Survey of London: Volume 40, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 2 (The Buildings). Originally published by London County Council, London, 1980.
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In this section
- East Side
Audley House: Nos. 8–10 (consec.)
Audley House: Nos. 8–10 (consec.), a neo-Georgian block of flats in red brick with stone dressings, was erected in 1927–9 with an elevational treatment largely dictated by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
In 1919 Selfridges, the department store, had entered into a building contract to develop the site but nothing was done for six years. Then in 1925 Delissa Joseph prepared a scheme for a six-storey, seven-windows-wide building with a pediment, probably for Selfridges, but by January 1927 Selfridges' rights to the site had been taken over by J. Stanley Beard, an architect, and Frank Bradford. New designs were prepared by Beard for shops and flats and the building was erected by J. W. Falkner and Sons. (fn. 3) Beard and Bradford were required by the Estate to build 'in accordance with the elevation prepared by Sir Edwin Lutyens', (fn. 4) and a surviving sketch by Lutyens (fn. 5) shows that the North Audley Street elevation is substantially his conception, although perhaps owing something to Joseph's original design for the site. There are also detailed drawings of the elevations to both North Audley Street and Providence Court in the hand of George Stewart, one of Lutyens's chief assistants. (fn. 6) Lutyens was paid £315 by the Duke of Westminster's trustees for his services in connexion with the building. (fn. 7)
Nos. 11 and 12
Nos. 11 and 12, the only survivors from the original development of the street, have at times been occupied jointly and at other times separately in a bewilderingly complex succession of tenures.
Both houses were built by Edward Shepherd, the builder and architect, on part of the return frontage of the large plot previously mentioned which extended northward from Grosvenor Square to North Row. The ratebooks show that both were in existence by 1730, but No. 11 may have been first occupied in the previous year. They were initially let by Shepherd at rack rentals and sold by him some years later.
No. 12, the more imposing house of the two, was first occupied by, and presumably built for, Jean Louis Ligonier, a Huguenot refugee who eventually became commander-in-chief of the army and an earl. (fn. 8) He paid Shepherd an annual rent of £105 until he bought the house for an unknown amount in 1735. (fn. 9) The first occupant of No. 11 was Mark Antony Hauduroy, a painter who decorated a ceiling in another of Shepherd's houses in Cavendish Square and was also employed at Knole where some of his work survives. (fn. 10) Hauduroy was also of French extraction, and in view of the complex planning of the two houses it is possible that he and Ligonier were in some way associated. The rack rent for this house was £20 until it was bought in 1737 by its second occupant, Captain Robert Booth, a relative of the Earl of Warrington, for £180 with a ground rent of £4 per annum payable to Shepherd. (fn. 11)
Plans made in the early nineteenth century indicate that at the front both houses had a basement and three storeys above ground. (fn. 12) But, as the respective rack rents suggest, the two houses differed very greatly in size. Although their frontages were not very dissimilar the two sites interlocked at the rear, some of the backs rooms of No. 12 extending behind No. 11, the rear part of which was only ten feet wide. The site of No. 12 also extended a few feet behind No. 13 on the other side. It included a large garden with a building of unspecified use at the end, which was connected to the house by arcaded covered ways, and there were also stables and a coach-house facing Providence Court. (fn. 13) No. 11 was, in fact, smaller than has long been supposed, for recently discovered site plans (fn. 14) show that the area occupied by the rear room on the ground floor, most of which was in 1948–9 transferred to No. 12, was in reality originally part of the site of No. 12 (see fig. 29). This explains the existence of carving on both sides of the south door of the gallery of No. 12 which now communicates with this room, and which was previously presumed to have originally been only a false door.
