Survey of London: Volume 3, St Giles-in-The-Fields, Pt I: Lincoln's Inn Fields. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1912.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.
In this section
- XXI.—Nos. 66 and 67 LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS (NEWCASTLE HOUSE).
XXI.—Nos. 66 and 67 LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS (NEWCASTLE HOUSE).
Mr. William Francis Farrer.
General description and date of structure.
Reference has already been made (fn. 1) to the sale in 1641 to William Hodges of the plot of ground on part of which this house was afterwards built. The next record of the property that has been found is dated 18th September, 1651. (fn. 2) From this we learn that Hodges had erected a house which was "the corner house of the … west range" of buildings in Lincoln's Inn Fields and on the "south side of the … way or streete … leading towards Queene Street." The house had been demised, even before its erection, to the Earl of Carlisle, who was then in occupation, and, by the present indenture, was sold to the earl for £1,000. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the house had been built to the earl's order, and that no time would have been lost in its erection. It may, therefore, be ascribed to 1641 or the early part of 1642. It was certainly in existence in 1644, for in March of that year a burglary had taken place at "the house of the Right Honourable James, Earle of Carlile (scituate in Lincolnes Inne Feildes)." (fn. 3)
The house is represented on both the Prospect and the Wilton House picture (Plate 6) as harmonising in design with the adjoining houses.
In the early morning of 26th October, 1684, a fire broke out in the house, and the premises were in a very little time quite consumed, the occupants barely escaping with their lives. (fn. 4)
In the following year the then owner, the Earl of Powis, obtained an Act of Parliament (1 James II. c. 3), authorising him in rebuilding to render the new house "more uniform and convenient" by erecting the upper rooms facing northwards on pillars or arches over Queen Street.
This new house was designed by Captain William Winde, a Dutchman. (fn. 5) A plan of the house, as designed by Winde, at the entrance floor level, contained in Reginald Blomfield's History of the Renaissance in England is here reproduced. The original drawing is in the collection of All Souls', Oxford. This plan shows a good town residence with large hall and rooms on either side. At the rear of the hall are the principal and service staircases, and two wings project from the back of the main building, each with separate staircases.
The house was still unfinished in 1689, when Lord Powis was outlawed. In 1693 the premises were selected to be the official residence of the keepers of the Great Seal, and the lords commissioners of the Treasury instructed Sir Christopher Wren, the surveyor-general, to view the house. His report is contained in his Manuscript Court Order Book preserved in the Soane Museum and reads (folio 140):—
"May it please your Lops. According to your Lops directions and having attended my Ld Keeper, I have viewed Powis House in order to estimate what will fitt it for a Ld Keeper for his public business and the convenience of his family: and I find it left very imperfect, a great part of it being without floors, ceilings, wainst or firehearths; what is fitted up is but slightly finished. Several of the offices are unpaved, and the sewers so far contrived that ye house will be very offensive, if not pestilentiall and it is not easy to remedy the same without a considerable expense. The Roome lately made into a Cause-Roome is inconvenient, and takes up the place of the Great Staires at first intended, so that the house (now as it is) hath nothing but 2 miserable backstaires to lead to all the several apartments, &c.
"To give yor Lps further information, I have considered two estimates, one to complete the house (as in my opinion it ought to be) by making a better CauseRoome, adding a great staire, altering the back Staires, making good all ye unfinished Roomes and offices, and mending the Sewers, all which will cost at least £2,000 0. 0. But secondly, if it be required for a present necessity to accommodate his Lp with an appt for himselfe, a Cause-Roome, and offices for his family, and mending the Sewers, leaving the first storey unfinished as now it is, it cannot emmount to less than £910 0. 0. All which is humbly submitted Ch. Wren. June 13, 1693."
The lords commissioners decided that the lesser scheme, which did not include the provision of a principal staircase, should be adopted, and gave instructions accordingly (folio 142). On 13th December, 1694, Wren submitted the petition of his "carpenter," Abraham Jordan, for payment of the balance of his account, from which it appeared that the contract had been for £1,030, exceeding the estimate by £120.
In 1705 the house passed into the possession of the Dukes of Newcastle, and the offices of the Great Seal were transferred to Nos. 51 and 52, Lincoln's Inn Fields.
