Soho Square Area: Portland Estate, No. 21 Soho Square

Pages 72-73

Survey of London: Volumes 33 and 34, St Anne Soho. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1966.

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No. 21 Soho Square

This site was first occupied by two houses which in 1745 were said to have been erected by John Dunton under two sub-leases granted to him in February 1678/9 by Richard Frith and William Pym. (fn. 1) Shortly afterwards the two houses appear to have been converted into one, and the ratebooks suggest that the first occupant, in 1685, was 'Esquire Graham', probably Colonel James Graham, M.P., of Levens Hall, Cumberland. By 1691 the occupant was Graham's elder brother, Richard Graham, Viscount Preston, a Jacobite. In 1685 he had returned to London after serving as ambassador in Paris and was probably attracted to Soho Square and to this particular house by the presence of his brother-in-law, the second Earl of Carlisle, who already occupied the neighbouring mansion to the south. In 1691 Viscount Preston was condemned for high treason, but was pardoned, and the ratebooks show that in 1692 the house was occupied by Lady Preston's nephew, Charles, Lord Morpeth (later third Earl of Carlisle), until 1693, when he moved to Carlisle House in Soho Square after the death of his father, the second Earl. Lady Grace Pierrepont, daughter of Henry Pierrepont, Marquess of Dorchester, was the next occupant and lived in the house until at least 1697. (fn. 2) She died at Isleworth in 1703, but was commemorated by a memorial (now destroyed) in St. Anne's Church. (fn. 3)

From 1730 to 1734 the house was occupied by Sir Rowland Winn, the fourth baronet, of Nostell Priory, Yorkshire. (fn. 4) It was during this time that George Vertue saw at No. 21 a 'large Family picture of Sir Thomas More' (in 1954 still at Nostell and attributed to Holbein), which Lady Winn had inherited as a descendant of Margaret Roper, More's daughter. (fn. 5) Later inhabitants include Sir William Clayton, first baronet, M.P., 1735–44, and William Harvey, Essex landowner and M.P., 1751–63. (fn. 4)

From 1772 to 1775 the house was the Spanish embassy (which had earlier occupied No. 7), and from 1778 to 1801 it was used as an hotel. (fn. 4) This hotel was kept by Thomas Hooper and was said to have become 'notorious in the annals of Fashion' as 'the infamous White House'. (fn. 6) From the frequent but oblique references to this establishment by later topographical writers, it is likely that the house was used as a brothel. The reception rooms of the house at this time were garishly decorated; three were known from their fittings as the 'Gold', 'Silver' and 'Bronze' rooms, the walls being all inlaid with mirrored panels; there was also the 'Painted Chamber', the 'Groto', the 'Coal Hole' and the 'Skeleton Room' where, for the delectation of the patrons, a skeleton could be made to step out of a closet with the aid of machinery. (fn. 7)

There is no indication that the house erected in the late 1670's was much changed until 1838–1840, when it was altered or rebuilt for Edmund Crosse and Thomas Blackwell. They first appear as ratepayers for this house in 1840, and their firm remained here until about 1925. The new building (Plate 92a, fig. 5) has four main storeys and the front to the square is four windows wide. It is plainly built of a fine yellow stock brick with a painted cornice below the third storey and a smaller entablature and blocking above, screening the slated mansard roof. The first-floor windows to the square have a simple cast-iron balcony rail divided where a central block formerly supported the royal arms. Iron guards, of a similar pattern, are provided for the second-floor windows. The ground storey may always have had a shop front, but the present treatment in Portland stone was probably added in 1927–8 under the direction of the architect, M. W. Matts. (fn. 8)


  • 1. M.L.R. 1745/3/397.
  • 2. R.B.; D.N.B.; Burke's Peerage.
  • 3. Monumental Inscriptions …at St. Anne's Church, Soho, ed. W. E. Hughes, 1905, p. 12.
  • 4. R.B.
  • 5. Walpole Society, vol. 24, 1936 (George Vertue Note Book IV), pp. 11–13, 162; Nostell Priory (published by Country Life), 1954, p. 9.
  • 6. E. F. Rimbault, Soho and Its Associations, 1895, p. 29.
  • 7. The Square Magazine: The Magazine of the House of Crosse and Blackwell, Feb. 1920 (copy in G.L.C. Historic Buildings Section).
  • 8. Westminster City Council Minutes, 10 Nov. 1927, pp. 613, 626; P.O.D.