Survey of London: Volumes 33 and 34, St Anne Soho. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1966.
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Leicester Square, North Side, and Lisle Street Area: Leicester Estate
The whole of the ground on the north side of Leicester Square, including Lisle Street, Leicester Street, Sidney Place (formerly Sidney Street) and Leicester Place, was originally occupied by Leicester House and its gardens (fig. 94 on page 417). The development of the western part of this area, originally part of the garden of Leicester House (fig. 94, A, B, K and the northern part of 1), took place in the 1680's and is described on page 427.
The street numbers referred to below are the present ones, assigned in 1902.
Leicester House was built by Robert Sidney, second Earl of Leicester, at some time between 1631 and 1635. It was demolished in c. 1791–2 and its site is now occupied, approximately, by Nos. 7–15 Leicester Square and the ground on either side of Leicester Place.
The original appearance of the house is largely a matter of conjecture (see page 452) because the graphic and documentary evidence available is sparse. Lord Leicester, who claimed that the house cost him £8,000 in 'buildinge and finishinge', (fn. 25) described it as a 'little House; which was not built for a Levie, but only for a privat Family'. (fn. 26) In perspective the description of it as a 'little' house sounds ludicrous. The Sidneys were a wealthy and courtly family, connected by lineage and marriage to some of the most powerful families in the kingdom, and their London house, perhaps outwardly unpretentious, was certainly one of the largest in the capital. Moreover, although not 'built for a Levie', it was certainly furnished luxuriously, and was later considered fitting for the lodging of a Queen.
The land on which Leicester House was built was part of four acres in St. Martin's Field purchased by Lord Leicester in 1630 (see Chapter XVII). The site chosen for the house itself was at the northern, or upper, end of the four acres; in front of it the land was all open, sloping away in a southerly direction towards the Mews near Charing Cross (Plate 1b). At that time the only buildings nearby were the armoury house of the Military Company on the north and the recently erected mansion of Sir William Howard (Newport House (fn. 1) ) on the east. Several of the documents quoted below comment on the airy and healthy position of Leicester House.
As the land purchased by Lord Leicester lay within the common field, the enclosure of part of it for building deprived the inhabitants of St. Martin's parish of their Lammas common and other ancient rights. The matter was resolved by three members of the Privy Council appointed by the King in 1630 to act as arbiters between Lord Leicester and the parish. (fn. 27) They ordered that a part of Lord Leicester's land (which thereafter was known as Leicester Field) should remain open for use by the parishioners (see page 432) and decided on the course of an enclosing wall for the house and gardens. On the north side there was already a wall separating Lord Leicester's land from the Military Ground and he obtained permission to heighten this in return for keeping it in good repair and for an annual payment of a brace of bucks to the Military Company. (fn. 28) (fn. 2)
In August 1631 the King ordered the Attorney General to prepare a licence for the Earl of Leicester to build himself a house 'wth necessary outhouses buildinges and gardens convenyent for his Lo:pps. use and habitacon', with the proviso that 'the forefronts and all the utter walls and windowes of the premisses bee whollie made of brick and stone or one of them, the forefronts to bee made in that uniforme sort and order as may best bewtifie the place'. (fn. 29)
The building of Leicester House appears to have been deferred for a while, perhaps because of the Earl's absence from England in 1632, when he was serving as ambassador in Denmark and Holstein. (fn. 30) The first reference to its existence is in June 1635 when the parish vestry ordered that Lord Leicester be treated with for (? the rent of) the Lammas ground 'which he hath built uppon, and enclosed'. (fn. 31) It is in this year too that the Earl's name first appears in the ratebooks. (fn. 32) There is an oblique reference to a bricklayer called Charlewood, who may have been responsible for some of the building work at Leicester House; (fn. 33) he was possibly the Daniel Charlewood who was concerned in the development of Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1638. (fn. 34)
In May 1636 Lord Leicester was sent away again, this time as ambassador to Paris, where he remained until 1641. He took his elder sons, Philip and Algernon, with him and left his two houses, Penshurst and Leicester House, 'well and sufficiently furnished with all manner of plate and housholdstuff'. He also sent home from Paris 'many things of good valew as beds, divers peeces of rich sylver plate as flowerpotts, plaques for candles, basins, basquets etc., and many peeces of stuffes, wrought velvet, damaske etc.' (fn. 35)
Two of the Countess's letters to her husband show that the interior of Leicester House was still unfinished at the time of Lord Leicester's departure. On 26 September 1636 she wrote: 'I will tell you of our workes at London. The great chamber, (fn. 3) the antie roome, and the stears are verie hansomlie treated affter a nwe waie, which cost about 80 li. In the great chamber thear is a good chemnie peese which cost —; … I have apointed to have the stears, doors, windows and corniche painted and a litle gillded; the balconie is allso painted and gillt. The raile and balestor on the tope of the house I have allso apointed [to be painted], and the gaite is done. Then I have apointed gillt leather to hange the stears and the antie roome … Then must thear be a furniture maid for the great chamber, … and that which you have provided for the withdrawing chamber will cost a good deall makeinge upe … The smithes worke allso will take awaie sume [of the money reserved for these purposes].' (fn. 36) Work was still going on in the following spring. A letter dated 2 April 1637 mentions that the workmen had 'allready begune to finishe the uper Roomes' but that they 'do not worke in the House, and can bring no Danger [? infection from plague] to us'. (fn. 37)
In 1639 Lord Leicester made a brief visit to London (fn. 38) and shortly after his return to Paris was joined by his wife. (fn. 39) Their solicitor, William Hawkins, looked after Leicester House during the Leicesters' absence. In February 1639/40 he reported that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland desired to occupy the house and that he had been shown over it by John Myles, the caretaker. (fn. 40) The Lord Lieutenant was Sir Thomas Wentworth, first Earl of Strafford, who had been appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1632 and became Lord Lieutenant in 1640. (fn. 41) He was a friend of the Sidneys and had visited Leicester House accompanied by Lady Leicester's sister, Lucy, the Countess of Carlisle. Lady Carlisle wrote to her sister in Paris after this visit that 'he desiers most to have his beads of damaske, and now you will do hime a great favor in providing of them as soone as you cane'. (fn. 42) Lady Leicester complied and sent two beds from Paris, one of 'green wrought velvet lined with satine, garnished with gold and silver; thother of red damaske garnished with silk'. (fn. 43) Strafford crossed from Ireland at the beginning of April 1640 and made a slow journey back to London in a litter because he had gout in both feet and was weakened by ill health. He arrived at Leicester House on 18 April. (fn. 44)
Strafford's illness persisted throughout his stay there, for in July he was still unable to walk and was carried around the 'high gravell walk' in the garden in a sedan chair. (fn. 45) He left the house on 24 August. (fn. 46)
The rising hatred with which Lord Strafford was now regarded made Lord Leicester uneasy for the safety of his house, which had had to be guarded for some days after rioters had attacked and damaged Archbishop Laud's house. He was therefore heartily relieved at Lord Strafford's departure: 'Peradventure my house may scape the better now that my Lord Lieutenant is gonn, for I doubt the common people hath a greater quarrel to him then they have to my house or to me'. (fn. 47)
In 1641 Lord Leicester was recalled to England. (fn. 48) He attended Charles I on his campaigns but his lack of sympathy with royal policy eventually led to the King's distrust and he retired to Penshurst in 1644, thereafter taking no active part in public affairs. (fn. 41)
About the time of Lord Leicester's retirement to Penshurst an inventory of the contents of Leicester House was drawn up (fn. 49) which provides the earliest description of the interior. It lists the items room by room, but unlike the eighteenthcentury accounts on which the plan in fig. 100 (page 449) is based, does not provide sufficient information for a reconstruction of the layout. It starts with nine rooms which may be inferred to have been on the ground floor. They were the great hall; the green ante-room (each with a picture over the chimney); Thomas Dimbleby's chamber and another room; the drawing-room 'below' (furnished with three pictures over the door and chimneys, five pieces of 'new Lanskep hangeinge', carpets, chairs, stools, a table and an ebony-framed looking-glass); the green 'cabinet' (with nine pictures and three looking-glasses, one in a silver and two in ebony frames); the Earl's chamber 'below' (with a French bedstead, seven pieces of 'new Lanskep hangeinges', two silverframed looking-glasses, five pictures, carpets, chairs, etc., and a silver toasting-fork); the Countess's closet (with a close-stool); and the gentlewoman's chamber.
The next item in the inventory is 'the staircase little place', presumably a reference to the foot of a secondary staircase. Then follow nine more rooms which can be attributed with some certainty to the first floor. The 'Antie roome above stayeres' is succeeded by the great chamber 'above' and the drawing chamber 'above'. Then comes a group of rooms also mentioned in an inventory of 1670, all of which appear to have been the Earl's private apartments; after the 'inwarde closette' comes the Earl's chamber or bedroom, then two little closets (one containing a close-stool with pan), and finally the 'outward' chamber and another chamber next to it.
The inventory continues with a list of twelve rooms occupied by the rest of the family and their personal servants, but giving even less information as to their position. Lord Lisle evidently had a small suite of rooms consisting of a chamber (decorated with seven pieces of hanging and two pictures), a closet, and a little room 'within' (containing '1 Leather Close stoole and 1 panne'). Following these was Mr. Tunbridge's chamber 'above' and the apartments occupied by Colonel (Algernon) Sidney—his chamber (hung with striped stuff and with a picture over the chimney), his man's chamber, and another room containing a leather close-stool. Lady Lucy Sidney had only one room, with table, chairs, a bed, and a 'Close stoole in the Closett'. After Mrs. Bency's chamber come the nurseries of Mr. Harry Sidney and the Lady Spencer (both with striped hangings) and then the maids' chamber adjoining.
The remainder of the inventory describes the contents of a long series of rooms and domestic offices, with no firm indication of their position. The rooms listed, in order, are the little room 'on the house toope', the passage by the wardrobe door, the stairs going to the Earl's chamber, the stairs by the buttery, the buttery, the wine cellar, the beer cellar, the butler's chamber, the usher of the hall's chamber, the lower hall, the passage to the lower hall, the wet larder, the dry larder, the laundry, the laundry maid's chamber and the upper laundry. (fn. 4)
After the upper laundry a heading indicates that 'new buildings' were being entered, and these consisted of Mr. Gage's chamber, Peter's chamber, the gardener's chamber, Mr. Sudbery's chamber, the upper garret and the stair foot.
There is no demarcation at this point in the inventory to show the end of the new buildings but there follows a group of rooms and offices which were closely associated with each other. They were: the clerk of the kitchen's chamber, the preserving room, the chamber over the pastry, a room next to it, the footmen's chamber, the chamber over the coach-house, the kitchen boys' chamber, the coachman's chamber, the inward chamber, the stable, the boulting house, the upper house of office, the wood house, the laundry court, the pastry, the kitchen, the scullery, the passage to the kitchen and the coach-house.
Occasional references show that many furnishings had already been removed to Penshurst and at the end of the inventory is a list of goods of all kinds stored in the room called the wardrobe and on the great staircase; the wardrobe accommodated, among a great deal of furniture, 'one Indian bow and arrows' and on the staircase stood a great trunk and a sedan chair. (fn. 49)
Except during the years 1674–6 Lord Leicester continued to pay the rates for Leicester House until his death in 1677, (fn. 32) although he rarely visited the house. In 1648 his daughter Mary died there and his grandchild, Henry Spencer, died there in the following year. (fn. 50) For much of this time Leicester House was vacant. In 1650 Viscount Lisle wished that the house 'had some good inhabitants' for he feared it might be taken over by the army, which was seeking quarters for a thousand soldiers. (fn. 51) In March 1652 Lord Leicester visited the house to view a 'great Eclipse of the Sun'. (fn. 52)
In November 1660 Sir John Temple wrote to the Earl asking if he would let Leicester House to Godefroi, Comte d'Estrades, the prospective French ambassador. (fn. 53) This request was evidently refused, because d'Estrades occupied a house in Chelsea during his stay. (fn. 54)
Lord Leicester made his unwillingness to let quite clear in a letter which he wrote on 4 February 1661/2 when being pressed to allow Charles II's aunt, Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, to use Leicester House: 'I had no Desyre nor Intention to let my House; for, as old as I am, I do a little consider my innocent Pleasure, and I think that a pretty pleasant Place. I consider my Health and the Ayre of the House. I consider my little privat Business, and the convenient Scituation of the House for it. I consider the Honor of wayting on the King sometimes, when his Majestye will give me Leave; and the Nearnes of the House to the Kings Pallace'. He was persuaded, however, as the request came from the King, and agreed to loan the house for three months. (fn. 55) But the Queen's health failed, unremedied by the 'Ayre' of Leicester Field, and she died at Leicester House on 13 February after only a week's residence. (fn. 53) Lord Leicester, who had received £200 in advance from his royal tenant, wrote 'It seemes the Fates did not think it fit that I should have the Honor, which indeed I never much desyred, to be the Landlord of a Queene'. (fn. 56)
Thereafter his resolution to reserve Leicester House for his own use weakened. It was let again in 1668, to the French ambassador, Charles Colbert, Marquis de Croissy, brother of Louis XIV's minister, who arrived in England in August and was conducted to Leicester House with some ceremony. (fn. 57) In October he was visited by Pepys (fn. 58) and entertained the Duke and Duchess of York at 'a noble supper'. (fn. 59) Colbert left Leicester House at some time before April 1670. (fn. 60)
The next tenant was Thomas Verbecq, a merchant, who in April 1670 took a lease of the house for five months at a rent of £262 10s. (fn. 60) Attached to the lease was an inventory which contains more information than that of 1644, although again not enough to permit a reconstruction of the plan. (fn. 61)
As in 1644 the inventory appears to start with the ground floor, listing eleven rooms with forty-two casements between them. First mentioned is the hall, a wainscoted room with a chimneypiece of Portland stone. It was presumably a large room, for it had eight casements, and pairs of folding doors led out of it to 'the Great Staire Foote' and the parlour. A third door opened into a range of ten rooms, all apparently interconnecting. Immediately adjoining the hall was 'The Chamber called my Lady's Outward Chamber and Entry' (the late Countess's?), hung with 'old Stript Stuffe' and having two casements. Then came 'my Lady's Chamber', a wainscoted room with a marble chimneypiece and four casements; and a wainscoted and painted closet with two casements. From this closet a door led into the 'new' bedchamber. This room was also wainscoted, with a carved frieze and cornice, and had four casements and a black and white marble chimneypiece. A second door communicated with another closet, and a third with the 'new' drawing-room, which was wainscoted like the last two rooms, and had four casements and a 'Faire Marble Chimney peice of Tutch (fn. 5) very large, black and white'. Beyond this was a handsome closet, with four casements and a black and white marble chimneypiece, the walls being hung with Dutch gilt leather. Another door from the new drawing-room led into the 'old' drawingroom. Here the wainscot and shutters to the six casements were gilded, the cornice was green and the chimneypiece of 'Rans' marble. (fn. 6) From the old drawing-room there was also a door into the little dining-room. The cornice here was painted green and gilded and there were two casements, a chimneypiece of grey marble, and 'Glasse doores' leading into the garden. Adjoining the little dining-room was the last room of the group, the ante-room, which was wainscoted and painted green, and had a stone chimneypiece and two casements.
