Survey of London: Volumes 31 and 32, St James Westminster, Part 2. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1963.
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In this section
- CHAPTER XIX
Argyll Street Area: Millfield
The area to be described in this chapter was the western portion of Millfield, whose early history has been described on page 250. This part of Millfield was bounded on the west by the highway leading from Charing Cross to Tyburn Road and was bisected by a footpath leading from the north-west corner of the field to the gate on the north side of Six Acre Close. This footpath is shown on the plan of 1585 (Plate 1) and later became King(ly) Street.
Benjamin Maddox's lease of Millfield to James Kendrick in 1670 marked the beginning of building development in this part of the parish, for Kendrick sub-let the ground to various tenants who began to build (see page 250). At the end of the seventeenth century Robert Morris, coachman, and Thomas Browne, gardener, both held sub-leases of land on the east side of the footpath, (fn. 7) and Abraham Bridle or Bridell and John James, of St. James's, carpenter, had a sub-lease of land fronting Tyburn Road, where they engaged in building. (fn. 8) Bridle gave his name to a passage on the east side of the footpath. (fn. 9)
The plan on Plate 3b shows the area in about 1710. Little Marlborough Street, where there was formerly a stone tablet bearing the name of the street and the date 1703 (fn. 10), is marked on the plan and both sides of King Street are shown as built up. The two shaded squares delineated on the east side of the street represent the upper and lower bowling greens belonging to William (fn. 11) or Daniel Bradbury. (fn. 9)
In 1706 John Campbell, second Duke of Argyll, became the inhabitant of a house on the east side of King Street which stood on the site now occupied by the western end of Little Argyll Street (see fig. 55). He had succeeded to the dukedom on the death of his father in 1703 and had served with distinction in Marlborough's campaigns. (fn. 12) Walpole described him as 'graceful in his figure, ostentatious in his behaviour, impetuous in his passions; … and what is seldomer seen, a miser as early as a hero'. (fn. 13)
In 1712 Henry Lidgbird applied successfully to the Commissioners of Sewers for the Duke to have leave to continue a drain from a new building which he had erected on the south side of his house. (fn. 14) This was quite a small addition, containing only two rooms, but later the Duke added two wings which, when the central portion of the house was demolished to make way for Little Argyll Street, were sufficiently large to remain as corner houses to the new street (see below). These wings may have been added by the carpenter, Roger Morris, who was excused serving the office of overseer of the poor in St. Marylebone in 1729, because he was 'employed in his trade of building for his Grace the Duke of Argyle, and divers other noblemen'. (fn. 15)
Between 1706 and 1732 the Duke gradually acquired all the leasehold interests in the open land behind his house, including the two bowling greens, and in a small piece facing it on the west side of King Street. He planted part of this land for a garden, but the rest was left as waste. In February 1732/3 he purchased the freehold from Benjamin Pollen. (fn. 9) Three years later he vacated his house and the estate was laid out for building. (fn. 16)
The existence of houses around the perimeter of the estate prevented a spacious layout and the speculators' only object seems to have been to build the maximum number of houses on the land available. A newspaper of 23 September 1736 described the project thus: 'Two rows of fine houses are building from the end of Great Marlborough-street through the waste ground and his grace the duke of Argyle's gardens into Oxford-road, from the middle of which new building a fine street [Little Argyll Street] is to be made through his grace's house, King-street, and Swallow-street … the middle of his grace's house being pulled down for that purpose; and the two wings lately added to the house are to be the corners of the street which is now building.' (fn. 17) The original development has been obscured by the building of Regent Street and the extension of Great Marlborough Street, so that it can best be seen on Rocque's map of 1746 (Plate 6). There was already a narrow opening (fn. 1) which led from the Duke's land into Tyburn Road (fn. 9) but Great Marlborough Street was blocked at the west end by the boundary wall of the estate and by the forecourt of the last house on the north side, formerly belonging to Lord Duffus but then occupied by the Duke's brother, the Earl of Ilay. An exchange of land took place between the two brothers on 3 March 1735/6, whereby the Earl took a piece of the Duke's ground and gave up part of his forecourt. (fn. 18)
On 6 March 1735/6 the Duke signed articles of agreement with Thomas Phillips and Roger Morris, both of St. George's, Hanover Square, carpenters, and James Gibbs, the architect, whereby the three agreed jointly, 'to build on the ground of the said Duke in … Saint James Westminster … one New Street of dwelling Houses to be called Argyll Street'. The Duke agreed that when the third floor should be laid on the new houses he would grant separate leases to the three entrepreneurs, or their nominees, for terms of seventy years from Lady Day 1736. (fn. 19) Like Sackville Street, which was being laid out about this time on the Pulteney estate, the building of the houses seems to have been the work of individual craftsmen co-operating under the supervision of the general contractors. It is tempting to see in these three persons the separate pursuit of three professions—Gibbs, the architect, Morris, the surveyor, and Phillips, the clerk of works—but there is no evidence that they did act in this way, and indeed, the quality of the houses in Argyll Street would not support such a theory.
The majority of the craftsmen were not local men but were drawn from the neighbouring parish of St. Marylebone, where Gibbs then lived and Morris had formerly lived. All the leases (see the table above) were eventually granted either to the three entrepreneurs or to building craftsmen, with the exception of Thomas Rea, who was a friend and executor of John Mist, the paviour. Only one of the lessees (John Jones) appears in the ratebooks as an occupant. It is interesting to note that whereas most of the leases granted to the building tradesmen were dated December 1737 all the leases granted to the entrepreneurs (about one-third of the total) were dated 1740, with the exception of one to Morris in 1738. This suggests that purchasers for the finished houses were none too ready (cf. Sackville Street) and the ratebooks (allowing for defects at this date) confirm this. Two houses were occupied in 1738, about ten in 1739, (fn. 20) and there were still two or three empty houses in 1745. (fn. 16)
Little Argyll Street was formed in 1739–40, a year or two after Argyll Street, part of it occupying the site of the central portion of the house formerly inhabited by the Duke. The two wings, each described as 'one new part of the messuage wherein the Duke lately dwelt', were left standing and were let in April 1740 to the three entrepreneurs jointly for the same term of years as the plots in Argyll Street. They extended eastwards as far as the limits of the house-plots on the west side of Argyll Street (fn. 21) (see fig. 55). In the same year the Duke's small piece of land on the west side of King Street was used to make an opening from King Street to Swallow Street, and a row of four narrow-fronted houses was built on the north side. This opening, the site of which was later taken for the formation of Regent Street, was also called Little Argyll Street. (fn. 22)
After the death of the second Duke of Argyll in 1743 the life interest in the estate passed in turn to his widow, his eldest daughter and then to her son by her first marriage, Henry, third Duke of Buccleuch. In 1779 the latter employed Charles Little and John Gorham to prepare a survey of the estate in order that it might be sold to pay his debts to his mother. The value of the inheritance (subject to the legal incumbrances then in being) was estimated at £36,291 and the life estate of the Duke's mother at £6067. (fn. 23) In 1781 a deed of trust was executed whereby it became possible for certain portions of the estate to be sold; (fn. 24) other parts, probably the remainder, were sold about 1811. (fn. 25)
The formation of Regent Street greatly altered the layout of the estate. In 1820 No. 35 Argyll Street was demolished in order to open a way from Regent Street into Great Marlborough Street. This new opening was called Argyll Place, the name being extended to include the former Nos. 1, 2 and 36–40 Argyll Street, which were renumbered 10, 11 and 5–9 (consec.) Argyll Place respectively (see fig. 55). The northern part of King Street was closed and its site is now occupied by Regent Street and by the buildings on its east side. (fn. 2) When Regent Street was rebuilt in the 1920's the estate lost all remaining individuality by the absorption of many of its house-sites into the large plots required for the new commercial buildings. Argyll Place was widened in 1923, and in 1925 the name was abolished when it was designated as part of Great Marlborough Street.
The Argyll estate appears never to have been a fashionable place of residence, although the larger houses attracted some persons of title. The most notable occupants were professional men, soldiers and doctors being prominent in the latter part of the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth centuries; they were succeeded by a number of distinguished architects who had offices in Argyll Street and Argyll Place. The formation of Regent Street had the effect of separating the more fashionable streets to the west from those of less consequence to the east, and (so far as the Argyll estate was concerned) probably accelerated the social decline.
