A single staircase of stone served the whole building and existing evidence suggests that it was placed in the middle of the house with a room in front of and behind it. Complete original cornices remain in the entrance passage, the firstfloor back room and the second-floor front room, and part of one on the first-floor landing. The cornices are all enriched modillioned ones of plaster except for that on the second floor which, though apparently of plaster, resembles an enriched box-cornice. The housekeeper's room, servants' hall, kitchen and scullery were in the basement, and in the court-yard at the back was a detached stable building containing a double coach-house, stabling for six horses and accommodation for the coachman.
For the interior of No. 3 there is the evidence of an engraving, published by Isaac Ware in 1756, (fn. 24) showing 'a drawing room at Richard Chandler's, Esq; Burlington Gardens' (as the estate in general was often designated) (Plate 110). The three walls which are illustrated have a plain dado in the lower part and in the upper part either sunk panels or flush panels defined by an eared architrave-moulding, the margin of the ceiling having a modillioned cornice. The sunk panels have carved frames and are filled with ornament in high relief while the flush panels are embellished with swags and scallops, being finished with a cornice. The doors, one at each end of the wall opposite the windows, have moulded architraves surmounted by carved pulvinated friezes and moulded cornices. There is an extremely elaborate chimneypiece composed of two caryatids supporting an entablature, the cornice being broken forward in the centre over a carved plaque and finished with a triangular pediment. Above this is a panel for a picture, standing on a pedestal and flanked by pilasters supporting a broken pediment.
It is possible to reconstruct Hawksmoor's original interior of No. 5 in some detail from the builders' articles of agreement of 1735, (fn. 25) and from a plan of the (altered) ground floor, made in 1934. (fn. 26) These show that, in addition to the plan, some of the fittings were of his design, especially the staircase and the chimneypiece. The staircase, for example, is described as being 'according to a design and Directions' given by Hawksmoor. Unlike No. 2 this house seems to have consisted mostly of sleeping accommodation, the only two living-rooms being on the ground floor. The smaller living-room, designated the 'little parlour', was at the front of the house, with the relatively spacious entrance and staircase hall to the west of it. At the back was a large 'Salon', fourteen feet in height compared with the twelve feet of the parlour and with an area probably measuring twenty-eight feet by twenty-one feet six inches. The first floor had two bedrooms, but of the second floor (referred to as the 'Attick') and the garret no details are given. The kitchen and the housekeeper's room were in the basement and there were gardens and a stable building at the back.
The main staircase, which appears to have risen from the basement to the second floor, was of stone, Purbeck in the basement and Portland above. The steps were cantilevered out from the walls of the hall and 'wrought with an Astragal on ye Nose, and waved on ye underside', while the balustrade, in both the ground and second storeys, took the form of 'an iron Rail with Bars and Scrowl Work mixed between' and had a mahogany handrail. There is no mention of a secondary staircase, nor is one shown on the plan, but for the top of the house there were provided 'deal steps to the winding stairs up to the garrets'. The hall was paved with squares of Portland stone 'mix'd with dots of black Marble' and there was a Portland stone chimneypiece. The walls were stuccoed and finished with a plaster cornice while the ceiling was ornamented with 'a frame of Fret work richly adorned, and the other parts of the Ceiling decorated with Foliage, Fruit and other ornaments'. In the parlour the walls were partly wainscoted, but there were also hangings, and there was a doorway with 'a Swelling Freize leav'd, and the Cornice and pedament in Taste and just proportion'. In the saloon 'There shall be two Corinthian fluted Pillasters—including Bases and Capitalls, the Basement of the Salon shall be plain whole Deal work flush or even, being 3 ft high including Base and Chaptering, exactly done in Taste (as ye term now is)'. It is not clear how the upper part of the walls below the entablature was treated, although there is mention of 'Deal Wainscot between the windows'. At the back of the room was a bow window with a projection of several feet, 'performed with portland stone in ye Venetian style according to a Design given', and with an enriched plaster ceiling. There were four mahogany doors on this floor and in the saloon mahogany shutters. The ceilings in both the parlour and the saloon were 'ornamented with a frame of Fretwork richly adorn'd, and the other parts deck'd with Foliage and Ornaments: The Entablamt round the said fore Roome shall be of ye Ionick Order in the little parlour adorn'd with a swelling Froize carv'd with Lawrell Leaves; and the Entablature of the salon shall be Corinthian fully Enriched'. The first-floor rooms are described in less specific terms, but they seem to have been lined with deal wainscot and finished with enriched plaster cornices, mention being made also of '4 lonick fluted Pillasters' of wood.
