St. James's Square: No 20

Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1960.

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'St. James's Square: No 20', in Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1, (London, 1960) pp. 164-174. British History Online [accessed 24 April 2024]

In this section

No. 20

Architect, Robert Adam, 1771–5. Attic storey and mansard roof added in 1936 by Messrs. Mewès and Davis

The façade of this house was extended in 1936 to include the rebuilt No. 21 to its south, and the two houses are now owned and occupied in common.

Not much is known of the first house built here. The site was agreed to be granted by the Earl of St. Albans to Abraham Storey, the grantee also of the site of No. 6, in January 1674(? 1674/5). (fn. 4) The house appears, together with Nos. 21 and 22, in the Pall Mall section of the ratebook for 1675. It was then in the occupation of Sir Allen Apsley, treasurer of the household to the Duke of York, who was possibly in some sense responsible for the supervision of the building of this house and the house built to its south (see No. 21). The Apsley family remained in ownership and occupation of the house until 1771. In June of that year Sir Allen's grandson, the first Earl Bathurst, came to an agreement with Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. He covenanted to obtain an Act of Parliament to permit the sale of the house, which was entailed under a marriage settlement, to Sir Watkin, who had agreed to buy it for £18,500; in the meantime Lord Bathurst agreed to Sir Watkin's demolition and rebuilding of the house. (fn. 5) The Act was obtained, describing the house as 'very ancient and much out of repair', (fn. 6) and on 23–24 August 1772 the property was conveyed to its new owner. (fn. 5)

Sir Watkin, whose pleasure-loving temperament and taste for the theatre and the arts are evident in his surviving account books, (fn. 7) had been taking lessons in architecture from James Gandon in the early months of 1771, and it was Gandon whom he had employed to survey and value Lord Bathurst's house in April of that year. At the same time Gandon had made five plans, two sections and an elevation for a new house on the site, (fn. 8) but these were evidently not used, although he was paid for them in January 1772. (fn. 9) (fn. 1) A plaque in the present house records that work began in August 1771. The earliest reference to payments to workmen on the site is, however, in April 1772, (fn. 10) and it is in that month when there occurs the first reference to the provision of plans by Robert Adam, who sent others in December. (fn. 11) In May 1773 Sir Watkin was viewing other Adam houses, including Syon and Osterley. (fn. 12) By 1774 the house was sufficiently advanced for a porter, 'Old Pugh', to be in residence in February of that year, when he was given a guinea 'to assist him on the Road to Montgomeryshire'. (fn. 13) In July curtains from the Wynns' house in Grosvenor Square were fitted. (fn. 14) The plaque states that the house was finished by August, but joiners' work continued until February 1775. (fn. 15) Work finally ended early in that year and May Day could be celebrated with a musical breakfast, and country dances below stairs. (fn. 16) It was in harmony with these country ways that Sir Watkin should keep a cow in St. James's Park. (fn. 17)

The work had been helped forward by occasional distributions of drink to the workmen. In October 1772 two guineas were given them 'on Account of Master Williams Wynn's Birth this Day, 8 Minutes before 11 in the Morning, Whom God Preserve'. (fn. 18) Less happily, two workmen were killed in accidents.

Some accounts for the work survive, but they are not complete and relate more particularly to the finishing and furnishing of the interior, which continued during the years 1775–7. There is no record of any payment to a carpenter. Robert and James Adam's bill for their plans and for surveying the work amounted to £1388 13s. and as this was 'at 5 per Cent' the total cost, including their bill, was presumably something over £29,000. (fn. 19) This sum probably included not only the Adam designs for a wide range of furnishings and fittings, from an organ case to an inkstand, but the cost of the actual furnishing materials and upholstery.

The workmen included John Devall, mason; Edward Gray, bricklayer (whose total bill amounted to £3310 17s. 1d.); John Pratt of Brook Street, Hanover Square, slater; James Lloyd, glazier; D. Adamson, painter; William Chapman, plumber; Joseph Rose, plasterer; Richard Collins, joiner, who made figures on the organ case; and William Kinman, coppersmith. A number of different craftsmen in metal worked on the house. Those engaged on the interior included Thomas Blockley and Thomas Tilston, locksmiths; Edward Gascoigne, brazier; William Bent, ironmonger; William Sparrow, wireworker; and William Hopkins, who provided iron and steel grates. (fn. 20)

John Hinchcliff was paid £360 10s. for marble chimneypieces, one of which contained basalt tablets provided by Josiah Wedgwood, to whom Sir Watkin was an early friend and patron. (fn. 21) Bartoli, the scagliolist, also worked on this chimneypiece. (fn. 22)

The paintings inset in the ceilings of the music-room, great drawing-room and Sir Watkin's dressing-room, and in ornamental panels and overdoors were executed by Antonio Zucchi who also painted door-panels and bookcases. In addition he designed bas-reliefs and statuary for the chimneypieces, and wooden figures for tripods, and was paid by the tradesman who supplied carpets for painting a pattern. (fn. 20) (fn. 2)

The curtains, hangings and upholstery of the main rooms were in pea-green silk damask.

The organ in the music-room was made by John Snetzler. (fn. 16)

In 1783 repairs were needed in the 'back court', where the floor of the laundry was found to be dangerous and in need of support and the kitchen floor decayed. Sir Watkin's failure to reply to a letter from Robert Adam about this work gave some offence to the architect. (fn. 20)

The Williams Wynns occupied the house until 1906 and owned it until 1920. (fn. 3) It was then sold to the Eagle Star and British Dominions Insurance Company Limited and Messrs. Hampton, the estate agents. (fn. 5) In 1935 the Distillers Company bought the house and also the vacant site of No. 21. In the following year Messrs. Mewès and Davis built a new block of offices on the two sites, incorporating the principal parts of No. 20, which was given (with No. 21) a mansard roof containing extra storeys. The façade of No. 20 was restored nearly to its original appearance and the design extended to form the façade of the new building (Plate 171): the elevation thus created is uncharacteristic of Adam in its treatment of so long a frontage. No. 20 was damaged by enemy action during the war of 1939–45 but has since been restored. (fn. 23) The building is now known as Distillers House.