The next item on the inventory is the 'Back Staires Foote', followed by the groom of the chamber's room and the 'Little Evidence' (i.e., muniment) room, their position unspecified. Then come 'the Antiroomes to my Lords Lodgings one paire of Staires high'—clearly the entrance to the Earl's private suite of five inter-connecting rooms on the first floor. The two ante-rooms are followed by the Earl's bedchamber, which was 'borded about next the bottome and a Cornish about the topp', suggesting that the upper part of the walls may have been intended to have been covered by hangings. Next to it was a closet and another room. The Earl's apartments are followed by the handsomely finished 'gallery', evidently a room of considerable size with ten casements, two balconies, and two pairs of double doors. The walls were wainscoted 'Window Soyle high round the Roome', and there was a cornice at the top, the intervening space being hung with leather 'guilded with F flowers de Luys and Coates of Armes'. There was only one chimneypiece, of black and white marble.
The inventory then continues with a further series of four inter-connecting rooms, all clearly on the first floor. They were the 'new' bedchamber, the withdrawing-room 'above', the upper dining-room and the ante-room 'above'. The walls were partly wainscoted, and the ceilings of the first, third and fourth had 'fretwork' ceilings. The dining-room also had a balcony.
As in the inventory of 1644, the rooms occupied by the rest of the family are next listed, their relationship to the foregoing rooms being unexplained, although they were certainly on an upper floor for 'the Staire head' is twice mentioned. They comprised the apartments of Mr. (Henry) Sidney and Colonel (Algernon) Sidney and the nurseries, presumably occupied by Lord Leicester's grandchildren.
After the nurseries come 'the Great Staires', and then the domestic offices, starting with the lower hall. This communicated by a door with another hall (evidently different from the one mentioned at the beginning of the inventory) which contained three tables, six forms, a lead pipe and a wooden trough. The other rooms and offices are not strikingly different from those listed in 1644 but the various yards are more carefully distinguished. The 'Back Yard' contained the coach-houses and had 'a paire of Back Gates with a Wickett'. From it led a 'doore to the house of office in the Laundry yard', the latter in turn having a door into the 'Great Court'. In this were two porters' lodges and 'A Raile with Barrister with Stopps before the Hall doore'. Some of the offices were in fact excepted from Verbecq's lease, namely, two rooms called the wardrobe, on the south side of the house, the lodgings over the coach-houses, one of the coachhouses next to the pump, and the little cellar on the right hand going down to the lower hall out of the laundry court. (fn. 60)
The inventory concludes with a description of the gardens, which lay to the north and west (Plate 2). In the centre of the formal garden next to the house, set with pear, cherry and 'Jessemy' trees, was a stone statue of a woman 'treading on a Dolphin'. The terrace walk was planted with apricot, peach and more cherry trees, about forty-five pines and forty-three cypresses, and there was a 'covered Seat with Seates in it', and 'Three paire of Staires with twelve little pedestalls'. 'Below' the house was an orchard with mulberry, cherry, apple and pear trees and two stone figures, one of Lucretia, the other of Hercules. On one side of the orchard was a 'close' walk and on the other a kitchen garden, lined with fig and lime trees. (fn. 61)
In 1672 John Evelyn dined at Leicester House as the guest of Lady Sunderland, the wife of Lord Leicester's grandson, Robert, second Earl of Sunderland, who at this time was ambassador in Paris. Evelyn and the company were entertained after dinner by one Richardson 'the famous Fire-Eater, who before us devour'd Brimston on glowing coales, chewing and swallowing them downe'. (fn. 62)
Lady Sunderland's occupation of the house appears to have been temporary and in August 1673 it may have been tenanted by Thomas Osborne, Viscount Latimer, then Lord High Treasurer. It was said that owing to ill health he had removed from his lodgings at Whitehall and intended to recuperate at Leicester House. (fn. 63)
From 1674 to 1676 Leicester House was taken by Ralph Montagu, later first Earl, and afterwards first Duke, of Montagu. (fn. 32) He had married the widow of Lady Leicester's nephew, Joceline, eleventh Earl of Northumberland, and at this date was a Privy Councillor and Master of the Great Wardrobe. In 1676 he was sent as ambassador to Paris. (fn. 30)
On 2 November 1677 Robert, Earl of Leicester, died at the age of eighty-one. (fn. 30) He was succeeded by his son Philip, now third Earl, who was rated for Leicester House from 1677 until his death there in 1698. (fn. 32) The third Earl reduced the extent of Leicester House garden by letting the western part for building Lisle Street, Leicester Street and the north part of Leicester Square. He was also responsible for the erection of the shops and the tavern in front of the courtyard of Leicester House (see page 454).
He is described, a few years before his death, in the memoirs of his neighbour, Lord Ailesbury, as 'a most infirm man … and for his health was, morning and afternoon, in his coach for air'. Lord Ailesbury dined with him on Saturdays— a day reserved for friends—'So he loved to be at ease—and two of his most constant guests on the Saturdays were Mr. Dryden and Mr. Wicherley, professed Jacobites, but their company pleased him'. (fn. 64)
By his will Lord Leicester bequeathed to his son Robert the statues in Leicester House and garden together with two-thirds of the pictures, drawings, plate and household stuff; the other third he left to one of his illegitimate children. (fn. 65)
Between 1698 and 1700 Robert, fourth Earl of Leicester, repaired and refurnished the house. Over £2,000 was spent on repairs (fn. 7) and nearly £1,500 on chairs, tapestries, glasses, tables and furnishing materials. (fn. 66) He died at the end of 1702, bequeathing certain pictures at Leicester House (in his chamber, on the stairs, in the gallery and in the drawing-room hung with green mohair) to his family, and leaving the rest of the pictures, with the furniture if necessary, to be sold to pay his debts. (fn. 67) He was succeeded by his son Philip, the fifth Earl, who sold some of his father's and grandfather's effects in the following year, including 206 pictures, 107 drawings and prints and 83 heads and figures of marble and other materials. (fn. 68) In December 1703 he insured Leicester House, described as a brick house in his own possession, with kitchen, laundry, coachhouses, stables and other offices and apartments adjoining, for £1,500. (fn. 69) He died in 1705, and was succeeded by his brother. (fn. 30)
Although the fifth and sixth Earls were both rated for Leicester House it is not certain that they occupied it themselves. At some time before 1708 the house was let to the Imperial envoy, Count Gallas. (fn. 70) In 1710 the new Tory Government began the secret negotiations which culminated in the Treaty of Utrecht and ended the War of the Spanish Succession. Gallas did his utmost to hinder the negotiations, but the plan for Prince Eugène of Savoy to reinforce his embassy was discovered, and in October 1711 he was informed that the Queen had forbidden him the court. (fn. 71) In spite of the Government's efforts to discountenance him, Eugène arrived in London on 16 January 1711/12. He drove immediately to Leicester House and was visited on the same evening by the Duke of Marlborough, his friend and fellow-commander. The London multitude gave Eugène a hero's welcome, in marked contrast to the cold and uncivil treatment offered him by the Government. The Queen refused his request to allow Gallas to take leave of her and the Prince himself, his mission a failure, departed from Leicester House on 17 March 1711/12. (fn. 72)
In 1712 or 1713 the sixth Earl of Leicester let the house to John Leveson-Gower, second Baron, and later first Earl Gower, who in 1712 married a daughter of the Duke of Kingston, Lady Evelyn Pierrepont. (fn. 73) They occupied Leicester House until 1717. (fn. 32)
Towards the end of December 1717 it was reported that the Prince of Wales (later George 11) was moving to Leicester House and also taking over Savile House next door. (fn. 74) On the occasion of the baptism of his son, George William, in November 1717, the Prince quarrelled with his father, George I, and was turned out of his apartments at St. James's Palace. He and the Princess took temporary refuge at the Earl of Grantham's house in Arlington Street, and on 23 January 1717/18 they removed to Leicester House, which was rented to them for £500 per annum. (fn. 75)
It is unlikely that any alterations were made to either Leicester House or Savile House before the royal tenants moved in. The work which needed to be done was probably carried out during their absence in the country in the summers of 1718 and 1719. The Prince's surveyor for 'the New Building and other Works' was Nicholas Dubois, (fn. 76) master mason of the Office of Works. (fn. 77) The bills, signed by Dubois and settled by warrants dated January 1719/20, amounted to nearly £2,760, including £200 paid to himself and £20 8s. 6d. for measuring to James Home, (fn. 76) who a year later became his deputy in the Office of Works. (fn. 77) The chief workmen employed by Dubois were Henry Lidgbird, bricklayer; John Spicer, carpenter; Robert Hearne, joiner; Edward Tuffnell, mason; Thomas Knight, blacksmith; William Wayte, plumber; Robert Frith, plasterer; William Dissell, painter; and Charles Capell, paviour. Smaller sums were paid to a glazier, slater, another paviour, a 'cartaker' and a 'Tynn Woman'. (fn. 76)
Savile House was linked to Leicester House by a covered passage which was removed in 1727; (fn. 77) there is no evidence to suggest what other alterations were made.
More work was done at Leicester House in 1720–1, and during this period Nicholas Dubois was replaced as surveyor by Colin Campbell. Several of the same workmen were again employed, but Tuffnell's place was taken by Edward Davenport, mason, and Spicer's by Thomas Sayer, carpenter. (fn. 78) (fn. 8) James Richards, master carver of the Office of Works, received small sums for work at the house in 1721–2, (fn. 79) and Roger Morris and a plumber were paid in 1724 'for Repairing the Old and laying down New Pipes from Gerrard Street to Leicester House'. (fn. 80) The only payment to Colin Campbell which has been found is for £162 9s. in March 1724/5, for examining bills. (fn. 81) In c. 1724 Campbell was included in a list of the Prince's warrant-holders, (fn. 82) and in 1726 he described himself as the Prince's architect. (fn. 83)
For ten years the Prince of Wales lived at Leicester House, which became the centre for the opposition party. When George I died on 11 June 1727 the Prince and Princess were at Richmond but they returned immediately to town and on the following day the Prince was proclaimed King at Leicester House gate. All the nobility in town 'attended at Leicester House and had the honour to kiss their Majesties hands'. (fn. 84) George II and Queen Caroline remained at Leicester House, for which they paid rent up to Christmas 1727, (fn. 85) until St. James's Palace was got ready for them.
The sixth Earl of Leicester apparently resumed occupation of Leicester House in 1728 and was rated for it until his death in 1737. (fn. 32) He was succeeded by his brother Joceline, the seventh and last Earl, who was also rated for the house, until 1742. (fn. 32) Some time before June of that year he agreed to let the house to George II's eldest son, Frederick, Prince of Wales, (fn. 86) but he died in July 1743, and the lease was granted by his heirs, Mary, Lady Sherard and Elizabeth Perry. (fn. 87)
Prince Frederick's relationship with the King and Queen was even worse than George II's had been with his own parents. Frederick had been brought up in Hanover and did not return to England until 1728. He was created Prince of Wales in the following year and in 1736 was married to Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. The pattern of events which followed his brother's baptism was repeated on the even more notorious occasion of his eldest child's birth. Shortly after the christening of their daughter, Augusta, both parents were turned out of St. James's Palace and went to live at Norfolk House in St. James's Square, although the Prince had already acquired, and still owned, Carlton House in Pall Mall. (fn. 88) In 1741 it was discovered that Norfolk House was unsafe and after spending the winter in the country, (fn. 89) the Prince decided to move into the house which his father had formerly occupied in Leicester Square.