The rough draft of the building agreement for No. 8 (fn. 4) gives sufficient dimensions and other details to form a fairly clear impression of the plan and finishings. The ground and first floors probably had a room front and back separated by an unusually large staircase compartment, perhaps some seventeen feet deep, this being entered from the street by a passage about eight feet wide. On the second floor the plan was the same except that the front room was 'to be divided, as in ye Plan' (no copy of which survives), and the back room had 'an alcove for a bed'. The agreement gives names only to the ground-floor rooms, which were called the fore parlour and the back parlour, referring to the remainder simply as 'the fore room up one pr of Stairs', and so on; possibly all the upper rooms were bedrooms, as at No. 5.
The staircase was 'of Portland stone, wth Iron rails, & wainscot hand rail', and was lit from above. The upper part of the walls of the compartment was stuccoed, but below was a wooden dado. The walls of the two parlours and the entrance passage were furnished with a wooden dado, but whereas the fore parlour had the upper part of the walls panelled and a plain plaster cornice above, the upper parts of the walls in the back parlour and the passage were stuccoed, the former having a dentilled cornice and the latter a coved one. Both rooms had marble chimneypieces with carved wood surrounds, and the doorways had architraves, friezes and cornices, with pediments in the back parlour. On the first floor both rooms were completely panelled, although the front room was more finely executed with carved panels and a complete entablature of plaster compared with the plain panels and plain coved cornice of the back room. In each room there was a marble chimneypiece with a carved wood surround, and in the front room doorways with carved architraves, friezes and pediments. The walls of the second-floor rooms were stuccoed above wooden dados and the chimneypieces were of Portland stone. The house also had a Venetian window, but its whereabouts is not specified.
At the end of the garden was a stable block forming part of the mews now known as New Burlington Place. The elevation of this block towards the house had received architectural treatment, having a pedimented Ionic portico of wood and, above, '3 Blanks', presumably blind windows, which were painted.
Some evidence has survived for the former No. 10, but not enough to permit a full reconstruction. The house was altered for Sir John Griffin Griffin (later fourth Lord Howard De Walden and first Lord Braybrooke) by Robert and James Adam in 1778–9, (fn. 27) and the only record of its appearance as built in 1735 is contained in a sketch appended to the original lease. (fn. 3) Incidental information about the Adams' work is provided by the accounts of John Hobcraft for the carpenter's and joiner's work, (fn. 27) and some original Adam designs for the ceilings, friezes and chimneypieces are preserved in Sir John Soane's Museum. (fn. 28) There is a photograph of 1939 (fn. 16) giving a distant view of the Savile Row front and there are also plans of all the floors, made in 1906, (fn. 29) although these are of limited value since the house had been reconstructed again in 1864 (fn. 5) for a firm of wool merchants. (fn. 30)
The house was brick-built, (fn. 29) containing, by 1906, a basement, four storeys and a garret. It stood on the usual deep narrow plot, but with the difference that its main front was on the long New Burlington Street side which measured ninety-two feet in breadth, leaving the house with a depth of only thirty-five feet. Perhaps in order to make the layout more manageable, and to avoid monotony in the main elevation, the eastern end of the building was treated as a slightly shallower office wing, the main block thus being left with a more proportionate frontage of sixty feet. Although the site was said in the original lease to front on to Savile Row there is no evidence to indicate that the main entrance was ever in that street, and indeed this seems improbable since the house was always shown under New Burlington Street in the ratebooks.
The Savile Row front had three windows in each storey and the New Burlington Street front eight, five of these belonging to the main block. The sketch of 1735 shows the main block with a bandcourse above the ground storey and continued sills in the second storey, as in the other original houses in New Burlington Street and Savile Row. The office wing was then set back slightly, both it and the main block having relatively low groundstorey windows only 5 feet 8 inches in height, and the space above filled with a small oblong panel. Probably this device implies that one or more of the ground-floor rooms had a deep coved ceiling and in fact Hobcraft's accounts contain several references to taking down such ceilings. The 1906 plans show that by that date the main block had a slightly projecting centre three windows wide, its central feature being a doorway with flanking attached columns and side-lights, a motif which was repeated in each of the upper storeys by a wide three-light window. Perhaps it was to the first-floor window that the 'Balconi to Anti Room Window' mentioned in Hobcraft's accounts belonged. Further documentary information about the exterior is lacking, but since the front of the office wing was by 1906 flush with that of the main block and there are references in the accounts to 'stuf Us'd in Shoring up front of the House' and 'attending Bricklayers setting out front wall', it seems clear that substantial alterations were made by the Adams. In the photograph of the Savile Row front the second- and thirdstorey windows are shown with architraves, friezes and cornices, but these could have been added during the reconstruction of 1864, since the brickwork had also been stuccoed and there was a prominent Italianate cornice below the parapet.
