Survey of London: Volume 10, St. Margaret, Westminster, Part I: Queen Anne's Gate Area. Originally published by [s.n.], [s.l.], 1926.
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XV.—NO. 14 GREAT GEORGE STREET.
The freehold is the property of the Crown.
General Description and Date of Structure.
On 4th November, 1755, a lease was granted to Horne and Wilkinson of a plot containing the sixth house on the south side of Great George Street reckoning from King Street, and on the 22nd of the same month the lease was assigned (fn. n1) to Roger Harent as security for the repayment of £750. The house was, therefore, at least partially built on that date. It was first occupied in 1757. In a document of 1761, (fn. n2) the plot is described as "in the tenure of John Tucker" and abutting east on a messuage in the occupation of the Lord Bishop of Hereford, and west on a passage into Little George Street, and containing east to west 28 feet 7 inches, and south to north on the east side 57 feet 5 inches and on the west 44 feet 8 inches, with the building over part of the gateway leading to Little George Street east to west 11 feet 6 inches and north to south 22 feet 9 inches.
The exterior of this house has been altered by the entrance doorway, which was originally at the side, being placed in the front. Before the premises of the Surveyors' Institution were built there was an archway which extended across the front of the side street (Little George Street) and through which, by means of a doorway in the side wall, the house was entered.
With the exception of a grey-and-white marble mantelpiece in the ground-floor front room, there is nothing of interest in the premises. The mantelpiece has fluted tapering pilasters to the jambs, and a fluted frieze with a circular central tablet bearing a carved figure of Flora.
Condition of Repair.
The names of the occupiers of this house before 1840, according to the ratebooks, were:—
|1770–71||James William Bossier.|
|1839–40||John Maude Hartwell.|
Richard Oswald, born about 1705, was son of a Scottish minister in Caithness. He was Commissary-General to the Duke of Brunswick's forces in the Seven Years' War, and was afterwards engaged in business in America, where he acquired a great knowledge of commercial affairs. In 1777 he visited Paris and became acquainted with Franklin and Vergennes. Adam Smith introduced him to Lord Shelburne. His knowledge of American affairs and his acquaintance with their leading men marked him out to Shelburne as a suitable person to employ for negotiating with the representatives of the colonies in Paris. He crossed over several times to and from Paris on this mission, and eventually in 1782 was granted a commission authorising him to make peace. Preliminary articles were signed at Paris by Oswald and the American commissioners, but before the Treaty of Versailles, in which they were embodied, was signed (September, 1783) Oswald's part in the proceedings was over, Shelburne's Government having been thrown out of office.
Oswald died at his estate at Auchincruive in 1784. His widow, Mary, only daughter and heiress of Alexander Ramsay, of Jamaica, "died at Great George Street, Westminster, their town house, on 6th December, 1788." (fn. n3) This was not, however, No. 14, but No. 32 on the opposite side of the street, which she had apparently taken after her husband's death (see p. 54). She was buried in Scotland, and the arrival of her funeral procession at the inn at Sanquhar happening very sorely to inconvenience Robert Burns, his "poetic wrath" was aroused to the composition of a bitter and unjust poem dwelling on her "unhonoured years" and her hands "that took but never gave." (fn. n4)
John Pownall was joint Secretary for the Colonies from 1770 until the suppression of the office in 1782. A letter from him headed " Great George Street" and dated 9th November, 1793, is extant. (fn. n5)
Bennet Langton was born in 1737. When still a boy he sought acquaintance with Dr. Johnson, who became his firm friend. He entered Trinity College, Oxford, where he obtained the degrees of M.A. (1769) and D.C.L. (1790). Here he became intimate with Topham Beauclerk, and the two afterwards took Johnson for his well-known "frisk" at Billingsgate. He was one of the original members of the Literary Club, and was famous for his Greek scholarship. In 1788 he was appointed Professor of Ancient Literature at the Royal Academy. He died in 1801. His occupation of No. 14 Great George Street was limited to 1797–8. From 1785 to 1789 he had been resident at what is now No. 15 Queen Anne's Gate (see p. 121).
In the Council's Collection are:—
Marble mantelpiece to front room on ground floor (photograph).
Detail of central tablet to front room on ground floor (photograph).