It would seem probable that between 1711 and 1768 the premises were extensively decorated. The peacock, the crest of the Pelham family, appears on a ceiling (Plate 94) of one of the rooms.
The exterior of the house at this period is shown on Plate 87 taken from an engraving by Sutton Nichols in Strype's edition of Stow's Survey of London, dated 1754. Comparing it with the photograph taken in 1906 (Plate 90), it will be seen that the artist has greatly compressed the length of the facade.
Surmounting the structure is a highly enriched cornice and pediment, and resting upon the summit of the walls is a high pitched roof of two stories, the lower one having double-lighted dormer windows, and the upper having small circular lights. The latter are also shown on the design for the silver medallion of 1689 (Plate 7).
In 1771 the house was sold to Henry Kendal, who had it divided into two parts and other alterations effected. (fn. 6) The premises did not again come into one ownership until 1904, when Sir William James Farrer, who was already the owner of the southern portion, also acquired the northern half. Two years afterwards Sir William reconstructed and re-united the two portions of the main structure.
Plates 88 and 89 show the entrance and first floor plans as they existed before the alterations of 1906; the main structure appears to be much as it was left after the division in 1771. The alterations at that time were probably carried out by Thomas Leverton, as Kendal commissioned him to design No. 65, the site of which he acquired at the same time. Comparing the plans referred to with the earlier plan, reproduced above, it will be seen that the flights of steps in the forecourt were altered; a double entrance was provided, the hall divided by a party wall, and two staircases of stone erected on either side of the party wall, where Winde planned his principal and secondary staircases. The northern wing was demolised, and the modern work which replaced it can be distinguished by the thinner walls.
Plate 90 shows the facade to the Fields as it was in 1906. The removal of the cornice has greatly injured the architectural effect of the original facade, which, if reconstructed, would reproduce the handsome and imposing building illustrated by Plate 87.
Plate 91 shows the north-eastern angle of the premises and the elevation to Great Queen Street as it at present exists, with the modern shops which replace the earlier northern wing.
At the rear of the main building are the remains of a three-light window with central semi-circular head (Plate 92), designed by Winde. The window now partly filling the space is that lighting the southern staircase erected about 1772.
Internally there are no important features which can be dated with certainty prior to the alterations which took place in the 18th century, except perhaps a carved marble chimney-piece (Plate 93) on the second floor, which may date back to the 17th century. Plate 94 shows the ground floor south front room, called the "Peacock Room." The ornamental doorcases, etc., and the "Peacock" plaster ceiling, except the oval filling, which was probably added towards the end of the 18th century, date from the Newcastle occupation. One of the modelled peacocks can be seen in a spandril of the ceiling.
Plate 96 shows the ground floor south-west room, called the "Library." The doorcase and plaster ceiling are of the earlier period above referred to, but the plaster frieze and the chimney-piece are apparently of late 18th-century work, as a lack of harmony will be seen between the small details of the frieze and the boldness of the cornice above.
Plate 95 shows the ground floor south middle room, called the "Waiting Room."The doorcases and ornamental plaster ceiling date from the Newcastle occupation.
It will be noticed that the plane of the large central panel of the ceiling is sunk beyond the general surface of the margins, which gives a reason for the stronger surrounding moulding; but the other ceilings, although possessing this stronger moulding, have no sunk panels.
Condition of repair.
The state of repair of the premises is excellent.
James Hay, Earl of Carlisle, was the second earl, and of no importance in the history of his time. From him the house obtained the name of Carlisle House, which it continued to bear for some time after he had left it.
Lord Carlisle's residence certainly extended beyond 1651. (fn. 7) Quite as certainly, it was completed by 1656. In March of that year the authorities heard of an intended meeting of royalist sympathisers at Rufford, and in a report to the protector of the proceedings taken it is stated that Sir George Savile was said "to be in London at his house in Lincoln's-inn-field, at the corner of Queen Street, called Carlisle-house or Savill-house." (fn. 8) From this we learn that the house had passed into the occupation of Sir George Savile, a fact confirmed, if confirmation be necessary, by a letter addressed to "Viscount Halifax" at "Carlile House," Lincoln's Inn Fields. (fn. 9) The date of the letter is unknown, but it must have been subsequent to 1668, when Savile was created Baron Savile of Eland and Viscount Halifax.
