Old and New London, A Narrative of its History, its People and its Places. Illustrated with Numerous Engravings from the Most Authentic Sources. vol 4Thornbury, Walter
St. James's Square and its Distinguished Residents.
St. James's Square and its Distinguished Residents.
Standing as it does so near to
St. James's Square--was for many years the most fashionable square in London, and though fashion is now fast migrating-perhaps has already migrated.--to Belgravia, still it retains much of its long-established character. In the last century its claim was undisputed, as may be gathered from some lines which were favourites of Dr. Johnson-
This square is mentioned in the comedies of the time of George I. as the of fashion. Thus Shadwell, in his , writes,
This square is built on the site of the old
and the surrounding streets were named, with the usual loyalty of the time, after King Charles II. and his royal brother, the Duke of York (afterwards James II.), namely, , , , and . On account of their central situation, most of the houses in these side streets are occupied as hotels, or let out in furnished apartments for gentlemen who live mainly at their clubs.
There was a time, however, when the square was not as yet known to the leaders of fashion.
It would appear, by the few notices of the time that can be found, that the central area of the square: was but little cared for even in the last century;. indeed, it may be justly remarked that it must have presented in much the same appearance which all London noticed in as lately as . The Chevalier David in endeavoured, but in vain, to collect a sum of towards erecting in its centre an equestrian statue of George I., which, most disinterestedly of course, he hoped to be commissioned to execute; but an adequate sum was not collected, and the project fell through. years later, according to a statement laid before Parliament, the surface of the interior of the square was still a
and, worse than all, because less. easily dispossessed, we are told that a coachmaker had the audacity to put up a shed some feet in length, and to pile a stack of wood in the area. Under these circumstances, at last it became necessary
and accordingly the courtly and, for the most part, titled personages who lived on the north, east, and west sides of the square asked, and obtained, permission to tax themselves for the common benefit, in order to cleanse and improve the square.
From Sutton Nichols' print of the square, published in , it appears that there was in the centre of the area a small lake or reservoir, and a fountain which played to about the height of feet; as also that there was a pleasure-boat on the water, and that numerous posts were placed at a small distance from the houses all round the square. Another print dated shows the enclosure of iron rails to have been octagonal, and the interior of it to have been still occupied by a circular pond, edged round with stone. It is described by Northouck, who wrote at the same date, as
and he instances as an example of
the contrast between the square formed by the houses and the circular nature of the enclosed area. He says, however, that the houses in it are grand individually rather than collectively, each being
| built on a scale and plan of its own. He writes: |
In a like spirit the author of
observes, too, that this square is superior in grandeur of appearance to any other, though it has not in it a single
house; he bitterly complains of the irregularity of the southern side, and the want of a statue or obelisk in the middle of the large oval basin of water which, as we have said, then occupied the centre. This sheet of water, which was or feet in depth, had subsequently placed in its centre a [extra_illustrations.4.183.1] . According to Lambert's
the basin was feet in length. Into the water in this lake the mob in the
of threw the keys of Newgate, which they had broken open and burnt. They were not found for several years afterwards. Mr. John Timbs tells us that
Such must have been the appearance of the square at the time that Dr. Johnson and his friend Savage, in early life, when friendless and penniless, spent a summer night walking round the enclosure, now and then resting on a stray cart or friendly bench, and bellowing out all sorts of wild denunciations of the then Government. To use Boswell's own words,
By prudence and perseverance, and the help of friends, Johnson lived to rise above this obscurity; whilst Savage, although perhaps endowed with even more genius, only sank lower and lower. When he was employed upon his tragedy of
But it is time to pass from these general remarks on the square to a more detailed account of its houses and its residents.
