St. James's Square: No 32

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 32', in Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1, (London, 1960) pp. 202-206. British History Online [accessed 18 April 2024]

No. 32

Architects, S. P. and C. R. Cockerell, 1819–21. Blocking-course and dormer windows altered in 1897 by W. D. Caroë. Porch added in 1931 by H. L. Anderson

Little is known of the history of the first house built here. The site was granted by the Earl of St. Albans and Baptist May to trustees for John, first Lord Belasyse, together with the sites to the north and south of it (see page 191), on the same day in March 1669/70 on which Lord Halifax was granted his site on the west side of the square. (fn. 4) No. 32 first appears in the ratebooks in 1673, at the same time as No. 33. The only respect in which these houses seem to have differed externally from the other single-plot houses which followed them in the square was in the chimneystack which ran up the facade between them. (fn. 5)

The first occupant of No. 32 was Robert Rich, Earl of Holland and Warwick, whose widow occupied the house after him. From 1689 to 1691 the widow of Lord Belasyse, who had lived in No. 33 until his death, resided in the house while her son lived next door. From 1692 onwards, however, the house was occupied for short periods by a succession of residents, presumably as tenants of the Belasyse family.

From 1729 to 1737 the rates were paid by the Earl of Ashburnham, who died in the house. For part of this time, however, from November 1732 to September 1735, the house was tenanted by Sir Robert Walpole. (fn. 6) During Walpole's occupation of the house a high wind in January 1734/5 sufficed to cause the collapse of the kitchen buildings. (fn. 7)

In 1749–53, during the rebuilding of the neighbouring site as part of the new Norfolk House, No. 32 stood empty before Lord Montague entered into occupation of the house. (fn. 8) But no reconstruction at this period is apparent in Bowles's view published in c. 1752 (Plate 130) which shows the original seventeenth-century façade.

In 1766 the house was sold by Lord Montague to Earl Brooke, Earl of Warwick, (fn. 1) for £5000. (fn. 9) In 1770 the sale of the house to Richard Terrick, Bishop of London, as a town residence for him and his successors in the see, was negotiated. Robert Mylne surveyed the house in February, judged that it was 'strong substantial and well built', prophesied accurately that it 'would stand for Fifty Years', and valued it at £5000. Lord Warwick is nevertheless said to have spent £1000 or more repairing and refronting the house, and the sale which was finally made in January 1771 was for £6200. (fn. 10)

The construction of Waterloo Place obliged the New Street Commissioners to reconstruct part of the back premises of No. 32, and also of No. 33. (fn. 11) An arrangement was made in 1813 by which the Commissioners were to give the Bishop and the owner of No. 33, Lord Eliot, ground bought from the Duke of Norfolk, and to build stables on the reshaped back premises of the two houses. (fn. 12) From 1814 to the autumn of 1816 the Bishop's architect, Samuel Pepys Cockerell, was negotiating with John Nash, representing the Commissioners, and Soane, Lord Eliot's architect. A carriageway to the stables of No. 32 from Charles Street was provided across the back premises of No. 33, a plan approved in trial manœuvres carried out with a 'heavy coach' and an 'unskilful man' by Cockerell at Fulham and the Bishop in London. The delay in completing the arrangements was attributed by Nash to the suspicious nature of Lord Eliot (fn. 13) (see pages 207–8).