Architectural description

The design virtually as executed was published in the Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam, volume II, 1779, part II. Plate I shows the 'Plan of the Parlour Story, and principal Floor', plate II, 'Elevation of the principal Front', plate III, 'Plan and Elevation of a Screen-wall between the Court of the House belonging to the Duke of Leeds and that of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn', plate IV, 'Front of the Offices towards the Court', plate V, 'Parts at large in the Hall and Eatingroom', plate VI, 'Ceiling of the Eating-room', plate VII, 'Ceiling of the music-room', and plate VIII, 'Plan, Elevation and Profile, of an Organ in the Music-room'. In the posthumous volume III, plates XXIII, XXIV, and XXV illustrate respectively 'Ceiling of the library of Sir W. W. Wynn', 'Ceiling of Lady Wynn's dressing room', and 'Inkstand designed for Sir W. W. Wynn'. A large number of drawings for the existing house are preserved in Sir John Soane's Museum, including alternative designs for ceilings, chimneypieces, etc., and others for furniture, carpets and silver plate. Some of the designs published in the Works and preserved in the Soane Museum were modified slightly in execution. The original interior decoration is largely intact but certain alterations have been made, not all of them easily detectable, and some of the painted decoration listed in the bills has disappeared. In restoring the house after the war of 1939–45, most of the ceilings were coloured according to Adam's designs where these had been preserved, but no colour schemes are known for complete rooms.

Of the front of the house (Plates 171, 173a) Robert Adam wrote: 'It is not in a space of forty six feet, which is the whole extent of the elevation, that an architect can make a great display of talents. Where variety and grandeur in composition cannot be obtained, we must be satisfied with a justness of proportion and an elegance of style.' (fn. 24) Few would care to express dissatisfaction with what was, before its recent extension, the finest façade in the square and perhaps the most distinguished that Adam designed for a small town house; constructed of Portland stone and paying little regard to its original brick neighbours, it yet lacked the self-assertiveness of Stuart's earlier façade at No. 15.

The ground storey is rusticated, with three round-arched recesses containing a doorway and two windows, and four Corinthian pilasters rise through the first and second floors to support an entablature and a stone balustrade. The wide basement windows have segmental heads and the area is guarded by an iron railing with plain uprights and bands of decoration at top and bottom. Four ornamental panels were designed to support lamp-standards, though only those flanking the entrance now do so, the other two being terminated by small urns. The existing lamps and their supports date from 1936, when a nineteenth-century iron-trellised porch was removed, and both they and the railings differ in some respects from the original published design.

The bowed entrance steps are swept in to a segmental platform before the front door, which, with its two side lights and large fanlight above, fills the whole archway. The double doors have three panels enriched with carved mouldings and bands of fluting, and a pair of brass knockers which are probably original. The architrave is carved and the side lights, which have sills level with those to the main windows, are flanked by Corinthian half-pilasters supporting a fluted frieze and an enriched dentil cornice running right across the opening. The fanlight, which is stated in the bills to be of copper, has two concentric bands of ornament but is now very much simpler than the original design. The two square-headed ground-floor windows are set in plain ashlar without architraves or projecting sills.

The first-floor level is marked by a broad band with a simple bed-moulding, supporting the Corinthian pilasters and forming a sill to the first-floor windows, which are set in shallow roundarched recesses and have moulded architraves flanked by panelled margins, a frieze with enriched paterae and pediments supported on carved consoles topped by ram heads. Each opening has a segmental metal guard, formed by intersecting curves and topped by a band of fret ornament, replacing a nineteenth-century balcony removed in 1936. The form but not the detail of the guards follows the original Adam design which consisted of rich baluster-shaped uprights with an ornamental band at top and bottom and was executed in copper. The top rail of the guards is continued by a pedestal moulding which is returned into each window recess.

A fluted band marks the level of the second floor where the plain square window openings again have no projecting sills. The crowning entablature has a moulded architrave, a frieze with enriched paterae and a carved modillion cornice. The balustrade rests on a blocking-course and has simple turned balusters, plain dies and a moulded capping. The original roof was hipped and covered with Westmorland slates.

The plan (Plate 172c, 172d) is comparable to that of Chandos House in Chandos Street, Cavendish Square, designed a year earlier for the Duke of Chandos; the two sites are of almost identical frontage but the later house is altogether more ambitious and elaborate. The front room is nearly square with a deeper room behind it and to the north is an entrance hall, a long staircase hall and a secondary stair, all of equal width, and formerly three elaborately modelled rooms of diminishing size in a wing at the rear. The front room has a segmental apse containing a doorway to the back room, which is similarly shaped at either end, the spandrels between the rooms being filled by a closet and a small semi-circular apse open to the staircase hall. The first floor repeats the arrangement below, and the second floor, reached by the secondary staircase, is essentially similar although the original plan of the wing at this level is not known. A rejected scheme for the house, four plans of which are preserved in the library of the R.I.B.A. (Plate 172a, 172b), is not unlike that executed but had triple window openings to the ground and first storeys in front, and a longer entrance hall divided by a colonnade from the inner hall, at the rear of which rose the main staircase in two equal flights with one short crossflight. The principal rooms were entered through the semi-circular apse and the secondary staircase was enclosed, with a passage leading to the rear wing which had rooms of simple rectangular shape.