In , the Duchess of Ormonde died at her residence, Ormonde House, on the north side of the square. The Duke of Ormonde, who was living here in the reign of Queen Anne and George I., was said to have been the best bred man of his day. He entertained largely and liberally, but he allowed the bad practice of his servants taking money from his guests. Dr. King tells the following story in his
From the , No. , published in , it appears that the house was taken for the Count de Tallard, the French ambassador. The rent paid by the Count is stated to have been no less than per annum, a large rental in those days, even for a house in the very centre of the fashionable world. Ormonde House stood on the east side of , in the north-east corner of the square. In the rear of the houses which at present cover its site is Ormonde Yard, now a mews. Romney House was also on the north side of the square; and here in and again in , as we learn from the , the , and the fashionable papers of the day-King William III. visited the Earl of Romney to witness the fireworks in the square; and in , on the conclusion of the treaty of peace of Ryswick, the Dutch Ambassador made before his house a bonfire of pitch-barrels, and wine was
We learn accidentally, from an anecdote in Joe Miller's
that the author of these fireworks being in company with some ladies, was highly commending the epitaph just then set up in the
| Abbey on Mr. Purcell's monument- |
said of the ladies,
In the following noblemen resided in this square-namely, the Dukes of Norfolk, Northumberland, and Ormonde; and Lords Ossulston, Kent, Woodstock, and Torrington. The Earl of Sunderland ( of the Chief Secretaries of State), the Duke of Kent, and Lord Bathurst were living there in . No. is still Lord Falmouth's town residence.
Mr. John Timbs tells us in his
In of the houses in this square, in the reign of Queen Anne, was living Lord Pembroke, whom Pope celebrates as a connoisseur in such matters as
The house No. , on the north side, the town-house of the Marquis of Bristol, has been the residence of his ancestors, the Herveys, since the laying out of the square in the reign of Charles II. It is not often, however, that the family of any nobleman, except of a Duke like their Graces of Norfolk and Northumberland, owns and the same town-house for centuries without a break. It was of this
--who are stated to have produced so many eccentric characters--that the Dowager Lady Townshend remarked, a century or more ago, that
The Earl of Radnor--the handsome Sydney of De Grammont's Memoirs--who died in , had his mansion enriched with paintings by Vanson over the doors and chimney-pieces; the staircase was painted by Laguerre, and the various apartments hung with pictures by many of the celebrated masters. An advertisement in the , of , offers a reward of guineas for the detection of a thief who had mischievously cut down and carried off of the trees in front of Lord Radnor's house. Here afterwards lived Josiah Wedgwood, and here his stock of classic pottery was dispersed by auction. The building was afterwards converted into a club, called the Erectheum; it was established by Sir John Dean Paul, Bart., the banker, and became celebrated for its good dinners. About the club was joined to the Parthenon in , and the house was taken as the offices of the Charity Commissioners.
Among the other notable personages who have lived here at various times may be mentioned Lewis, Earl of Faversham; Lawrence Hyde, Earl of Rochester; Arabella Churchill, the mistress of James, Duke of York, and mother by him of the Duke of Berwick; Sir Allen Apsley, at whose house the Duke of York put up on his sudden return from Brussels; Barillon, Ambassador from the Court of France, the same (says Mr. P. Cunningham)
Aubrey de Vere, the and last Earl of Oxford of the old line of that illustrious name; Lord Chancellor Thurlow; the Countess of Warwick, ; and Lord Halifax, .
The west side of the square, when built, does not appear to have been very respectably tenanted. At all events, in , we find the houses occupied by titled personages, Lord Purbeck, Lord Halifax, and Sir Allen Apsley, and by notorious ladies,
of the King's mistresses, and Madame Churchill, mistress of James, Duke of York, the mother of the Duke of Berwick. In later times, however, and more especially within the last century, some of the houses on this side have got a little better reputation, having been held by different members of the aristocracy; being the residence of the Duke of Cleveland, [extra_illustrations.4.184.1] , and another the town residence of the Bishop of Winchester. The latter was offered for sale in , for the purpose of raising a sum for founding the proposed Bishopric of St. Albans.