In June 1742 the Earl of Leicester engaged workmen under the carpenter, Benjamin Timbrell, to prepare Leicester House for the royal tenants. (fn. 86) William Kent may have had some hand in the alterations for he was the Prince's architect at this time and had recently been employed by him at Kew Palace. (fn. 77) He was paid £300 in April 1743, but for what purpose is not clear, the payment being described as a 'Free Gift and Bounty'. (fn. 90) Timbrell later received a present of £52 10s. 'for Supervizing the Repairing and fitting up' of Leicester House. (fn. 91)
On 30 June 1743 the Earl of Leicester's agent, John Howell, received from the Prince £580 for a year's rent from Michaelmas 1742 and £500 'towards paying the Workmen for finishing and compleating the Repairs of Leicester House' for the reception of 'Us and Our Family by the Twenty Ninth Day of September next'. (fn. 92) The alterations and repairs ordered were more lavish than the purse to pay for them, and for some £5,000 worth of work the workmen (fn. 9) were prevailed upon to accept less than £4,000. (fn. 86)
The lease of the house to the Prince of Wales was granted on 16 August 1743 for fourteen years from Michaelmas 1742. (fn. 87) It was granted by Lady Sherard and Elizabeth Perry, then joint owners of the Leicester estate by virtue of the death of the last Earl of Leicester. In the following year Elizabeth Perry, with the permission of the Court of Chancery, used some of her South Sea annuity stock to buy her sister's moiety of Leicester House for £4,000. (fn. 93)
Although the first year's rent was paid and the lease was signed in 1743, the Prince of Wales must have moved into Leicester House at the beginning of the winter of 1742–3, for payments were made to a constable for attending there at various occasions in November and December 1742 and in January 1743. (fn. 94)
The surviving royal household accounts reflect the pattern of life at Leicester House during its occupation by the Prince and his family (fn. 10) and contain sufficient detail to provide at least an impression of the rooms on the first or principal floor. Incidental references suggest that these were eleven in number, four 'state' or reception rooms at the front, six bedrooms and dressingrooms at the back and one waiting-room. The account of Benjamin Goodison, cabinet-maker, (fn. 11) dated November 1742, appears to list eight of them in their actual order, beginning with the first reception room next to the great stairs and proceeding through the second and third rooms to the 'state' or audience room. Then, turning presumably to the back of the house, it lists the statebedchamber, the Prince's dressing-room, the Princess's dressing-room, and the private bedchamber, returning finally to the great stairs. A slightly later account from Goodison mentions a 'further' (elsewhere called the 'little') dressingroom and the Princess's closet, and these were no doubt also back rooms. (fn. 95)
In each case Goodison refers to the number of windows in the rooms, so that it is possible to guess at their position in relation to Luyten's paintings of 1752 (Plate 49). On this basis a conjectural plan of the first floor has been prepared (fig. 100), the main dimensions being taken from a late eighteenth-century block plan in the Holland papers. (fn. 96) The block plan does not show the projecting wing which appears in Luyten's painting of the rear elevation, but this has been included in the reconstruction because the painting appears the more reliable source.
The four front rooms, which had eleven windows between them, were inter-connected. Assuming, therefore, that there were no windows in the side walls of the house, the great staircase must either have been at one end of the front range or slightly off-centre in the back range. The former alternative would place the staircase rather far from the main entrance, but it is supported by an otherwise inexplicable reference of 1748 to pulling down the 'gable' next to the great staircase. (fn. 97) If the staircase was in the front range, a position at the east end seems the more likely, leaving the audience room to occupy the projecting wing on the west.
The six back rooms probably lay at the west end of the building, behind the other state rooms. In the reconstructed plan Goodison's sequence has been followed, the 'further' or 'little' dressingroom being treated as the easternmost room. The Princess's closet has been placed next to the state bedchamber, for the latter would have taken up only two of the three windows in the projecting wing.
Between them the six back rooms had eleven windows in all, leaving unassigned three windows at the east end of the rear elevation. One of these perhaps belonged to the back stairs, which would thus have been close to both the front and back entrances, and the others to the waiting-room described by Goodison as being for the use of the Prince's pages. There is a reference to a staircase adjoining one of the bedchambers on this floor, but this has been taken to refer to a third staircase, for which there is evidence in the accounts. (fn. 98) In the plan this third staircase has therefore been placed behind the Princess's closet in the rear projecting wing, where it would have been easily accessible from the doorway that Luyten shows in the front wing.
The finishings of the state apartments are not described with any precision, but it is evident that all had hangings on the upper part of the walls, above a 'sub-base' or dado of wainscot. (fn. 99) The four front rooms were hung in crimson, the two easternmost in mohair and the two westernmost in damask, the hangings being fixed with large brass double lacquered nails and trimmed with crimson figured lace and crimson worsted lace. The windows had crimson lustrine curtains, above which were wooden cornices 'all Carved with feathers, Coronetts, festuons of Drapery, and Other Ornaments'. (fn. 98) The three eastern rooms are mentioned as having enriched cornices, and ceilings compartmented or otherwise decorated, (fn. 100) and each of the three western rooms had carved and gilt roses in the ceiling, from which, presumably, hung the chandeliers. (fn. 101)
The first three state rooms seem to have been furnished with increasing grandeur in progression towards the westernmost room. In the first room the stools and forms had walnut frames; there was a pier glass with a pedimented frame containing a carved and gilt crest, and over the fireplace a large picture. In the second the furniture was gilded and there were two looking-glasses and seven pictures, five small and two large. The furniture in the third room, also gilded, consisted of two pier glasses with candle branches, four terms (pedestals), several stools and forms, and two elbow chairs. There were also two large pictures with gilded frames fixed to the walls, and three others with elaborately carved and gilded frames, one, over the fireplace, with a scroll pediment and crest, and festoons to the sides and bottom, and the other two, over the doors, with ornaments all round and a crest on the top. (fn. 101)
The westernmost and largest apartment, which had three windows, was the principal state room or audience chamber, for it contained the 'state' or canopy and two state chairs. Here, no doubt, the Prince and Princess sat to receive visitors on formal occasions. The canopy was of crimson damask embroidered with the Prince's arms, being supported by a carved wooden frame finished with vases. (fn. 102)
The account of John Boson, carver, in 1742/3, gives considerable detail about the woodwork in the room. An apparent reference to the mouldings on the dado lists 79 feet 'Running of Cap and Base 6 Members enriching one O.G. with 3 Leav'd Grass, One with 9 Leav'd Grass, two Beads Beaded, One O.G. with 7 Leav'd Grass, ye Tore with Flowers'. The door and window architraves had '3 Members Enrich't One O.G. with Attics One Do. with 7 Leav'd Grass Roped'. Dividing the room at some unspecified point was a screen of Ionic columns, supporting an entablature which included a 'Swelling Freeze with Piggs Ears Ribbon and Leaf and was decorated with '4 Peices of Ornaments … with his Royall Highness's Crest and Supporters'. The chimneypiece was equally elaborate, having 'Supporting Scrolls with fruit flowers and Husks 2 ft. 11 Ins. Long', and a frieze ornamented with fruit, flowers and foliage. This had 'An Apollo's Head with Rays on the Tablet 18 Ins. by 9 Ins', and above it was a cornice enriched with '5 Leav'd Grass'. (fn. 103) On the floor was a very large fine Turkey carpet. (fn. 98) In 1742–3 the room is described as containing two state and four other chairs, six long stools, twenty-two short stools, six tables, six terms and eight 'Gerindoes' or girandoles. All these items were gilded, the chairs being covered in crimson damask and the stools in mohair. Six pictures in gilded frames are mentioned, and there was a large pier glass, ornamented with gilded carvings and fitted with candle branches. (fn. 102)
Leicester House was occupied by the Prince's family only during the winter months. The frequent references in the accounts to the shifting of furniture suggest that the state rooms served a double purpose, for private use as dining- and withdrawing-rooms as well as for public and ceremonial occasions. These last included birthday celebrations, balls, concerts, 'drawing-rooms', public dinners, and performances of plays by the royal children. Items in the accounts include cutting four 'air holes' in the ceiling of the ballroom (? the large state room) for a ball; (fn. 104) supplying eighteen chairs for the state room for the 'Publick Diners'; (fn. 101) paying a porter for '4 turns with things wanting for the Play'; making 'a Large Carpitt for the Stage'; unloading a wagon bringing 'Sceanes' from Cliveden; (fn. 105) and borrowing properties and seats from the Opera House. (fn. 106)
It is not stated how the walls of the state bedchamber were hung, but it may have been in green, for the lustrine curtains, which were laced and fringed, were of that colour. Above the windows were 'Large Carved Cornishs' covered 'with feathers, and Coronetts, festoones of Drapery, and Other Carved Ornaments, trim'd with Lace, and fringe'. (fn. 98) Mention is made of a carved and silvered rose in the ceiling (fn. 101) and a bill of 1750 notes that the paintwork was dead white. (fn. 107) The frames to the looking-glass over the fireplace, two state chairs, and the stools, were carved and silvered. (fn. 101) The principal feature of the room was the state bed in which the Princess's accouchements took place. (fn. 105) This was of mahogany, the tester surmounted by vases, and with it went a mahogany-framed wire screen of eighteen leaves. (fn. 101) Royal births, always with members of the royal household present, were followed a few weeks later by the Princess's reception of visitors in the state bedroom. (fn. 108) The state cradle, used for christenings, was lined with Indian quilting, decorated with gold lace and fringe, and had a cover of crimson lustrine. (fn. 98)
The dressing-rooms and the closet seem to have been no less richly finished than the other state apartments. The Prince and Princess's dressingrooms were hung respectively with crimson velvet and green damask, her closet in crimson and her 'little' (the 'further') dressing-room in green silk and worsted damask. The two large dressing-rooms especially were lavishly fitted with gilded furniture covered with damask, and the walls hung with pictures. In the Prince's dressing-room, for example, there is mention of a great gold couch covered with velvet and gold lace, and 'bustos' over the pictures, one of which was a Rubens. (fn. 109) The private bedchamber appears to have been hung with tapestry, described as three 'large fine pieces'; these were probably the three pieces purchased for £350 in November 1742 from Priscilla MacEune (fn. 110) of No. 18 Gerrard Street, (fn. 32) who elsewhere is referred to as a milliner. (fn. 111) The room also contained a green damask bed, a settee and a variety of other furniture, mostly gilded and covered in green.
The great staircase was evidently of considerable size, for a plasterer's bill of 1755 refers to ninety-two yards of washing and whitening done on the ceiling and on the underside of the landing. (fn. 100) The walls were papered and hung with three large pictures in gilt frames, (fn. 112) two of them painted by John Wootton (see page 448, n.). In the ceiling was a carved and gilt rose, from which was suspended a great lanthorn with a gilded crown on top. Additional lighting was provided by other lanthorns on iron and gilt 'pillars', 'side' lanthorns (fixed to the wall?), five pairs of double and one pair of single brass branches, and ten wrought brass girandoles. (fn. 101)
Insufficient evidence is provided to reconstruct the plan of the other floors, although there is a reference to the twelve rooms 'below', presumably on the ground floor. (fn. 113) The entrance hall receives hardly any mention, except for a bill of 1752 for 'Painting the 4 Columns in the Hall', which suggests the room was divided by a screen. (fn. 114)
The children's nurseries, which were probably on the ground floor, were hung with yellow damask. (fn. 98) The remaining rooms on both the ground and attic floors were papered, the paper, like the other hangings, being backed with brown linen. (fn. 115) The account of Robert Dunbar in 1744 lists a number of patterns of paper, including 'Chints', 'embossed yellow Feather', 'Leicester pattern', and 'Stuco Octagon'. (fn. 116)
A sidelight on the sanitary arrangements is provided by the mention of fourteen closestools, twelve of wainscot (i.e. oak) and two, for the young princesses, of carved mahogany; (fn. 101) the 'necessary house' was clearly for the use of servants only. The household was supplied with water by two wells, situated at each end of the house, one of which fed a pump in the garden. (fn. 100) New River water was also piped by wooden trunks from the nearby street, possibly Gerrard Street. (fn. 117)
The general impression is that the household was uncomfortably crowded at Leicester House, and some members had to be boarded out in the neighbourhood, the maids of honour in Duke Street, St. Alban's Street, Leicester Square and Lisle Street and the pages in Gerrard Street. (fn. 118) The yeomen of the guard were also housed outside the main building, for there is a reference in 1764 to sending six chairs out of Leicester House to their apartment. (fn. 119) Some fifty-two yards of old wainscot were refitted in this room in 1755 (fn. 120) and comparison with the dimensions given on the block plan in the Holland papers (fn. 96) suggests that this may well have been the long low building which the views show on the east side of the front court. It may also be identified with the 'two rooms called the Wardrobe' which the inventory of 1670 describes as being on the south side of the house.