ARGYLL ESTATE (see fig. 55) LEASES GRANTED BY THE SECOND DUKE OF ARGYLL
The house numbers used here are those last in use when the original houses were still standing
|No.||Date of lease||M.L.R. reference||Term of years||Rent||Frontage||Lessee||Designation||Address||Associated builders or architects (See note in text, page 290)||First occupant||Period of residence (fn. 26)|
|ARGYLL STREET, EAST SIDE|
|1||8 July 1737||1737/4/28||68½ from Mich. 1737||8||2||0||18' 2"||Thomas Michener||bricklayer||St. James's||Lady Hinchinbroke, assignee 1739/40 (fn. 27)||1739–54|
|2||do.||1737/4/29||do.||9||0||0||20'||Isaac Mansfield||plasterer||do.||Madam Osborne||1743–5|
|3||8 December 1737||1737/5/295||do.||do.||do.||Joseph Pattison||blacksmith||St. Marylebone||Lady Elizabeth Butler||1744|
|4||3 April 1740||1740/1/491||66 from Lady Day 1740||8||2||0||18'||James Gibbs||esquire||do.||Rev. Francis Cottington of Fonthill Gifford, Wiltshire, assignee 1744 (fn. 28)||1745–54|
|5||8 December 1737||1737/5/299||68½ from Mich. 1737||9||18||0||22'||John Devall||mason||do.||Thomas Arman of St. George the Martyr, carpenter, witness to assignment||Hon. Richard Bateman, assignee 1738/9 (fn. 29)||1739–73|
|6||10 April 1740||1740/1/482||66 from Lady Day 1740||10||0||0||24'||Roger Morris||carpenter (to H.M. Office of Ordnance)||St. George's, Hanover Square||Countess of Granard||1745–58|
|7 Argyll House||do.||1737/5/240||do.||22||1||0||63'||Archibald, Earl of Ilay, later 3rd Duke of Argyll||3rd Duke of Argyll||1744–61|
|8||do.||1737/5/268||do.||9||0||0||20'||William Gray and Richard Fortnam||bricklayers||do.||Robert Bristow||1743–51|
|9||8 December 1737||1737/5/297||68½ from Mich. 1737||11||14||0||26'||George Devall and Thomas Rea as executors of John Mist||plumber,||St. Andrew's, Holborn;||Alexander Stuart||1743–6|
|esquire,||St. George's, Hanover Square;|
|10||22 January 1738/9||1739/3/160||67 from Lady Day 1739||9||16||0||28'||George Devall||plumber||St. Andrew's, Holborn||Lady Juxon||1743–9|
|11||19 January 1738/9||1738/5/127||do.||8||8||0||24'||John Nolloth||carpenter||St. George's, Hanover Square||Henry Leaves||1746–79|
|12||22 January 1738/9||1739/3/139||do.||7||14||0||22'||Leonard Phillips||timber merchant||St. Martin's in the Fields||Priscilla Stample||1745–56|
|13||22 March 1739/40||1740/1/316||66¼ from Christmas 1739||7||7||0||21'||John Devall||mason||St. Marylebone||Lord John Sackville||1745|
|14||10 April 1740||1740/1/479||66 from Lady Day 1740||1||10||0||22'||Roger Morris||carpenter (to H.M. Office of Ordnance)||St. George's, Hanover Square||Richard Wyatt||1743–54|
|16||Not registered||— Gambarini||1746–9|
|ARGYLL STREET, WEST SIDE|
|17||Not registered||William Jones||1752–7|
|18||10 April 1740||1740/1/486||do.||12||1||6||21' 9"||Thomas Rea||esquire||do.||John Dunston, victualler (fn. 30)||1742–50|
|19||10 April 1740||1740/1/487||66 from Lady Day 1740||5||7||0||20' 6"||Elizabeth Phillips||widow of Thomas Phillips, carpenter||St. George's, Hanover Square||Jonas Marlborough or Maulsbury, bricklayer (fn. 30)||1744–71|
|21||20 June 1739||1739/5/170||67 from Lady Day 1739||7||14||0||22' 6"||John Devall||mason||St. Marylebone||Under articles of agreement 28 August 1738 (fn. 31)||Richard Heath of St. Anne's, esquire, assignee 1739/40 (fn. 32)||1741–52|
|22||Not registered (probably same date and person as No. 21)||do.||John Tempest||1741–72|
|23||27 February 1739/40||1740/1/314||66¼ from Christmas 1739||7||0||0||20'||William Baker||brickmaker||do.||Under articles of agreement 28 August 1738 with Phillip Chandler of St. George's, Hanover Square, bricklayer (fn. 33)||Julius Caesar||1742–4|
|24||do.||1740/1/315||do.||do.||do.||John Phillmore||carpenter||St. Andrew's, Holborn||do.||Ralph Jennison||1742–6|
|25||8 December 1737||1737/5/292||68½ from Mich. 1737||10||10||0||23'||John Jones||painter||St. Giles' in the Fields||John Jones||1739–45|
|LITTLE ARGYLL STREET|
|9||do.||1739/3/86||do.||11||10||0||do.||Leonard Phillips||timber merchant||Whitehall||Admiral Stapleton||1747–9|
|ARGYLL STREET, WEST SIDE (continued)|
|26||10 April 1740||1740/1/485||66 from Lady Day 1740||9||0||0||25'||Elizabeth Phillips||widow of Thomas Phillips, carpenter||St. George's, Hanover Square||John Phillips of Brook Street, carpenter, witness to assignment 1742/3 (fn. 34)||Mrs. Newton||1743|
|27||8 December 1737||1737/5/302||68½ from Mich.1737||16||4||0||27' 6"||George Mercer||mason||St. Marylebone||Thomas King||1742–5|
|28||do.||1737/5/303||do.||14||8||0||24'||John Boson||carver||St. James's||Sir Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont, statesman||1739–50|
|29||3 April 1740||1740/1/488||66 from Lady Day 1740||do.||do.||James Gibbs||esquire||St. Marylebone||Lady Anne Frankland||See page 293n.|
|30||8 December 1737||1737/5/300||68½ from Mich. 1737||16||4||0||27'||George Pearce||plumber||St. Martin's in the Fields||William Banks of Revesby Abbey, assignee 1741 (fn. 35)||1743–51|
|31||10 April 1740||1740/1/484||66 from Lady Day 1740||16||0||0||do.||Roger Morris||carpenter (to H.M. Office of Ordnance)||St. George's, Hanover Square||George (later Lord) Lyttelton||1743–9|
|32||do.||1740/1/480||do.||13||0||0||25'||do.||do.||do.||Sir Richard Chase or Chace||1745–6|
|33||29 August 1738||1738/3/369||67½ from Mich.1738||20||0||0||28'||do.||do.||do.||Lady Rachel Morgan||1738–80|
|35||10 April 1740||1740/1/493||66 from Lady Day 1740||36||0||0 for this and other premises||33'||Elizabeth Phillips||widow of Thomas Phillips, carpenter||St. George's, Hanover Square||John Norris||1738–59|
|6||8 December 1737||1737/5/301||68½ from Mich. 1737||16||0||0||32'||George Mercer||mason||St. Marylebone||Sir Boteler Wentworth||1739–42|
|7||2 May 1737||1737/2/111||69 from Lady Day 1737||11||0||0||22'||Thomas Michener||bricklayer||St. James's||Capt. Augustus Towns(h)end||1739–43|
|8||8 December 1737||1737/5/298||68½ from Mich. 1737||13||0||0||26'||John Devall||mason||St. Marylebone||Henry Flitcroft, mortgagee 1738 (fn. 36)||Sir Francis Head, baronet, assignee 1741 (fn. 37)||1741–8|
|9||do.||1737/5/293||do.||14||10||0||27'||William Wilton||plasterer||do.||do. (fn. 38)||Lady Chaplin||1741–6|
|No. 23 Great Marlborough Street||do.||1737/5/294||do.||9||0||0||20' (42' 9" to Great Marlborough Street)||do.||do.||do.|
|ARGYLL PLACE (continued)|
|10||Not part of this estate (see page 301)|
|11||8 December 1737||1737/5/296||68½ from Mich. 1737||9||18||0||22' (61' to Little Argyll Street)||George Devall||plumber||St. Andrew's, Holborn||Lady Lucy Stanhope||1746–51|
INHABITANTS OF NOTE (fn. 39)
This list does not include the first inhabitants, who are listed in the table above.
Argyll Street, east side
1. Horace Johnstone, architect, 1900–4.
2. Lord Doneraile, 1747; Andrew Fletcher, perhaps the son of Andrew Fletcher, Lord Milton, Lord Justice Clerk, 1762–70; George Thompson, surveyor, who published a map of the parish, 1796–1806 (see also No. 4).
3. John Clavering, 1756–63, ? Sir John Clavering, soldier; Donald Monro, medical writer and army physician, 1783–1802; Archdeacon Francis John Hyde Wollaston, natural philosopher, 1813–19.
4. George Thompson, surveyor, 1809–20 (see also No. 2).
5. Lady Clive, 1773–89 or 1790 (see also No. 9); Viscount Bateman, 1789–1801; Dr. Stephen Luke, physician extraordinary to George IV, 1816–22; Marshal Claxton, artist, 1840.
6. Sir William John Newton, miniature painter to William IV and Queen Victoria, 1820–66 (see also No. 32); his son, Harry R. Newton, architect and collector of drawings, 1856–66 (see also No. 11 Argyll Place).
7. Argyll House, see page 295.
8. General Allen McLean, 1788–1804; Henry Arthur Broughton, 1813–18; (fn. 3) Stephen Slade, 1819–64.
9. Sir Thomas Pendergras, 1749–55; Lady Clive, 1790–6 (see also No. 5); Chevalier George de Benkhausen, Russian consul, 1840–5; Henry Broadwood, M.P., 1850–2; Sydney Vacher, architect, 1883–7; Thomas Edward Pryce, architect, 1883–7; James Kelk Wilson, architect, 1890–1901; W. H. Raffles, architect, 1895– 1902; J. B. Gridley, architect, 1900–1.
10. Lady St. John, 1750–2; Sir John Cust, Speaker of the House of Commons, 1752–4; Colonel Amherst, 1766–74; General William Roy, 1779–1790.