In the house of the Duke of Cleveland is the well-known original portrait of the beautiful Duchess of Cleveland, by Sir Peter Lely; and the mansion of the late Earl De Grey, afterwards that of the Dowager Countess of Cowper (No. ), is mentioned by Dr. Waagen as containing a fine gallery of portraits by Vandyke, Salvator Rosa, Titian, Vandevelde, and other foreign masters.
The large house in the south-eastern corner of the square has been since the residence of the Dukes of Norfolk, who migrated hither from . The old house which they occupied, which was tenanted by Frederick, Prince of Wales, and in which George III. was born in , is still standing in the rear of the present mansion, which was built by Mr. R. Brittingham, and dates from . The portico was added in . [extra_illustrations.4.185.1] -which occupies part of the site of the residence of Henry Jermyn, Earl of St. Albans --formerly had in front of it a court-yard. It is a plain, dull, heavy building, of no architectural pretensions, and is now used as a lumber-house and a
|laundry. The room in which the future king was born is on the floor. It is a spacious apartment with a roof slightly arched, and divided into compartments or panels, on which some remnants of the ornamental colouring are still visible.|
The house of Norfolk has stood for nearly centuries at the head of the peers of England, since its ancestor,
who fell at Bosworth Field, was raised to the dukedom by Richard III., and during that time its members have held or still hold no less than patents of creation to separate peerages, such as the Earldoms of Surrey, Suffolk, Northampton, Stafford, Effingham, and Carlisle. Though its founder was only a lawyer, it has produced statesmen, generals, admirals, and also poets, including that flower of chivalric grace, the Earl of Surrey. With or temporary breaks, its head and most of its members have adhered steadily to the Roman Catholic religion; and Henry, Earl of Surrey, the only son of the duke, had the honour of laying his head on the block and seeing an attainder passed upon his coronet by the tyrant Henry VIII.
Charles, the duke, finding himself excluded on account of his hereditary faith from his seat in the Legislature, professed himself a member of the Established Church, and sat in Parliament as Earl of Surrey in the Commons, and afterwards in the Upper House as Duke. Sir N. W. Wraxall, who comments in terms of surprise at the spectacle, new to the House of Peers-namely, a Protestant Duke of Norfolk taking an active part in the legislative proceedings of that body-describes him as
He tells about him many anecdotes, which show that he could play to perfection the part of a Tribune of the People. He lived mainly in clubs and coffee-houses, and was never so happy as when dining at the
or breakfasting or supping at the
in . When under the influence of wine, he would say that,
so little store did he set on religion. This duke, who really deserved the title of a
far more than his ancestor, was remarkable for the amount of wine which he could swallow. He would spend the whole night in excesses of every kind. Sir N. W. Wraxall, who knew him well, and constantly met him at his midnight revels, tells us that
For personal uncleanliness he was nearly as remarkable as for his drunken habits,
It is to be hoped that such a specimen of humanity must not be regarded as a fair sample of our hereditary legislators a years ago; and it is only right to add that the duke had many good and amiable qualities to compensate for his follies and vices.
Very naturally, his Grace was proud of his undisputed headship of
When sitting at breakfast with him at the
day, his Grace told Sir N. W. Wraxall that he purposed in the year to commemorate the
anniversary of the creation of his dukedom by giving a dinner at his house in to every person whom he could ascertain to be descended in the male line from the loins of the duke.