The interior of No. 11 displays little more than a refined speculative builder's taste, but in No. 12 both the ingenuity of the plan and the quality of the decorative features suggest that something very special was intended from the first (Plate 25c, 25d, figs. 29–30: see also Plate 11 in vol. XXXIX). Certain characteristics of the gallery at the rear have given rise to the speculation that the house was built at least in part to the designs of the Irish Palladian architect (Sir) Edward Lovett Pearce. (fn. 15) Ligonier was Colonel of the 8th Horse, a regiment on the Irish establishment, and Pearce designed a house (probably never built) for him near Dublin. (fn. 16) (fn. 1) The case for Pearce's connexion with No. 12 North Audley Street, however, rests chiefly on the similarity of the gallery there to a grotto which he designed at Stillorgan. This contains seven compartments whereas the gallery has only three, but the general proportions and the combination of a large domed central compartment with smaller flanking groin-vaulted ones are similar. (fn. 17) Several features at No. 12 North Audley Street recall Pearce's work elsewhere, and the idea of placing an octagonal room at or near the centre of the house was one on which he was working in sketch-plans. (fn. 18)
There are difficulties, however, in making a definite attribution to Pearce, for he appears to have lived permanently in Ireland from 1726 until his death in 1733 and there is no indication that he visited England during that time. (fn. 19) It is unlikely that the houses in North Audley Street could have been begun as early as 1726 for although Shepherd then held the land under a building agreement he concentrated initially on building on the Grosvenor Square frontage, and the evidence of the ratebooks also militates against such an early date. Moreover Ligonier was then living at No. 10 Old Burlington Street, of which he was granted a building lease in 1719, and where he continued to live until he sold the house in 1730. (fn. 20) So if Pearce did provide designs for No. 12, it seems that they must have been made in Ireland, and that Ligonier entrusted their execution to Shepherd. At first sight this seems an unlikely hypothesis, but for a remark made by Mrs. Pendarves (later Mrs. Delany) in a letter of 1731 to her sister— 'You must send to Capt Pierce for a plan to build a house, and then I am sure it will be pretty and convenient'—which implies that Pearce was thought to act in some such way. (fn. 21)
Viewed from the garden the single-storey gallery looks like an addition (Plate 25b), and this has given rise on the one hand to the absurd notion that it existed prior to the house as a trysting place for the Countess of Suffolk and the Prince of Wales, later George II, (fn. 22) and, on the other hand, to the theory that it was an extension to the house, built at a later date. Although in terms of plan the latter is feasible, both the vocabulary of the architecture and the manner of its execution suggest the early eighteenth century, and if Pearce was the architect the gallery must be contemporary with the rest of the house.
The two houses remained in separate occupation until 1744, when Ligonier purchased No. 11 from Captain Booth's widow for £210. (fn. 23) He then lived in the enlarged house until his death in 1770, when he bequeathed a life interest in it to his nephew Edward, who was later created Earl Ligonier in the peerage of Ireland. (fn. 24) He, in turn, lived there until his death in 1782. Sir John St. Aubyn, fifth baronet, M.P., was tenant from 1786 until 1792, (fn. 25) but shortly afterwards the house and its extensive grounds were taken by the Gillows, the noted Lancaster family of furniture-makers and decorators. The purpose for which they used the house is unclear, for the firm already had premises on the north side of Oxford Street, (fn. 26) but they built workshops in the grounds, probably entered from Balderton (formerly George) Street, where a 'Mr Gillow' was first rated in 1793. (fn. 27) From 1795 until 1814 the rated occupants of the combined Nos. 11 and 12 were Robert and George Gillow, probably the younger sons of Richard Gillow, the cabinet-maker and architect who died in 1811. (fn. 28) It is possible that the medallions containing heads of Popes Clement IX and X over the doorways of the gallery were introduced at this time, for it is inconceivable that Ligonier, a staunch Protestant, would have countenanced such decorative features. The Gillows, however, were a staunchly Roman Catholic family and the gallery may even have been used by them as a private chapel.
In 1813 the Gillows' workshops were badly damaged by fire. Soon afterwards they applied to renew all of the ground which they held, but declined the terms offered. (fn. 29) They then let the house to Lord Robert Fitzgerald from 1815 to 1817, and he was followed by James Hakewill, the architect. (fn. 30) Hakewill appears to have been engaged in a speculative capacity elsewhere on the estate at this time and he too applied for renewal terms, having been informed by the Gillows that they no longer wished to treat for the house itself. William Porden, the estate surveyor, assessed Nos. 11 and 12 as one building, but on this occasion he separated the house from the extensive back buildings, leaving a much smaller garden which has continued to form part of the curtilage of No. 12 down to the present time. Hakewill accepted Porden's terms, and asked that the lease should be made to Viscount Ebrington. (fn. 31)
The latter was the eldest son of the first Earl Fortescue, who lived nearby at No. 18 Grosvenor Square. (fn. 32) In addition to the renewal fine of £1,474 payable to Lord Grosvenor, Lord Ebrington also paid Hakewill £700 as purchase money for the house. He took up residence early in 1819 but moved to his father's house in Grosvenor Square in July of that year while works costing some £1,750 were undertaken in North Audley Street. The architect for the alterations was Thomas Lee (presumably the younger), a Devonshire architect who was no doubt employed because the Fortescues' country seat was at Castle Hill in Devon. It was probably at this time that the stucco façade with its neo-Grecian pilasters was added (Plate 25a), conceivably by Hakewill before he sold the house, but more probably by Lee. One of the plasterers employed by Lee was 'Bernasconi', but his account was for the relatively small amount of £15. (fn. 33)