Want of space forbids a detailed account of the subsequent career of one of the most distinguished statesmen of his time. Here, however, it may be said that both as orator and writer Halifax (he was created earl in 1679 and marquess in 1682) had an unrivalled influence on the public opinion of his day. He was, moreover, absolutely devoid of party prejudice, and because, in his regard for the best interests of his country, he at times acted with one of the two great parties in the State and at times lent his support to the other, abandoning each just when its extreme objects seemed about to be realised, he was charged with inconstancy and earned the hatred of both parties. His policy was that of a "trimmer," desiring to keep the boat steady, while others attempted to weigh it down perilously on one side or the other. (fn. 10) He has found a zealous advocate in Lord Macaulay, who, in defending him from the charge of fickleness, points out that his choice of sides has always been justified by history. "As well might the pole star be called inconstant because it is sometimes to the east and sometimes to the west of the pointers. To have defended the ancient and legal constitution of the realm against a seditious populace at one conjuncture, and against a tyrannical government at another; to have been the foremost champion of order in the turbulent Parliament of 1680, and the foremost champion of liberty in the servile Parliament of 1685 … this was a course which contemporaries … might not unnaturally call fickle, but which deserves a very different name from the late justice of posterity." (fn. 11) Halifax died in 1695. His residence in Lincoln's Inn Fields had lasted beyond 1670, as in December of that year Lady Halifax died, "at her house in Lincoln's Inn Fields." (fn. 12) Shortly afterwards Halifax had built Halifax House, in St. James's Square, and as it is certain that he was settled there in December, 1672, (fn. 13) his occupation of Carlisle House probably ended in the course of that year.
It had not, however, been continuous, for the Hearth Tax Roll for (fn. c1) 1667 shows "Lord Haughton" as resident at the house. Strictly speaking, this should refer to John Holles, afterwards Duke of Newcastle, who came to live in the house nearly 40 years later. As he was only five years old at the time, however, it is clear that the reference must be to his father Gilbert Holles, who had in the previous year succeeded to the earldom of Clare. His residence at the time must have been quite brief, for it has been shown that Lord Halifax was again in occupation of the house in 1668. After Halifax's departure in 1672, however, Clare seems again to have taken up his abode there, for he is given as the occupier in the Hearth Tax Roll for 1675. His second period of residence was also of short duration, for at some date earlier than May, 1679, (fn. 14) the house came into the possession of Lord Powis. William Herbert, 1st Marquis and titular Duke of Powis, was the chief of the Roman Catholic aristocracy in the reigns of Charles II. and James II. In 1667 he succeeded his father as 3rd Baron Powis, and in 1674 he was advanced to an earldom. In the troublous days of the Titus Oates agitation he was, as a matter of course, included in the accusations levelled against the noblest and best of the Roman Catholics. According to Oates, Powis was to have been prime minister in the event of the successful issue of the conspiracy of 1678. He was committed to the Tower, whence he was not released until February, 1684, after an imprisonment of over five years. For a short time during the same period Lady Powis was also sent to the Tower for supposed complicity in the "Meal-tub" plot.
A man sincerely religious, and of very moderate views, he endeavoured to induce James II. to proceed cautiously in his efforts to obtain toleration for his co-religionists, but was not successful. During the reign he held many important appointments, and in 1687 was created Marquis of Powis. On the flight of James to France in December, 1688, his house narrowly escaped destruction by the London mob. He followed James to St. Germains, and in July, 1689, was attainted. His outlawry followed in October. While at St. Germains James created him a duke, but the title has, of course, not generally been recognised. He died in June, 1696.
The house which Lord Powis thus left vacant in 1689 was from 1693 to 1705 used as the official residence of the keepers of the Great Seal, viz.—Lord Somers and Sir Nathan Wright. Apparently it was known throughout the whole of this time as Powis House, from the name of its builder, for it is described by this title both in Sir Christopher Wren's report, in 1693 (see p. (111) and in Hatton's New View of London, in 1708.