After the winter season the Prince and his family were accustomed to leave London to spend the summer months at Kew or at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire. Their departure for the country heralded an enormous programme of repairing, restoring and spring-cleaning at Leicester House, a necessary procedure judging from the frequent references to vermin. (fn. 121)
It was on a visit to Kew early in March that Prince Frederick caught the chill which preceded his death at Leicester House on 20 March 1751. (fn. 122) Full mourning was observed at the house for the ensuing six months, followed by another six months' half-mourning. Two sets of mourning hangings and furniture, one for each halfyear, were provided by the Company of Upholders at Exeter Exchange in the Strand. The bill for the second set survives and shows that two of the state rooms were hung with black cloth and black curtains and two were hung with grey cloth and grey curtains, with all the chairs and stools to match. The staircase and hall were hung with 'Bays', and black-framed tables and lookingglasses with white-painted frames were exchanged for the gilded ones. (fn. 123) There is a bill dated 1753 for taking 'the black Varnish off 4 brass lanthorn frames', regilding the feet of terms 'that were black' and removing the black from the lanthorns on the staircase. (fn. 124)
The Dowager Princess continued to live at Leicester House after Prince Frederick's death. (fn. 32) In 1756 George II offered her eldest son, George, now Prince of Wales, an invitation to live at Kensington Palace and an allowance of £40,000 a year but 'The money was very kindly received—the proposal of leaving our lady-mother refused'. (fn. 125) Since 1751 the Prince had been living at Savile House next door to Leicester House, with his brother, Edward, Duke of York. Later his younger brothers William and Frederick lived at Nos. 28 and 29 Leicester Square. (fn. 32)
In October 1757 (Sir) William Chambers was appointed by the Princess Dowager to be her architect, although he began supervising maintenance and repair work at Leicester House in July 1757. He received his first quarter's salary, £13 16s. 3d., in January 1758. (fn. 126)
After the marriage of her daughter Princess Augusta in 1764 the Dowager Princess of Wales left Leicester House. She appears to have moved to Carlton House in about May 1764 (her warrants thereafter are dated at Carlton, or Pall Mall, House) (fn. 127) and a great deal of furniture was subsequently moved from the house in Leicester Square to the house in Pall Mall. (fn. 128) The Princess continued to pay rates and rent for Leicester House, however, until Michaelmas 1767, (fn. 129) and her son, Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland, occupied it in 1767. (fn. 32)
From 1768 to 1774 Earl Harcourt's name appears in the ratebooks. Simon Harcourt, second Viscount and first Earl, had been governor to the Prince of Wales (later George III) in 1751–2 and envoy to Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1761 to arrange the King's marriage with Princess Charlotte. During the period for which he was rated for the house Lord Harcourt was ambassador in Paris, 1768–72, and viceroy of Ireland from 1772. (fn. 41) A newspaper report of 1771 said that Leicester House had been repaired, several 'very great alterations and additions' having been made, to fit it for the 'winter residence' of the Prince of Wales (later George IV) and his brother Frederick, Duke of York and Albany; (fn. 130) no confirmation of this has been found.
The end of Leicester House as a royal or noble residence came in 1774. In that year it was taken over by Ashton Lever, a gentleman from Alkrington near Manchester. Lever was a naturalist who had collected an enormous number of natural history objects and exhibited them at his home. (fn. 41) He brought the museum to London and opened it at Leicester House in February 1775, (fn. 131) calling it, in allusion to its supposed universal coverage of natural history, the 'Holophusicon'. Fossils, shells, birds, insects, reptiles, fishes and monkeys were the principal contents. They were displayed in two galleries running the whole length of the house (obviously contrived out of the principal rooms on the first floor), on the staircase, in four rooms on the ground floor and in an out-house, where 'the elephant and zebra' stood. (fn. 132) The admission charge to the public varied over the years, at one time being 5s. 3d. and later 2s. 6d. Subscribers paid two guineas for an annual ticket. (fn. 133) The receipts in 1782 were £2,253. (fn. 134)
Lever was knighted in 1778. (fn. 41) In 1784–6 he disposed of his collection by lottery. James Parkinson was the holder of the winning ticket, but the museum continued at Leicester House until Sir Ashton's death in 1788. (fn. 135) Parkinson then transferred it to the specially built Rotunda at No. 3 Blackfriars Road. (fn. 136)
Lever's secretary, Thomas Waring, (fn. 127) continued to be rated for part of Leicester House until 1791. Waring had taken up archery about 1776 as a relief for 'an oppression upon his chest (arising principally from sitting too closely to his desk)' and his example had been followed by Sir Ashton Lever. They shot in the garden of Leicester House and being joined by several friends formed the Toxophilite Society in 1780 or 1781. Waring became treasurer of the society, which held its meetings at Leicester House until his departure in 1791. (fn. 137)
In 1783 Elizabeth Perry, one of the co-heiresses of the seventh Earl of Leicester and since 1744 sole owner of the freehold of Leicester House, died heavily in debt. In 1789 her estate in Leicester Square was sold by auction in several lots (see page 422). Leicester House was bought for £17,700 by George Lempriere, esquire, of Highlands, near Ilford. (fn. 138) The 'interior parts' of the house were removed in the winter of 1789–90, (fn. 139) and the house was demolished in c. 1791–2. (fn. 32)
Architectural Description of the Exterior
Architecturally Leicester House presents a number of difficult problems, the solution of which is not assisted by the paucity of graphic records. There is no reliable illustration of the building at all before Sutton Nicholls's view of the square in c. 1727 (Plate 48a), and the only detailed views are those of Vertue in 1748 and Luyten in 1752 (Plates 48b, 49). No plan of the house is known to exist, except for the very rough block plan of the late eighteenth century among the Holland papers. (fn. 96) (fn. 12)
The pictorial representations on seventeenth and early eighteenth-century maps of London provide an additional source of information, but this is often conflicting and unreliable. A particular problem is posed by the earliest of these drawings, that on Faithorne and Newcourt's map of 1658 (Plate 1b). There the house is shown as a series of irregular buildings grouped round a courtyard, the south range being almost entirely taken up by a massive gatehouse. This is totally unlike the double-pile house illustrated by Sutton Nicholls, and is particularly puzzling in the absence of any documentary evidence for a rebuilding. Courtyard houses, moreover, were virtually out of fashion by the 1630's, and it is reasonable to conclude that the drawing is simply a map-maker's symbol. It receives some support, however, from the drawing on Hollar's map of 1675 (Plate 47a). Although poorly executed, this seems intended to show a more complex building than a double-pile, as one can see by comparing it with the representation of a known double-pile like Clarendon House. The two drawings of the house in the 1660/1 plan of the Military Ground are very difficult to interpret. A point of interest about them, however, is that they also show a wide round-headed gateway in the centre of the building (Plate 8a). Both Ogilby and Morgan's map of 1681–2 (Plate 47b) and Blome's parish map of c. 1690 (Plate 47c) show the house as a double-pile, even though it still differs markedly from the one illustrated by Sutton Nicholls in c. 1727. In fact, a house bearing even the most general resemblance to the latter does not appear on a map earlier than that of Morden and Lea in c. 1700 (Plate 47d).
The appearance of Leicester House in the period between c. 1727 and 1753 is well shown in the contemporary paintings and engravings (Plates 48, 49). These agree on the general lines of the building, although Luyten's painting of 1752 is a more accurate and detailed representation than those by Sutton Nicholls and Vertue. If this was the building originally erected in the 1630's it might well have been refronted. Its style has an austerity more usually found in the second half of the seventeenth century, and it completely lacks the elaborate moulded brick detail characteristic of what Sir John Summerson has described as 'Artisan Mannerism'. (fn. 140)
The house was brick-built, (fn. 141) containing two storeys above a semi-basement. The main block had a front ten windows wide, with the doorway in the sixth bay from the east, and at the west end was a projecting wing three windows wide. The front was finished with a modillioned eavescornice, and in the roof was a row of dormers with triangular pediments. Sutton Nicholls shows the first-floor window over the doorway and that at the west end to have had balconies, but these are not shown in the later views and must have been removed. Vertue and Luyten, on the other hand, show all the windows with eared brick architraves, and though these are not shown by Sutton Nicholls they can hardly have been added since his time and must have been omitted because of the smaller scale of his engraving.
None of the views suggests that there was ever an east wing to provide the balanced composition that one would expect in a building of this type, although two wings are shown in Morden and Lea's map of c. 1700 (Plate 47d). If there was an east wing it must have been demolished very early in the eighteenth century, for an anonymous map of c. 1710 shows the outline of the house with only the one wing. (fn. 142)
A number of other features shown by Vertue and Luyten are not in Sutton Nicholls's engraving, and these were probably among the alterations made for Frederick, Prince of Wales, in 1742–3. The steps up to the main doorway have been covered by a Doric porte cochère, three bays deep and one bay wide, finished with a triangular pediment. The first-floor window above this porch has been given a moulded architrave and a cornice on carved consoles, all presumably of stone, and in the east bay of the wing a new doorway has been similarly treated. Flanking the front columns of the porch is a pair of obelisk lampstandards, and at the east end of the front is a third, lighting the way to the stable-yard. Probably these were the three thirteen-foot 'lamp posts' mentioned as being installed in an account of February 1743/4. (fn. 143)
The back elevation, for which Luyten's second painting provides the only evidence (Plate 49b), had a mainly early or mid eighteenth-century appearance by 1752, also probably due to the alterations of 1742–3. In the painting all the windows are shown with architraves and cornices of stone, and there is a broad sill-band in each storey. Curiously, though, the band in the second storey is broken beneath each window. In the ground storey the original doorway, distinguished by a flight of steps leading up to it and a cornice on consoles, had been blocked. The window immediately to the east of it seems to have been converted into a doorway, this being approached from the steps by a short balustraded balcony.
Leicester House Stables
The stables of Leicester House lay in the northeast corner of the gardens alongside the boundary wall which separated the Leicester and Salisbury estates (fig. 94 on page 417). In the early part of the eighteenth century they were approached by a passageway leading from Leicester Square along the east side of the Standard tavern. (fn. 144) When Frederick, Prince of Wales, took Leicester House in 1743, the brick wall between his property and Lord Salisbury's was pierced by a door giving access to the passage leading to the former French chapel which stood on the other side of the wall (shown on Rocque's map, Plate 4). This passage communicated with Little Newport Street and thus gave the Prince's servants easier access to Newport Market. The Earl of Salisbury's lessee, John Horne, father of John Horne Tooke, objected to this high-handed action and after a lawsuit he had the door blocked. Having established his rights he wrote to the Prince offering to have the door re-opened, and the Prince accepted. (fn. 145) In due course the opening was enlarged and gates were erected to serve as an entrance for carriages into the stables. (fn. 146)
It appears that when Leicester House was demolished some of the stables survived and were incorporated into the eastern extension of Lisle Street (Plate 5, between Nos. 2–3 Lisle Street) laid out in 1792–5. In Two Centuries of Soho there is a reproduction of a photograph of the White Bear Yard livery stables at No. 25A Lisle Street. (fn. 147) As the outside staircase shown is clearly of late seventeenth- or early eighteenthcentury date and this part of Lisle Street was not built until 1792–5, the claim by the author that the buildings may represent part of Leicester House stables is very probably correct. On a plan drawn about 1788 the site of No. 25A is marked as 'stables etc. let out'. (fn. 146) The yard was let, with the stables and coach-houses, together with the use of the gateway into Lisle Street, on 1 June 1793 by Thomas Wright to William Brooks. (fn. 148) The stables and coach-houses were sub-let to separate tenants thereafter but certainly by 1831, and possibly by 1818, they had become livery stables and survived as such until 1906. (fn. 149) The name of the yard seems to have been derived from a nearby public house, the White Bear at No. 30 Lisle Street.
The Shops and Taverns in front of Leicester House
Some of the views of Leicester House show several small buildings in front of the courtyard wall (Plates 46, 48a). These were single-storey shops, built of timber, which were erected in 1694–5 during the time of the third Earl of Leicester. (fn. 150) Originally there were eight, six on the west side of the gate to the courtyard, and two on the east. (fn. 32) In 1736 they were leased by John, sixth Earl of Leicester, to Sir Thomas Reade, in trust for Thomas Sidney, the illegitimate son of John's younger brother Thomas. (fn. 151) In 1743 the Prince of Wales paid compensation to the tenant of one of the shops, which was demolished in order to make an opening for bringing sedan chairs into the courtyard. (fn. 152) In 1767 the Prince's widow gave up this passageway and paid £50 for the reinstatement of the shop. (fn. 153)
By 1786, when Thomas Sidney's leasehold term expired, the eight small shops had been amalgamated into four (fig. 94 on page 417, C1–4). They were sold in 1789 as part of lot 1 of Elizabeth Perry's estate (see page 422), and demolished in c. 1794. (fn. 32) Three houses with shops in front (Nos. 7–9 Leicester Square, Plate 51a, right) were erected on the sites of C1–3 and let to the former tenants. (fn. 154) C4 was pulled down to make way for Leicester Place and a new house and shop were erected on what was left of its site (now incorporated in Nos. 10–15 Leicester Square).