In the existing house the stone-paved entrance hall is dominated by the arch to the front door, its fluted and moulded impost being continued round the compartment. At the rear are two smaller doorways with carved architraves, festooned friezes and dentil cornices, the right-hand door being false. A similar pair, without a frieze or cornice, gives access to cupboards on either side of the fireplace in the north wall (Plate 174a). The skirting and chair-rail, like the architraves, are slightly enriched but the six-panelled doors are plainly moulded, that leading to the stair hall being modern. The stone chimneypiece (Plate 183a) has an enriched architrave flanked by long consoles supporting a carved frieze with a central tablet bearing a tazza, a festooned ram head on either side and end blocks with ornamented oval paterae. The cornice-shelf is enriched with dentils and a band of fluting, and over it has been fixed a large lead plaque, presumably brought from some other part of the house, with a crest and the inscription SR. W. WMS. WYNN'S HOUSE BEGUN AUG: 1771 FINISH'D AUG: 1774. In the centre of each side wall above the impost-band, and over the two doorways at the rear, are large roundels with finely modelled trophies of arms. The main entablature has a frieze of ram heads linked by festoons with small rosettes above them; the cornice is enriched with dentils and other ornament and the ceiling has a fluted elliptical band surrounding a smaller panel of the same shape enclosed by a guilloche moulding, with a large central rosette and radial fluting decorated with fasces and the imperial eagle. A draught-lobby has been formed inside the entrance door reproducing the original detail which it obscures; the impost-band is carried across the archway with blocks bearing enriched oval paterae above the short Corinthian pilasters which flank the opening. A large modern doorway now leads directly into the front room.

The length and relative narrowness of the staircase hall (Plate 174b) are somewhat oppressive. The fittings are comparable to those in the outer hall with slightly richer mouldings, and the architraved doorcases have friezes decorated with paterae containing satyr masks and rosettes, those to the two main rooms being flanked by Corinthian pilasters without bases and with cornucopiae in the frieze above them. The six-panelled doors are of mahogany, except for that leading to the secondary stair which is of pine, and have a central staff bead and carved mouldings with panel borders of cross-fluting and rosette stops. All the principal doors on the ground floor of the house are similar and have the same brass furniture, designed by Adam and supplied by Edward Gascoigne, consisting of a richly modelled circular knob linked by festoons to a pair of oval escutcheons. Above the two main doorcases are enriched panels containing roundels, with paterae in the corners. The apse has a semi-dome with an enriched cornice at impost level and a fluted frieze bearing festoons above the three round-arched niches which descend to the floor. The semi-dome has ornamented tapered ribs rising from a deep blocking-course to a band of wave moulding near the apex which contains radial leaf ornament. A second, lower, band bears scroll decoration and the intrados to the arch is enriched with guilloche and reverse fluting.

The front room, formerly the eating-room (Plate 176b), has a false doorway balancing that from the staircase hall, and the segmental apse containing the two-leaf door to the rear room is screened by a pair of fluted Corinthian columns and antae, with enriched bases, supporting an entablature with an ornamented soffit and a fluted architrave, a frieze decorated with intertwined garlands of husks containing rosettes, and a rich dentil cornice. The whole entablature is carried round the room and repeated on a smaller scale in the doorcases which are flanked by panelled margins with drops of vine, and carved consoles topped with ram heads, supporting blocks in the frieze with enriched oval paterae. The two-leaf doorway to the rear room is similarly designed but the blocks are supported only by ram heads without consoles, the new doorway to the entrance hall being copied from this. The white marble chimneypiece originally matched the smaller doorcases with the addition of festoons to the ram heads, but it now has neither frieze nor bed-moulding to the cornice. There is an enriched skirting and a chair-rail decorated with minute lion heads, the window architraves and shutters being carved to match the doors. The ceiling (Plate 176a) is in Adam's early manner with octagonal panels containing rosettes in ornamented circles and more rosettes in oak-leaf garlands connected by bands of foliage. The apse is ceiled above the architrave and has radial leaf ornament and intertwined garlands with small rosettes, the whole ceiling being coloured in white and two shades of green, as in the original design, with the addition of a pale grey background.

The former music-room (Plate 177b) at the rear has three openings in the segmental window wall and opposite the chimney-breast is a recess intended for the organ, flanked by two doorways rather smaller than that from the front room. The doorcases have carved architraves ornamented with paterae, a fluted frieze with roundels containing classical heads and an enriched cornice. There is a carved skirting and chair-rail and the upper parts of the walls are divided into wide and narrow panels enclosed by an enriched raised moulding, and containing arabesque ornament with trophies of musical instruments and a central lyre supported by children. The chimneybreast has drops of similar ornament flanking the tall mirror above the chimneypiece, which is set in an enriched gilt frame shown in Adam's drawing topped by a wreath containing an Apollo head and two lyres with anthemion ornament. The chimneypiece (Plate 183b) is of white marble with a narrow banded reed-moulding to the opening, the rich entablature having an architrave decorated with paterae, a fluted frieze and a dentil cornice. In the centre of the frieze and architrave, and rising into the bed-moulding of the cornice, is a large tablet carved with an exceptionally fine relief of Apollo and the nine Muses to the design of Antonio Zucchi. On either side of the opening is an unfluted column of a simplified Corinthian order, flanked by a half-pilaster, supporting panelled blocks carved with standing female figures, the cornice breaking forward above them. Over the two side doors are oil paintings on a relatively large scale, of pairs of figures playing musical instruments, set in enriched gilt frames. Nathaniel Dance was paid £210 in 1775 for these two and another of Orpheus which is no longer in the room, Sir Joshua Reynolds supplying one of St. Cecilia in the same year for 150 guineas, (fn. 25) presumably that which was sold from the Wynn collection at Sotheby's on 5 February 1947. The height of the latter picture is approximately eight feet and the Orpheus was probably a fellow to it, for Adam intended two such pictures to occupy the panels flanking the chimney-breast instead of the plaster ornament now in them.