11. Sir John St. Aubyn, 1779–82; Dr. Edward Ash, 1802–21; Michael La Beaume, medical galvanist, 1836–53; Frederick Hering, architect, 1860–9; Ernest George, architect, 1870–84 (with Vaughan, 1870–5, and with Peto, 1877–84); James T. Smith, architect, 1885–93; James W. J. Kennedy, architect, 1893–6.
12. Colonel Tatton, 1763–9; Joseph Hickey, senior, the father of William Hickey, the memoir-writer, was rated for the house 1779–86; his daughter, Mary, 1787–93; and his son, Joseph, 1794–1819. (fn. 40)
14. Richard Wyatt, 1743–54; Mrs. Wyndham, 1808–12; Rev. Dr. Maddy, 1815–32, ? Watkin Maddy, astronomer; James Gray Mayhew, architect and district surveyor, 1832–45 (see also No. 16); Charles Mayhew, architect and district surveyor, 1833–77; — Padmore, architect, 1847–1852; Charles Joseph Knight, architect, 1857–84; George W. Mayhew, architect, 1858–80.
15. Skeffington Lutwidge, admiral, 1784–1815.
16. James Gray Mayhew, surveyor, 1809–32 (see also No. 14).
Argyll Street, west side
18. The Argyll Arms. A public house of this name has existed on this site since 1740; the first licensee was John Dunston. (fn. 41)
22. Sir Thomas Rich, 1774–5; Colonel Francis Richardson, 1786–92; Dr. Frederick Septimus Leighton, father of Lord Leighton, the artist, 1833–8.
23. Lady Miller, 1749–53; Sir Charles Fergusson Forbes, army surgeon, 1815–52.
24. Stephen Slade, later owner of the Argyll Rooms, 1809–11.
Little Argyll Street
9. Sir Charles Palmer, 1760–6 or 1767; Baron Kutzleben, 1785–9; James Green, portrait painter, 1816–22.
Argyll Street, west side (continued)
26. General Abednego Matthews, 1753–1808, with intervals; Lord Glenbervie, 1818–23; MajorGeneral Sir John McLean, 1824–48.
27. Colonel John Callandar, 1793–6; Colonel Sir Gerrard Noel, 1811–17.
28. Lady Milbanke, widow of Sir Ralph, fourth baronet, 1750–63; Lady Scarborough, widow of Thomas, third Earl, 1763–8; Colonel Patterson, 1774–8; Sir Francis Lumm, baronet, 1778–97; Lady Lumm, 1797–1809.
29. Lady 'Franklin', 1741–2; (fn. 4) Robert Lowth, Bishop of Oxford, 1766–71; Sir Christopher Hawkins, 1787–1828.
30. Lady Hort, 1808–21; Madame de Staël lodged at No. 31 (later No. 30) in 1814 (fn. 42); Henry Thomas Colebrooke, Sanscrit scholar, 1822–34; Charles Whitlaw, medical vapour baths proprietor, 1836–1846; Anthony Salvin, senior, architect, 1850–61; W. E. Nesfield, architect, 1864–77; Richard Norman Shaw, architect, 1864–77.
31. Lord Vane, 1749–73, with an interval; Countess of Derby, 1786–91; Lady Campbell, 1791–5.
32. Lady Schaub, 1758–63; Lady Lawson, 1763–6; Lady Schaub, 1781–94; General (Sir) Tomkins Hilgrove Turner, 1808–15; (Sir) William John Newton, 1815–20 (see also No. 6); General Sir Hilgrove Turner, 1821–43, with Colonel F. H. Turner, 1841–51.
33. Earl of Rochford, 1781; Dr. Francis Milman, physician to George III, 1782–98; Samuel Parker, statuary, who had his workshop behind the house, 1820–39; T. Gordon, architect, 1883–1891; S. Tucker, architect, 1881–99; Ernest P. Tucker, architect, 1892; Tucker and Huntley, architects, 1893–9.
35. Sir Charles Hardy, 1760–6; Archibald Edmundstone, brother-in-law of the fourth Duke of Argyll, 1766–73; and his son, Sir Archibald Edmundstone, 1773–1807.
5. Thomas Prouse of Axbridge, Somerset, 1749–66; his widow, 1766–8; his son-in-law, Sir John Mordaunt, Groom of the Bedchamber and M.P., 1768–88; Sir Robert Campbell, 1815–58.
6. Mrs. Thrale, 1782–3 (Dr. Johnson wrote to Boswell 'Mrs. Thrale and the three Misses are now for the winter in Argyll-street') (fn. 43); Nockalls J. Cottingham, architect, 1853–4.
7. General Bigoe Armstrong, 1765–70; William Henry Pyne, painter and author, 1805–12; William S. Inman, architect, 1841–2; F. Miller, architect, 1885–94.
8. Lord Cathcart, 1749–53; Henry Pelham, painter, 1776–90; James Northcote, painter, 1790–1831; Mary Northcote, 1832–6; Octavius Hansard, architect, 1866–98 (see also No. 11).
9. Lady Tuffin, 1755–63; George Mcllwain, surgeon, 1833–44; Owen Jones, architect, 1844–1874 (fn. 44); James William Wild, architect, 1846–9.
10. Argyll Baths, see page 301.
11. The Hon. William Montague, 1752–4; Colonel Sir Robert Pigot, second baronet, 1765–79, 1791–1796; Sir George Pigot, third baronet, 1796–8; Joseph John Scoles, architect, 1832–52; Harry R. Newton, architect, 1855–7 (see also No. 8 Argyll Street), Octavius Hansard, architect, 1857–65 (see also No. 8); James Ransome, architect, 1891–1903.
It will be seen from the table on pages 286–91 that the house-plots varied in width and, on the whole, had small or medium frontages. No. 7 Argyll Street (Argyll House), which was built for the Duke's brother, then Lord Ilay, was the only house of any size. Rebuilding has now accounted for all the original houses on the estate except two, Nos. 8 and 10 Argyll Street, both of which are now much altered; No. 8 alone provides material for a brief description (see page 300).
The evidence offered by a few drawings and engravings shows that the houses were generally uniform, with very plain fronts of brickwork sparingly dressed with stone, three storeys high and usually three windows wide. Each house had a simple classical doorcase, composed of an architrave flanked by plain jambs, with scroll-consoles supporting a cornice-hood. The customary firstfloor bandcourse was omitted, but the fronts were finished with a continued frieze-band and cornice surmounted by a plain brick parapet.
However plain the houses were externally, some, at least, had splendid interiors. Nos. 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 Argyll Place, and No. 23 Great Marlborough Street, originally the southern range of Argyll Street, were demolished in 1914 to make way for the westward extension of Great Marlborough Street. Some notes taken for the London County Council, supplemented by photographs and an illustrated catalogue of the pre-demolition sale held on 15 July 1914, give some idea of the fine interiors of these houses. (fn. 45)
In No. 5 was a stone staircase with a wroughtiron balustrade. The first-floor front room contained a continued chimneypiece of wood finely carved, and an ornamental plaster ceiling of Palladian character (Plate 143a, 143b, 143c).
According to the catalogue, No. 6 had a staircase of six flights, finished with moulded strings, panelled newels, carved balusters and a moulded handrail. There were six-panelled doors with carved mouldings to all the ground-, first- and second-floor rooms, and the windows had matching shutters. The ground- and first-floor rooms were lined with deal panelling, arranged in a scheme of tall panels, alternately wide and narrow, recessed within egg-and-dart ovolo mouldings, and ranged above a plain pedestal having a moulded skirting and cornice-rail. The first-floor rooms were finished with enriched modillion cornices and had ceilings of decorative plasterwork, Palladian in design with Baroque ornamentation (Plate 143d). There were carved wooden chimneypieces in the second-floor rooms, and the first-floor front room contained a 'massive chimneypiece of white marble inlaid with Irish green' (Plate 147c).
The entrance hall of No. 7 had a groined ceiling of plaster, and there was an enriched ceiling and modillion cornice in the first-floor front room, where the walls were lined with good panelling. In this room were three six-panelled doors with doorcases having eared architraves surmounted by pulvino-friezes and cornices, highly enriched with carving. The fireplace (Plate 147b) was furnished with the finest of three carved wooden chimneypieces remaining in the house. Fine panelling, with carved mouldings, lined the entrance hall of No. 8, and an enriched modillion cornice surmounted the ornamental plaster ceiling. The catalogue states that the staircase had a balustrade composed of 'seventeen ornamental wrought iron panels'. The ground-floor back room and the first-floor front room were finished with modillion cornices and had finely modelled ceilings of Palladian Baroque character (Plate 143b). The finest of three marble chimneypieces was that in the first-floor front room—a Palladian example in white marble, composed of an architrave flanked by female terms in profile, surmounted by a boldly carved frieze with acanthus consoles supporting a block cornice-shelf (Plate 147a). The ceiling of the first-floor back room was modelled with a bold moulding framing a large four-lobed panel containing an Aurora-head amid rays (Plate 145a). Outside this panel were four spandrels, filled with a regular pattern of scallop-shells, and at each end was a long panel modelled with a cherub-head centred between cartouches, shaped like wave scrolls, and eagles holding in their beaks a flowerdecked ribbon, festooned and threaded through the wave cartouches. In the back area was a lead cistern dated 1741 and initialled F.H. (Sir Francis Head, the first occupant).