The building shown on the right-hand side of Leicester House courtyard in Sutton Nicholls's and Bowles's views (Plate 46) was erected between 1684 and 1691 (fn. 32) on part of the laundry garden. It was called the Standard, (fn. 155) and later, the Royal Standard, (fn. 151) tavern, and there were evidently two shops in front. (fn. 32) (fn. 13) The building is shown on fig. 94 (on page 417) as C5, 6 and 7. It seems to have continued in use as a tavern and shops until 1792, when the Standard tavern was removed to the north-west corner of Lisle Street and Leicester Place. The old Standard tavern does not appear to have been rebuilt at this time but was at least remodelled to form three shops. (fn. 156)
The piece of land between C6 and C8 on fig. 94 was originally the entrance to the stables of Leicester House. (fn. 144) The history of the piece of land marked C8 is described on page 471.
The Opera House Project
The certificate of partition of the Leicester estate (see page 421) was confirmed by the Lord Chancellor on 28 January 1789. (fn. 157) On 17 June of the same year the King's Theatre or opera house in the Haymarket was destroyed by fire. Within a few weeks Giovanni Gallini, the manager and mortgagee of the theatre, had decided that the legal and financial tangles in which the opera house had become involved would prevent its being rebuilt on its old site. (fn. 158) (fn. 14)
The impending sale of Elizabeth Perry's estate was advertised in The London Gazette on 18–21 July 1789, and Gallini appears to have immediately realized that a very fine site might be available there. By August 1789 he and his agent, R. B. O'Reilly, had submitted to the Lord Chamberlain (the Marquess of Salisbury) a scheme for the erection of a new opera house on the north side of Leicester Square, provided that they 'received the encouragement of a Patent' permitting the performance of opera there. (fn. 159)
Richard Bray O'Reilly was a law student at Lincoln's Inn, whose 'early and constant passion' had been the study of architecture. Early in 1789 he had fallen in with Gallini, and immediately became his legal adviser. (fn. 160) At the end of August or early in September he was informed that the proposal for a new opera house in Leicester Square was 'likely to be approved of' by the Lord Chamberlain, and with this encouragement he went abroad 'to take a more particular view of the principal Theatres on the Continent'. (fn. 161) In Paris 'a new Theatre in the Palais Royal, just finishing by Monsieur [Victor] Louis', attracted his attention, and before going on to Italy he commissioned Louis to prepare plans for the new opera house in London. But upon his return to Paris O'Reilly found that Louis's plan was 'upon a scale nearly as large as the Colloseum at Rome, to which it is similar in its form', and he therefore decided to adhere to the plans which he had already submitted to the Lord Chamberlain. (fn. 162)
Back in London, O'Reilly found that the proposal for the new opera house in Leicester Square 'had met with the Royal approbation' on 20 November, but that the land must be purchased before the royal patent could be granted. (fn. 163) The sale of Elizabeth Perry's estate had, however, taken place in the previous week; Leicester House and its gardens, stables and ancillary premises had been bought for £17,700 by George Lempriere, described as of Highlands, near Ilford, esquire, while Savile House, together with two houses on the south side of Lisle Street and another two on the north side of Leicester Square, had been bought for £5,300 by John Carbonell of Hinde Street, Manchester Square, esquire. (fn. 138) These two lots together comprised about five-sixths of the ground on the north side of Leicester Square.
Some of the purchasers recorded by the Chancery Master at the sale were bidding on behalf of other people to whom the conveyances were subsequently made, and it is almost certain that Lempriere and Carbonell were acting for, or in conjunction with, James Stuart Tulk (II), who already owned the other three sides of the square and would therefore be likely to wish to round off his estate by acquiring the north side. (fn. 15) Another probable agent of Tulk, John Wigg, acting on behalf of Robert Golden, the surveyor who appears to have been Tulk's representative in the partition of the estate in 1788, bought for £550 the easternmost house on the north side of Lisle Street (Nos. 11–13), adjacent to Leicester House and Savile House. (fn. 138) The total outlay for the three lots was £23,550.
Encouraged by 'the Royal approbation' for the proposed new opera house, O'Reilly on 16 December 1789 agreed on behalf of Gallini and himself to purchase from Tulk and his associates all of their ground on the north side of the square for £31,550, of which O'Reilly engaged himself personally to pay £8,000 within one month. (fn. 164)
O'Reilly was now very deeply committed, and Gallini, 'wavering and unsettled as he had ever been, and intent upon any prospect of immediate gain', (fn. 165) decided to abandon him. According to O'Reilly, Gallini 'now made demands so exorbitant in their nature, and some exceptions so trivial in themselves, that it soon appeared his intention was to get rid of me as soon as he possibly could, expecting by that means to become sole possessor of the Patent. After repeated delays and excuses, he at length positively refused either to sign the agreement, or assist me in the payment of the money I was bound for. Thus was I left, burthened with upwards of 30,000 l. 8,000 l. of which were shortly to be discharged, exposed to ruin'. (fn. 166)
In this precarious situation, O'Reilly unexpectedly turned the tables on Gallini. The Lord Chamberlain, to whom he applied for help, 'represented my situation' to George III, who 'was graciously pleased to extend to me solely that favour in which it was intended Mr. Gallini should have participated'. Fortified by this promise of a patent to himself alone for the performance of opera for thirty-one years, O'Reilly paid the £8,000 which was due and on 18 January 1790 he 'concluded the purchase' of the ground in Leicester Square. (fn. 166)
The news that there was to be a new opera house in Leicester Square appears to have been made public early in January, when The London Chronicle contained several articles on the subject. The proposed building was said to have a frontage of 180 feet and a depth of 326 feet, (fn. 167) but the ground for which O'Reilly had contracted included almost the whole of the north side of the square, and extended north as far as, or almost as far as, Gerrard Street. Detailed descriptions of the designs for the new opera house were published, and it was stated that 'The designs are Mr. Reilly's. The operative architect he employs, is another of our countrymen, Mr. Soame' (sic). (fn. 168) The designs which (Sir) John Soane made for the theatre survive at his museum, (fn. 169) and are described below.
Meanwhile opposition to the grant of a patent to O'Reilly was mounting. William Taylor, the penniless and irresponsible proprietor of the King's Theatre in the Haymarket, was proceeding with plans for building a new opera house on the old site, and on 8 December 1789 he had protested to the Lord Chamberlain against the injustice of the proposed patent for the rival theatre in Leicester Square. (fn. 170) The Marquess of Salisbury replied that the new patent was already 'so far engaged' that it was 'totally useless to trouble his Majesty' with Taylor's complaints. Undeterred by this rebuff Taylor enlisted the support of the proprietors of Covent Garden and Drury Lane Theatres, of his own numerous creditors at the King's Theatre, and even of his former enemy Gallini. (fn. 171) On 3 April 1790, although still in his normal state of penury, he arranged for the foundation stone of his new theatre in the Haymarket to be laid. (fn. 172)
By this time the King had signed a warrant for the grant to O'Reilly, and the patent had passed through the offices of the Lord Chamberlain, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State for the King's Sign Manual, the Signet and the Privy Seal, and only required the Lord Chancellor to affix the Great Seal. (fn. 139) In January 1790 a caveat had been lodged (probably by Taylor) against the proposed patent, (fn. 168) and the case was heard before the Lord Chancellor, Lord Thurlow, in April.
The question to be decided was what representation the Lord Chancellor should make to the King about the proposed grant. (fn. 173) Lord Thurlow stated that 'a very strong case indeed must be made out to induce him to put the Great Seal to the present Patent; namely, the pretensions and qualifications of the person proposed, his ability to carry it into effect, and above all, that those persons, who were the proprietors of the present Opera-house, could not reinstate their Theatre, and carry it on, as usual, in the hope at least of recovering the large sum of money which very probably they had embarked upon the faith of an establishment of many years existence'. (fn. 174) The nature of the advice which Lord Thurlow later tendered to the King is not known, but O'Reilly's counsel evidently failed to satisfy Thurlow on these points, for the patent was not granted. To have granted it to O'Reilly would have been most unjust to the numerous creditors of the King's Theatre in the Haymarket, but O'Reilly's failure re-established Taylor's position, which he maintained, to the great detriment of opera in London, until 1813. (fn. 172)
O'Reilly, committed to the purchase of the now useless ground in Leicester Square, 'saw no prospect but impending ruin'. (fn. 175) He therefore took a lease of the Pantheon in Oxford Street at the enormous rent of 3,000 guineas, and on 30 June 1790 the Lord Chamberlain granted him a fouryear licence for the performance of Italian opera there. (fn. 172) After extensive alterations had been made the Pantheon was opened for opera on 17 February 1791. Heavy losses were incurred during the ensuing season and in consequence O'Reilly 'retired to Paris in order to avoid his Creditors'. (fn. 172) (fn. 16)
Designs for the Opera House in Leicester Square
Among the Soane drawings in Sir John Soane's Museum is a folder containing a single plan for the intended opera house, together with two sets of finely rendered elevations and perspective views giving alternative designs for the exterior (Plates 28a, 29b, 29c). Neither design properly relates to the plan, but in the London Museum there is an oil painting of a building which fully conforms (Plate 28b). The plan envisaged a very large building covering an island site extending from the north side of Leicester Square to the south side of Gerrard Street, bounded east and west by proposed new streets. The handsome and ceremonious layout, arranged on a north-south axis, is similar in many ways to that of the Grand Théâtre at Bordeaux, built in 1775–80 from the designs of Victor Louis, and it is at least possible that the plan in the Soane folder might have been evolved by Louis since he was approached for a design by O'Reilly, who claimed the credit for the general conception. (fn. 17)
A giant order of plain-shafted Ionic columns, sustaining an entablature and a balustrade decked with statues, forms a colonnade of eleven bays screening the main front. In each bay is an arched opening, the middle five forming the main entrances to the opera house, the flanking pair containing shop fronts, and each end arch opening to an arcaded piazza extending along the east, north and west sides of the building, in front of a series of shops interspersed with doorways to the opera house. The front entrance hall, divided by columns into three aisles of three bays, leads to a large square central hall where a double staircase rises to the first tier of boxes, and openings on either side admit to the grand staircases serving the upper tiers. An immense auditorium is fringed by an ovoid horseshoe having forty-one boxes in each tier, and the deep stage is provided with an apsed back wall serving for a sky dome.
One of Soane's exterior schemes shows a symmetrically designed building of yellow stone, having corner pavilions each of three bays with two rusticated storeys surmounted by a plain attic and crowned by a hemispherical dome raised on a low drum. Between the four pavilions extend colonnades of fluted Corinthian columns, rising for the height of two storeys, below a recessed attic continuing that of the pavilions but with the cornice surmounted at bay intervals by pedestals bearing trophies and statues. There are five bays to the north and south colonnades, and thirteen to the east and west. The second scheme has an arcaded ground storey of coursed masonry extending right round the building, forming a basement to Corinthian colonnades extending between three-bay corner pavilions, and screening recessed walls containing two tiers of windows. The architrave and frieze of the crowning entablature are broken by figure-subjects in panels above the pavilions, but the cornice continues unbroken across each front. The body of the building rises to form a recessed attic stage, finished with a bracketed entablature below a low-pitched roof.
Amongst the Sandby drawings at Windsor Castle there is a design for a theatre or opera house in Leicester Square (Plate 29a). Thomas Sandby's drawing shows a wide-fronted building of stone, dressed with a plain-shafted Ionic order, the columns being spaced to form a portico of eleven bays extending between single-bay pavilions, dressed with paired pilasters. The wall face inside the portico is divided into two storeys, the lower a rusticated arcade, the upper having a series of sash windows within plain architraves. The middle arch contains the theatre entrance and the rest frame shop fronts and mezzanine windows. The end pavilions are similarly treated, but the arch appears to open to a loggia extending along the side of the building, and the first-floor window has a balustraded apron and a corniced architrave. The entablature of the colonnade is surmounted by a balustrade, but the pavilions are heightened by attics, having a panelled face between paired dwarf pilasters, and a low pyramidal roof. Behind the roof over the colonnade rises a low drum and saucer dome, the width of five bays, perhaps denoting the position of a circular foyer.
Shortly before O'Reilly's departure to Paris the land which he had engaged to buy from Tulk and his associates was conveyed to John Needham of Gray's Inn, esquire, (fn. 176) who was probably acting on behalf of O'Reilly's creditors. (fn. 177) The conveyance was dated 11 and 12 April 1791, and the parties involved were Elizabeth Perry's trustees and mortgagees, Tulk (and his associates Lempriere, Carbonell and Golden), O'Reilly, and Needham. (fn. 176) Within a year Needham sold the ground to Thomas Wright of Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, esquire. (fn. 178)
Thomas Wright was a banker in the firm of Wright, Selby and Robinson. He lived in Henrietta Street in the house adjoining his office, but in 1815 he also had a country house at Fitzwalters, near Brentwood, Essex. (fn. 179) The greater part of Leicester House had been empty since 1788, (fn. 32) and the leases of the shops in front of the house all expired in 1793 or 1794. (fn. 180) Wright was therefore able to redevelop this part of his property at once, but the lease of Savile House did not expire until 1806, (fn. 180) and no redevelopment took place here for some years.