John Somers, Baron Somers, "eminent as a lawyer, a statesman, and a man of letters," (fn. 15) came into prominence in connection with the trial of the seven bishops in 1688, at which he was junior counsel. His po werful but concise appeal to the jury, with which he closed the case for the defendants, established his reputation as an orator and a constitutional lawyer. (fn. 16) He was retained at the instance of Henry Pollexfen, (fn. 17) who "insisted upon him, and would not be himself retained without the other, representing him as the man who would take most pains, and go deepest into all that depended on precedents and records." (fn. 18) As a member of the Convention Parliament of 1689 he took the lead in the debates on the settlement of the monarchy, and had the principal share in the drawing up of the Declaration of Rights. In May of the same year he was appointed solicitor-general, and in October was knighted. In May, 1692, he became attorney-general, and in the following March was made lord keeper of the Great Seal. In connection with his efforts to reform the system of coinage he assisted in securing the appointment of Sir Isaac Newton as warden of the Mint and the nomination of Locke as a lord of trade was partly due to him. (fn. 19) In April, 1697, he became lord high chancellor of England, and in December of the same year was raised to the peerage. He enjoys the distinction of having introduced and established the principles and doctrines of civil law regarding legacies, trusts, charities, etc. (fn. 20) During the greater part of the reign of William III. he was in the king's special confidence, and in later years shared his unpopularity. He was dismissed in April, 1700.
In the same year a demand was raised for his impeachment on the ground of his share in the secret partition treaties of 1698–9. He was, however, acquitted, and his speedy return to power was confidently predicted, when the king's death altered the position of affairs. He took an active part in adjusting the details of the treaty of Union with Scotland. He was appointed president of the Council in 1708 and opposed the policy of prosecuting Dr. Sacheverell, but at the trial voted against him. (fn. 21) He was dismissed from office in 1710. He died of paralysis in April, 1716. His interests were by no means limited to politics or law. He was a patron of literature, a friend of Addison, Steele, Congreve, and others. Swift dedicated to him The Tale of a Tub. Rymer and Madox owed much to his encouragement. From 1699 to 1704 he occupied the chair of the Royal Society. He was an excellent linguist, a connoisseur in art, and on terms of intimacy with theologians of very different views.
Sir Nathan Wright was a man of very inferior attainments. His principal achievement in his early career seems to have been a speech as counsel for the Crown in the proceedings against Sir John Fenwick in the House of Lords. This was in December, 1696. The seal had gone a-begging after Somers' dismissal in 1700, but eventually was given to Wright, in whom there was "nothing equal to the post, much less to him who had lately filled it." (fn. 22) He had been made king's serjeant and knighted in 1696, but his knowledge of some branches of the law was so deficient that when, after some apparently not unnatural hesitation, he had accepted the Seal, he caused a treatise to be compiled to teach him the rudiments of equity. Nevertheless he contrived for a time to get through the business of the court with some credit, but arrears grew upon him, and his health declined under the accumulations of work. (fn. 23) He was about to be dismissed when the death of William III. gave him a new lease of office. In 1705, notwithstanding Anne's partiality for him, he was dismissed, "even the tories, though he was wholly theirs, despising him." (fn. 24) The Duchess of Marlborough, who claimed the credit of his dismissal, calls him " a man despised by all parties, of no use to the crown, and whose weak and wretched conduct in the court of chancery had almost brought his very office into contempt." (fn. 25) Receiving neither peerage nor pension, he spent his remaining days as a county magnate, supported, it is said, by wealth largely acquired by the corrupt disposal of patronage. He died in August, 1721.
In May, 1705, the 2nd Marquis of Powis sold the house to the Duke of Newcastle for £7,500. (fn. 26)
John Holles, Duke of Newcastle, was the eldest son of Gilbert Holles, 3rd Earl of Clare, a previous occupier of this house. Before the death of his father in 1689 he was known as Lord Haughton, and it was under this title that in 1681 Dryden dedicated to him his play The Spanish Friar. He took an active part in promoting the accession of William and Mary. In 1690 he married Lady Margaret Cavendish, third daughter and co-heiress of Henry, 2nd Duke of Newcastle, who, on his death in July, 1691, left him the bulk of his estate. In May, 1692, he fought a duel in Lincoln's Inn Fields with his brother-in-law, the Earl of Thanet. (fn. 27) In January, 1694, he succeeded to the estates of Denzil, 3rd Lord Holles. He was now one of the richest and most powerful men in the kingdom, and in the following May was created Duke of Newcastle. He died on 15th July, 1711, from the effects of a fall from his horse, leaving the greater part of his possessions to his nephew, Thomas Pelham.