The long narrow painting above the double doorway, representing 'Shepherds and Nimphs, doing honor to the Ashes of Correlli or Handel', is by Zucchi who charged £50 for it in 1776. The same bill lists a circular picture for the centre of the ceiling, costing £18, which has disappeared, and four smaller circles, costing £48, which are still in situ. (fn. 20) The ceiling (Plate 177a) is surrounded by a band with anthemion enrichment, enclosing elaborate fan decoration at either end and a large rectangle containing the four circular paintings, in rich frames, overlying an ellipse with scroll decoration in the centre of each side. An inner ellipse, defined by a guilloche band, encloses a motif with widely scalloped edges and the broad fluted frame to the central circle is hung with swags, trophies of musical instruments and other ornament. The original colour scheme has been closely followed and is in green, purple and white with touches of terra-cotta pink. The organ made by John Snetzler in 1775 for £250, (fn. 26) was removed from the house more than fifty years ago: Adam's design for the case (Plate 184a) shows it to have had a richly panelled base and, in the upper part, a large circular opening with a coat of arms below it, flanked by boys holding festoons, a draped female figure at either side and a roundel above containing a man's portrait. The narrow recessed wings were framed by fluted Corinthian pilasters and there was a rich frieze and cornice with a central block supporting a reclining statue of Apollo. In June 1777, £42 was paid to Collins the joiner 'for the 2 Figures of the Organ to replace those made by Mr. Ansell'. (fn. 19)

The first room in the rear wing (Plate 178b), originally the library, is a rectangular compartment with a chimney-breast projecting from the north wall and a large Venetian window opposite. At either end was formerly a shallow extension screened by a pair of unfluted Corinthian columns in antis, supporting a frieze decorated with festooned ox heads and rosettes, and an enriched dentil cornice. The nearer columns have been removed and those at the far end replaced by a pilastered partition containing a double doorway. Both colonnades were recessed beneath segmental arches springing from a fluted impost-band level with the cornice to the order, the solid tympana above having fan decoration enclosed by a wave moulding, and swags and tassels suspended from the intrados of the arch with small segments of paterae. The Venetian window has unfluted Corinthian columns and antae resting on pedestals formed in the dado; they support a frieze and cornice which differ slightly from those to the colonnades but are at the same level, and the arched central opening of the window has an ornamented archivolt. Above the impost are rectangular and shaped spandrel panels, the segmental arch at either end of the room being flanked by amphorae on stands, and the chimney-breast having a segmental panel within a lunette of husks based on a band of scroll ornament set in the impost. On either side of the chimney-breast are round-arched niches containing fan decoration in their heads above projecting cupboards with plainly panelled doors, the upper pair framed by Corinthian pilasters which rest on the chair-rail and support a frieze decorated with urns and classical heads in roundels, linked by festoons, and an ornamented cornice. Parts of the walls above the enriched chair-rail are divided into long narrow panels but the chimney-breast is plain, the white marble chimneypiece having a carved architrave, flanked by margins with intertwined drops of husks, and a carved cornice-shelf without its bed-moulding or the frieze, shown in Adam's drawing, decorated with festooned ox heads and rosettes between a pair of enriched oval paterae. The main entablature to the room has a frieze decorated with connecting wreaths of oak leaves containing anthemion ornament, and an enriched cornice. The ceiling (Plate 178a) has a large circular panel enclosed by a plain moulding overlaid by four roundels which, with another in the centre, are painted in monochrome with scenes from the lives of classical poets. They were executed by Zucchi for the sums of £48 and £18 respectively, the bill stating erroneously that they were for Sir Watkin's dressing-room. (fn. 20) The subsidiary roundels have segments of enriched fan decoration within the circular panel which also contains festoons and arabesques hung from the large central roundel, similar decoration on a larger scale being employed in the outer part of the ceiling which is enclosed by a string of husk ornament with a rich band containing anthemion at either end.

The two end portions of the room were generally of a similar design: that remaining is divided into three compartments by pilasters answering the vanished columns and by crossarches with panelled intradosi matching the soffit of the entablature to the colonnade. The middle compartment has a groined ceiling with an enriched patera in the centre, husk ornament to the groins and rich fan decoration at the springings of the vault and in the middle of each side, the adjoining compartments having barrel-vaults enriched with arabesques and pairs of long, lozenge-shaped panels containing single paterae. The dentil cornice differs from that in the main part of the room and there is a plain frieze. The door from the music-room has an enriched architrave and facing it is a shallow round-arched recess with a frieze and cornice running across it matching that to the bookcases. In the centre of the rear wall is a similar recess and the secondary staircase is reached through a jib door. The doorway at the other end of the room has an enriched architrave and cornice with a plain frieze, and is probably original although in a new position.

Sir Watkin's dressing-room beyond was an octagon of which three sides were removed when it was enlarged at the expense of the library, a second window being put in place of the former doorway leading from the library into the courtyard. Adam's drawing for the room preserved in Sir John Soane's Museum (Plate 185a, 185b) shows a fireplace opposite the entrance and an unpierced wall with plaster decoration facing the rectangular window opening, the other four sides having round-arched recesses, three containing cupboards and the fourth a doorway similarly designed. The recesses flanking the fireplace survive, with their narrow carved surrounds and patera-ornamented frieze and enriched cornice at impost level, the painted two-leaf doors being probably original although not in accord with the drawing. Similar recesses now occur opposite the two windows, the second being necessarily a modern insertion, and the enriched skirting and chair-rail are carried across them with plain cupboard doors below and modern, glazed, mahogany doors above. The windows have been given arched heads internally and in the spandrels above are repeated the small enriched paterae (placed by Adam only over the recesses). The long narrow panels which occur on each side of the room were intended to contain scroll decoration. The doorcase is probably original and has a carved architrave, a frieze contained by scrolls and decorated with four paterae (Adam's drawing showed only one) and an enriched dentil cornice supported on carved brackets dissociated from the architrave. The urn and sphinxes shown above this doorway in the drawing, and the winged griffins with a similar urn, intended for the tympana of the arched recesses, do not now exist. The white marble chimneypiece consists merely of an enriched architrave supporting a plain shelf, but Adam intended to have decorated margins at either side, a fluted frieze with a carved tablet and end blocks, an enriched cornice-shelf and an upper part with a richly framed panel, a frieze with paterae and a scroll pediment. The entablature to the room has a frieze decorated with leaf ornament and a rich cornice. The ceiling is coved, but now without the festoons and paterae designed for it, and the flat central area, enclosed by a band of wave moulding, is quite plain although a rich circular panel and festoons of husks with anthemion drops were intended. The oval powdering-room at the end of the wing, with its water-closet and a small service staircase, no longer exists.