Viscount Ebrington retained the house until 1831, (fn. 27) when he let it to Thomas Raikes, the dandy. (fn. 25) Raikes left to live in Paris in 1833 and the house seems to have remained empty until 1835 when the lease was purchased by Wright Ingle, a builder active on the estate at this time. (fn. 34) He redivided Nos. 11 and 12, although not according to their original plots, and must have added another entrance door and possibly made other alterations to the façade. (fn. 35) The tall attic storey with a mansard roof was added to No. 11 in 1850, (fn. 36) and on this floor are three good cast-iron fireplaces of that date. The two houses continued to be occupied separately until after the war of 1939–45.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century both houses were threatened by plans for rebuilding the area to the north of Grosvenor Square. As early as 1883, however, the Estate's officers and the first Duke of Westminster showed a marked reluctance to countenance the demolition of No. 12 on account of its fine interior, and No. 11 was saved because of its association with No. 12 and the fortuitous fact that the two houses now had a common façade. (fn. 37) Similar reasons persuaded the second Duke to override the firm advice of his Board that No. 11 should be demolished in 1913–14. (fn. 38) Leases of No. 12 in the 1920's contained additional covenants that no alterations were to be made to the architectural appearance or decorations of the interior without the Estate's consent. (fn. 39)
In 1883 William Wells, whose wife, Lady Louisa, was a daughter of the ninth Earl of Wemyss, was granted a new sixteen-year lease of No. 12. (fn. 40) He also acquired a similar lease of No. 11 at the same time (fn. 41) and may have contemplated re-uniting the two houses, but apparently did not do so, No. 11 being in the occupation of a milliner for most of the remaining years of the nineteenth century. (fn. 42) In 1888–9, however, Wells extended the front of No. 12 by one bay on a strip of land taken from the site of No. 13, then recently rebuilt as St. Mark's Vicarage. (fn. 43) He died in the latter year but his widow was allowed by the second Duke of Westminster to retain No. 12 under a yearly tenancy after the lease had expired, and she lived there until her death in 1920. (fn. 44)
In the following year a new lease of No. 12 was granted to Lord Ivor Churchill, the son of the ninth Duke of Marlborough, and he was the first of a series of twentieth-century occupants to undertake extensive renovations and additions. Among alterations carried out for him by Philip Tilden were the replacement of the main staircase balustrade with a replica of a standard early-Georgian Sscroll pattern in wrought iron, the formation of a doorway instead of a wide opening where part of the wall had been removed between the front room and the octagon room on the ground floor, (fn. 45) and the insertion in the front room of door architraves brought from Hamilton Palace.
In 1932 No. 12 was purchased by Samuel Courtauld, the industrialist and art collector. (fn. 46) His wife having recently died, Courtauld had given the leasehold interest of their former home at No. 20 Portman Square to London University as part of his provisions for founding the Courtauld Institute of Art. (fn. 47) Substantial alterations were carried out in that year at No. 12 for Courtauld by Wimperis, Simpson and Guthrie and the decorating firm of White Allom. The house was raised by a storey, and a new bedroom with Chinese wallpaper and painting to match by Rex Whistler (Plate 26a) and a semi-circular marble bathroom (Plate 53d in vol. XXXIX), designed by the Marchese Malacrida for White Allom, were added. A 'secret' winding staircase clad externally with sheet copper connected the first floor with the new bedroom. (fn. 48)
On his death in 1947 Courtauld bequeathed the house to Lady Aberconway, wife of the second Baron, who had drawn his attention to its availability when he was looking for a new home after the death of his wife. (fn. 49) Courtauld had also acquired the lease of No. 11, which had numbered among its twentieth-century occupants the fourth Baron Vivian, the second Earl of Lytton and Lady Ursula Filmer-Sankey, the daughter of the second Duke of Westminster. (fn. 50) He left this house also to Lady Aberconway and the two houses were once again in part re-united in 1948–9. Most of the ground-floor room at the back of No. 11 (which, as indicated earlier, was originally part of No. 12) was once again incorporated in the larger house. The first floor of No. 11 was also added to No. 12, and what remained of No. 11 was turned into flats. The architects for the alterations were Easton and Robertson. (fn. 51)
In 1958 dry rot was discovered in the south wall of the gallery and this wall has been substantially replaced in cement with new cement mouldings copied from the original wooden ones on the north wall. (fn. 49)
Lady Aberconway lived at No. 12 until her death in 1974. (fn. 52)
Throughout the vicissitudes of its building history the best features of the rich early-Georgian interior of No. 12 have been preserved. Almost all of these are on the ground floor. At the front of the house the plain entrance hall with a stone floor of black and white squares laid in a lozenge pattern is flanked by a fine pine-panelled room with modillion cornice, richly carved dado-rail and wooden chimneypiece (fig. 30). Some of the features of this room, including the door architraves and part of the panelling are, however, known to have been assembled from elsewhere.