At this time Cockerell was reconstructing Fulham Palace for the Bishop, John Howley. In 1818 the alteration or rebuilding of No. 32 was taken in hand, probably facilitated by the fall in building costs following the conclusion of the war. In November of that year Cockerell informed Soane, who was extending No. 33, and with whom he had recently corresponded over the improved drainage from the two houses, that alterations at No. 32 were in contemplation but not yet settled. He again wrote to Soane in January 1819, offering to explain the proposed alterations and suggesting a discussion of the arrangement of the back premises of the Bishop's house to afford adequate lighting to No. 33. (fn. 14) In the same month he had informed the Bishop that the estimate for the alterations from the builders, David Jonathan of Beak Street, carpenter, and Joseph Drown of Broad Street, bricklayer (who was working next door at No. 33) was £200 less than he had expected, and suggested that a parliamentary Bill should be drafted seeking authority to rebuild the house out of the funds of the see. (fn. 15) By May it was found that legal opinion was adverse to the Bill, and the Bishop had then to decide whether to repair the house at his own expense or rebuild completely with money borrowed from ecclesiastical funds and repayable over a term probably longer than his own life. Cockerell thought that a thorough repair, with 'some improvement' but retaining the existing floor levels and the 'present character' of the front, would cost £4500, and recommended this rather than a complete rebuilding at about £8500. The Bishop decided, however, on the more ambitious alternative, and in July 1819 a private Act (fn. 16) was obtained which authorized the Bishop to borrow up to £10,000 for 'rebuilding wholly or in part and repairing' the house, and to mortgage property of the see to secure the loan. The Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty were empowered to advance the money. The subsequent leasing of the house was forbidden.

In August 1819 the Bishop, together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and J. H. Palmer, esquire, of Marylebone, who had been appointed under the Act to enter into contracts and make payments for the rebuilding, came to an agreement with Jonathan and Drown for the execution of the work according to detailed specifications and under the direction of S. P. and C. R. Cockerell. Jonathan and Drown agreed to do the work for £7823. This sum was later reduced to £7500, but payments for additional work by them and other workmen amounted to £3011 7s. 1d. A payment of £458 17s. was made to 'Messrs. Cockerell and Son, their Commission as Architects', and this, together with legal costs and payments to the clerk of the works, brought the sum total to £11,124 11s. 8d. The excess over the £10,000 authorized to be spent by the Act was paid by the Bishop 'out of his Lordship's private Estate'. (fn. 17) By September work had begun. The agreement had required it to be completed by December 1820 but in fact it was not finished until a year later and the final payments were made in April 1822. (fn. 17) (fn. 2)

The only known letter to Bishop Howley dealing directly with the design of the house was written in October 1819 by S. P. Cockerell's son, C. R. Cockerell, on behalf of his father. (fn. 13) The fact that he was charged with the task of explaining and commending the design to the Bishop and that plans for the rebuilding exist signed by him (fn. 18) suggest that it may have been largely his work and that The Builder of 1854 was correct in attributing the house to him and not to his father. (fn. 19) Four of the five certificates made to J. H. Palmer notifying the progress of the work were signed by C. R. Cockerell, who also seems to have been chiefly responsible for ordering the work additional to the contract. (fn. 20)

C. R. Cockerell's letter shows that the Bishop had questioned the propriety of the round-headed first-floor windows and had quoted 'authorities' critical of their juxtaposition to the more modest fenestration of Norfolk House. Cockerell, avowing his wish to satisfy the Bishop's expressed desire 'that the character of London House tho' little adorned should be distinguished from the usual order of Builders' Houses', pointed to the 'extremely awkward' width of the house, which was too great for three windows of ordinary form and too narrow for five, while four were objectionable as 'having no symmetry' and conflicting with the plan of the interior. Cockerell was particularly reluctant to reduce the intended size of the principal rooms which were 'already small', and was satisfied that the existing plan gave the best disposition of light 'which in the Drawing Room should be very chearful'. (fn. 13)

The rebuilt house was in occupation by 1821. (fn. 8)

Repairs were carried out by Ewan Christian in 1876. (fn. 21) By 1897 the use of the house as an episcopal residence had been discontinued 'for many years', (fn. 21) being utilized only 'on those rare occasions when it is galvanised into temporary usefulness for the purposes of a charity bazaar or a missionary meeting'. (fn. 22) In that year Bishop Mandell Creighton proposed to resume its occupation, and substantial alterations were carried out by W. D. Caroë, including improvements to the drainage, plumbing and ventilation, replanning of the bedrooms, and 'new windows and dormers to the attics'. The blocking-course, previously quite plain, was probably given its present form at that time. (fn. 23)