Wright extended Lisle Street eastward across the garden of Leicester House to join Little Newport Street, and a new street called Leicester Place joined the extension of Lisle Street with Leicester Square.
Between March 1792 and June 1795 he granted some thirty leases of plots on the curtilage of Leicester House, mostly for terms of ninetynine years or slightly less. (fn. 181) Many of these leases were witnessed by Henry Smallpeace Fox of Arundel Street, Strand, surveyor, who may have been responsible for the new layout. Seventeen of the leases were granted to William Brooks of Castle Street, St. George's, Bloomsbury, builder or stone mason, who in June 1795 mortgaged sixteen of these leases to Wright's firm for £15,000. (fn. 182) In his will, proved in May 1808, William Brooks appointed Wright and Fox as two of his executors, and referred to them as 'my good friends'. (fn. 183)
The subsequent history of the individual plots on Wright's estate is described in the following pages.
Nos. 1–4 (consec.) Leicester Square
This block of shops and offices, with the Ritz Cinema (opened in 1937) in the basement at the east end, was erected in 1936–8 to the designs of the firm of Wimperis, Simpson and Guthrie. (fn. 184) Leicester House, as it is called (although it occupies a different site from the original Leicester House), was one of the first West End buildings to reflect, however crudely, the influence of Eric Mendelsohn. A canopy shelters the shop fronts, below a smooth stone face with five tiers of metal windows forming continuous bands extending across the Leicester Square front and round the quadrant corner into Leicester Street. Above the parapet are two recessed storeys, with a concrete canopy projecting between them.
The first houses on this site were built in about 1683–4 on part of Leicester House garden. Their elevated position (see Plate 48a) probably accounts for the popular name of 'The Terrace', which was applied to this part of the square in the eighteenth century. (fn. 185) The original leases of all four houses expired on Lady Day 1724 and were therefore presumably granted for the same terms. (fn. 186) The lease of No. 4 was granted on 1 December 1683, at the nomination of Richard Frith, bricklayer, to Henry Burman, citizen and salter of London. (fn. 187) Frith's associates, to whom Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, were let, were Rowland Reynolds, senior, and Richard Campion, both carpenters. (fn. 188)
Occupants have included: Lady Proby, 1691–1692, (fn. 32) probably the widow of Sir Thomas, first baronet of Elton Hall, Huntingdon; (fn. 189) Vere Fane, fourth Earl of Westmorland, 1693; (fn. 190) Sir John Harper, or Harpur, fourth baronet of Calke Abbey, Derbyshire, (fn. 189) 1703; (fn. 32) and Elizabeth Smith, at 'The Plume of Feathers', who supplied the Princess of Wales's household, (fn. 191) 1760–70. (fn. 32)
At the sale of Elizabeth Perry's estate in November 1789 No. 1 Leicester Square and the adjoining house in Leicester Street were bought (as lot 6) by the occupant, Robert Harvey Gedge, linen draper, for £770. (fn. 192) A trade card issued in 1830 by R. Pace and Son, builders and architects of Lechlade, Gloucestershire, contains engravings of twenty-seven buildings which 'are a part of their designs which they have executed'. One of these engravings shows a four-storeyed corner building inscribed 'Messrs. Gedges 1788, Leicester Square'. (fn. 193) The upper storeys have entirely plain fronts to Leicester Square and Leicester Street, five and four windows wide respectively, and in the ground storey of each front is a pair of bowfronted shop windows. This could easily be the original house shown on the eighteenth-century views (Plate 46), refaced and with a fourth storey in place of the roof garret, except that the views indicate that the front to the square was formerly only four windows wide. The ratebooks, however, contain no suggestion that the premises were rebuilt at this time and it is possible that Pace's drawing was reversed in making the engraving. If this had happened, the return front, which was four windows wide, would really have been that facing the square and it would have been reasonable to assume that the work undertaken in 1788 involved no more than a remodelling.
Directories show that the Gedge family, described as calico printers and wholesale linen drapers, remained at No. 1 until 1809, but the ratebooks show them there until the 1850's. From 1837 onwards Henry Bickers, bookseller (later Bickers and Son) had a shop at No. 1 for many years, but from 1852 until 1872 Stagg and Mantle, the linen drapers at Nos. 2–4, also had premises at No. 1. (fn. 194)
Occupants have included the Countess of Sunderland, wife of Robert Spencer, second Earl, politician and nephew of the third Earl of Leicester, (fn. 41) 1687(?)–92, and her husband, 1693; (fn. 32) Dr. (later Sir) Edward Hannes, physician to Queen Anne, (fn. 41) 1703–10; (fn. 32) Sir Alexander Cumming, baronet, of Culter, Aberdeen, M.P. for Aberdeenshire, (fn. 189) 1710–14; (fn. 32) and Sir Philip Parker (see also No. 25), 1715–33. (fn. 195)
At the sale of Elizabeth Perry's estate in November 1789 No. 2 was bought (as lot 7) by the occupant, Joseph Fisher, goldsmith or silversmith, for £720. (fn. 196) He remained there until 1812; from 1834 until the erection of the present building in 1936–8 No. 2 formed part of the premises of Messrs. Stagg and Mantle (from 1927 Stagg and Russell), silk mercers or linen drapers. (fn. 194)
Nos. 3 and 4
Occupants of No. 4 have included (fn. 32) Sir John Bland, fourth baronet, of Kippax Park, Yorkshire, M.P. for Pontefract, (fn. 189) 1700; and George Lewis Scott, mathematician, sub-preceptor to Prince George (George III), 1752–80. (fn. 41)
At the sale of Elizabeth Perry's estate in November 1789 Nos. 3 and 4 were bought as part of lot 2 (which also included Savile House) by John Carbonell, wine merchant, for £5,300. (fn. 138) Carbonell was probably a business associate of James Stuart Tulk (II), and these two sites formed part of the ground which on 16 December 1789 R. B. O'Reilly and Giovanni Gallini agreed to buy for their projected opera house. After the collapse of this scheme these two sites formed part of the ground conveyed to John Needham, who was probably acting on behalf of O'Reilly's creditors (see page 458). Stagg and Mantle (later Russell) occupied No. 3 from 1842 and No. 4 from 1858 onwards until the erection of the present building in 1936–8. (fn. 197)
Nos. 5 and 6 Leicester Square: Savile House
Formerly Ailesbury House. Demolished
Savile House occupied part of the site of the Empire Theatre and Ballroom. The original house had a frontage of some forty feet to Leicester Square and its curtilage included a large stable-yard with an entrance from Lisle Street. The site was let on 14 November 1683 to Thomas Juxon of Mortlake, gentleman, for fifty-nine years at a rent, beginning on Lady Day 1684, of £20 per annum. (fn. 198) The house was probably the combined work of several builders who took leases of Leicester House garden at this period; Richard Frith, bricklayer, Robert Drinkwater, carpenter, and Cadogan Thomas, timber merchant, were certainly concerned in its erection. (fn. 199)
The house is shown in Sutton Nicholls's view of the square in c. 1727 (Plate 48a), at which date it still seems to have remained unaltered. It was a building of more ample proportions than its neighbours, with two lofty storeys almost equal to their three. The front was five windows wide and bounded by raised quoins, the ground storey being finished with a raised bandcourse and the second storey with a modillioned eaves-cornice. The ground floor was at a higher level than that of the adjoining houses, so that the front door could be approached by an imposing flight of steps, flanked by railings which swept up from the front of the area in graceful curves.
Whether Thomas Juxon had occupied the house himself or was acting as an agent is not known. It is possible that the house was originally ordered by Thomas Bruce, second Earl of Ailesbury, who was a friend of the then Lord Leicester. (fn. 200) Lord Ailesbury was occupying the house in January 1686/7 (fn. 201) and in July 1688 Juxon and William Bridges of London, mercer, with Frith, Drinkwater and Thomas, released their interests in the house to him for £3,700. (fn. 202) Moreover, in 1688 Drinkwater was employed by Lord Ailesbury to make 'draughts' for his country house (Houghton) at Ampthill. (fn. 77) (fn. 18)
Lord Ailesbury's occupation of the house in the square was intermittent. He was groom of the bedchamber to James II, and one of the handful of noblemen who offered their services to the King after the Prince of Orange had embarked for England. (fn. 30) In his memoirs he recalls a night at the beginning of the interregnum in December 1688 when he was awakened 'by the noise of drums, trumpets, and kettle drums. On rising, my servant came in, and he told me that they were bawling before my house because it was not illuminated, for that the Irish were cutting all the throats of the Protestants, I ordered them to illuminate but not to suffer any one to come into my chamber, that I might take my rest.' (fn. 203)
A few days later Lord Ailesbury accompanied the King on his final flight from the realm, but turned back at Rochester at James's request. (fn. 204) His loyalty to James II made him suspect in the years that followed and several times he went into concealment, twice in 1691 hiding in Madam Maynard's house in Soho Square (No. 19). (fn. 205) In 1691–3 his house in Leicester Square was occupied by Evelyn Pierrepont, fifth Earl of Kingston, and he himself took a house in Lisle Street. (fn. 32) In 1693, after a visit to James II in France, Lord Ailesbury returned to Ailesbury House and spent the summer months there, occasionally visiting his neighbour, Lord Leicester, in company with Dryden and Wycherley, both 'professed Jacobites'. (fn. 206)
The Earl of Ailesbury continued to spend some time at the house and it was here that he was arrested in March 1695/6 on a charge of high treason. He was sent to the Tower where he remained for a year. Thereafter he was not much in town and left England for good in January 1697/8. (fn. 207)
The Marquess of Carmarthen is said to have entertained Peter the Great at Ailesbury House in 1698. (fn. 208) This may well be true, but there are no ratebooks for this year to confirm his occupation. Peregrine Osborne, styled Marquess of Carmarthen, and later, on his father's death, second Duke of Leeds, was at this time a rearadmiral. (fn. 30) Peter the Great was often in his company during his three-months' visit to England, and contemporary newspapers refer to the Czar calling on the Marquess (who had hurt his leg at the fire in Whitehall Palace), on 13 January 1697/8, and being 'Treated' by him in a splendid manner on 1 February 1697/8. (fn. 209) It must be noted, however, that on the first of these occasions the Earl of Ailesbury had not yet left the country, neither does he make any reference in his Memoirs to Peter the Great, nor to Carmarthen's occupation of his house.
In January 1699/1700 the house was sold to Henry Seymour or Portman, (fn. 199) a kinsman of Lord Ailesbury, who had assumed the name of Portman on inheriting the estates of the sixth Baron Portman. (fn. 30) He occupied the house until 1717. (fn. 32) In December 1717 it was announced that 'Mr. Portman Seymour' had offered to sell Ailesbury House to Lord Holdernesse for the use of the Prince of Wales, who was moving into Leicester House. (fn. 74) The house was assigned, however, to Richard Hill, the statesman and diplomatist, acting on the Prince's behalf. (fn. 210) Portman received £6,000 for the house and its furniture, and £847 11s. 6d. for 'a Silver Fountaine and Silver Cistern'. (fn. 211) It seems likely that 'the New Building and other Works' carried out at Leicester House by Nicholas Dubois and continued under Colin Campbell included alterations to Ailesbury House, the two houses being linked together (see page 447). After the Prince of Wales had come to the throne as George II in 1727, the house was assigned at his direction by Hill's executors to Queen Caroline. (fn. 210)
In June 1729 Sir George Savile of Rufford, seventh baronet, agreed to purchase the house from the Queen and took his wife and sister to view it. (fn. 212) He entered the house in 1730 (fn. 32) when the Queen assigned the existing lease to him for £3,000 and Lord Leicester granted him a new lease. (fn. 202) Water from the York Buildings Company was provided under an agreement dated 19 January 1729/30 at a cost of four pounds per annum, (fn. 213) and new furniture was augmented with pieces from the family home at Rufford. The parlour, which took up the whole width of the house, was provided with walnutframed chairs with black leather bottoms, and there were four tables (including one for cards, and one for tea). The window curtains were of blue mohair, and at least five family portraits, sent from the Savile family's house in Golden Square, hung on the walls. The chief bedroom and dressing-rooms were also hung with blue, but in damask; and, for Sir George's comfort, there was a large wheel chair and '3 Blue Cushions of Sharge for the Gout'. (fn. 214)
In 1733 Sir George employed John Packer of St. Marylebone, joiner, to alter the house 'according to the Draughts made by Mr. James Gibbs Surveyor'. (fn. 199) The effect of this alteration on the exterior of the house is shown in Bowles's view of the square in 1753 (Plate 46b). A third storey of the somewhat disproportionate height of ten feet was added, and the flat top of the new hipped roof was enclosed by a railing, behind which stood a small cupola. The quality of the work suggests that Gibbs's share in it was largely nominal.