The principal staircase (Plate 174b) rises in two short flights with a long one between them and is of stone with a shaped soffit and carved spandrels to the steps. In July 1774, William Kinman was paid £200 'to Copper Railing for ye Grand Stairs', a 'Copper pillar for the bottom' costing a further £5. (fn. 20) The railing consists of baluster-shaped panels decorated with anthemion and ram heads, linked by festoons to long drops of husks suspended from lion masks. Above is a band containing urns and other ornament and a moulded mahogany handrail which is supported at the bottom curtail by the baluster-shaped 'Copper pillar'.

The level of the first floor is marked by a band with enriched paterae framed by acanthus buds, the ornament being continued on the edge of the landing. The ground-floor apse, with its three niches and semi-dome, is repeated on the first floor (Plate 175a) and the impost, which is decorated with swagged urns and paterae, the enriched capping being ornamented with lion masks, is continued round the compartment to a shallow round-arched recess in the opposite wall, at one time occupied by a copy of Raphael's painting of the 'Transfiguration'. Recessed lunettes based on the impost occur in each end wall and the doorways correspond with those below and have architraves with carved mouldings and bands of fluting, a frieze decorated with festoons, paterae and rosettes, and an enriched dentil cornice. The doorcases flanking the apse have plain margins, with carved brackets supporting frieze-blocks enriched with paterae. The carved skirting and chair-rail are returned into the three niches which have an impost-band enriched with scroll decoration, and fan decoration in their heads. The intrados of the arch to the semi-dome has a guilloche moulding and the dome itself has leaf ornament at its apex and a radial pattern with large acanthus leaves contained by a narrow fluted band and a wider band of wave moulding below, from which are suspended swags and drops tied by ribbons, and three roundels, two containing reliefs of seahorses and one an enriched urn. Over the larger doorcases are square panels with broad enriched frames enclosing roundels containing figure subjects in high relief, with arabesques in the spandrels. The panels are repeated on the opposite wall with taller similarly framed panels below them containing romantic landscapes painted in oils on canvas, for which a Mr. Roberts of Dublin was paid £52 10s. in April 1775. (fn. 27) This must have been either Thomas Roberts, who was born in Waterford towards the middle of the eighteenth century and who practised landscape painting in Dublin, or possibly his younger brother Thomas Soutelle Roberts, who was both a painter and an architect and who died in 1826. (fn. 28)

A rich cornice and anthemion-ornamented frieze mark the level of the second floor (Plate 175b), the walls above being divided by Corinthian pilasters into three unequal parts with a shallow round-arched recess in the centre of each end wall and similar recesses in the side walls flanking a wider one with a segmental head. The enriched impost moulding is stopped at each recess but the skirting and ornamented chair-rail are interrupted only on the south wall where the central archway and tall rectangles in the recesses on either side are pierced to light a passage giving access to the former bedrooms. These openings are guarded by an ornamental metal balustrade with an elaborate central panel, enriched with anthemion, and a moulded mahogany handrail. The entablature to the Corinthian order has a vestigial architrave, a deep frieze with acanthus ornament and a rich dentil cornice. The cove of the ceiling is divided by foliated bands and decorated with rectangular panels containing cupids and scroll ornament, flanked by urns on tall stands and large roundels with radial ornament enclosed by bands of guilloche. The flat portion of the ceiling is surrounded and divided into three by enriched beams, the narrow end compartments containing panels with circular reliefs of figure subjects flanked by winged sphinxes, and the central compartment having arabesque ornament in the corners and a large elliptical roof-light, surrounded by a narrow banded reed-moulding, and having a low drum decorated with rosettes and festoons of husks and a small enriched cornice.

The ante-room (Plate 182a) above the entrance hall has an asymmetrically placed doorway from the landing and another to the front drawing-room, a wide chimney-breast and a high groined ceiling. There are carved mouldings to the skirting and chair-rail and also to the doorcases which are architraved and corniced, their friezes decorated with festoons and paterae. The painted doors and window shutters have carved panel mouldings, the window opening having an architrave to match the doorcases. The white marble chimneypiece, supplied by John Hinchcliff for the sum of £150, (fn. 20) also corresponds to the doorcases with the addition of fluted members at either end rising to carved consoles which support blocks in the frieze bearing enriched paterae. The corniceshelf breaks forward over them, setting back to a plain margin at either side, and the tall mirror above the chimneypiece has a carved gilt frame corresponding to Adam's design but with an additional moulding and without the oval plaque and scroll decoration intended to crown it. The main frieze and cornice match those to the doorcases and chimneypiece but on a larger scale and with richer mouldings. The tympana above have wide central panels with small spandrels on each side, enclosed by guilloche mouldings and containing arabesque ornament with pairs of winged griffins and circular reliefs of figures in fluted frames. The groined ceiling has a flat pattern applied to it with the curious effect of a folded drawing. A central ellipse, containing oak-leaf decoration, is surrounded by a rich band of the same shape inside a larger figure with concave sides and a broad enclosing band decorated with connecting vesicas and acanthus buds. There is further anthemion ornament and festoons and chains of husks, with rich radial decoration, at the springing of the vault above small oval panels containing paterae. The colours, copied from Adam's drawing, are green, white and purple with small areas of pale yellow.