In 1919 the Caledonian Club took the house on a yearly tenancy. (fn. 24) In July 1930 Bishop Winnington-Ingram was authorized to vest the house in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners who were empowered to sell it. (fn. 25) In December the Commissioners came to an agreement with the club by which a twenty-one-year lease was granted to the club, which was to be sold the freehold for £47,000 at the next vacancy of the see. The club was given the right to pull down the house and erect a new building at a cost of not less than £30,000, as a form of security for their observance of the contract to purchase the house, alternative to a monetary deposit. (fn. 26) In February 1931 the club was granted permission to unite No. 32 to No. 33, which it also occupied, and to add a porch to No. 32. (fn. 3) The porch, designed by H. L. Anderson of Stratton Street to harmonize with the firstfloor window balconies, was added by the spring of 1932. (fn. 27)

At this time the club was able to ask the Commissioners for the release of securities worth £29,500 in consideration of the amount spent by it on the house. Further securities were released later in the summer. (fn. 26) The interior was partially rebuilt and united with No. 33 by H. L. Anderson (fig. 40). Within the limits of his commission he showed considerable sympathy for the character of Cockerell's work. Although the front rooms were altered their decoration was to a large extent preserved, but the principal and service staircases were demolished to increase the size of the back rooms and make way for a large lobby on each floor, leading to a new staircase of ovoid plan (taking the place of the Bishop's study and bedroom) designed to serve both No. 32 and No. 33. A large annexe, with a squash court and bedroom accommodation, was built on the site of the back offices.

On the resignation of the Bishop of London in 1939 the provisions for the conveyance of the house to the club became effective, the sale being completed in the following year. (fn. 26) In 1949 Nos. 32 and 33 were both bought by the Prudential Assurance Company. (fn. 28)

Despite the authority given to the Caledonian Club in 1930 to demolish the house, and the subsequent drastic interior reconstruction, the exterior is still largely that of 1819.

The front elevation (Plate 198) is one of the best surviving in the square, a simple and refined design, three storeys high and three bays wide, faced with yellow malm stock brick, dressed with stone originally Bath but with later work in Portland. The entrance, in the left-hand bay, originally had an unobtrusive doorcase, with plain- shafted Doric pilasters supporting a plain lintel. The Ionic porch, with fluted columns in antis, added by H. L. Anderson, although well designed, has impaired the balance of the front. The two ground-storey windows have stone sills and flat arches of gauged brickwork. The principal storey is underlined by a pedestal-course, broken by stone balconies with Doric-column balusters (substituted in the course of building for the balcony design shown in Plate 199) below the three evenly spaced Venetian windows. These are slightly recessed in large round-arched openings in the plain brick face, and each window is divided into three lights by slender pilasters of a Doric character, carrying moulded imposts over the narrow side lights, and a moulded archivolt over the middle light. The plain fan-shaped lunettes appear to be of cement. A moulded sillband underlines the three third-storey windows, which are small and have flat arches of gauged brickwork. The front is bounded by plain brick pilasters, and finished with a plain stone frieze and boldly profiled cornice. This was originally surmounted by a plain blocking-course, of which two sections have been removed, probably by W. D. Caroë in 1897, when the garret windows were enlarged, the breaks being elegantly finished with stelae and voluted stops. The unfortunately placed rain-water pipes and box-heads, flanking the front, are dated 1898.