Thomas Pelham was the son of Lady Grace, second wife of Thomas, 1st Lord Pelham, and sister of the above. On succeeding to his uncle's estates in 1711, he added the name and arms of Holles to those of Pelham. In February, 1712, he succeeded to his father's title and estates. On the death of Anne in 1714 he exerted considerable influence in favour of George, and by him was created Earl of Clare. As a reward for his services against the pretender he received in the following year the titles of Marquess of Clare and Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. His large wealth gave him enormous political influence. In 1724 he was chosen by Walpole to be secretary of state, and this office he held for 30 years. He was not an excellent man of business. Lord Hervey, when comparing him with Walpole in 1735, remarked: "We have one minister that does everything with the same seeming ease and tranquillity as if he was doing nothing. We have another that does nothing, in the same hurry and agitation as if he did everything." (fn. 28) On his younger brother Henry Pelham becoming prime minister in 1743 the duke's influence increased, and on the former's death in 1754 he succeeded him as premier. After two years and a half in this position he was forced to resign, and for his long services was consoled with the title of Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme. In 1757 he formed a coalition with Pitt and again became prime minister on the understanding that "Mr. Pitt does everything, the Duke gives everything." Under this arrangement he found he became a mere puppet. On Pitt's resignation he thought he would again have the upper hand. He was, however, made to realise his mistake, and the slights and indignities to which he was subjected by Lord Bute brought about his resignation in 1762. He died in November. 1768. His duchess is shown by the ratebooks to have continued to reside in the house until 1771.
The residents in the house from the time of its division into two until 1810 were:—
|1784–90.||The American Claim Office.|
|1808–||Sir Allen Chambre.|
It may be mentioned also that during the 19th century the house was for more than 50 years the headquarters of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge.
The Council is indebted to the late Sir William James Farrer for much of the recorded information respecting Newcastle House, and for the great assistance which he gave to the Council's officers in preparing the particulars of the house. He took a lively interest in its historical associations, and was most careful to preserve the various architectural features in this important building.
Old prints, views, etc.
Watercolour drawing, by Nash (in County Hall Library).
* Engraving by Sutton Nicholls in Strype's Edition (1754) of Stow's Survey of London.
Coloured print in Habershon's Records of Old London.
Photograph by the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London.
The Council's collection contains:—
* Plan of "Powis House" designed by Captain William Winde (drawing).
* Entrance floor plan in 1906 (measured drawing).
* First floor plan in 1906 (measured drawing).
* Facade to Lincoln's Inn Fields (photograph).
* Exterior, north-eastern angle (photograph).
Rear of main block (upper portion showing 1685 brick cornice and later alterations)(photograph).
* Window to staircase showing alterations (photograph).
No. 66. Hall and staircase, ground floor, by Leverton (photograph).
* No. 66. Elliptical window on staircase, probably inserted in 1772 (photograph).
* No. 66. Chimney piece on second floor (photograph).
* No. 66. "Peacock room," ground floor (photograph).
* No. 66. "Waiting room," ground floor (photograph).
* No. 66 "Library," ground floor (photograph).
No. 66. South room on first floor with ornamental plaster ceiling (photograph).
No. 66. Waiting room on first floor with 18th century ornamental plaster cornice and ceiling (photograph).
No. 66. Mr. Frank Farrer's room, first floor (photograph).
No. 66. Mr. Herbert Farrer's room, second floor (photograph).
No. 67. Staircase, ground floor level, late 18th century (photograph).
No. 67. Staircase, first floor level (photograph).
No. 67. Staircase, showing winders (photograph).
No. 67. Carved white marble mantelpiece, now fixed in No. 66 (photograph).
No. 67. Late 18th century marble chimney piece and cast-iron stove (photograph).