No. 9 appears to have had the finest interior of all in this group of houses, with plasterwork of exceptional quality (Plates 144, 145b). This must have been due to the fact that the building lessee was a plasterer, William Wilton (possibly the father of the sculptor, Joseph Wilton). The ceiling in the large front room on the first floor was divided into compartments by curved ribs, decorated with a guilloche. The circular central panel contained a relief composition of a goddess seated on clouds and attended by putti, all holding objects emblematic, perhaps, of Truth. (fn. 5) On each long side of the ceiling were two semicircular panels containing putti reclining on cartouches, and a similar panel at each end contained an Aurora-head above a scallop-shell flanked by scroll motifs. Diagonally placed in each angle was an oval medallion framing a profile portrait representing a season of the year, and in the shaped panels flanking the central panel were paired female figures, their nude bodies merging into flowing tails of acanthus scrollwork. The ceiling in the first-floor back room, an inferior piece of work compared to that at the front, was composed of a large rectangular panel with incurving angles, having in its centre an octagon enclosing the circular boss for a chandelier. The boss was surrounded by sprays of foliage and around the outside of the octagon spread the tendrils of vines hung with stylized bunches of grapes. A foliated scallop-shell occupied each of the spandrel panels in the corners of the rectangle. (fn. 6)
Argyll House, Argyll Street
Argyll House, which stood on the site now occupied by the Palladium, was the London home of Archibald Campbell, the younger brother of John, second Duke of Argyll. During his elder brother's lifetime he was known as Lord Ilay, having been created Earl and Viscount of Ilay in 1706, but in 1743, on his brother's death, he became third Duke of Argyll. (fn. 12) Horace Walpole says that 'Lord Isla was slovenly in his person, mysterious, not to say with an air of guilt in his deportment, slow, steady where suppleness did not better answer his purpose, revengeful, and if artful, at least not ingratiating. He loved power too well to hazard it by ostentation, and money so little, that he neither spared it to gain friends or to serve them. He attained the sole authority in Scotland, by making himself useful to Sir Robert Walpole, and preserved it by being formidable to the Pelhams… . In his private life, he had more merit, except in the case of his wife, whom having been deluded into marrying without a fortune, he punished by rigorous and unrelaxed confinement in Scotland. He had a great thirst for books; a head admirably turned to mechanics; was a patron of ingenious men, a promoter of discoveries, and one of the first great encouragers of planting in England.' (fn. 46) Walpole's description of this strange man is supported by Lord Ilay's own letters and helps to explain the curious conglomeration of buildings known as Argyll House.
In 1711 Lord Ilay became tenant of a house in Great Marlborough Street (marked as 24 on fig. 55) which had formerly belonged to Lord Duffus (fn. 47) and in 1732 he purchased the freehold from Benjamin Pollen. (fn. 48) It was the last house on the north side of the street which, at that time, was a cul-de-sac ending at the back wall surrounding the extensive gardens of his brother the Duke of Argyll's house in King Street.
Visiting him here in 1733 Sir John Clerk mentioned 'several good Rooms' including 'a very large one where he keeps his Library and all manner of Curiosities particularly Mathematical Instruments. here is a vast collection of the best books and the whole lying in a very careless phylosophic manner.' (fn. 49)
In March 1735/6 the Duke of Argyll, in order to join Great Marlborough Street with the new street (Argyll Street) which he was laying out over his former garden ground, obtained from his brother a piece of the forecourt of Lord Duffus's house. In exchange he granted to his brother a sliver of land lying between the west side of Lord Duffus's house and the back ends of the building plots on the east side of Argyll Street. (fn. 18) In December 1737 the Duke granted a building lease of the largest of these plots, measuring 63 feet in front and back, 70 feet 6 inches on the north and 68 feet 6 inches on the south, to Lord Ilay. (fn. 50) Earlier in the same year the latter purchased from Pollen the freehold of a piece of ground for stabling in Marlborough Mews at the rear of Lord Duffus's house. (fn. 51) In 1738 he bought the next house but one to the east of Lord Duffus's (No. 22 Great Marlborough Street), (fn. 52) and in 1747 he also acquired the house in between (fn. 53) (marked as 23 on fig. 55). Figure 56 shows the disposition of Lord Ilay's property, an L-shaped piece with frontages in both Argyll Street and Great Marlborough Street.
In 1737 Ilay began to build a new house, later known as Argyll House, on the plot which the Duke had leased to him in Argyll Street. It stood back from the building line of the west of the street behind a forecourt, and at the rear it abutted on his old library, hitherto a free-standing building erected at the end of the garden of Lord Duffus's house. (fn. 51) In 1742 a second library, much larger than the first, was built at the rear of the new house in Argyll Street and adjoining the old library. It was roofed in by October and the Earl looked forward to walking in it during the approaching winter. (fn. 54) In 1750 Lord Ilay built a new house (later No. 10 Argyll Place) on the piece of ground which had been assigned to him by his brother in 1736. Lord Duffus's house and the neighbouring house to the east (marked 24 and 23 on fig. 55) were demolished and their sites left open for a garden. (fn. 16) The new house was occupied by Lord Ilay's mistress and was left to her on his death, together with the neighbouring No. 22 Great Marlborough Street. (fn. 55)
A water-colour drawing of Argyll House by T. H. Shepherd (fn. 56) (Plate 133a) and two plans (at Inveraray Castle, engraved and undated, Plate 132) all suggest a house of little beauty and less convenience. Harriette Wilson, the sixth Duke's mistress, called it a 'dismal chateau' and described it, along with the Duke's meagre personal possessions, as 'old'. (fn. 57)
It is not known who was responsible for the design of the house and the only craftsman known to have worked on it was Thomas Hutton, a Scot, who was quoted as saying that although Argyll House was 'plainly finish'd … the Chimney pieces or any part that was nicest Mr. Hutton wrought'. (fn. 58) It seems likely that the Earl himself devised the odd plan, for his interest in architecture is attested both by his letters (fn. 59) and by the contents of his library. (fn. 60) James Gibbs and Roger Morris, who were both patronized by the Campbell family and were concerned with the layout of Argyll Street for the Earl's brother, may have been singly or jointly responsible for the design of the front of the house.
Shepherd's view shows that the front was three storeys high, with six windows widely and evenly spaced in each upper storey, and the doorway in the third opening from the left, or north end, of the front. (On the evidence of one of the Inveraray plans the doorway had originally been in the first opening from the left.) Apart from the doorcase, composed of an architrave flanked by plain jambs with consoles supporting a triangular pediment, and the frieze-band, cornice and blocking-course below the attic storey windows, the front appears to have been quite plain. The forecourt, flanked on the north and south by the side walls of the houses fronting to Argyll Street, was screened by a wall broken at each end by plain iron gates, hung on rusticated piers, and in the middle was a blocked-up doorway, with a simple entablature head resting on long-and-short rusticated jambs.
The engraved plans at Inveraray Castle (possibly prepared for a sale of the property after the third Duke's death in 1761) are of the basement ('subterraneous') and ground ('parlour') storeys. These show the rambling arrangement and accretive character of the house, which had its nucleus in the east wing, built in c. 1711 and originally accommodating the library. The leasehold plot fronting west to Argyll Street was largely taken up by a spacious forecourt, leaving space for a single range, with rooms some 21 feet deep. The front of this range was six windows wide, the three to the south lighting a drawingroom, marked C on the ground-storey plan. The next two windows lit a parlour, marked B, and north of this was the entrance hall (A), 10 feet 9 inches wide. East of the parlour was the great stair (K) and the east wing, containing two rooms (F, G), a closet (H) and a service stair (I). North of the great stair was the north wing, with two rooms (N, M) over the stable and coach-house. South of the great stair was an ante-room (D) leading to the library (E), the only remarkable feature of the house. When it was building in 1742, the Earl described it as 'fort magnifique' and gave its dimensions as '90 foot long 20 foot wide with two bow windows which will then extend the breadth to 27'. (fn. 61) At each end was a shallow compartment with a gallery, screened by a colonnade of three bays from the body of the room. The west wall, abutting against the houseplots in Argyll Street, was windowless but at each end of the great compartment was a fireplace. The bows referred to by the Earl, each with three windows, were placed opposite the fireplaces; in the long east wall between them were three windows, and there was a single window in each end compartment. All of these windows overlooked the garden (P), 115 feet in length north to south, and 33 feet wide. In the north-east corner was a garden-room (Q), and in the southeast an alcove (S) screening a privy. Apart from commenting on the small size of the kitchen (R), a room in the east wing measuring only 18 feet 6 inches by 17 feet 4 inches, there is little to say about the basement, a warren of service rooms and vaults.
Two of the rooms which are mentioned in an auction notice of 1862 (fn. 62) can be identified with the ground-floor plan, viz., the paved hall, 30 × 21 feet (formed, presumably, by amalgamating the original hall and the adjoining parlour) and the great drawing-room, 27 × 21 feet, both in the west range facing Argyll Street. The whereabouts of other rooms mentioned in the auction notice, i.e. the banqueting-room, 43 × 31 feet, and the library, 24 × 19 feet, are uncertain.