Figure 40:

Nos, 32 and 33 St. James's Square, first-floor plans, original (left) and present (right) states. Original state re-drawn from plans in Sir John Soane's Museum and London Diocesan Registry

The interior was planned to suit the Bishop's special requirements, and was two rooms deep in front, with a wing on the north of the inside court, behind which were offices and stables (Plate 199). The front room on the ground floor was the eating-room, with two windows overlooking the square. To the north was a spacious entrance hall with doors opening to a service stair (against the north party-wall) and to the principal stair hall containing a stone staircase with brass balusters and a moulded mahogany handrail. South of the stair hall, behind the eating-room, was the secretary's room, linked by a private lobby with the Bishop's study, a large room in the back wing, having a three-light bow window overlooking the court. A private stair at the back led to the Bishop's bedroom over his study. The drawingroom and its ante-room were over the entrance hall and eating-room, and above the secretary's room was Mrs. Howley's bedroom (fig. 40). The principal rooms appear to have been decorated in a rather austere manner, although the plain walls above the pedestal-dado were hung with coloured papers in place of the present panels and some colour was introduced into the friezes and cornices of the dining- and drawing-rooms. The ground-floor rooms have simple egg-and-dart cornices and moulded borders to the ceilings, which are plain but for the small chandelier roses within narrow moulded circles. The plasterwork in the first-floor rooms is more elaborate, with enriched dentilled cornices and ceiling borders composed of intricate fret panels between paterae stops. The front room has a refixed original chimneypiece of white marble, with a bishop's mitre carved on its lintel. The veined white marble chimneypieces in the other reception rooms are original, but not remarkable.


  • 1. Of the Greville family, and not related to the first occupant of the house.
  • 2. The workmen, besides Jonathan and Drown, were John Mallcott of 12 Newgate Street, mason; Richard Eaton of 5 Down Street, plumber; James Mackell, smith; William Crake of 18 Quebec Street, painter; Messrs. Robson and Hale of 214 Piccadilly, paperhangers and decorators; and Summers who provided stoves. The bricklayer Joseph Drown was responsible also for the plasterer's and slater's work, but his bill included a small sum paid to 'Gillespie for modelling the ornaments'.
  • 3. It was reported in January 1931 that the altar and fittings of the private chapel were to be removed to St. Luke's, Holloway.
  • 4. P.R.O., C54/4287, No. 29.
  • 5. Sutton Nicholls's view of the square of c. 1722.
  • 6. The Universal Spectator and Weekly Journal, 25 Nov. 1732; Survey of London, vol. xiv, 1931, The Parish of St. Margaret, Westminster, Part III, p. 129 n., quoting The London Daily Post, 23 Sept. 1735; Watson's Court Calendar, 1733 and 1734.
  • 7. H.M.C., Egmont MSS., Diary of Viscount Percival, vol. ii, 1923, p. 144.
  • 8. R.B.
  • 9. Deed of Prudential Assurance Co. Ltd., 10 July 1766.
  • 10. Ibid., 18–19 Jan. 1771; A. E. Richardson, Robert Mylne, Architect and Engineer, 1955, pp. 85–6.
  • 11. Church Commissioners, file FP 132; Soane Museum, correspondence, cupboard 2, division XIII, D.I.
  • 12. Soane Museum, correspondence, cupboard 1, division VII, F No. 14.
  • 13. Church Commissioners, file FP 132.
  • 14. Soane Museum, correspondence, cupboard 2, division XIII, D.1, 59, 62.
  • 15. For this and following see Church Commissioners, file FP 132.
  • 16. 59 Geo. III, c. 45, private.
  • 17. Articles of Agreement, and 'Nominees Account' in possession of Registrar of Diocese of London.
  • 18. Plans and section in the possession of Mr. Walter Ison.
  • 19. The Builder, 27 May 1854, p. 276.
  • 20. Records in possession of Registrar of Diocese of London.
  • 21. Church Commissioners, file 4316, part 2.
  • 22. Dasent, op. cit. (53 above), p. 156.
  • 23. Church Commissioners, file 4316, parts 3 and 4.
  • 24. B.A. 35106.
  • 25. The London Gazette, 29 July 1930.
  • 26. Church Commissioners, file 4316, part 5.
  • 27. Ibid., 23 April 1932, vol. 162, p. 297.
  • 28. Deeds of Prudential Assurance Co. Ltd.
  • 29. Notes and Queries, 31 Jan. 1931, p. 79.