The centre of the house is occupied by the oval staircase compartment and the octagon room. In the former the winding stone stairs, which rise only to first-floor level, are cantilevered out from one side and have shaped undersides. The wrought-iron balustrade is a modern reproduction and the head of the stairs has been altered and a former opening blocked off; the stone floor to this compartment is also modern. In the octagon room (Plate 25d, fig. 30) four of the sides have recesses, formerly wider than at present and probably designed for bookshelves as in Plate 25d, but in the early nineteenth century one of these sides had a doorway which communicated with both the room to the south and the front room. The doorcases in this room have pediments and pulvinated friezes in a banded bay-leaf pattern, but two of these, on the west and south sides, are copies, the latter replacing a fireplace. A broad plaster frieze containing festoons and medallions with classical heads runs around the room, and at the top of the dome, beneath the skylight, is more decorative plasterwork, including a variant of the key-fret design much favoured by Edward Shepherd.
The finest room in the house, however, is the gallery at the rear, where the proportions and detailing convey the impression of a more spacious room than is actually the case (Plate 25c, fig. 30: see also Plate 11 in vol. XXXIX). The centre part is a square with a magnificent coffered dome and on each side are smaller compartments with groinvaulted ceilings, the ribs of which are decorated with husks. There is an exuberant profusion of detail throughout, including quarter and three-quarter Ionic columns at all the angles, while above there is a full entablature with a pulvinated frieze of banded bay leaves. The window openings and doorcases are similarly enriched, and at each end are aedicules containing niches (that on the south wall being, as stated earlier, a replacement in cement). The columns and lower decorative features are mainly of wood, plaster taking over at entablature level. The stone chimneypiece, which has terms with cherubs' heads at the sides, is particularly fine but some of the decoration of the lower part of the terms is now missing. The overmantel is surmounted by an open pediment and is decorated with another cherub's head between festoons, but the drops which formerly ornamented the sides have also been stripped away. Close examination shows that some of the plasterwork details are quite coarse, but, as is often the case with Shepherd's work, the minor defects do not detract from the splendour of the overall ensemble, and this room, which has undergone only relatively slight alteration, has been described as 'perhaps the most beautiful earlyGeorgian room surviving in London'. (fn. 53)
This house, now subdivided, was built in 1887–8 to the designs of (Sir) Arthur Blomfield as a vicarage for St. Mark's Church. This was the last major project undertaken by the Reverend Joseph Watson Ayre during his long incumbency from 1851 to 1898, the freehold site being presented by the Duke of Westminster to the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty. Blomfield had already remodelled the interior of the church in 1878, and for the vicarage he now provided a red-brick Anglo-Dutch design (readily approved by the Duke) of three wide bays rising to five storeys through an elaborately curved gable (Plates 26b, 49e: see also fig. 23f, g in vol. XXXIX). The builders were Macey and Son. (fn. 54)
By 1920 the vicarage was too large for the needs of the incumbent, who wished to sell it. In 1929, however, attempts to dispose of it were abandoned and the building was turned into flats with a new second doorway to North Audley Street. The architect for the alterations was (Sir) Edward Maufe and the builders were F. and H. F. Higgs. (fn. 55) After the parish of St. Mark's was dissolved in 1974 the ground and first floors (numbered 13A) were adapted as the rectory of St. George's, Hanover Square. (fn. 56)
St. Mark's Church
St. Mark's Church (Plates 26b, 27, figs. 31–2: see also Plate 29b, fig. 11 in vol. XXXIX). Although it was substantially paid for by the parishioners of St. George's, Hanover Square, out of a church rate, St. Mark's can be classed as one of the Commissioners' churches built under the Church Building Act of 1818. St. George's was one of twenty-five parishes where the population exceeded church sittings by more than 20,000, and where urgent action was therefore required. (fn. 57) In 1819 a committee of the Vestry was appointed to consider the Act and to enquire into possible sites for one or more chapels; and this became the Vestry's church building committee. Its members included Edward Boodle, Lord Grosvenor's lawyer. (fn. 58)
The committee initially recommended that a district chapel should be built in the out-ward or less populated part of the parish, where Lord Grosvenor was to provide a site free, and a chapel of ease in one of the in-wards. It estimated that the cost would be £50,000 including the purchase money for the site of the chapel of ease. (fn. 59) The Vestry submitted this proposal to the Commissioners with a request that they would provide a third of the £50,000, to which the Commissioners promptly agreed. (fn. 60) Within a short time, however, the committee found that they could obtain another free site on Crown land with a frontage to Regent Street, and the Vestry resolved to build three new chapels at an estimated cost of £60,000. Although the Commissioners refused to grant any more money, they readily agreed to vary the conditions attached to their earlier grant, and St. Peter's, Eaton Square, and the Hanover Chapel in Regent Street (now demolished) were erected in addition to St. Mark's in the years 1823–8. (fn. 61)