Inside, the dining- and drawing-rooms were refurbished with new wainscot panelling, 'Fretwork' ceilings, Corinthian cornices and two new chimneypieces, the first of white and veined marble and the second of 'Statuary' marble. Plaster heads of famous men were inserted in the ceilings, Shakespeare, Milton, Newton and 'Doctor Clarke' (probably Newton's disciple, Samuel Clarke, D.D, died 1729) in the drawing-room, King Alfred, the Black Prince, William III and the Duke of Marlborough in the dining-room. Curious alterations took place in Sir George's dressing-room where the specification provided for 'a Sliding Pannel to be made to Slide up and down over the Fire Place with the Contrivance as Directed to put up Guns and Pistols there And a Close Cupboard in the Side of the Chimney as Directed And also a Sliding Pannel … in the End of the Room opposite to the Fire Place with the Contrivance as Expressed in the Draught for a Bed to be placed there'. (fn. 199)
Packer covenanted that none of his workmen should work by candlelight, on pain of forfeiting twenty shillings (half of the forfeit to go to the informer and half to the parish poor) and that he would bring out all shavings to be burnt every Saturday night. The sum of Packer's contract was £1,337, £35 being deducted for old materials. (fn. 199)
The elder Sir George Savile died in 1743 and was succeeded by his son, the famous politician, who, as M.P. for Yorkshire from 1759 to 1783, was a leading reformer and one of the most respected members of the House—'a pattern of excellence in a British senator'. He was an advocate of religious toleration and parliamentary reform and spoke in favour of the Americans during the War of Independence. (fn. 215) His most famous measure was the Roman Catholic Relief Act, which led to the Gordon Riots in 1780, when Savile House was sacked.
On the death of Frederick, Prince of Wales, in 1751 Savile gave up his house in Leicester Square for the two elder sons of the Dowager Princess, who remained next door at Leicester House. Prince George stayed at Savile House until his accession in 1760 (fn. 32) and his brother the Duke of York remained there until 1763, when he removed to the new house in Pall Mall designed for him by Matthew Brettingham.
The Office of Works altered and maintained the house during its occupation by the royal Princes. John Vardy was the clerk of the works, and the serjeant-painters, John Thornhill and William Hogarth, were also employed there. One of the alterations carried out in 1751 was the provision of a covered way between Savile House and No. 41 Lisle Street, the house occupied by the Bishop of Norwich, preceptor to the Prince of Wales. (fn. 216)
Savile House was repaired in 1764 and Sir George Savile resumed occupation. His introduction of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill which passed in 1778 made him an obvious target during the Gordon Riots. On the night of 5 June 1780 'a large mob of riotous persons' forced an entry to Savile House 'and gutted it of best part of the furniture, which they piled up in the street, and set fire to'. On the morning of 7 June the mob returned, 'intoxicated with the wines and spirituous liquors they had plundered', and attacked 'the shell'. (fn. 217) Sir George declined to avail himself of the financial aid offered by the Government to those who had suffered in the riots, (fn. 218) so that there is little more evidence of the extent to which the house suffered. When the contents of the house were sold after Sir George's death in June 1784 the catalogue included two plaster figures, one of Shakespeare and the other of Milton, possibly survivors from the drawingroom ceiling. Also included were a collection of firearms, some mathematical instruments and a few pictures. (fn. 219)
Sir George had never married and the bulk of his property, including the house in Leicester Square, was left to his nephew, Richard Lumley, who assumed the name of Savile. (fn. 220) The house was empty in 1785 and from 1786 to 1805 it was occupied by Thomas Willows, (fn. 32) a carpet manufacturer. (fn. 221)
At the sale of Elizabeth Perry's estate in November 1789 Savile House was bought (as part of lot 2) by John Carbonell, wine merchant, for £5,300. (fn. 138) This lot also included Nos. 3 and 4 Leicester Square, and formed part of the site of the intended opera house (see above). After the collapse of this scheme Savile House, with other adjoining land (but not, apparently, Nos. 3 and 4), was sold to Thomas Wright of Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, esquire. (fn. 178) The leases then in being all had some years to run (fn. 222) and the site was therefore not redeveloped at once.
In 1804 Thomas Wright sold the whole curtilage to Thomas Willows for £9,000, of which Wright advanced £6,000 by a mortgage on the property. (fn. 221) In 1805 Willows agreed to grant a fifty-year lease of part of Savile House to John and Herbert Broom of Kidderminster, carpet manufacturers, (fn. 223) and in the same year he and the Brooms granted a sub-lease of a shop in this part of the house to a 'Staffordshire warehousman'. (fn. 224) In 1806 Mary Linwood of Leicester, spinster, and the Brooms acquired an interest in the mortgage. (fn. 225)
Mary Linwood (1755–1845), artist in needlework, was already famous for her worstedembroidery copies of paintings. In 1798 (fn. 41) and later years she had exhibited her work at the Hanover Square Rooms (fn. 226) and now wished to acquire permanent premises in London. In June 1806 she, Willows (now described as a dealer in carpets) and the Brooms signed articles of agreement with Samuel Page of King's Road, Bedford Row, builder, (fn. 19) for the alteration of Savile House. (fn. 227) The buildings were 'in a decayed state', and it was therefore agreed that 'part of the said house and premises should be pulled down and rebuilt upon a different plan' by Page (fn. 228) in accordance with plans and specifications prepared by Page and George Boyd, surveyor. The agreement provided for the exchange of certain parts of the building between the various parties, and for different rights of access. (fn. 227) Page's outlay in the building works was to be secured by mortgaging the house to him, and he was to sub-lease parts of it to Mary Linwood, Willows and the Brooms. (fn. 229)
The extent of the rebuilding is not clear, but it is evident from a comparison of Bowles's engraving of 1753 (Plate 46b) with the watercolour drawing of c. 1840 reproduced on Plate 32a that at least the carcase of the original house was retained. In c. 1840 the front of the house had the same number of windows in each storey as in 1753, and the same lofty storey-heights in relation to No. 4. The third storey, however, had been reduced in height and the roof rebuilt. The most interesting feature of the building at this period was the Doric colonnade decorating the ground storey. This was probably of wood, consisting of six columns carrying an entablature with a triglyphed frieze. Richardson's watercolour of 1871 (Plate 32b) shows fluted columns and indicates, incidentally, that the design was far more accomplished than the earlier drawing would suggest. The bays between the columns were occupied by wide round-headed openings, the western two containing doorways and the remainder windows. Twin flights of steps rose to the doorways, and below the windowed bays projected a high semi-basement containing a wide shop front. Page completed the rebuilding in 1809, and claimed that the cost had been £13,290. (fn. 228)
Mary Linwood opened her exhibition at Savile House on 14 March 1809. (fn. 230) (fn. 20) The display, which consisted of 'between sixty and seventy exquisite copies, in needle-work, of the finest pictures of the English and foreign schools', (fn. 231) was housed in a long gallery and several ancillary rooms on the first floor at the back of the house. (fn. 227) A contemporary description states that 'On entering the door from Leicester-square, and ascending a magnificent staircase, of what was formerly the splendid residence of Sir George Saville, we enter the principal room, a fine gallery, of excellent proportions, hung with scarlet broad cloth, and gold bullion tassels, and Greek borders. On one side of this room are hung the pictures, and there is a guard in front, to keep the company at the requisite distance, for properly viewing them. In the piers and windows are sofas and settees, to match the hangings of the room, for the accommodation of the visitors; and, at the upper end, a splendid throne and canopy of sattin and silver (Plate 32c).
'Turning to the left, through the door near the throne, a long obscure passage prepares the mind, and leads to the cell of a prison' where was exhibited Miss Linwood's copy of James Northcote's picture of Lady Jane Grey on the eve of her execution. In another room were copies of two rustic scenes by Gainsborough, and 'returning into the gallery on the window side, we enter a tasteful room, or boudoir, hung similarly with broad-cloth, etc. to the gallery, which is properly devoted to a single picture', Carlo Dolci's 'Salvator Mundi'. (fn. 21) Other artists whose works were represented included Reynolds, Opie, Morland and Correggio. The price of admission was two shillings and sixpence. (fn. 232)
The rest of the house was at first occupied by the Brooms and their partner J. Harris, and by T. Willows, all of whom were in the carpet trade. They evidently sub-let part of their premises, for after about 1814 there are numerous advertisements for miscellaneous entertainments at Savile House. In that year there was 'The Astronomical Panorama' under the Linwood Gallery, (fn. 233) and in 1815 'Miller's Mechanical and Beautiful Picturesque Representations', with a musical accompaniment. (fn. 234) In 1823 the 'Saville Rooms' were 'opened for readings, recitations and lectures, also for Evening Concerts' (fn. 235) and in 1830 there was a bazaar. (fn. 236) At the time of the Reform Bill crisis two year later the National Political Union had its offices at Savile House, (fn. 237) and there was also an exhibition of Etruscan and Grecian antiquities. (fn. 235)
Meanwhile, Page in 1818 had filed a bill of complaint in Chancery alleging that nearly £15,000 was still owing to him; in 1841 the case was still proceeding, Page having unsuccessfully appealed to the House of Lords in 1837. (fn. 228) The firm of Broom, Harris and Company appears to have come to an end shortly after Harris's death in 1830, (fn. 228) and in 1833 Page's name appears in the ratebooks, together with Mary Linwood.
Page evidently continued to sub-let part of the premises, for in 1833 Sampson's 'Mechanical and Picturesque Theatre of Arts' was advertised there, (fn. 236) as well as the 'Saville Palace Wine, Concert and Exhibition Rooms'; a visitor to the latter 'elegant establishment' was 'agreeably astonished to find a company of the most refined description' (fn. 239) In the basement was a wine cellar known as the Royal Wine Shades, on the eastern part of the ground floor was a shop occupied by a firm of invalid chair makers, while upstairs, from 1836 to 1855, was William Green's pistol repository and shooting gallery, where Edward Oxford had practised before attempting to assassinate Queen Victoria in 1840. (fn. 240)
Mary Linwood and her exhibition remained at Savile House, impervious to the surrounding bedlam, until her death in 1845; her collection was sold by auction on 23 April 1846 and realized less than £1,000. (fn. 241) Until its destruction by fire in 1865 Savile House then became the home of a wide range of ephemeral forms of entertainment. Until 1848 the Linwood Gallery, now converted into a theatre and known as the Walhalla, was used by Madame Warton for her poses plastiques, which The Morning Post described as 'both classical and beautiful'. (fn. 242) In 1848 the Walhalla was redecorated to the designs of Mr. Hurwitz 'for a public drawing room' (fn. 243) and re-opened as the Salle Valentino, where two thousand dancers could 'enjoy the fashionable Quadrille, the graceful Polka, or the exciting Galop'. (fn. 244) By 1852 the Salle Valentino had become the Théâtre des Variétés or Leicester Music Hall, (fn. 245) where and in other parts of the building exhibitions of fencing, wrestling, antique armour, panoramas, clairvoyance, magic and ventriloquy all found a stamping-ground. (fn. 244) In the words of a contemporary, 'The establishment became so divided by different interests, that few could tell whether it was a theatre, a wine vaults, a billiard-room, a coffee-shop, a gunsmith's, or a Royal Academy; or, if they could, they never knew, amidst the ascending and descending steps, and doors and passages, which one must take to get any where … A confusion of sounds further tends to bewilder the visitor: the noise of everything is heard every where else. The click of billiardballs, the music of poses plastiques, the thwacking of single-sticks, the cracking of rifles, and the stamping of delighted Walhallaists, all mingle with each other; and it is only by taking refuge in the lowest apartment, which partakes of a coffee-room, a cabin, and a cellar, that you will find repose.' (fn. 247) (fn. 22)
Savile House was destroyed by fire on 28 February 1865. The fire started in the basement, where a workman searching for a leak of gas 'incautiously took a lighted candle with him, and was applying it along the crevices of some wainscoting when a loud explosion took place'. The flames spread so rapidly that very soon nothing but the bare walls remained. The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Sutherland came to see the fire, and after borrowing a fireman's helmet, His Royal Highness 'inspected the conflagration from different points of view'. (fn. 248)
Nos. 5 And 6 Leicester Square: The Empire Theatre
By June 1865 plans for rebuilding Savile House had been prepared by the firm of Nelson and Innes, (fn. 249) but the District Surveyor successfully contended that the designs did not conform with the Metropolitan Building Acts (fn. 250) and the scheme was abandoned. In the winter of 1869– 1870 the Denmark Theatre and Winter Garden Company Limited (fn. 23) was formed for the purpose of establishing a theatre, winter garden, club and restaurant on the site. (fn. 251) This project also came to nothing, and the house remained in ruins for several more years (Plate 32b). In 1874 the vestry of St. Anne's suggested that communications between Oxford Street and Leicester Square might be improved by extending Dean Street southward across Gerrard and Lisle Streets and over the site of Savile House. (fn. 252)
In 1878 The Alcazar Company Limited was incorporated for the establishment of a 'Grand Theatre of Varieties, Restaurant and Café.' Alexander Henderson was to manage the theatre, and contracts were entered into for the purchase of the site, which had been enlarged by the acquisition of three houses in Lisle Street, (fn. 253) and which was apparently cleared of its ruins in 1879. (fn. 254) Plans for the new building were made by Edward L. Paraire of Oxford Street, (fn. 253) but this scheme also proved abortive.