The third Duke of Argyll, as Lord Ilay became in 1743, occupied Argyll House (fn. 16) until his death without legitimate issue in 1761, when both the title and the house passed to his cousin, John Campbell, the fourth Duke. The house subsequently passed to the fifth Duke, who died in 1806. (fn. 12)
In the period 1764–1806 repairs and alterations were carried out with the advice of Robert Mylne, who was architect and surveyor to the fifth Duke of Argyll. (fn. 63) The most extensive repairs for which there is a record were made in 1783, and included the installation of a Coade stone chimneypiece. (fn. 64)
In 1808 the sixth Duke sold the house to George Hamilton Gordon, fourth Earl of Aberdeen, (fn. 65) the statesman and philhellene, who lived there until his death in 1860. (fn. 12)
Lord Aberdeen bought No. 10 Argyll Place in 1823 and the garden of No. 22 Great Marlborough Street in 1827. (fn. 66) The gardens were added to Argyll House but No. 10 Argyll Place was sold. (fn. 67)
It was no doubt owing to Lord Aberdeen's long life and to his reluctance to move that Argyll House survived as a nobleman's town house for many years after the neighbourhood had ceased to be fashionable or even respectable. It was put up for auction by Lord Aberdeen's son on 27 July 1862 and sold for £18,500. (fn. 62) It was resold in 1863 for £15,500 (fn. 68) and demolished in 1864 or 1865. (fn. 69)
Hengler's Circus and the London Palladium, Argyll Street
In 1863 Argyll House was bought for £15,500 by George Haig, a wine merchant. (fn. 68) He was not interested in the house itself, which he wished to pull down, but in the site, which measured about 23,000 square feet. In 1865–6, after the site had been excavated to a depth of 25 feet, wine cellars were erected over the whole area, groined vaults over the cellars providing a suitable foundation, a few feet below the pavement level of Argyll Street, for any building that Haig might erect later. (fn. 70) In 1866 G. A. Haig and Company opened their business at Aberdeen House, as it was then called, (fn. 71) in a one-storey office building which was erected above the cellars at the rear of the site overlooking Marlborough Mews.
In 1867 or 1868 the major part of the site was covered by a rectangular structure of one lofty storey over Haig's five-aisled wine cellar. This was called the Corinthian Bazaar and Exhibition Rooms and was designed by Owen Lewis. (fn. 72) It took its name from the Corinthian columns which formed part of the classical front to Argyll Street; this façade is illustrated in a contemporary advertisement of the bazaar and still survives, in altered form, as the entrance front of the Palladium theatre (Plate 31b). The northernmost opening led to Haig's offices at the rear; the other six openings led through a foyer, down a flight of steps, into the main hall of the bazaar. In the centre of the hall stood a fountain and at one end was an aviary and refreshment room. (fn. 73)
Haig and Company, who are listed in the directories as the proprietors of the bazaar, (fn. 71) hoped to attract the former customers of the recently closed Pantheon Bazaar, (fn. 73) but it soon became apparent that they were not going to succeed. In July 1870 tenders for fitting up a hippodrome here for F. Hellewell, under the direction of Messrs. Elliott, Cree and Bernard, were advertised in The Builder (fn. 74) and in the directory for 1871 the name of the Corinthian Bazaar was replaced by the Palais Royal Exhibition Rooms—proprietor, Abram Burton Paton. The latter was perhaps the gutta-percha merchant who took over the Palais Royal in 1871 and invited Charles Hengler's co-operation in establishing a circus. According to an account written within a few years of the event, the merchant's 'previous experiments … in the equestrian business … [had] invariably proved so unsuccessful that his shows became known amongst equestrians as the Gutta Percha Circus'. (fn. 75)
Frederick Charles Hengler was the son of a celebrated tight-rope dancer and the brother of two other famous circus performers. He himself, being too tall to follow the family profession actively, managed its business affairs, and established a touring circus which made a name for itself by 'being the most respectably conducted establishment of that class'. During the summer months the company 'tented', and in the winter performances were held in temporary wooden buildings. In 1857 Hengler opened a circus in Liverpool, where his seasons were so successful that he decided to discontinue 'tenting' in the summer months and erected circus-buildings in several large provincial towns to keep his company busy throughout the year.
Hengler's company made its début in London in 1865, unsuccessfully, but the gutta-percha merchant must have caught Hengler's interest sufficiently to make him want to try again. Somehow Hengler obtained possession of the Palais Royal for himself and converted it into an 'elegant theatre'. (fn. 75)
The arena of Hengler's Circus was formed within the shell of the main hall of the Corinthian Bazaar. The west wing of the bazaar, with the Corinthian front to Argyll Street, was remodelled to form the entrance to the circus and to a concert room in the upper storey of the wing. The circus arena, comprising a circular ring surrounded by stepped seating and a series of private boxes, was placed towards the north end of the building, leaving ample space for circulation and room at the south end for dressing-rooms and stables.
The metropolis was thus introduced in the autumn of 1871 to 'all the Henglers and Powells, male and female, whose praises had been sounded by the provincial press all over the kingdom'. The pattern established by Hengler was a winter season in London, with a nursery tale or pantomime at Christmas, followed by a season in the provinces during the summer. His popular success was crowned by royal patronage in 1872. (fn. 76) But, in spite of the popularity of Hengler's Grand Cirque, G. A. Haig and Company could find no purchasers when, in 1883, they tried to sell their interest in No. 7. The wine cellars and the circus building above, which had been found structurally unsafe, were offered for sale as a 'freehold building estate', (fn. 77) but Haig and Company found no one willing to take the building and they were compelled to grant leases instead.
Hengler evidently had no wish to buy the whole property but was not averse to taking a lease of that part comprising the circus alone. Under an agreement of July 1884 he rebuilt the circus to the designs of C. J. Phipps, and took a lease in 1885 for 30 years at an annual rent of £1300. Phipps's reconstruction increased the seating capacity to about 700 by adding two galleries, and provided a stage at the south end of the ring.
Hengler died in 1887 (fn. 78) and for a little while the circus continued, under the family's manage ment, at Argyll Street. Then Henry Edward Wulff ran a circus here for one or two years (fn. 79) but in 1895 Hengler's family sold their lease to the Duval Restaurants for London Company. (fn. 80) At the end of the same year this company resold the lease to the National Skating Palace Ltd. (fn. 81) and the circus was turned into a skating rink which continued until 1899. (fn. 71) From 1902 until 1908 the theatre was owned by the Acme Investment Company which listed among its assets a cyclorama depicting Jerusalem and the Crucifixion. (fn. 82) The annual circus was revived under different managements (fn. 83) but the entertainment here could not compare with what was being done more lavishly elsewhere. Structural alterations, too costly for the company to undertake, were also required to bring the building to a satisfactory level of safety. (fn. 84) As in the case of Argyll House the site was now more valuable than the building on it and in October 1908 the Acme Company sold their lease to Walter Gibbons, acting on behalf of the Capital Syndicate Ltd. (fn. 85) The circus building was closed in 1909 and plans were announced for its replacement 'by a huge variety theatre', i.e., the Palladium. (fn. 86)
In December 1909 a contract for the erection of the 'latest thing' in music halls, as The Times called it, was signed between the Capital Syndicate Ltd. and Waring and White (1906) Ltd. (fn. 87) The architects were Messrs. Frank Matcham and Company and the cost of building exceeded the original estimate of £200,000 by a quarter. (fn. 88)
Although the Palladium incorporated much of the Argyll Street wing and the northern part of Haig's premises, the old building was largely demolished to make way for the new auditorium and the deep stage at its southern end. Unusually wide, with boxes grouped in the splayed walls flanking the proscenium, and two deep cantilevered tiers, the auditorium has a seating capacity of 2338, and the stage is large enough to accommodate the most spectacular productions (fig. 57).
Opulently decorated in a free version of the French Rococo style, the interior was described at the time of its completion in December 1910 as 'brilliant in white and gold, with seating in warm red … Rose du Barri hangings adorn the boxes, and upholstery of the same colour has been employed in the stalls, while the orchestra is enclosed by a marble balustrade. Generally speaking, the colour scheme of the walls is pink, white and gold, with coloured marbles, and certainly there is not a dull note anywhere.' (fn. 89)
The seven-bay temple front of the Corinthian Bazaar was retained for the new theatre, although the middle two columns were simplified and truncated to allow for a wide entrance to the main vestibule (Plate 31b). At the same time the statues on the pediment were added; the group on the apex represents Art, Science and Literature and the flanking figures support large versions of the comic and tragic masks. (fn. 90) The concert room on the first floor was remodelled and decorated in the Louis Quinze style, and the old vaults at the north end of the auditorium were lined with Norwegian rose granite (now plastered over) to serve as the Palm Court.
The theatre opened on Boxing Day 1910 and during the interval tea was served in the Palm Court, with music provided by an orchestra of 'lady musicians in Pompadour gowns'. (fn. 91)
Walter Gibbons, who was subsequently knighted, was managing director until 1912, when his place was taken by Charles Gulliver. Gulliver retired in 1927, and in the following year Sir Walter Gibbons came back to the management for a short while with George Black; the latter stayed on until his death in 1945, when he was succeeded by Val Parnell. (fn. 92) The present manager is L. A. Macdonnell.