At first the building committee favoured a site at the corner of Davies Street and Weighhouse (then Chandler) Street for their proposed chapel in the Mayfair part of the Grosvenor estate, but after difficulties had arisen there they settled for a piece of ground at North Audley Street. (fn. 62) The plot available there consisted largely of land lying behind the houses on the east side of the street which had originally formed part of an extensive garden to No. 15. (fn. 63) In 1792 Earl Grosvenor had purchased the existing leasehold interest in this large plot for 1,500 guineas in order to extend Green Street eastwards, but this improvement had never materialized and thereafter the land had been used for the pasturing of cattle, the beating of carpets or as a parade ground for the St. George's Volunteers, and latterly as the site of temporary workshops belonging to an upholsterer. (fn. 64) In order to provide a frontage to North Audley Street the site of one house was included, and right of way was also to be provided to Balderton (then George) Street through a passage at the rear at the south-east corner of the site. The estate surveyor, William Porden, valued the freehold of the whole plot at £9,556, but the assessment made by the building committee's independent surveyor was for only £5,200, and ultimately a price of £7,000 was agreed as a compromise. (fn. 65) The Commissioners, however, remained to be convinced that a site which provided such a narrow street frontage was suitable, but they were persuaded by the Vestry's arguments that 'there will be a Frontage of 34 Feet to the Street, where it is proposed to build a handsome Porch opening into a covered Passage communicating with the Chapel; and that there will also be a covered Passage communicating to the Chapel from George Street, by which means the Entrance to the Pews, and to the free Seats can be kept distinct': furthermore, the distance of the body of the chapel 'from the Street would prevent any Interruption to the Service from the Noise of Carriages'. (fn. 66) The provision of separate access for rich and poor enabled the long narthex or pronaos in North Audley Street to be used as a social concourse by 'the fashionable belles who embellish it at the conclusion of their devotions'. (fn. 67)
The conveyance of the site from Lord Grosvenor to the Commissioners was made early in 1824 (fn. 68) and at about the same time, from thirteen designs for the new chapel submitted to them, the building committee chose two, those of J. P. Gandy (who in 1828 assumed the name of Deering) and W. J. Donthorne, the latter in a style described as 'Corinthian of the Temple of Tivoli'. These they referred, with no stated preference, to the Commissioners' church building committee, which chose the former. (fn. 69) (fn. 2)
Building was delayed for over a year by a dispute with the lessee of a neighbouring house in North Audley Street. Eventually the foundation stone was laid on 7 September 1825 and the chapel was certified as completed by the Commissioners' surveyor in June 1828. (fn. 70) The contractor for all except the stonework was Spicer Crowe, who had built St. Paul's, Nottingham, and St. Peter's, Belper; the mason was David Colbeck and the clerk of works Robert Johnson. The total cost of construction was £13,299, of which Gandy Deering received £615 as his commission. (fn. 71) The site cost slightly more than £7,000, as a small additional plot at the rear of No. 14 North Audley Street was added during the course of building in order to provide a room to the north of the narthex. (fn. 72) The Commissioners gave £5,556 towards the cost of the chapel, the one-third of £50,000 which they had agreed to grant being divided equally between St. Mark's, St. Peter's, Eaton Square, and the Hanover Chapel. (fn. 73)
St. Mark's was designed to seat 1,610 (784 in free sittings) and was consecrated on 25 April 1828 as a chapel of ease to St. George's. In 1835 it was assigned a district, which was designated a parish in 1863 under the New Parishes Act of 1856. (fn. 74)
What differentiated St. Mark's from so many Commissioners' churches was its tightly enclosed site. Gandy Deering's design made the most of this limitation by concentrating upon a single major exterior feature, the west front to North Audley Street (Plate 26b: see also fig. 11 in vol. XXXIX). Here he placed a deep portico in antis and, above its entablature, a tall bell turret, square in plan with splayed corners, set back from the line of frontage. As an archaeologist of repute and an authority on Attica, he borrowed the Ionic details of his portico from the Erechtheum, and in the turret incorporated hints from the Tower of the Winds. The west front was praised at the time by Britton and Pugin as 'an architectural gem … superior to almost every other analogous building in London'. (fn. 75) It appears today as it was left by Gandy Deering, with three exceptions: the honeysuckle and lion-head motifs of the entablature have disappeared, the iron gates protecting the steps up to the portico were removed during the war of 1939–45, and at some stage the pierced and circular louvres in the lights of the bell turret, originally also of iron, were replaced in another material.
