No. 1 Horse Guards Avenue

Survey of London: Volume 13, St Margaret, Westminster, Part II: Whitehall I. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1930.

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'No. 1 Horse Guards Avenue', in Survey of London: Volume 13, St Margaret, Westminster, Part II: Whitehall I, ed. Montagu H Cox, Philip Norman( London, 1930), British History Online [accessed 19 July 2024].

'No. 1 Horse Guards Avenue', in Survey of London: Volume 13, St Margaret, Westminster, Part II: Whitehall I. Edited by Montagu H Cox, Philip Norman( London, 1930), British History Online, accessed July 19, 2024,

"No. 1 Horse Guards Avenue". Survey of London: Volume 13, St Margaret, Westminster, Part II: Whitehall I. Ed. Montagu H Cox, Philip Norman(London, 1930), , British History Online. Web. 19 July 2024.

In this section


Ground Landlords.

The premises are the freehold of the Crown and are used for the purposes of the Ministry of Transport.

History and Description of Structure.

In 1718 Robert Darcy, 3rd Earl of Holderness, applied for a lease of a piece of ground within the precincts of Whitehall. The report on his petition. (fn. n1) described it as part "of the ruins of the said Pallace" and "almost covered. with heaps of Rubbish," (fn. n2) 115 feet long from east to west, and 80 feet wide, adjoining south on Lord Herbert's ground (Pembroke House), west and north on other ruins of the Palace, and east on the Thames. The lease was granted, (fn. n3) and the earl in due course erected "for his own habitation" a house which was afterwards divided into two. (fn. n4) From some early allusions (fn. n5) it is clear that the house was practically from the beginning in the occupation of a Mrs. Darcy (perhaps the earl's mother, for his father was never during his lifetime the heir to the earldom). The earl died in 1722, and the ratebooks for 1723–4 (the earliest available) include the names of Lady Holderness (fn. n6) and Col. Darcy, one or both of which may refer to this house.

The next occupant of whom we may feel certain (fn. n7) is the Duchess of Leeds, who is mentioned in the sale of 1744 (see below) as a previous occupant of the house. The ratebooks from 1730 to 1738 show the duchess in the vicinity, and a report, (fn. n8) dated 2nd April, 1729, on a petition by the Earl of Pembroke, gives the north-eastern boundary of Pembroke House as the house in the occupation "of the Duchess of Leeds." This last statement makes it certain that Bridget, (fn. n9) wife of the 2nd Duke, is the person referred to, as she was the only Duchess of Leeds living in April, 1729. (fn. n10) The ratebooks must, however, be incorrect in showing her at the house as late as 1738, for she died on 11th March, 1733–4. (fn. n11)

About the year 1738 (see p. 157) the house was divided, and the ratebook for 1742 shows Lord Holderness (the 4th Earl) in occupation of the southern (and larger) portion of the premises. In the same year the earl obtained a reversionary lease of the whole of the property for 42½ years from 18th July, 1749, and on 23rd July, 1744, he sold (fn. n12) his interest in the southern house to John Waple, in trust for Audrey, Viscountess Townshend. (fn. n13) Lord Holderness seems to have remained in occupation until shortly after the sale, (fn. n14) but it was some time before Lady Townshend moved in. (fn. n15) In 1775 she (then dowager viscountess) obtained a reversionary lease of the house for 32½ years from 29th January, 1792. In the report (fn. n16) on her memorial it was stated that the house had been rebuilt since its separation from next door, and its front set back about 17 feet further than the old house. The measurements were 60 feet 7 inches in front and 98 feet 2 inches in length. It was still "in the tenure or occupation" of Lady Townshend, and it seems probable that she continued in residence until her death in 1788. (fn. n17)

In the same year the house was sold by her executors to Michael Angelo Taylor. (fn. n18) It was then in "so decayed a state as to be scarcely habitable," (fn. n19) and Taylor in 1793 began the erection of a new house. In the course of the next ten years the north part of the house had been entirely "rebuilt in a most substantial manner, and the other part stripped to the walls, and entirely refitted and raised two Stories higher." Taylor had moreover enlarged the garden by embanking the Thames opposite his house. (fn. n20) In 1805 he obtained a new lease for a term of 89 years, commencing on 5th April, 1803. On its expiry in 1892 the premises were taken over for official use by the Board of Trade.

