Malmesbury House

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

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'Malmesbury House', 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 16 July 2024].

'Malmesbury House', 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 16, 2024,

"Malmesbury House". Survey of London: Volume 13, St Margaret, Westminster, Part II: Whitehall I. Ed. Montagu H Cox, Philip Norman(London, 1930), , British History Online. Web. 16 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 1721 John Hanbury applied (fn. n1) for and obtained a building lease of a vacant piece of land next to the house of Lord Herbert, extending northward towards the building called the Cowhouse, and in depth to the ground lately granted to Mrs. Darcy. The ground was described (fn. n2) as abutting west on the Privy Garden and north partly "upon an Old Building or Cellar" (see p. 145). The measurements were given as from north to south fronting the Privy Garden 58¼ feet, in depth on the south side 84 feet, at the east end 73 feet, on the north side 52¾ feet, "then abutts west on the said cellar 31 feet, then north on the said cellar 14 feet and south on the same 14 feet, and north on the same, returning to the Privy Garden, 15 feet 3 inches." An old building occupied as a workshop by Christopher Shrider, the King's organ maker (see p. 129), was standing on part of the ground.

On the site thus obtained Hanbury built a house, a view of which in 1741 is contained in Plate 6. A reversionary lease was granted to his widow in 1737 (when it was reported (fn. n3) that "a good house" had been erected which was in good repair), and another (to expire in 1816) to Jane Hanbury in 1767. On the latter occasion the house was said to be "old but in good repair." (fn. n4) In 1788–9 the then owner (the Hon. Frederick Robinson) laid out more than £3000 in repairing and improving the house, and on the further renewal of the lease to his widow in 1806 it was stated that "the body of the house" had of late years been chiefly rebuilt and was very substantial, but that the offices were old and needed repair, as did also the roof of the house. (fn. n5) A reversionary lease was granted to expire on 5th April, 1845.

In 1829 Mrs. Robinson applied for a new lease. Having regard, however, to the fact that the next-door house and the whole of the range of buildings (Nos. 1–3 Whitehall Yard) separating Whitehall Gardens from Whitehall Court were in official occupation, and "with a view to future improvements," it was decided not to grant Mrs. Robinson's application. The matter came up again in 1835, when the Earl of Malmesbury, the then owner of the house, pointed out that the lease of Pembroke House would not expire until 1866, (fn. n6) and asked that he might be allowed a new lease to expire at the same time. This was agreed to, and a new reversionary lease granted for 21½ years. Before this expired, however, the house was taken over by the Crown.

The premises adjoin on the south the entrance lodge to Pembroke House, and on the north are connected with Cromwell House and abut against the old cellar or undercroft of York Place. They comprise a semi-basement and two storeys over, with a tiled roof.

The main front to Whitehall Gardens is symmetrical and executed in brick, with plain stone bands across the width of the front, defining the general floor levels and the gutter level behind the roof parapet. The entrance door is approached by a broad flight of stone steps reducing in width to the top, while the importance of the entrance is enhanced by an ornamental iron lampstandard on each side continuing above the iron railings to the fore-court. The doorway has moulded stone linings with carved trusses supporting the head, which intersects with the soffit of the stone balcony (Plate 63). The first-floor windows are brought down to the level of the floor, and lead out on to the balcony, which continues across the full front of the house, and is provided with a light wrought-iron railing (Plate 64). The premises were probably refronted in 1788, when the other improvements were in hand. Examination shows that the jointing of the brickwork differs from that of the southern wall, and the return pilaster treatment at the corner was consequently found necessary.

Figure 24:

Balustrading to Staircase.

The back elevation, now overlooking an internal yard, is probably a remnant of the earlier house and corresponds to the early front as shown on Plate 6. It has a brick face with a moulded brick cornice and rubbed quoins to the dressings of the openings, and a chamfered brick plinth returned to each side of the garden door. The first-floor windows have recessed brick apron panels below their sills. The walling on the return to the north side of the yard is of similar date and treatment, while the windows have substantial sash bars.

Internally the premises have been much altered, and connections made with properties on either side.

The staircase, which continues from the ground to the first floor in two flights, is in stone, the balustrading consisting of panels of wrought-iron scrollwork, 'interspaced with plain square bars, and finished with a moulded mahogany handrail. The stone treads have moulded nosings and shaped ends, which form a moulded soffit.