From the portico three entrances with pure Greek detail, the centre one of commanding height (Plate 27b), lead into small vestibules and beyond that into Gandy Deering's square pronaos or narthex. This apartment, which fills out the awkward space between the street and the body of the church, enabled Gandy Deering to apply the tradition of the public pronaos exemplified in Greek temples which he had studied. By introducing four square piers with hybrid Greek capitals into its centre, he split the pronaos into nine compartments, some lit dimly from above. Beyond this he set a pair of stairs to the galleries and on the north side he put a small vestry room with raised toplight.
The geometrical handling of the surviving portico and pronaos offers clues to the original appearance of the body of the church, now entirely altered from Gandy Deering's conception. But according to detailed criticism by E. J. Carlos in The Gentleman's Magazine, the interior failed to live up to the high standards of the rest of the church. 'The porch is too grand for the temple, the spectator expects to see a Church of unusual splendour at the end of the spacious vestibule, and he meets with nothing but disappointment. The body of the Chapel is neither very spacious, nor is it distinguished by ornament: it shows, like many modern Churches, a large unbroken area.' There was, in fact, a very shallow chancel, terminating in an imitation-marble reredos of Greek Revival type, surmounted by an east window 'tastefully glazed with lilac coloured glass, within a border of enriched honeysuckles. The panes are marked with stars, and in the centre is a large calvary cross in white glass.' Yet the body of the church was still a preaching box, crammed with high pews facing the pulpit and reading desk, which were raised up on either side of the entrance to the chancel. For its architectural qualities it trusted to a deep entablature and cornice supporting the flat ceiling, and to deep galleries carried on fluted Doric columns and ranging round three sides. The side galleries occupied the approximate lines of the present ones, but the western gallery projected much further into the body of the church, as it contained both the organ and seats for the 'charity children'. (fn. 76)
Over the half century after its erection, the fabric of Gandy Deering's church became increasingly less suited to the sacramental emphasis in Victorian worship. In the 1860's proper choir seats and a little mural decoration were introduced and a new east window by Wailes had been inserted by 1878. (fn. 77) But despite several attempts during the first half of the long, energetic ministry (1851–98) of the Reverend Joseph Watson Ayre to make more radical changes, nothing happened until in 1878 (Sir) Arthur Blomfield was called in. Blomfield was the natural choice as architect, having recently designed St. Saviour's, Oxford Street, nearby, and reconstructed the interior of St. Mark's sister church, St. Peter's, Eaton Square. St. Mark's follows the pattern of St. Peter's in that the interior was totally recast in Blomfield's favourite Romanesque style without external alteration (Plate 27c). The fabric of St. Mark's 'was placed in his hands in July 1878 a Pagan temple', says T. F. Bumpus, 'four months later it left them, a noble church'. (fn. 78) The contractors for the work were Dove Brothers and the cost was about £9,600. (fn. 79)
Though Blomfield's reconstruction east of the pronaos was complete, he was able to re-use much of the original fabric. He reduced the old nave by one bay, threw this space into the chancel behind a chancel arch, and heightened both parts dramatically by the addition of a clerestory. The chancel has a simple boarded roof, but in the nave Blomfield exposed the central section of Gandy Deering's old roof (hitherto concealed by a flat ceiling) by lifting it bodily and elaborating it with tie-beams, so creating a remarkably original open-timber construction. The clerestory lights and round-arched four-and-a-half-bay arcades bearing this roof are in the Romanesque style of the Auvergne, the walling and arches being of yellow and light-red polychrome brick, the supporting piers consisting of clustered columns in Mansfield stone with scalloped capitals. The piers also carry the galleries, which were reconstructed with light oak fronts.