The front drawing-room (Plate 181a) is the same shape as the eating-room below with corresponding doorways, but is higher and has no colonnade to the segmental apse. There is a carved skirting and fluted chair-rail and the walls are plain, the upper part being formerly hung with damask. The doorcases have fluted architraves flanked by narrow panelled pilasters with simple Corinthian caps and no bases, the panels containing a guilloche moulding: the friezes are slightly recessed at either end with female masks set in ovals and in the centre are carved with an anthemion pattern, the dentil cornice having enriched mouldings and minute rosettes decorating the corona. The doors, like all those on the first floor, are painted and have narrow carved mouldings to the panels, the window openings having matching architraves and shutter panels. The chimneypiece, of white marble, is perhaps the most ambitious in the house. The carved architrave is flanked by broad margins with fluted cappings and panels carved in relief with draped female figures standing on elaborate pedestals and playing musical instruments. In the frieze above them are richly decorated roundels containing small female masks, and a long central tablet rising into the bedmoulding of the cornice which matches those to the doorcases. The tablet, which extends the full width of the architrave to the opening, is carved with 'Aurora going before the Sun and the different Hours', and all three reliefs, which are comparable in quality with the tablet in the music-room chimneypiece, were executed by an unknown sculptor to the design of Antonio Zucchi. Above the chimneypiece is a tall mirror in a carved gilt frame, which with another between the windows agrees with Adam's design except for the additional guilloche band. The chimney-mirror has flanking pilasters with painted scroll decoration and a small cornice, but lacks the carved ornament intended above it and for which three different designs are preserved in Sir John Soane's Museum. The main entablature to the room is an enlarged and richer version of that to the doorcases. The ceiling has a central elliptical panel containing radial leaf ornament enclosed by concentric bands, the broad outer pair decorated with scrolled acanthus and anthemion in connecting vesicas having between them festoons and drops of husks and small rosettes, with four roundels containing reliefs of figures. Further roundels decorate the corners of the ceiling with more festoons and arabesque ornament, and the ceiling of the apse, defined by an enriched band, has radial leaf ornament within a richly decorated arc, and four ornamented radii forming panels with festoons, rosettes and roundels containing classical heads. The colour scheme of the ceiling is very close to Adam's original design, in pale shades of green with small areas of pale terra-cotta and purple and touches of dark terra-cotta and a strong blue.

The second drawing-room (Plate 181b) has apsed ends corresponding to the music-room below with semi-domes following the segmental curve of the elaborately decorated ceiling: the upper part of the walls is hung with damask and the chairrail and skirting have richly carved mouldings. The three two-leaf doors (Plate 183c) have doorcases of carved architraves flanked by fluted half-pilasters of a composite order without bases: they support a section of architrave, and the frieze, which is decorated with thin scrolls of acanthus emanating from a half-figure of a child, sets back above them with ornamented classical altars in relief, the enriched cornice following suit. The door panels have carved mouldings and figures painted in colours by Antonio Zucchi with other decoration which has not survived. The architraves to the window openings and the carved shutter panels match the doorways, and the curtain boxes, which may be original, have an anthemion pattern resembling that framing the central panels in the ceiling, with blocks decorated with rosettes and a cresting of palmettes. The chimneypiece, again of white marble, has a small carved architrave to the opening flanked by engaged, fluted, Ionic columns enriched with bead mouldings and panelled margins containing long drops tied by ribbons. There is a full entablature, breaking forward over the columns, with a moulded architrave, an elaborately ornamented frieze and an enriched cornice-shelf. In the centre of the frieze is a tablet carved with the triumph of Venus, probably by the same hand as those already described and again to the design of Zucchi. It is flanked by scroll ornament with children, more richly carved than that to the doorcases, and the blocks over the columns repeat the reliefs of classical altars with ornamented oval paterae beyond. The tall mirror above the chimneypiece has a guilloche moulding surrounding its carved gilt frame and flanking pilasters matching those in the front drawing-room. The frame itself corresponds to the original drawing and is repeated on the opposite wall and on both sides of the doorway in the apse. Adam intended the top to be ornamented with a classical altar flanked by children and scrolls, corresponding to the frieze of the chimneypiece.

The main entablature to the room consists of a fluted architrave, a scroll-ornamented frieze and a rich cornice, each apse having an arch with a decorated soffit, the face richly ornamented with a radial anthemion pattern. The ceiling (Plate 180b) is divided into three sections by broad bands defined by guilloche mouldings and decorated with painted wreaths of husks containing anthemion and acanthus ornament. At the base of each band is a pedestal with a festooned plinth, a fluted capping with a pair of ram heads and an enriched tazza in relief hung with festoons and drops of vine. The line of the pedestals is continued by a small moulding above long panels containing painted arabesque ornament, the plinths being connected by a band of fluting, similar longitudinal bands dividing each section of the ceiling into five compartments. The wider central compartments contain elliptical panels enclosed by bands of anthemion ornament, each with four blocks enriched with rosettes, an inner band of painted leaf decoration, a guilloche moulding and a central rosette within an ornamented frame. The compartments on either side have long narrow paintings of classical subjects surrounded by husk ornament and beyond again are lunettes enclosed by decorated bands springing from enriched blocks bearing female masks, the bases ornamented with swags and small rosettes. The lunettes contain monochrome paintings of draped female figures festooning elaborate tripods. The shallow semidomes have radial leaf decoration within an anthemion-ornamented band, from which are suspended painted festoons and drops, with small rosettes and circular panels containing paintings of children. An enriched moulding is arranged in large crenelations to run beneath the paintings and above the elegant tazzas between them, which are supported on elongated stands resting on pedestals decorated with festoons and ram heads, set in a band of fluting. Zucchi was responsible for the paintings incorporated in the ceiling and for all the painted decoration, most of which is in colour. His bill for the whole amounted to £282. (fn. 20) The colour scheme intended by Adam was pale green, pink and white with fairly strong blues and other colours in the pictures and a certain amount of gilding. The ceiling is now much warmer in tone with various shades of buff in place of white and rather more gold leaf than is shown in the original drawing.