The entertainment provided at the Palladium over the last fifty years has reflected the changes of popular demand. Under Gibbons's management, Sir Thomas Beecham's opera company gave a series of condensed grand operas and the bioscope was a regular feature. Other diversions from the chief business of variety have included minstrel shows, farces, National Sunday League concerts, ballets, pantomimes and revues; in recent years a number of American 'stars' have been rapturously received by huge audiences. The theatre has been officially called the London Palladium since 1934. (fn. 93)
No. 8 Argyll Street
The front of No. 8 preserves the original fenestration pattern of the two upper storeys, but the brickwork has been faced with stone-jointed stucco and an attic storey has been raised above the cornice. The house was planned on similar lines to those in Savile Row, with a top-lit staircase placed between front and back rooms of similar size, which are linked by a closet or passage behind the staircase. The staircase is a modern one of stone with an iron railing, but the top flight has a re-used railing of wood with a moulded handrail resting on waisted balusters, and closed strings faced with an entablature composed of a moulded architrave, a plain pulvino-frieze, and a flattened cornice. The front room on the first floor retains an enriched modillion cornice, and is said to have had a finely modelled plaster ceiling which was destroyed during the last war.
No. 10 Argyll Place
Formerly No. 1 Argyll Street. Demolished
This house was built on the piece of land which the Duke of Argyll granted to his brother, Lord Ilay, in 1735/6. A small summer house or bowling-green house was then standing on the site. (fn. 18) The house does not appear in the ratebooks until 1750, by which time Lord Ilay had become third Duke of Argyll. At the same time the two houses on the east were demolished and their sites given up for a garden or court-yard for the new house. (fn. 94)
A lease plan (fn. 95) shows the ground storey in an altered state, but the original arrangement of the house is quite clear. Substantial walls divided the interior to form a front room, with windows to the street, a large middle room, with three windows in a projecting bay overlooking the garden on the east side, and a small back room, also with windows on its east side. The long entrance passage on the west side led past the front and middle rooms to a spacious open-well staircase, west of the back room.
The front of the house, in an altered state, is shown in a drawing of about 1886 (Plate 133b). It was four storeys high, the attic most probably an addition, and three windows wide. The ground-storey windows had been altered, and a porch with square-shafted columns had been added. A bay, with a round-arched window in the front face, projected from the first floor, between two windows, and the middle window on the second floor was formed as a three-light lunette. The frieze-band and cornice below the attic windows probably marked the original finish of the front.
The first occupant was Mrs. Shireburn, (fn. 16) alias Mrs. Elizabeth Ann Williams, the Duke's mistress, for whom, presumably, it had been built. The Duke left the house to her on his death, together with No. 22 Great Marlborough Street. (fn. 96) On her death in 1762 it passed to their son Colonel William Williams, who assumed the name of Campbell. (fn. 97) His widow, Jane, sold the house in 1797 to (Sir) William Earle Welby of Denton, Lincolnshire. (fn. 98) The Earl of Aberdeen bought the house in 1823 from Sir William's trustees (fn. 99) and sold it in the same year, having taken part of the ground behind it into the garden of Argyll House. (fn. 100)
In 1846 Dr. Robert J. Culverwell took a lease of the house. (fn. 101) Culverwell was the proprietor of medical baths at No. 23 New Bond Street which he appears to have removed in 1847 to No. 5 New Broad Street in the City. (fn. 102) In 1848 he had baths built in the court-yard adjoining No. 10 Argyll Place and these became known as the Argyll Baths; (fn. 103) they are shown as a singlestorey building on Plate 133b. An advertisement of 1876 offered 'sulphur, vapour, herbal, Harrogate, hot air, bran and Tidman's sea salt baths' here, in 'privacy and comfort'. (fn. 104) The baths were continued under different proprietors until 1902 when they were pulled down and two warehouse buildings were erected on their site. (fn. 105)
No. 10 and the warehouses were assigned to the Capital Syndicate Ltd. in 1910. (fn. 106) The warehouses and the upper part of the house have been demolished, but parts of the basement and ground storey of No. 10 have been incorporated in the present exit wing of the Palladium.
The Argyll Rooms, Little Argyll Street
Prior to the formation of Regent Street the Argyll Rooms stood on the north side of Little Argyll Street at the corner of King Street (see fig. 55). The building now standing on this site (Nos. 246–250 Regent Street) is called Argyll House, a name commemorating not only the Argyll Rooms but also the mansion house of the second Duke of Argyll, which stood on the east side of King Street. The centre part of the house was pulled down about 1736 and Little Argyll Street laid out over the site; the two wings, which had been recently added, were thus left occupying most of the frontage of the north and south sides of the new street. (fn. 107)
The north wing was occupied first by Lord Raymond, 1744–57, and secondly by Lady Monoux, 1757–71; (fn. 16) the lease was bought in 1772 by William Jolliffe, M.P. for Petersfield. Although Jolliffe bought it 'very cheap', the house was described by Gibbon as 'excellent', (fn. 108) but at Jolliffe's death in 1802 his son, Hylton Jolliffe, sold the house and an adjoining piece of land in King Street for £70. The leases had only four years to run, but the price was extraordinarily low. (fn. 109) The assignee was Stephen Woolrich of Cavendish Square, perhaps a nominee of Henry Greville, whose name succeeded Jolliffe's in the ratebooks.
Henry Francis Greville seems to have had many of the conventional characteristics of a black sheep. He was born in 1760, the son of Fulke Greville, M.P., and cousin of the first Earl of Warwick. (fn. 110) He served in the army from 1777 to 1793 acquiring the rank of lieutenantcolonel in the Royal Irish Regiment of Dragoon Guards. (fn. 111) Like many of his fellow officers he was affected by the contemporary craze for amateur theatricals but in his case this addiction persisted long after he left the army and led him to unprofitable speculations in the professional theatre. He seems to have found it easier to borrow than to earn money—being very handsome, plausible and 'a great favorite with the fair sex'. (fn. 112) He appears to have begun his enterprises in 1801 with a 'theatrical fête' and supper for his friends. The supper was intended to be a picnic, which according to the interpretation then current, meant that each person invited had to send a dish. The entertainment was such a success that it was decided to form a Pic-Nic Society in the following season. (fn. 113)
It was intended to provide subscription entertainments, chiefly of a dramatic kind, with glees, catches and suppers,
'And by variety, relief to bring
To the long sameness of a London spring'.
Premises were taken in Tottenham Street, St. Pancras, and under the name of the Dilettanti Theatre, the season opened in March 1802 with several fashionable ladies as patronesses and with Greville as 'Director, Author, Actor, Poet'. (fn. 114) The Pic-Nics were much derided (fn. 115) and (like all of Greville's subsequent projects) soon came to an end. He resigned from the directorship at the end of 1802 although an unsuccessful attempt to revive the society was made in 1803. (fn. 116)
Greville then turned his interest towards journalism and in 1803 started a weekly newspaper, called the Pic-Nic, which was mainly concerned with theatrical affairs. Fourteen editions were published between January and April, but in February Greville handed the paper over to William Combe ('Dr. Syntax') to run, for a fee of two guineas a week. (fn. 117)
Apart from a brief appearance among a group of amateurs giving a series of subscription concerts at the New Rooms in Hanover Square, (fn. 118) nothing has been discovered about Greville's subsequent activities until 1806, when he first appears to have used his house in Little Argyll Street as 'The Fashionable Institution'. The leases of the premises in Little Argyll Street were due to expire in March and Greville was persuaded to borrow money to buy the freehold. Before he did this, however, he gave two balls. The first of these, described as 'one of the most elegant amusements of the season', took place on 2 June and was attended by the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and the Duchess of York. (fn. 119)
Greville then borrowed £2000 from the banker, Thomas Coutts, and, with £500 which he provided himself, purchased the freehold of the house in July 1806. (fn. 120) No other entertainment seems to have taken place in that year, but Greville was probably soliciting for subscriptions and arranging for the house to be altered. The rather self-conscious name of The Fashionable Institution was dropped in favour of the Argyll Rooms or Institution. (fn. 120)
It was said later that Greville spent 'upwards of £10,000' in converting the house for public entertainment, (fn. 121) but it is doubtful whether this was his own money. Although he alleged that he spent a 'great deal' he also admitted that he was only 'the director' of the establishment, which was carried on by subscription, and that 'he was bound by his word to the subscribers to account for their subscriptions to the last shilling'. (fn. 122) Nor is it likely that this sum represented a single refurbishing, being more probably an outlay spread over several years.
A plan in the Public Record Office (fn. 123) shows that this building consisted of a regular range of rooms fronting south to Little Argyll Street, and an irregularly planned series of rooms at the back. The internal width of the south range was 26 feet, and the ground storey was divided by a transverse wall into two rooms. The large west room was 53 feet long, with an orchestra platform in a wedge-shaped annexe at the west end. The east room, 21 feet long, was entered from a lobby at the east end of the range which also served as an approach to the main staircase and the back rooms.