More orthodox was Blomfield's treatment of the chancel. Here he removed Wailes' window, and inserted three narrow round-headed windows in the east wall, over a structural five-part reredos with mosaic pictures, designed by N. H. J. Westlake and executed by Powells. The small-scale figure glass above was also designed by Westlake and made by his firm of Lavers and Barraud. (fn. 80) These craftsmen may have been Ayre's choice, as the north aisle wall, unaltered in the rebuilding, contains windows made by the same firm before Blomfield's alterations, in memory of members of the Ayre family. The upper parts of the chancel walls are covered in gold mosaic, with some decorative painting in the spandrels over the lancets, but the lower sanctuary walls were at first plain. The dwarf chancel screen with its pretty ironwork (fig. 32) is Blomfield's, as are the 'Jacobethan' choir stalls and the mosaic floor (by Burke and Company). Other features in the chancel are later, notably the marble veneering of the sanctuary walls, which was carried out as part of a more extensive scheme of decoration for the church conceived in about 1899 by J. F. Bentley. Under a first proposal the side walls of the sanctuary were to be decorated with figurative scenes, either painted or in mosaic, but in the event a more modest scheme was executed. The altar and retable are later features again. The casing and screens round the organ and organ-pipes probably all date from 1930 when the instrument was rebuilt, the architectural features being designed by Edward Maufe. (fn. 81)
Of Blomfield's fittings in the nave the best are the Ruskinian pulpit, presented in 1879 and carved by Thomas Earp in a variety of marbles, and the font, a square vessel in Devonshire marble inset with four sgraffito panels of baptism scenes, and located at the end of the south aisle (Plate 27d). The 'singularly happy' oak eagle lectern, whose carver according to Bumpus 'spent several hours watching the eagles in the Zoological Gardens', (fn. 80) was replaced in 1939 by a bronze figure lectern by T. Meuburg Crook, which was in turn stolen in 1977. The nave floor consists of black and white marble slabs installed by Bentley, who also cut skylights in the roofs of both nave and chancel in order to lighten the church. (fn. 82)
The south chancel aisle is devoted to the organ console, but on the corresponding north side a War Memorial Chapel was formed in 1919, the builders being J. Dorey and Company of Brentford and the architect perhaps C. J. Blomfield. (fn. 83) It is panelled and has a five-part reredos, half painted and half sculpted, against the east wall. The east part of this chapel projects beyond the original east wall of the church into a low lean-to extension added along this end, presumably at the time the chapel was constructed.
Of the stained-glass windows the best are a pair in the north aisle in memory of two sons of the Reverend J. W. Ayre (both d. 1872) by Lavers and Barraud. They incorporate an unusual amount of clear glass for their date and must have been the models for later windows of similar type in this and the south aisle, probably all by Powells. In the north gallery are larger but less satisfactory windows, one of 1871 signed by Lavers, Barraud and Westlake, another dated 1872 probably also by them and a third designed by Henry Holiday in 1883 for the same firm. At this date Holiday also designed a further window for the church, probably one of several on the south side blown out during the war of 1939–45. (fn. 84) Later windows by other firms are of lesser interest. Of the several small memorials in the church, the most imposing is the tripartite marble and mosaic tablet to the Reverend J. W. Ayre (d. 1898) in the centre of the north aisle. For many years a cartoon of St. Mark by Burne-Jones was in the pronaos as a memorial to the Ponsonby family, but this has now been removed to St. George's, Hanover Square.
St. Mark's ceased to be a parish church in 1974. The parish was then re-united with St. George's, Hanover Square; the building was for a few years used as the American Church in London, but its future is uncertain at the time of writing.
St. Mark's Schools
St. Mark's Schools are situated on the north side of St. Mark's Church on a site which is enclosed on its other three sides by buildings in North Audley Street, North Row and Balderton Street. In 1829 the managers of the St. George's United Day Schools in South Street decided to establish an infants' school, the cost of which was to be defrayed by subscriptions, and chose the present site because it was in the centre of an area where a large proportion of the poorer population of St. George's parish was concentrated. (fn. 85) In 1830–1 a single-storey schoolroom for 150 children and a house for the schoolmistress were built to the designs of William Skeat at a cost of some £900: the builder was John M. Aitkens. The school was approached by means of the passageway from George (now Balderton) Street which also led to St. Mark's Church, and was originally called the St. George Hanover Square Parochial Infants School. It was opened in April 1831. (fn. 86) The name was changed to St. Mark's Schools when an additional school was built on the north side of the Grosvenor Chapel in 1841.