In October 1880 The Builder reported that 'A large circular building is at present in course of erection at the rear of the north side of Leicester-square, … which is intended for panoramic purposes'. The architect employed by the French company which sponsored this venture was M. L. Dumoulin of Paris, and the general contractors were Messrs. Cubitt and Company. The principal entrance was along a wide corridor from the north side of the square. (fn. 255)
The Royal London Panorama opened on 28 March 1881 with a representation on 15,000 square feet of canvas of the Charge of the Light Brigade. (fn. 256) A year later, however, it was an nounced that the building was to be converted into a theatre to be known as the Pandora, from designs prepared for the Pandora Theatre Company by Thomas Verity, the architect of the Criterion Restaurant and Theatre. Building work began in the summer of 1882, but in the spring of 1883 the Pandora Theatre Company entered into liquidation, building was suspended and the property changed hands yet again. (fn. 257) According to The Building News, work was subsequently resumed under the supervision of different architects, J. and A. E. Bull, the façade to Leicester Square which had been erected for the panorama evidently being retained. (fn. 258) Edwin Sachs, however, writing in 1897, assigns the design of the building to Thomas Verity. (fn. 259) In February 1884 it was announced first that the new theatre was to be called the Phoenix, (fn. 260) and then the Queen's, (fn. 253) but when it opened on 17 April 1884 with a performance of Hervé's operetta Chilperic it was as the Empire. (fn. 261)
Thomas Verity's plans for the Pandora Theatre, submitted in April 1882 to the Metropolitan Board of Works, (fn. 262) show how he proposed retaining the southern two-thirds of the large oval shell of brickwork built in 1880–1 for the Royal London Panorama. (fn. 24) The northern five bays were demolished to make way for the wide proscenium and stage, and the auditorium was formed inside the remaining horseshoe of seven bays. A ring of cast-iron columns was introduced to support the raking girders of the two shallow tiers, the first containing three rows of seats in front of a range of loges. The second tier, with four rows, was overlooked by a wide promenade, above which was a gallery of seven rows, rising behind the columns of an arcade supporting the oval conical ceiling. An interesting feature of Verity's section is that it shows the auditorium decorated in the Chinese style with fretted balcony fronts and arch spandrels, and a tiled roof with upturned eaves bracketed out from the gallery arcade and sloping back to meet the plain ceiling which was, presumably, intended to represent the sky. This use of an exotic style was probably inspired by the success of the Moghul interior of the Eden Theatre in Paris, or by the Saracenic of the Alhambra nearby, but Verity's Chinese scheme with its exterior effect seems to anticipate the 'outside-in' atmospheric interiors that were so popular in the American and British super-cinemas of the late 1920's.
After the failure of the Pandora Company, the unfinished building was completed more or less in accordance with Thomas Verity's plans (fig. 101). The changes were mainly ones of rearrangement, such as the enlargement of the pit and omission of a promenade at stalls level, this feature being transferred to the first tier. The plans and section given by Sachs (fn. 263) show that there were nineteen rows of seats in the stalls and pit, three in the first tier, three in the second, and eight in the gallery. Instead of the Chinese scheme originally envisaged, the lavish decorations were mainly in the Second Empire taste (Plate 36). The very handsome foyer in the same style, providing a secondary entrance from Leicester Street, was added by Frank Verity and opened on 6 July 1893.
Burlesque, musical extravaganza and opera were produced at the Empire, but the theatre did not prosper (fn. 253) and after redecoration to designs of Messrs. Romaine-Walker and Tanner (fn. 264) it re-opened on 22 December 1887 as the Empire Palace of Varieties under the joint direction of George Edwardes and Augustus Harris.
The long series of spectacular ballets for which the theatre now became famous soon placed the Empire among the leading variety houses of the world. (fn. 253) 'To its Victorian or Edwardian patrons, men about town, gallants from Ouida or Kipling, the Empire Theatre was the most celebrated rendezvous in the world. It bordered on Bohemia and was almost a club. Its social amenities, if such they could be called, included the notorious Promenade, where ladies of the town consorted with the dandies of the time and shocked the entire nation'. (fn. 265) In 1894 the London County Council, as a condition of the renewal of the music and dancing licence, insisted on the alteration of the promenades, which the Council had been informed had been 'the habitual resort for prostitutes in pursuit of their traffic'. (fn. 266)
Ballet at the Empire reached its zenith in the ten-year reign of Adeline Genée, which began in 1897. (fn. c1) But with the success of the Diaghilev ballet in London revue gradually supplanted ballet at the Empire. The last of the specially produced ballets was presented there in 1915 and the company was then disbanded. (fn. 267) After the war revue and musical comedy were presented, but the old success was not recaptured, (fn. 253) and the last performance at the Empire as a theatre took place on 22 January 1927. (fn. 268)
The new cinema was erected for MetroGoldwyn-Mayer on a site enlarged by the acquisition of several houses in Lisle Street and Leicester Place. The architect was Thomas W. Lamb of New York, in association with with Frank Matcham and Company; the contractors were the Anglo-Scottish Construction Company Limited.
The original Empire Theatre had been planned on a north-to-south axis with the stage north of the auditorium, but the new Empire, built on an enlarged site, was orientated with the stage on the east (figs. 102, 104). Designed by one of the leading American theatre specialists, it introduced transatlantic standards of size, magnificence and luxury to London, in a spaciously planned building, provided with such features as smoking-rooms, cosmetic-rooms, rest-rooms and a large tea-room.
The Portland stone front to Leicester Square, still surviving but quite concealed by electric signs, is a more scholarly composition than most theatre exteriors. It is, in fact, a large-scaled adaptation of the Venetian-arched motif used by Ammanati for the upper loggia in the second court of the Villa di Papa Giulia, Rome. In the recessed wall behind the central arch and trabeated side openings are windows set within rich frames of polychrome terra-cotta.
From Leicester Square a deeply recessed screen of six double doors led through an oblong lobby into the large and lofty grand foyer. Here the walls were lined with a high dado of walnut panelling, surmounted by an order of scagliolashafted Corinthian columns and pilasters, spaced to form bays containing arched pseudo-windows glazed with mirrors. Opposite the entrance screen was a marble and metal staircase, with a wide flight descending centrally to the stalls foyer, between parallel flights rising to an apsed landing, where doors led into the large oblong tea-room, formed within the void below the circle. The huge auditorium, containing stalls seating for 2,000 and a circle holding 1,500, was sumptuously decorated in the High Renaissance style. The elliptically arched proscenium, its deep reveal rich with delicate arabesques, was flanked by concave splayed walls, each decorated with grotesque-ornamented panels and Corinthian pilasters flanking a large arch dressed with elaborate draperies, concealing an organ loft. A high dado of walnut panelling extended round the walls, below panels of gold brocade set in rich plasterwork painted in warm tones of brown, ivory and rose, and enriched with much gilding. The large stage was fully equipped for theatrical performances, and rising platforms were provided for the orchestra and organ console.
The new cinema was opened on 8 November 1928 with the film of Sir Arthur Pinero's Trelawney of the Wells. (fn. 253) The later decline in cinema attendances, and the return to popularity of dance-halls, led to the closure of the Empire in May 1961, and its reconstruction to form, within the roofed shell, a large dance-hall of two storeys, with a platform and revolving stage, below a cinema of the stadium type seating 1,336, designed for long-run presentations of films on a panoramic screen (figs. 103, 104). The entrance front was retained, but the original foyer was remodelled to form twin entrance halls, the west one serving the cinema, which was opened in December 1962, and the east leading to the dance-hall, opened in March 1963. The work was carried out under the direction of George Coles, the theatre architect.
Nos. 7–9 (consec.) Leicester Square: Queen's House
This site formed part of the curtilage of Leicester House and incorporated some of the shops which stood in front of the house (see page 454). At the sale of Elizabeth Perry's estate in November 1789 it was bought (as lot 1) by George Lempriere, who was probably a business associate of James Stuart Tulk (II). (fn. 138) Lot 1 formed part of the site of the intended opera house, and after the collapse of this venture, it and other adjoining ground was sold to Thomas Wright of Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, esquire, (fn. 178) who redeveloped much of his estate between 1792 and 1795 (see page 458).
On 19 January 1795 Wright granted three leases of the three new houses and shops at Nos. 7–9 (Plate 51a) to William Brooks, mason. (fn. 269) The houses backed on to Duncan Place, a short cul-de-sac leading off the west side of Leicester Place which has now been built upon. The premises continued to be used for the most part as shops until 1869, when No. 9 became the Hôtel de Paris et de l'Europe. (fn. 197) In 1856 Seale, Low and Company, bankers, added No. 7 to their premises in Leicester Place and rebuilt the latter in the 'Early Decorated style' to the designs of John Billing. (fn. 270) They remained at No. 7 until 1870. (fn. 197) Both Nos. 7 and 8 were later taken over by the hotel and the whole site redeveloped. (fn. 197) The present building bears the date 1897, and was designed by Messrs. Saville and Martin. It was originally known as the Queen's Hotel, and opened in 1899. (fn. 271) In 1936 the upper floors were converted to office use, and the Monseigneur News Theatre was constructed on part of the ground floor. (fn. 272) The building, which is now called Queen's House, has an elaborately composed and floridly ornamented exterior, stylistically classifiable as early French Renaissance. It is built of Portland stone, now painted, with polished red granite shafts to the numerous columns that are introduced in all storeys but the fourth. The ground storey of the Leicester Square front, arcaded and dressed with a Corinthian order, projects from the main face of four storeys, where polygonal buttresses form three divisions. Each side division contains a splaysided bay window feature, rising through three storeys, and finishes with a two-storeyed gable. The middle division has a first-floor bay window set in an arched recess, and above the colonnaded fourth storey is a scroll-pedimented dormer. Out of the high French roof rises a hexagonal cupola, flanked by ornate chimney-stacks. The gabled return face to Leicester Place combines features from the three divisions of the main front, but the rest of this elevation is more simply designed.
When first opened as a hotel, the ground floor contained a buffet and the grand dining-hall, the latter richly decorated with marble pilasters, paintings on walls and ceiling, and an onyx balustrade to the musicians' gallery. Downstairs was the grill-room, and on the first floor, besides a suite of masonic rooms, were drawing-, readingand coffee-rooms, decorated in the Louis XV, Empire and Louis XVI styles respectively. The upper floors contained nearly a hundred bedrooms and private sitting-rooms. (fn. 273)
Nos. 10–15 (consec.) Leicester Square: Victory House
This site formed part of the curtilage of Leicester House. The Royal Standard tavern and several shops stood here, but after the collapse of the scheme for an opera house (see page 458), the site was bought by Thomas Wright of Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, esquire. (fn. 178) Only two leases from Wright have been traced, one for No. 14 in 1796 and the other for No. 15 in 1806, and in neither case is there any suggestion of rebuilding. (fn. 274) There were shops here, several occupied by linen drapers or silk merchants. (fn. 197) In 1846 No. 14 was taken by William Hampton as a furnishing warehouse, and in the following year the establishment was described as Hampton and Russell, upholsterers. (fn. 197) In 1852 Nos. 14 and 15 were rebuilt to the designs of John Matthews (fn. 275) and three years later Hampton and Russell acquired the whole range from No. 10 to No. 15. (fn. 197) In 1857 alterations and improvements were carried out to the design of the same architect. (fn. 276) In 1867 the firm became known as Richard Russell, and remained at Nos. 10–15 until 1879. The building was subsequently used as a Post Office for some years. (fn. 197)
Except for the ground storey, which has been refashioned in the 'Spanish Patio' style, Emden's front remains substantially unaltered. Designed in a free version of the early French Renaissance style, it is built of buff and cream-coloured terracotta. Cornices, ornamented bands, and stringcourses define the five storeys, and pilaster-strips divide each front into five bays. In the Leicester Square front, the middle three bays contain a diverse assortment of windows, and above the central bay rises a gabled dormer. From each angle of the front projects a polygonal oriel, and above each end bay rises a two-storeyed attic, finished with a square dome. Pedimented dormers light the two storeys in the steeply pitched slate roof.
As the Victory Hotel the building was acquired in 1922 by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and renamed Victory House. (fn. 277) The northern part of the building occupies the site of Charles Dibdin's Sans Souci Theatre in Leicester Place, which is described on page 481.
No. 16 Leicester Square: Le Centre Charles Péguy
The piece of land marked C8 on fig. 94 (page 417), described in 1700/1 as abutting north on Leicester House laundry and west on the drying yard, was let in 1719 to a victualler. (fn. 50) At the time of the sale of Elizabeth Perry's estate in 1789 there was a public house on the site, (fn. 279) which was probably the Feathers referred to by J. T. Smith as a rendezvous for local artists. (fn. 280) The site eventually became the entrance to Burford's Panorama. The panorama was closed in 1864 and the site has since been occupied by the Roman Catholic Church of Notre Dame de France and its ancillary educational and social establishments. The Centre Charles Péguy is a club for young French men and women in London. Access to the church is from Leicester Place, and the history of both the panorama and the church is described under that street on page 482.