Lady Wynn's dressing-room (Plate 179b) in the rear wing corresponds to the library below but has a groined ceiling over the central compartment with arches framing barrel-vaults at either end. The arches have ornamented intradosi and spring from flat panelled antae with an enriched dentil cornice, a deep frieze with single decorated paterae and a moulded architrave, the whole entablature being carried round the end compartments with long panels in the frieze containing festoons of ivy with drops and small rosettes. A similarly decorated frieze is continued across the rear wall with an anthemion-ornamented wave moulding in place of the cornice and a fluted band level with the architrave. On the window wall the lower band is interrupted by the cornice to the Venetian window and the wave moulding continues only far enough to form the impost to a wide band of arabesque ornament with fluted borders, which is repeated on each side of the room framing the tympana: these have decorated roundels containing reliefs of figure subjects with flanking urns on tall stands hung with festoons. The Venetian window is divided by fluted Ionic columns, on pedestals formed in the dado, supporting a reduced version of the main entablature with an enriched archivolt to the central opening. The skirting and chair-rail are carved, the latter enriched with lion heads, and at the ends of the room the walls have triple arcades with single return arches at either side. They are formed by simple pilasters with fluted caps supporting narrow enriched archivolts, two at the near end of the room, and one at the far end forming doorcases, with the cap mouldings continued across the lintels. The doorway in the south wall, leading to the rear drawing-room, is similarly formed and the arch facing it has had a fluted lintel added in recent years. The other end compartment to the room is lit by a window with a false arched head which may be modern, although Adam's original design (Plate 180a), preserved in Sir John Soane's Museum, was considerably varied in execution and it is not entirely clear what later alterations have been made.

The chimneypiece is of white marble. The opening has a simple architrave with a carved moulding, flanked by fluted Ionic columns supporting a fluted architrave, a frieze with end blocks and a central tablet, and an enriched corniceshelf. The frieze is inlaid with festoons and drops of ivy with rosettes, executed in coloured scagliola by Bartoli who added further decoration between the flutes of the columns at a total cost of £33. The tablet in the frieze bears a 'basalt' plaque, enamelled with a representation of Venus in her chariot attended by cupids, which, with smaller plaques formerly set in the blocks at either end and decorated with cupids and dolphins in painted oval frames, were supplied by Wedgwood and Bentley in 1775 for the sum of £26 5s. (fn. 29) Zucchi was paid an extra £8 for providing designs for them in distemper and the marble work was carried out by John Hinchcliff for £150, the total cost of the chimneypiece being £217 5s. (fn. 20)

The ceiling (Plate 179a), which is liberally decorated with arabesques, has a rectangular central figure with concave sides, containing an ellipse with a rosette and anthemion ornament, and fan decoration in the spandrels. Four small elliptical reliefs of figures surround it within a pair of elliptical guilloche bands, and a third band of fluting contains the whole of the ceiling decoration except for the corner spandrels. There is the same strange effect of a flat pattern applied to a groined ceiling as in the ante-room. The two barrelvaults have arcs of guilloche ornament forming shaped panels with arabesque and fan decoration and roundels containing rosettes and figures in relief.

The original bedroom beyond is a square compartment with a low dome supported on pendentives, a shallow segmental-headed recess for the bed in the back wall and a chimney-breast opposite the doorway from the dressing-room. It appears to have been somewhat altered, for the bed-recess is now entirely plain and there is no architrave to the doorway, though that to the square-headed window opening has slight enrichment, as have the shutter panels and the skirting and chair-rail. The chimneypiece is of wood with marble slips and has a carved moulding to the architrave and plain margins with long carved consoles supporting an enriched cornice-shelf. The frieze has an elaborate pattern of anthemion and scroll ornament and over the shelf is a wide mirror with plain jambs, a frieze decorated with lozenge-shaped panels containing rosettes and an enriched dentil cornice level with the capping to the chimney-breast. Above is a plain blocking-course shown in Adam's drawing with enrichment and supporting a pair of busts and a central group of figures with an urn. The pendentives spring from female masks with radial ornament above and roundels containing cupids in relief (Plate 185c). At the base of the dome is a frieze not unlike that to the chimneypiece, a dentil cornice and a blocking-course with enriched paterae from which spring inverted festoons and drops of husks. In the centre of the dome is a circular panel containing a rosette surrounded by fan ornament, and an outer ring of arabesque decoration is contained by a fluted band enriched with paterae. Adam designed a good deal of additional decoration both for the dome and the pendentives but it was presumably never carried out. The present colour scheme does not correspond to the original which was pale green and white with touches of purple. A jib door led formerly to an oval powdering-room, which, like that below, has been destroyed along with its closet and the small staircase.