In 1807 the Lord Chamberlain granted Greville an annual licence for music and dancing, burlettas, and juvenile dramatic performances at the Argyll Rooms, (fn. 124) and on 20 July he opened his 'New Private Saloon Theatre' there with a benefit performance by Frederick Schirmer's family company, (fn. 125) with which he had already been connected at Dibdin's theatre in Leicester Place in 1806–7. (fn. 124) In 1808 he renewed his licence for the Argyll Rooms and gave another season of entertainments. (fn. 124)
A letter from William Taylor (the manager of the King's Theatre in the Haymarket) to the Lord Chamberlain describes Greville's first two seasons. 'There was no Stage, beyond a small elevation for the Singers to stand upon, and … no more than four of these were employed in petit pices [sic] of one short Act merely introductory to assemblies and Balls, and … no Dancers were ever seen, confined alone to subscribers for only 12 nights the first year and but 8 the second and last experiment there, and … no money was even taken at the doors.' (fn. 126)
In 1808 Greville claimed to have spent £3000 in fitting up the theatre for opera buffa, (fn. 127) but two years later the licences granted for the Argyll Rooms were confined to music and dancing, with occasional permission for masked balls. (fn. 124) The latter were sometimes granted to Greville's associates—John Escudier, a confectioner and pastrycook, (fn. 128) who probably supplied the food for balls, and Stephen Slade, a glass and china dealer, (fn. 128) called 'Conductor of the Household'. (fn. 129)
In his English Bards and Scotch Reviewers which was circulating about this time, Byron lampooned both Greville and his clients:
Behold the new Petronius of the day,
Our arbiter of pleasure and of play!
There the hired eunuch, the Hesperian choir,
The melting lute, the soft lascivious lyre,
The song from Italy, the step from France,
The midnight orgy, and the mazy dance,
The smile of beauty, and the flush of wine,
For fops, fools, gamesters, knaves and lords combine;
Each to his humour—Comus all allows;
Champaign, dice, music, or your neighbour's spouse,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
When for the night some lately titled ass
Appears the beggar which his grandsire was,
The curtain dropped, the gay Burletta o'er,
The audience take their turn upon the floor. (fn. 130)
By 1811 Greville was a sick man and an 'elegant ruin', (fn. 131) neglected by his former associates and very much in debt. He was, however, fascinated by the scheme for the conversion of the Pantheon into a theatre (see page 279) and tried to persuade Mrs. Wyndham, who lived in Argyll Street, (fn. 132) to invest in it. (fn. 112) He approached his family later in the year for help with his debts, (fn. 112) and perhaps as a condition of their settlement, went abroad early in 1812. (fn. 120) He appears to have handed over the running of the Argyll Rooms to Slade some time before he left England (fn. 112) and in 1813 Slade paid off the remaining mortgages and became the owner of the property. (fn. 120) Greville died on 13 January 1816 at Port Louis, Mauritius. (fn. 133)
The popularity of the Argyll Rooms had dwindled during Greville's last few years of management (fn. 134) but the Philharmonic Society restored them to fashionable favour. On 24 January 1813 a group of professional musicians met at No. 17 Manchester Street (fn. 135) with the purpose of forming a musical society 'to restore to the world, those compositions which have excited so much delight, and re-kindle in the public mind, that taste for excellence in Instrumental Music, which has so long remained in a latent state'. (fn. 136) The society was to consist of thirty members who were to manage its affairs, and an unlimited number of associates; both members and associates were to pay an annual subscription of three guineas and to give their services at the concerts free of charge. Seven members were to be elected annually to direct the concerts. Those for the first year, among whom were the originators of the scheme, were J. B. and F. Cramer, P. A. Corri, Henry Dance, Henry Bishop, Muzio Clementi and William Ayrton; the first concert took place on 8 March 1813. (fn. 136) The society continued to hold its concerts at the Argyll Rooms until 1830. (fn. 137) In 1830 the society's concerts were removed to the concert room at the King's Theatre, thence to the Hanover Square Rooms, and subsequently to the St. James's Hall.
A description of the Argyll Rooms in 1818 says that they were 'fitted up in a style of great magnificence. Corinthian pillars, illuminated by gilt lamps, grace the entrance and the lobbies. The ground-floor consists of three very extensive rooms, the first of which is hung with scarlet drapery. The drapery of the second is a rich salmon colour, lined with pea-green. The third, though inferior to the others, is nevertheless, finished in a capital style; and the whole is most brilliantly lighted up.
'The grand saloon is of an oblong form, with elliptical terminations, and is used for the purpose of theatrical representations; and also for masquerades and balls. Above the entrance, on each side, are three tiers of boxes, amounting in the whole to twenty-four. The first range above the ground tier is ornamented with elegant antique bas-reliefs in bronze; the upper tier is of ethereal blue, decorated with scrolls in stone colour, and both are enclosed with scrolls in rich gold mouldings. Over each box is a beautiful circular bronze chandelier, with cut-glass pendants. The draperies are of scarlet; and the supporters between the boxes represent the Roman ox, and Fasces, in bronze and gold.
'At the opposite end are the orchestra and stage, over which is the following appropriate motto: "Sollicitæ jucunda oblivia vitæ". The walls of the middle space, of an ample size, are superbly ornamented with ranges of Corinthian pillars, representing porphyry with gold capitals. On the intermediate pannels, which are surrounded with borders of blue and gold, are basreliefs, in stone colour, as large as life, the subjects of which are admirably adapted to the purposes for which they are placed there.
'On each side of this magnificent room are tiers of benches, covered with scarlet, over which are suspended eight superb glass chandeliers; and the whole internal space is marked out with chalk, in the most fanciful manner. Contiguous to this, are a refectory, painted with landscapes and wreaths of flowers; and a billiard-room, fitted up with similar neatness. On the other side is a spacious chamber, appropriated to card parties, the ceiling of which is richly painted, and the windows hung with scarlet drapery.—Adjoining is a small apartment called the blue-room, decorated in a most pleasing and elegant style. The drapery is of light blue, and the sofas, with which the room is completely surrounded, are all of the same colour. The walls are ornamented with much fancy, in order to harmonise with the furniture; and in the middle of the ceiling, which represents the open sky, is an eagle suspending a chandelier of bronze and gold.' (fn. 138)
It was here that the annual 'Cyprians' ball' took place. The English Spy puts the date of its inauguration in 1818 when 'a few amorous noblemen and wealthy dissolutes, … projected and sanctioned the celebrated Venetian carnival given at the Argyll-rooms under the patronage of her Ladyship [Augusta Corri] and from other equally celebrated courtezans.' (fn. 139) An engraving by Cruikshank (Plate 27b) represents this event at a later date, after the rooms had been rebuilt.
At the end of 1814 Slade, the proprietor, was notified that his premises would be required by the New Street Commissioners for the formation of Regent Street. John Nash drew up a scheme whereby, in order to suit both parties, the minimum alterations might be carried out, but Slade countered every suggestion and conducted a successful delaying action until 1819. In February of that year he was forced to sell, but on a jury's decision he was awarded £22,750. (fn. 140)
After Slade's departure the Commissioners had no difficulty in finding another tenant. This was the society, founded in 1818, 'to print and vend our own musical Compositions and the Compositions of our Musical Brethren at large who found themselves unable to obtain fair Terms from other Publishers'. Under the patronage of George IV the society called itself the Regent's, and later the Royal, Harmonic Institution. (fn. 141) The twenty-one members were the most eminent 'professors of music' of their time. (fn. 142)
At first it was decided to alter the Argyll Rooms according to a plan proposed by John Nash, but when work began in the autumn of 1819 the old buildings 'absolutely fell when part of the Roof was taken off' and the whole had to be taken down to the foundations. (fn. 141)
Nash's plans for rebuilding made skilful use of the irregular site and introduced a shop-front along the new street frontage. The large 'concert room', a rectangle 95 feet long and 36 feet wide, was placed lengthwise against the east boundary of the site (Plate 25). On the south front, to Little Argyll Street, was the 'occasional concert room', an almost square room measuring 30 feet by 27 feet with an apse projecting from its east end. Fronting west to Regent Street was the 'dining room or assembly room', 48 feet long and 28 feet wide. The arrangement of these three rectangular rooms left two wedge-shaped spaces to be filled. The smaller, between the 'occasional concert room' and the 'dining room' contained a square cross-vaulted ante-room that served to link both rooms, with a 'private room' to the west and a circular lobby to the east leading to the main staircase. This D-shaped staircase, placed at the wide end of the wedge-shaped open area between the east and west ranges, was approached from the Regent Street entrance by way of a vestibule beneath the cross-vaulted ante-room and the circular lobby. South of the wide staircase landing was a large ante-room, serving both the concert rooms.
The Regent Street front admirably expressed the purpose of the building, with its low ground storey accommodating the Institution's shop and its lofty upper storey containing the entertainment halls (Plates 26a, 27a). Two elements made up the composition. One, forming the north part of the front, was the side wall of the dining-room, with five evenly spaced windows. South of this, and joined by a single-bay link, was a semirotunda, the free-standing Corinthian colonnade of its upper storey encircling the apse of the 'occasional concert room'.
The semi-rotunda, dominating the exterior, was introduced here not merely for its own sake, but to provide an effective 'elbow-joint' transition at a point where the alignment of the street changed sharply. The ground storey, coursed with channel-joints, contained five evenly spaced rectangular openings, all windows except for the central doorway. The recessed wall face of the upper storey contained five tall rectangular windows, dressed with cornice-hoods, corresponding with the five bays of the free-standing colonnade of Corinthian plain-shafted columns. These sustained an appropriate entablature, which had a modillioned cornice and was surmounted by an open balustrade, encircling a low attic, set back and finished with a cornice and blockingcourse, below the stepped base of a hemispherical dome.