The house, known commonly as Michael Angelo Taylor's House, comprises a semi-basement with three storeys over, and an attic in a slated mansard roof to the main portion (Plate 60).

The northern part of the west front is in plain brickwork, relieved with stone bands at the old ground line and the level of the window-sills on the first floor, and is surmounted by a stone balustraded parapet above a moulded cornice. The ground-floor windows are semi-circular headed within a recessed face. The entrance doorway has a large semi-circular fanlight with radiating bars, but it has been obscured by the addition of a modern porch. The latter is faced with stucco and has Grecian Corinthian columns, which carry an entablature supporting a high balustraded parapet screening the flat roof. The southern portion of the west front is treated as a wing and is more restrained, the parapet being in plain brickwork without any balustrading. Owing to the alteration of levels due to the construction of Horse Guards Avenue, it has been necessary to form some steps to the approach, and the old party wall, which, by the demolition of the adjoining premises on the north side, has now become an external wall, has been cemented over, and attempts made at relief by the insertion of horizontal stone bands. The river or garden front is in plain brickwork, with the windows of the northern portion to the old ground and first floors carried down to their respective floor levels (Plate 61). The centre window on the ground floor originally opened out to a terrace, whence a double horse-shoe staircase led down to the garden and river beyond. This, however, was destroyed when Horse Guards Avenue was formed.

Figure 23:

Room No. 17, Cornice.

The main staircase has a delicate iron balustrade with a mahogany hand-rail, and continues in a semi-circular sweep to each floor with a series of radiating steps. The stone treads are moulded, with shaped outer ends, which continue through to the supporting wall, forming a moulded soffit. A decorated band continues around the wall at the floor level (Plate 63).

The southern room on the ground floor (Room No. 17) is a lofty apartment extending the full depth of the floor, and having a coved ceiling springing above a wide cornice with panelled modillions and soffit. The cove finishes against a fretted band, while a floral ornament in high relief occupies the centre. The windows have panelled reveals, and the doors are double margin, six-panelled, in mahogany, with moulded and carved casings (Plate 62). The chair-rail and skirting members are complementary, and the mantelpiece is designed in wood.

The other main rooms on the ground and first floors have mahogany doors, similar in character, with decorative casings, while the mantelpieces are carved in statuary marble.

In Room No. 18, and also on the floor above, are large glazed cupboards designed in the style of the house. They are probably original fittings.

The boundary wall to the south side of the entrance forecourt is constructed in ragstone rubble (Plate 61), which, it is believed, is part of the remains of the old Palace walling and probably belonged to the buildings south of the Great Hall and Chapel.

Condition of Repair.


Historical Notes.

The occupants of the present house, according to the ratebooks and directories, were as follows:

1793 (fn. n21) –1801 Michael Angelo Taylor
1802–4 Lord Arden
1805–34 Michael Angelo Taylor
1837–87 Viscount Gage
1888 Viscount Gage
Sir Rainald Knightley, Bt.
1889–91 Sir John Henry Puleston

Michael Angelo Taylor, son of Sir Robert Taylor, architect, was born in 1757. He was called to the Bar in 1774. In 1784 he became Recorder of Poole, and in the same year entered Parliament as member for that borough. With one or two breaks he continued a member of Parliament until his death. At first a Tory, and a supporter of Pitt, he gradually adopted Whig views, and his house in Whitehall became a favourite rendezvous of that party. He was persistent in drawing attention to the defective paving and lighting of the streets of London, and the Act (fn. n22) which he carried dealing with such matters is still known as Michael Angelo Taylor's Act. He died on 16th July, 1834, at his house in Whitehall. (fn. n23)

Michael Angelo Taylor.

According to the ratebooks Taylor's residence at the house was broken during the years 1802–4, when Lord Arden is shown in occupation. This was Charles George Perceval, 3rd son of the Earl of Egmont and brother of Spencer Perceval, created Baron Arden in 1802. He died on 5th July, 1840, aged 83.

On 22nd October, 1836, the Rev. John Vane, Taylor's executor, sold (fn. n24) the house to Viscount Gage.

Henry Hall, 4th Viscount Gage, was born in 1791, and succeeded to the title in 1808. He was an accomplished mathematician, and at the time of his death in 1877 was the father of the House of Lords.