On the second floor the passage flanking the stair compartment has a small apse with two internal windows and gives access to a large room in front and at the rear, both with wide bed-recesses, and to a small room corresponding to the anteroom below. The ill-lit area between the principal rooms has lost its original layout. The rear wing at this level has been entirely reconstructed. Both the bedrooms and the passage have slight enrichment to the skirting, chair-rail and architraves and also to the small plaster cornice, but the doors and window shutters are plainly panelled. The rear room has a segmental bow window and the bed-recess is flanked by strange Corinthian antae with pedestals formed in the dado, supporting a beam with a panelled soffit. The wooden chimneypiece has an architrave with a fluted moulding and marble slips, flanked by very simple panelled pilasters supporting blocks in the frieze with female masks; the frieze also has a panelled, central tablet, and the enriched cornice-shelf breaks forward above the blocks. In the small front room the fireplace is flanked by recesses with round-arched heads, and the chimneypiece, which may not be entirely original, has an architrave with a carved moulding and marble slips, flanked by narrow panels rising to blocks in the frieze carved with urns. The frieze is deeply fluted and the cornice has an enriched bed-moulding and minute wave ornament to the square edge of the shelf. In the main front room the chimneypiece is finer than the other two. It is again of wood, the architrave having a carved moulding and marble slips, and flanking margins with long carved trusses supporting blocks in the frieze bearing oval paterae with small female masks. The frieze has serpentine fluting and the cornice-shelf is enriched with dentils and carved mouldings.

The rear of the house has been entirely refaced with white glazed bricks but it is clear from the disposition of the windows that it can never have had a formal appearance. The two-storeyed office building at the back of the courtyard was given an elaborate and entirely self-contained stone front, and a quite unrelated design, executed in Liardet's stucco, was applied to the low screen wall against No. 21. Neither survived the rebuilding of 1936. The front of the office building (Plates 173b, 184b), which was largely occupied by the stable with a laundry over it, had a rusticated ground storey with single square-headed windows flanking a central projection containing a round-arched doorway. A broad band marked the level of the first floor which had a moulded pedestal supporting a Corinthian order and forming the sill to rectangular recesses at either side, intended to contain draped female statues. Above them were rectangular panels of the same width with urns and scroll decoration in relief, and on either side were plain pilasters supporting an entablature with a fluted frieze, enriched cornice and blocking-course. The central projection was flanked by engaged unfluted columns, supporting a panelled frieze and pediment and resting on pedestals linked by a balustrade of simply turned stone balusters. A large round-arched recess with impost blocks contained a Venetian window with Ionic columns supporting a plain frieze, a dentil cornice and an enriched archivolt. The building had a slated pyramidal roof and an area in front was guarded by a plain flat-topped railing.

The decorated part of the screen wall (Plates 173c, 184b) was contained by shallow wings and had pedestal mouldings and an entablature with a deep-fluted frieze, a dentil cornice and a blocking-course. In the centre were three round-arched recesses with pairs of engaged Ionic columns supporting an impost-band ornamented with paterae and fluting. The tympana had radial decoration, the central compartment, with anthemion enrichment, differing from the other two and none quite agreeing with the published design. The archivolts were plainly moulded and in the spandrels were urns on tall stands with festoons and drops of husks suspended from three lion masks in the frieze. The wings had rectangular openings based on the capping to the pedestal and above the impost were roundels containing figures in relief, shown in the design with ribbons, festoons and drops, which, like the festooned urns on the blocking-course, may never have been carried out. Adam also intended to have classical statues in the recesses, on decorated circular pedestals, and terms supporting urns between the paired columns with trios of figures backed by larger urns on semicircular pedestals in front of the rectangular openings in the wings.


  • 1. Gandon also provided a design for a theatre at Sir Watkin's country seat, Wynnstay, in Denbighshire.
  • 2. The shopkeepers who provided furnishings included Thomas Moore who made the 'fine Cieling pattern' carpets and painted the pattern for some of them; Garsed and Company, Atwick and Hooper, Messrs. Palmer, and Messrs. King and Padget of King Street, Covent Garden, who provided silk hangings and upholstery; Henry Walk who provided a 'Duchess' easy-chair; and Joseph Cresswall who supplied gilt candlesticks and tripods.
  • 3. From 1908 to 1920 it was occupied by the Earl of Strathmore, father of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
  • 4. B.M., Add. MS. 22063, item 367.
  • 5. Deeds of Winchester House Property Co. Ltd.
  • 6. 12 Geo. III, c. 10, private.
  • 7. National Library of Wales, Wynnstay MSS. (1952 collection).
  • 8. Ibid., 115/25.
  • 9. Ibid., 115/4, p. I.
  • 10. Ibid., 115/4, p. 14.
  • 11. Ibid., 115/4, pp. 12, 35.
  • 12. Ibid., 115/5, p. 10.
  • 13. Ibid., 115/6, p. 30.
  • 14. Ibid., 115/6, pp. 13, 46.
  • 15. Ibid., 115/7, p. 6.
  • 16. Ibid., 115/7, p. 38.
  • 17. Ibid., 115/8, p. 16.
  • 18. Ibid., 115/4, p. 28.
  • 19. Ibid., 115/9, pp. 33–6.
  • 20. Ibid., 115/17.
  • 21. Eliza Meteyard, Life of Josiah Wedgwood, 1866, vol. ii, pp. 132–3. 357, 370–2.
  • 22. National Library of Wales, Wynnstay MSS. (1952 collection), 115/7, 115/17.
  • 23. T.P. 7487; Arthur Oswald, 'The Preservation of an Adam House, No. 20 St. James's Square', in Country Life, 5 Aug. 1939; 'The Old—and the New—Adam', in The Architectural Review, Aug. 1938, pp. 104–6; Distillers House (booklet of Distillers Company), 1954.
  • 24. Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam, vol. ii, 1779, part ii, explanation of plate .
  • 25. National Library of Wales, Wynnstay MSS. (1952 collection), 115/7, 115/24.
  • 26. Ibid., 115/24.
  • 27. Ibid., 115/7, pp. 33–5.
  • 28. Dictionnaire Critique et Documentaire des Peintres et Graveurs et Sculpteurs, Paris, 1911–23, new ed. 1948–55; Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, revised G. C. Williamson, 1919.
  • 29. National Library of Wales, Wynnstay MSS. (1952 collection), 115/7.