The entrance to the rooms, in the ground storey of the single-bay link, was protected by a porch having a segmental-headed opening, unmoulded, in each face. Above the porch was a balcony, reached by a round-headed window, and in the upper wall face was a small circular window, or panel.
In the north part of the front, the ground storey contained a series of five segmental-arched openings, framing the shop-windows, set in a plain face behind a screen composed of curious termini which supported a stone balcony. The terminal busts, modelled by J. G. Bubb, (fn. 143) were placed on plain shafts square in section and raised on panelled pedestal-blocks.
The upper storey face, bounded by wide and plain pilasters, contained five tall windows, each dressed with a moulded architrave and a triangular pediment resting on consoles. The upper part of the wall contained a long panel, intended for a frieze to be modelled by Bubb, but eventually inscribed 'ROYAL HARMONIC INSTITUTION'. This part of the front was finished with a modillioned cornice, continuing that of the entablature to the semi-rotunda. In 1828 there appears to have been a proposal to introduce an attic storey divided by thin Doric pilasters into five bays, each containing a circular window dressed with a garlanded architrave (Plate 26b).
Some notes on Nash's drawings (Plate 26a) give details of the methods and materials proposed to be used in constructing and finishing the building. The external walls, with all decorative features such as the columns, entablature, cornice and blocking-course, the architraves and other dressings to the windows, the terms and pedestals supporting the balcony, were to be formed in brick ready to be plastered with Dehl's mastic, allowing half an inch for the mastic coat. Mastic was also specified for the Corinthian capitals, the terminal busts, and all other ornaments. The balcony was to be of Bath stone 'painted to imitate the mastic', with a railing of cast iron. The roof was to be boarded and covered with Welsh 'countess' slates.
Inside, the principal staircase was to be of Portland stone, with a wrought-iron balustrade and a moulded handrail of mahogany, and the walls were to be plastered with mastic. The longest note relates to the ante-room between the two concert rooms. The oblong space allotted was to be divided, by transverse arches resting on columns, into a square between two apses. The columns were to be Corinthian, 10 feet high and 1 foot in diameter, with bases and shafts of scagliola, and capitals of Dehl's mastic. The ceiling of the central square was to be domed and 'lighted by a skylight glazed with Newcastle glass'.
The large concert room was also divided into three parts, by free-standing columns paired with antae. The middle section was square, that at each end was shallow and terminated with a colonnade screen of five bays. The orchestra platform filled the north end section, and the south colonnade formed a screen in front of the four tiers of boxes. James Elmes describes the interior in his Annals of the Fine Arts as follows—'The grand concert room is a parallelogram, elongated at one end by the orchestra, and at the other end by four tiers of boxes. The side walls of this saloon are decorated by fluted pilasters of the Corinthian order, and the apertures to the orchestra and boxes are terminated by four majestic columns of the same description. The cornice is ornamented by modillions, the ceiling arched, forming the segment of a circle, and enriched with octangular Mosaic pannels, and with large embossed flowers in each pannel'. (fn. 143)
The rebuilding was sufficiently advanced for the new rooms to be opened on 28 February 1820, (fn. 144) with a 'Grand Concert of Vocal and Instrumental Music' at which several members of the Royal Harmonic Institution performed. (fn. 143) The exterior decoration was not begun until after midsummer 1820, at the close of the first season. Nash, when asked to comment on an application by the Institution for an abatement in rent, recommended that the request should be granted, but only on condition that his design was complied with in the finishing work. He laid particular emphasis on the bas-relief on the façade (where later the words 'ROYAL HARMONIC INSTITUTION' were substituted), on the therms and balcony to the ballroom, and the Corinthian columns, balustrade and dome to the square drawing-room. (fn. 141)
The request for an abatement of rent was caused by the low state of the Institution's affairs, which for want of 'proper legal Regulations … soon got into disorder—every one felt himself at liberty to direct'. (fn. 141)
In 1822 all but two of the society withdrew. (fn. 134) These two were Thomas Welsh and William Hawes, both singers and composers. (fn. 145) The Crown lease of the new Argyll Rooms was eventually granted to them in 1823 (fn. 146) and in the following year they mortgaged the property to Rowland Stephenson, a banker, (fn. 71) for £7000. (fn. 147)
In 1828 Hawes became bankrupt and his shares were purchased, with the 'valuable assistance' of Stephenson, by Welsh, who carried on alone. (fn. 148) Besides benefit concerts and the performances of the Philharmonic Society, balls, masquerades, astronomical lectures and French plays were all given at the new rooms during the 1820's, (fn. 149) and among foreign musicians who performed there were Liszt (when only twelve years of age), Mendelssohn and Weber. (fn. 150)
On 5 February 1830, only a few days before the Lyceum was burnt down, the Argyll Rooms were reduced to ruins by a fire. (fn. 151) The library of the Philharmonic Society was saved, but the stock of printed music was destroyed. (fn. 134) Welsh gave up the idea of another concert hall and erected six houses with shops on the site to designs by (William ?) Herbert. (fn. 141) Herbert retained the colonnaded principal storey of Nash's semirotunda, substituting a bowed shop-front for the original rusticated ground storey, and a pedimented attic for the low dome. Four of the shops were in Regent Street and two in Little Argyll Street. Welsh kept the corner house, No. 246 Regent Street, as a music shop until 1836, when it was taken over by a fur company. (fn. 152) All six shops have since been replaced by the premises of Messrs. Dickins and Jones.
Oxford Circus Tube Stations
The Oxford Circus Station of the Central London Railway (on the east side of Argyll Street) was opened in 1900 and the Oxford Circus Station of the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway (on the west side of Argyll Street) was opened in 1906. (fn. 153)
The ground and upper storeys of the earlier station appear to have been built at one time. The ground floor, faced with terra-cotta, consists mainly of segmental-arched openings under a terra-cotta cornice, the widest opening being the tube entrance on the Oxford Street front. Above the lofty ground floor are four more storeys, except above one of the tube exits in Argyll Street where there are three.
The upper elevations on both streets are of red brick and terra-cotta, with a series of projecting tiers of bay windows. The two façades of the corner building, each crowned with a gable of 'free Flemish' style, meet in an angle turret with a conical roof. The architect of these buildings is not known.
The Bakerloo station was designed by Leslie W. Green, architect of the Bakerloo line. It has a lofty ground floor and mezzanine, consisting of a steel framework faced with dark red glazed tiles in the familiar arcaded design of the series of tube station elevations designed by Green between 1903 and 1908. (fn. 154) It is surmounted by a sixstorey stone building, stylistically unrelated to it, by Delissa Joseph. (fn. 155) Tiers of windows, separated by piers in the form of rusticated panels, rise for three storeys to a heavy modillioned cornice above which are two more storeys under a lesser cornice crowned by a mansard roof pierced by large dormer windows.
Ideal House, Great Marlborough Street
The two most noteworthy modern buildings on the Argyll estate both front Great Marlborough Street. Beyond the exits from the Palladium, on the corner of Argyll Street and Great Marlborough Street, rises the tall mass of Ideal House, which was built in 1927–9 to the designs of Gordon Jeeves (S. Gordon Jeeves and C. G. W. Eve) in association with Raymond Hood for the National Radiator Company (fn. 156) (Plate 141d). Ideal House is a reduced version of Hood's building in New York for the American Radiator Corporation. The slabbed face of polished black granite contains five tiers of plain windows between a ground storey of showwindows and a two-stage attic where the granite is dressed with fretted metal plates, enamelled in yellow, orange, green and gold, in the taste of the Paris Exhibition of 1925.
The building was extended on the north side in 1935–6, again to the design of Gordon Jeeves, for Ideal Boilers and Radiators Ltd. (fn. 156)
Liberty's Tudor House, Great Marlborough Street
On the south side of Great Marlborough Street is the black and white fantasy of Liberty's evocation of London before the Great Fire. This is Tudor House, built in 1922–3 to the designs of E. T. and E. S. Hall. The companion building, East India House, which faces Regent Street, is by the same architects and was erected in 1922–5. (fn. 157)
The Grapes Public House, Great Marlborough Street
This building dates from the early eighteenth century, but its brick exterior has been refaced with cement, probably in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, and a wooden public-house front inserted. It has been a public-house since at least 1830. (fn. 71)
It now contains four storeys, the topmost of which is almost certainly a later addition, and has fronts to Great and Little Marlborough Streets respectively two and four windows wide. The building now looks rather incongruous, projecting as it does from one corner of Liberty's large halftimbered block, but the Ordnance Survey map of 1894–6 shows that even before Liberty's was built it was awkwardly placed in relation to the adjoining houses. The plan is a standard one, arranged so that each floor has one large room at the east end with a smaller room on the west, the latter having a staircase beside it on the south and a small closet wing beyond it on the west. Probably the original entrance was from Little Marlborough Street, opening directly into the staircase compartment. The interior finishings have mostly been altered, but the main first-floor room has ovolo-moulded panelling and a boxcornice, and it can be seen that the chimneypiece originally had a moulded cornice and a frieze with shaped ends.
The Clachan Public House, Kingly Street
From at least the middle of the eighteenth century there has been a public house on this corner. (fn. 41) Until 1887 it was called the Bricklayer's Arms but in the following year it was renamed the Clachan. (fn. 71) The house was rebuilt in 1898. (fn. 158)