No. 29 Great George Street

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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'No. 29 Great George Street', in Survey of London: Volume 10, St. Margaret, Westminster, Part I: Queen Anne's Gate Area, ([s.l.], 1926) pp. 46-48. British History Online [accessed 20 April 2024]

In this section

XIX.—No. 29 GREAT GEORGE STREET: (Demolished).

General Description and Date of Structure.

A lease of 4th November, 1755 (fn. n1) deals with "a parcell of ground and messuage and other buildings . . . thereon situate on the north side of … Great George Street … being the eleventh house on the north side … reckoning from King Street," and containing in front and rear 33 feet 1 inch and on each side 120 feet. The rear of the plot to the depth of 20 feet was reserved "as and for an open free and publick stable yard, way and passage" (Boar's Head Yard).

The premises consisted of a plain brick front of four storeys over a basement, with plain bands across the front denoting the first and secondfloor levels, while the modillion cornice at the second-floor level formed a pediment and had an oval window in the tympanum. The whole front was slightly advanced, forming a central feature to the general line of buildings on this side of the road, and has its complement in No. 11 opposite (Plate 46).

The interior of the premises contained interesting features of decoration, which were in complete harmony throughout and bore strong resemblance to the work attributed to the brothers Adam.

On the ground floor the front room had an alcove formed with fluted Corinthian wood columns and pilasters (fn. n2) in which were three doors (Plate 48). The mantelpiece was in white and grey marbles with fluted pilasters and frieze, the centre tablet containing a representation of a Cupid driving a chariot drawn by a lion and a goat (Plates 50 and 51). The wall-surfaces above the mantelpiece (fn. n3) and on the opposite side of the room were decorated with festoons suspended from ribbons enclosing oval plaster plaques containing draped figures (Plates 50 and 51). The main cornice to the room had enriched mouldings, the frieze being further enriched with honeysuckle ornament. The chair-rails and skirtings, with the door casings, were carved in wood, while the side doors had fluted pilasters and delicately carved caps, and the frieze was decorated with the honeysuckle ornament between conventional vases (Plate 49). (fn. n4) The doors were of mahogany.

Figure 6:

Ground-floor plan.

The front room on the first floor had an ornamental plaster ceiling in low relief (Plate 52) with an enriched cornice and frieze (Plate 53). The latter bore a strong resemblance to the frieze of the door-heads in the front room of the floor below. The joinery was also enriched, while the mantelpiece of white marble had fluted Ionic columns.

Figure 7:

Cornice and frieze, back room on first floor.

The rear room also had an ornamental plaster ceiling in low relief and enriched cornice and frieze. The skirtings and chair-rails were carved in wood, while the double mahogany doors had a wood casing with pilasters supporting a cornice and a carved frieze in harmony with the main plaster frieze to the room. The mantelpiece was of white marble, with carved pateræ, and a central tablet depicting Cupids sharpening their arrows at an anvil.

Figure 8:

Wrought-iron balusters to staircase.

The main staircase in stone, consisting of one flight, had an iron balustrading of plain square bars between panels of scrollwork of lyre-shape design and the barrel ceiling had an elliptical domed lantern-light with plaster pendentives enriched with medallions containing modelled figures representing the Arts (fn. n5) (Plate 54). The mahogany doors on the staircase landing had an architrave carved with guilloche ornament.

The service staircase to all the floors was in stone and had a crinoline-shaped iron balustrading.

A cast-lead ornamental cistern in the house bore the date 1758 (Plate 55).

Historical Notes.

The names of the occupants of this house up to 1840, according to the ratebooks, are as follows:—

1761–71 Lord Ferrers.
1774–1812 Joshua Smith.
1812–34 Alexander Copeland.
1835– Dr. Stephen Lushington.

Washington Shirley, 5th Earl Ferrers, was born in 1722. He entered the navy and subsequently attained the rank of Vice-Admiral (1778). He succeeded to the earldom in 1760, on the execution of his brother, the fourth earl, for murder. In 1761 he was elected F.R.S. for his observations on the transit of Venus. Two years later a royal patent, confirmed by Act of Parliament in 1771, granted him such estates as his brother had forfeited. He died in 1778.


The ratebooks show "Lord Ferrers" in occupation of No. 29 in 1761, but it was not until 10th December, 1762, that the lease of the house was assigned (fn. n6) to "the Right Hon. Washington, Earl Ferrars." On 20th July, 1776, it was purchased from Lord Ferrers by Joshua Smith. (fn. n7)

For particulars of Stephen Lushington see page 18.

During the residence of James Simpson, Lushington's successor, No. 29 was used to accommodate the newly formed National Portrait Gallery. This was founded in 1856, and by the end of 1858 the trustees possessed 56 portraits. Rooms were taken at No. 29 Great George Street, and there the gallery was opened to public view on 15th January, 1859. It was removed to South Kensington in 1869, when the collection had increased to 288 portraits.

In the Council's Collection are:—

(fn. n8) View of general exterior (photograph).
Iron balustrading to staircase (photograph).
(fn. n8) Iron balustrading to staircase (measured drawing).
Detail of casing to door on staircase-landing (photograph).
Barrel vaulted ceiling to staircase (photograph).
(fn. n8) Detail of plaster decoration to pendentive of lantern light to staircase (photograph).
do. do. do. do.
Door to alcove to front room on ground floor (photograph).
(fn. n8) General view of alcove to front room on ground floor (photograph).
(fn. n8) Plaster plaque to front room on ground floor (photograph).
(fn. n8) Marble mantelpiece and plaster plaque to front room on ground floor (photograph).
Detail of central tablet to marble mantelpiece on ground floor (photograph).
Cupboard front to rear room on ground floor (photograph).
Marble mantelpiece, front room, first floor (photograph).
Marble mantelpiece, rear room, first floor (photograph).
Plaster ceiling, rear room, first floor (photograph).
Details of door-head to rear room on first floor (photograph).
Mantelpiece and steel fender to front room, second floor (photograph).
(fn. n8) Detail of wood doorcase to front room on ground floor (measured drawing).
(fn. n8) Plaster ceiling front room on first floor (photograph).
(fn. n8) Plaster cornice details, front room on first floor (photograph).
(fn. n8) Lead cistern, dated 1758 (photograph).
(fn. n8) Plans of ground and first floors (measured drawing).


  • n1. Middlesex Memorials, 1756, II., 304.
  • n2. A wood column and pilaster are preserved at the Victoria and Albert Museum and others at the London Museum (L.C.C. loan collection).
  • n3. The plaque over the mantelpiece is preserved at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and a similar plaque is in No. 1 Bedford Square. See Survey of London, Vol. V., P1. 67.
  • n4. This doorcase is on view at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
  • n5. These have been preserved and are on exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
  • n6. Middlesex Memorials, 1764, I., 26.
  • n7. Ibid., 1776, VI., 49.
  • n8. Reproduced here.