In 1835 another classroom was added (fn. 87) and in 1849 more extensive additions and alterations were made by Francis Morris and Brothers of Mount Street, builders, under the direction of Robert W. Jearrad, the Vestry's surveyor. By now the schools consisted of a boys' school and a girls' school as well as an infants' school, all still housed in a single-storey building. (fn. 88) Another storey was built over part of the premises in 1854 and this was extended in 1859 to the designs, on both occasions, of Alexander D. Gough. (fn. 89) In 1870 the Marquess (later first Duke) of Westminster presented the schools with an additional strip of land on the east side and they were enlarged in the following year by Matthew Allen and Son of Finsbury, who were also building the adjacent Clarendon Flats in Balderton Street. The plans for the alterations were 'drawn out by Mr. Ayre', the indefatigable vicar of St. Mark's, and after they had been completed the schools could accommodate 600 children. (fn. 90)
In 1893 the school buildings were declared unfit by a government inspector and repairs were hastily put in hand under the direction of Sir Arthur Blomfield. (fn. 91) The need to maintain the outworn fabric of the buildings placed a severe strain on the schools' resources, however, and with a dwindling attendance (finally down to 110) the schools were closed on 30 April 1904. (fn. 92) The buildings were used by the Regent Street Polytechnic (now The Polytechnic of Central London) until 1968 and further alterations were made during this period. (fn. 93)
This pleasantly idiosyncratic building with a strong flavour of the Low Countries (Plate 26b) was erected in 1887–8 for Marborough Conrath, an upholsterer, who was the leaseholder of the existing house on the site and who was granted a new lease on condition he spent not less than £1,500 on rebuilding. In the event he claimed to have spent £4,500. His architects were Thomas Henry Watson and Frederic Hale Collins. (fn. 94)
No. 15 was rebuilt by the builder John Newson of Grosvenor Mews, possibly to an elevational design by Thomas Cundy II, the estate surveyor, in 1854 (fn. 95) (Plate 26b). Newson was at the time in treaty with the Grosvenor Office for the erection of several buildings including Nos. 13 and 14 Grosvenor Street, where a requirement was that the elevations should be prepared by the estate surveyor. No. 15 North Audley Street also appears to bear the hallmark of Cundy's influence, particularly in the elaboration of its Italianate stucco dressings.
The original site of No. 15 included the present stuccoed extension to the north, but Newson was only granted a short term in this strip, which the Estate intended to add to No. 16 when the lease of that house expired in 1887. (fn. 96) Nevertheless it was here that he placed the entrance and only staircase to the house without, apparently, completely rebuilding the existing fabric, for in 1887 the extension (which was then called No. 15A although that number is now given to the tiny shop wedged between No. 15 and the large building at Nos. 16–20) was required to be refronted to harmonize with the main part of the building by the then estate surveyor, Thomas Cundy III. (fn. 97) The result can hardly be said to be a successful integration.
An early occupant of part of No. 15, from at least 1859 until 1861, was the composer Michael Balfe.
The present small-paned 'Regency' shop front was installed in 1930 to the designs of (Sir) Albert Richardson as part of a general remodelling of the ground floor for Messrs. B. T. Batsford, the publishers. The contractors were Dove Brothers. (fn. 98)
Nos. 16–20 (consec.).
This building, which has a long return frontage to North Row, was built in 1908–9 to the designs of Paul Hoffmann. In February 1908 a building contract for the site was exchanged with Perry Brothers, builders, of Bow, and John C. Hill, a prominent North London building speculator who was the owner and managing director of the London Brick Company. (fn. 99) Hoffmann was the choice of Perry Brothers and, although Eustace Balfour, the estate surveyor, was not impressed with his work elsewhere, the Grosvenor Board did not press their objections. (fn. 100) The result is a somewhat undistinguished building of red brick with stone dressings including two asymmetrically placed projecting Edwardian Baroque stone bays.
Within a short time of entering into the contract Perry Brothers were in severe financial difficulties and assigned their interest to Hill, who informed the district surveyor that he was the builder and owner. (fn. 101) The original intention was to erect flats above ground-floor shops but by November 1908 Hill had decided to build a hotel instead, although the shops were to be retained. (fn. 102) The hotel, which was originally called the St. Petersburg and later the Petrograd, survived until shortly before the end of the war of 1914–18 when it was turned into a Canadian officers' hospital. (fn. 26)
No. 21 forms part of the return frontage to No. 451 Oxford Street, see page 181.