The plans of 1906 are not very helpful in reconstructing the eighteenth-century interior, for by then the building was in use as a warehouse and no doubt the position of the non-structural walls had been altered. However the structural walls show that the main block was divided into two equal compartments having between them a staircase hall which was fifteen feet wide and extended the depth of the house, the eastern compartment being reduced in area by a light well. The office wing was divided by a wall down its spine, so that two long narrow compartments were formed, the front one measuring sixteen feet in depth and the back one ten feet. Although various rooms are mentioned in Hobcraft's accounts, none, apart from the staircase hall, can be located on the plan. The drawing-room is, however, described as being in the west front, and there was a great parlour which had a door leading into the hall, while the ante-room may have been on the first floor above the front part of the hall.
Four rooms, the staircase hall, the drawingroom, the ante-room and Lady Griffin's dressingroom, figure most prominently in the accounts and there are designs for all of them in the Adam collection, together with the dining-room and the 'frontispiece'. It is clear that the staircase hall was largely redesigned by the Adams. There are references to 'attending masons to staircases', 'moulds for iron work to best stairs' and 'Mahogany Rail to Stairs', while a new skylight with an 'eliptical curb' was constructed. There was an alcove, niches, 'Circular Cove Bracketing', and, on the second floor, a screen with columns and pilasters having '1½ Inch Diminish'd Shafts'. An interesting reference is to 'preparing Temporary Arch and pilasters to fix up Under Stone landing to see the Effect'. Evidently a porter's hall had been contrived somewhere in the main hall, because mention is made of 'fixing upright shores in porter's hall on acct of masons putting up stone landing'. The design for the 'hall' chimneypiece shows flanking pilasters supporting an entablature, in the centre of which is a plaque bearing a festooned urn. The staircase is shown at the back of the hall in the 1906 plans, and although it was then of wood the flight to the basement was of stone, suggesting that this was the position of the Adam staircase. The accounts mention the 'best staircase', but the plans show no secondary staircase.
The accounts give little information about the drawing-room, except that it was to have hangings on the walls. There are designs, though, for the ceiling and the frieze. The former is an incomplete pen-and-ink sketch showing a square with a narrow oblong at each end. A circle fills the square and has in its centre a medallion enclosed in turn by a cobweb pattern and interlaced strings of flowers. The border of the circle consists of anthemions enclosed in hoops and in the corners of the square are oval medallions linked to the circle by festoons. In the oblong panels are three medallions alternating with pendents of flowers, all of them hanging from festoons. The incomplete scale on the sketch suggests that the drawingroom must have occupied the whole of a compartment in the main block. The frieze is highly elaborate with scallops under beaded arcs alternating with anthemions, the whole rising from a bed of entwined C-scrolls. The other two ceiling designs, both in colour, were for Lady Griffin's dressing-room, one of them being marked 'not executed'. Both were for roughly square rooms, the executed one measuring 20 feet 5 inches square, and both comprised a fairly simple pair of concentric circles. In the executed design the inner circle had a cobweb pattern with a sunflower at its centre, while the outer circle had festoons around its outer perimeter with smaller interlacing festoons at the angles of the ceiling giving support to an urn inside the circle. There was a frieze consisting of alternating anthemions and lilies springing from a bed of C-scrolls, and an ornate chimneypiece with flanking pilasters and an entablature, the pilasters decorated with ox-heads and the frieze with C-scrolled urns, a centre plaque bearing festoons and ox-heads. The anteroom and the 'frontispiece' had friezes of hoops alternating with single flowers, and in the anteroom and the dining-room were chimneypieces similar to the two described above.
The six early twentieth-century buildings in the street are all office blocks with Portland stone fronts, except for No. 14 which has a front of red brick dressed with stone. No. 13, bearing the date 1907, is Baroque in style with a canted bay window projecting from the upper storeys, and No. 14 is vaguely Georgian (fn. c2), but the rest are in the austere classical style typical of commercial and official buildings in the 1920's and early 1930's.
No. 4 is an early example of this style, built in 1912 by Niven and Wigglesworth. (fn. 31) Its fourstoreyed front elevation has a wide display window in the ground storey with thick square columns supporting an entablature, while the upper storeys each have four windows with barred sashes. A modillion cornice marks off the second and third storeys as the principal stage and there are pilasters between the windows in the attic storey. Apart from the main cornice, elaborate carved decoration is limited to ram-heads above the columns in the ground storey and recessed panels above the windows in the second storey.