Rooms Nos. 76 and 77 on the ground floor are panelled and finished with a moulded wood cornice. No. 77 also contains a marble mantelpiece with a bolection moulding to the opening.

Room No. 74 has a marble mantelpiece with carved consoles supporting the shelf and a pulvinated frieze with oak leaves and crossed ribbands (Plate 59).

On the floor above, Room No. 87 is panelled, and Rooms Nos. 89 and 90 have a decorative plaster cornice and frieze, and ornamental mantelpieces in marble. It is said that Room No. 90 was at one time lined with Chinese wallpaper, a small portion of which can still be seen on the walls of the alcove in Room No. 13 of Pembroke House.

Condition of Repair.


Historical Notes.

The occupiers of this house so far as they can be ascertained were as follows:

1728–34 Major John Hanbury
1735–39 "John Hanbury Williams" (fn. n7)
1739–44 "Lady Hanbury" (fn. n8)
1744–45 —Hanbury, Esq.
1746–65 Capt. Hanbury
1765–87 Jane Hanbury
1788–92 The Hon. Fredk. Robinson
1792–1834 The Hon. Mrs. Robinson
1834–61 Earl of Malmesbury

The builder and first occupant of Malmesbury House was John Hanbury, known as Major Hanbury, of Pontypool Park in Monmouthshire. He was the son of Capel Hanbury, and was born in 1664. The fortune which his first wife (Albinia Selwyn) brought him he used in developing the ironworks on his Pontypool estate, and his wealth was further increased by his second marriage, and a legacy from Charles Williams of Caerleon, whom he had befriended. Williams left him his entire real estate, with remainder to his sons in succession, the latter to assume the surname of Williams. (fn. n9) Hanbury was appointed one of the new directors of the South Sea Company when reconstructed after the great crash, and was one of Marlborough's executors. He was M.P. for Gloucester during 1701–15, and from 1720 until his death represented Monmouthshire. He died in 1734.


By his will (fn. n10) Hanbury left his "dwelling house … scituate … near Whitehall" to trustees on behalf of his widow Bridget. (fn. n11) According to the ratebooks, however, she did not reside in the house, which was occupied from 1735 to 1739 by "John Hanbury Williams."

This name is probably a mistake. The eldest son of John and Bridget Hanbury was named John, and the provision in the will of Charles Williams above referred to might suggest that John was the first of the family to take the estate and surname of Williams. There are, however, several objections to this view. (i) His brother Charles is said to have taken the name of Williams and so fulfilled the conditions of the bequest when he came of age in 1729. (fn. n12) As there could have been only one "Hanbury Williams" at a time, John is apparently excluded. (ii) John died in 1740; in his will (fn. n13) he describes himself simply as John Hanbury. (iii) An entry in the baptismal register (fn. n14) of St. Margaret, dated 22nd March, 1734–5, relates to "Frances, daughter to Charles Hanbury Williams, Esq., by Lady Frances his wife, Privy Garden." It therefore appears that John Hanbury was never "Hanbury Williams," and that in 1735, when the ratebook shows "John Hanbury Williams" in occupation of the house, Charles Hanbury Williams was actually living there. It is therefore probable that "John" in the ratebooks is throughout a mistake for "Charles," and in that case "Lady Hanbury," whose name is given in the ratebooks from 1739 to 1744, was the latter's wife. (fn. n15)

Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, satirical writer and diplomatist, was born in 1708. He represented Monmouthshire from 1734 to 1747, and Leominster from 1754 to 1759. He was paymaster of the Marine forces from 1739 to 1742, Lord-Lieutenant of Herefordshire, 1742–7, and was created K.B. in 1744. He was noted for his wit and gallantries, and published numerous satirical verses and other writings. His diplomatic career lasted from 1746 to 1757, when he was envoy to the courts of Dresden, Berlin, Vienna and St. Petersburg. He died by his own hand in 1759.

In 1740 Bridget Hanbury died, (fn. n16) leaving (fn. n17) the house to her second son Capel, who, however, according to the ratebooks, did not take up his residence there until 1743–4. Capel Hanbury died in 1765, and by his will (fn. n18) bequeathed to his widow Jane (fn. n19) "all my Household furniture, Jewels, Plate, which shall be in my House in Privy Garden, Whitehall, at the time of my Decease."