The directories show that he was succeeded in the occupation of the house in Whitehall by his son, Henry Charles, the 5th Viscount, born in 1854. He died in 1912. His residence at the house lasted until 1888. For the latter year he is bracketed with Sir Rainald Knightley, Bt., who was a connection by marriage, his sister having in 1840 married the Hon. Henry Edward Hall Gage, eldest son of the 4th Viscount. Sir Rainald, who was born in 1819, was in 1892 created Baron Knightley. He died in 1895.

Sir John Henry Puleston was born at Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd, North Wales, in 1830. He was M.P. for Devonport from 1874 to 1892, and constable of Carnarvon Castle. He died in 1908.

In The Council's Collection are:—

(fn. n25) West elevation of premises (photograph).
(fn. n25) East elevation of premises (photograph).
(fn. n25) General view of staircase (photograph).
(fn. n25) Cornice to Room No. 17 (photograph).
(fn. n25) Detail of door-casing, Room No. 17 (photograph).
(fn. n25) Detail of door-casing, Room No. 18 (photograph).
Detail of door-casing, Room No. 19 (photograph).
(fn. n25) Ground and first-floor plans (measured drawing).
(fn. n25) View of old rubble walling, south side of forecourt (photograph).


  • n1. P.R.O., T. 54/25, p. 90.
  • n2. These must have included part of the ruins of the Chapel Royal.
  • n3. Letters Patent, 18th July, 4 Geo. I.
  • n4. P.R.O., T. 55/8, p. 420.
  • n5. See (i) description in 1719 of Treby's plot as bounded south by ground "in the possession of Mrs. Darcy" (p. 160), and (ii) description in 1721 of Byng's plot as abutting east "on a way or passage leading to the lodgings of Mrs. Darcy" (p. 145). In Hanbury's original application in 1720 for a lease of the site of what was afterwards Malmesbury House (see p. 162) reference is even made to the ground lately granted to Mrs. Darcy, but no such grant has been found.
  • n6. Frederica, daughter and co-heir of Meinhardt, 3rd Duke of Schomberg. On 18th June, 1724, she married Benjamin Mildmay, Baron (afterwards Earl) Fitzwalter.
  • n7. It is very difficult to interpret the entries in the ratebooks before 1740, inasmuch as they do not invariably occur in the same order.
  • n8. P.R.O., T. 55/2, p. 18.
  • n9. Only daughter and heir of Sir Thomas Hyde, Bt.
  • n10. The Duke of Leeds, however, did not die until 25th June in that year.
  • n11. Gentleman's Magazine.
  • n12. Middx. Memls., 1744, II, 150. "Lady T [ownshend] a acheté" la maison du Holderness, et elles'en repent." (Letter, dated 23rd June, 1744, from J. de Pesters to Countess of Denbigh, Hist. MSS. Comm., Earl of Denbigh's MSS., Part V, p. 180).
  • n13. Audrey, only daughter and heiress of Edward Harrison, of Balls, Herts, married in 1723 Charles, Lord Lynn, who in 1738 became 3rd Viscount Townshend.
  • n14. "A propos de Holderness, le Comte et la Comtesse de ce nom partent mardi prochain. Lady T[ownshend] aura sa maison vuide." (Hist. MSS. Comm., op. cit., p. 182, 26th July, 1744.)
  • n15. She wrote to the Countess of Denbigh on 4th October, 1744: "I am looking out for a tolerably clean lodging, my mother's house being too small to hold us all, and mine at Whitehall not ready." (Ibid., p. 257.) The earliest ratebook giving her as occupant is that for 1746, implying probably a residence begun in 1745.
  • n16. Woods and Forests Entry Book, W. 3, pp. 238–9.
  • n17. The witness to the authenticity of the codicil of her will (P.C.C., 160, Calvert) describes her as "late of Whitehall."
  • n18. Indenture, dated 9th October, 1788. (Middx. Memls., 1788, VII, 471.)
  • n19. P.R.O., T. 55/25, p. 64.
  • n20. This embankment was extended by Taylor's executor (the Rev. John Vane) as far as Whitehall Stairs (see indenture of grant, dated 25th August, 1836, by the Corporation of the City of London, Middx. Memls., 1836, VII, 293).
  • n21. Taylor entered into occupation in 1788, but the existing house was not begun until 1793.
  • n22. Metropolitan Paving Act, 1817 (57 Geo. III, c. CXXIX, Local and Personal).
  • n23. Annual Register.
  • n24. Middx. Memls., 1836, VII, 294.
  • n25. Reproduced here.