Jane Hanbury resided at the house until her death in 1787. (fn. n20)

On 10th April, 1788, the premises were purchased (fn. n21) by the Hon. Frederick Robinson, second son of Thomas, 1st Baron Grantham. He died on 28th December, 1792, "in Privy Gardens." (fn. n22) His widow (fn. n23) continued to reside at the house until her death, on 8th June, 1834, also "in Privy Gardens." (fn. n24)

She was succeeded in the occupancy of the house by her nephew, the Earl of Malmesbury.

James Edward, 2nd Earl of Malmesbury, was born in 1778. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, and in 1802 entered Parliament as member for Helston. In 1807 he was Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and shortly afterwards was appointed Governor of the Isle of Wight. He succeeded to the earldom in 1820, and died in 1841 at Earl de Grey's residence on Putney Heath.

Harris, Earl of Malmesbury.

James Howard, 3rd Earl of Malmesbury, was born in 1807. After an education at Eton and Oriel College, Oxford, he spent some time abroad, returning to England in 1829. He was for a short time in 1841 a member of the House of Commons (for Wilton), but his father's death in the same year raised him to the Upper House. He gradually came to the front in the Conservative party, and on its accession to power in 1852 became Foreign Secretary. The outstanding event of his term of office, which only lasted till the end of the year, was the recognition of Napoleon III. He again held the same office in 1858–9. During this period he re-established good relations with Napoleon, helped to compose the dispute between France and Portugal, and delayed the outbreak of the Italian war of liberation. His policy was one of strict neutrality. On his retirement he was made G.C.B. On his party coming into power once more in 1866, he declined the Foreign Office on the plea of ill-health, and was made Lord Privy Seal. In 1868 he was for a time leader of the House of Lords. He died on 17th May, 1889.

The last issue of the Post Office Directory which shows the earl at No. 8 Whitehall Gardens is that for 1861. The issue for 1863 shows the house as used for the purposes of the Passport Office.

In The Council's Collection are:—

(fn. n25) General exterior to Whitehall Gardens (photograph).
(fn. n25) Detail of entrance doorway and lamp-standards (photograph).
View of back elevation (photograph).
General back exterior (measured drawing).
Detail of mantelpiece and panelling in Room No. 77 (measured drawing).
(fn. n25) Marble mantelpiece in Room No. 74 (photograph).
Marble mantelpiece in Room No. 89 (photograph).
Marble mantelpiece in Room No. 90 (photograph).
(fn. n25) Ground and first-floor plans (measured drawings).
(fn. n25) Sketch of staircase balustrading (measured drawing).


  • n1. P.R.O., Ind. 4624, p. 1.
  • n2. P.R.O., T. 54/26, p. 269.
  • n3. Ibid., 55/4, p. 188.
  • n4. Ibid., 55/14, p. 343.
  • n5. Ibid., 55/26, p. 231.
  • n6. Woods and Forests Entry Book, C. 8, pp. 205, etc.
  • n7. According to the ratebooks. Probably a mistake for Charles Hanbury Williams.
  • n8. According to the ratebooks. Probably a mistake for Lady Hanbury Williams.
  • n9. Chester's Registers of Westminster Abbey, p. 300.
  • n10. P.C.C., 159, Ockham.
  • n11. Eldest daughter and co-heir of Sir Edward Ayscough, of Stallingborough, Lincs.
  • n12. Dict. Nat. Biog. On Charles' death in 1759 the estate and surname reverted to his brother George.
  • n13. P.C.C., 172, Browne.
  • n14. Parochial Rates Trial, p. 81.
  • n15. Frances, youngest daughter and eventually sole heiress of Earl Coningsby.
  • n16. "Mrs. Hanbury, relict of John Hanbury, Esq., late member for Monmouthshire." (Gentleman's Magazine, under date of 26th September, 1740.)
  • n17. P.C.C., 345, Spurway.
  • n18. Ibid., 60, Tyndall.
  • n19. Daughter of Charles Thomas, 5th Viscount Tracey.
  • n20. In her will (P.C.C., 128, Major) she describes herself as "the Honorable Jane Hanbury, of Privy Garden, Whitehall."
  • n21. Middx. Memls., 1788, IV, 173.
  • n22. Annual Register.
  • n23. Catherine Gertrude, daughter of James, 1st Earl of Malmesbury.
  • n24. Annual Register.
  • n25. Reproduced here.