It is to be feared that even the hall and long suite of rooms in Norfolk House would scarcely have contained such a
The above-mentioned duke, whose name figures so prominently in the political history of the reign of George III., and who was so frequent a speaker at public meetings at the
and was deprived of his command of a militia regiment for proposing as a toast,
was the member of the who laid aside the
and hair powder, which remained so long in use as a relic of the old court dress. His Grace's object, no doubt, was to identify himself with the principles of the French encyclopaedists. It was probably this duke who is the hero of a ludicrous story told as follows in the pages of Joe Miller's
Next to Norfolk House is the official town residence of the Bishops of London. It was rebuilt about the year . Here was started by Bishop Tait, in , the
for providing for the spiritual wants of the metropolis. The raising of this fund is entrusted to a board, with the Bishop of London as its president, with authority to direct its investment, and co-operation
|with the Church of England societies for the relief of the spiritual destitution of the metropolis, and to distribute the fund through such agencies and in such manner as may be deemed desirable, as well as by sending earnest and active men to labour among the masses, by opening new churches and schools, and, where necessary, by originating efforts. of a strictly missionary character.|
The mansion adjoining London House on the north side, at the corner of , is the: town residence of the Earl of Derby.
In was residing the French ambassador, Barillon, during the autumn of , when the popular frenzy broke out against the Catholics, and in which the representatives of the great Catholic powers of Europe were insulted and assaulted by a mob that showed but slight respect for the law of nations. Macaulay tells us in his
that though an excited multitude collected before his doors, yet Barillon fared better than some of his brother ambassadors,
In this square resided Pope's friend, Allen, Lord Bathurst, who was created a peer by Queen Anne in , and who, living for years longer, was the last of that great knot of men of wit and genius who rendered illustrious in way the short but inglorious ministry of Oxford and Bolingbroke. Pope addressed to him the Epistle of his
and it is to him, in conjunction With the famous architect, Lord Burlington, that the poet alludes when he asks-
Lord Bathurst lived to a patriarchal age, in possession of all his faculties, passing the evening of his life among those woods and in those shades which he had reared with his own hand, at Oakley, near Cirencester, and which Pope has immortalised, and enjoying the rare felicity of seeing his son raised to the peerage as Lord Apsley, and seated on the woolsack as Lord High Chancellor of England.
The house No. , in the north-west corner of the square, now the Windham Club, was formerly the residence of John, Duke of Roxburgh, the bibliophilist (not to say biblio-maniac) of his time. After his death the sale of his books in , occupied no less than days. Many rare specimens of printing, an early Shakespeare, a few Caxtons and Wynkyn de Wordes, wonderful and unique editions of works on theology, poetry, philosophy, and the drama, were fought for with spirit and even recklessness, as by they fell beneath the hammer of the auctioneer, Mr. Evans. At last, what Dr. Dibdin calls
commenced when Boccaccio's
printed at Venice in , was put up. The volume had been bought by the duke for a guineas, and, after a fierce and spirited competition with Lord Spencer, it was knocked down to the Marquis of Blandford for . years later, the noble purchaser was glad to part with his treasure for , and it now forms of the treasures of the library of his old antagonist, Lord Spencer, at Althorp. It may be added, that on the evening after the sale of the duke's library, some of the leading bibliophilists or
of the day dined together at the
to celebrate the battle. Lord Spencer, the defeated bidder, occupied the chair, and Dr. Dibdin acted as croupier. At this dinner was originated the Roxburgh Club. This Club may justly be said to have suggested the publishing societies of the present day; as the
&c. Among the club were several noblemen, who, we are told, in other respects, were esteemed men of sense. Their rage was to estimate books not according to their intrinsic worth, but for their rarity. Hence any volume of trash, which was scarce merely because it never had any sale, fetched or a ; but if it were only out of or known copies, no limits could be set to the price. Books altered in the title-page, or in a leaf, or in any trivial circumstance which varied a few copies, were bought by these maniacs at , , or , though the copies were not really worth more than threepence per pound. Specimens of . editions of all authors, and editions by the clumsy printers, were never sold for less than , , or . To gratify the members of this club, copies of clumsy editions of trumpery books were reprinted; and, in some cases, it became worth the while of more ingenious people to play off forgeries upon them. This mania after a while abated, and in future ages it will be ranked with the tulip mania, during which estates were given for single flowers.
The Roxburgh Club, however, became less celebrated for its publications than for its dinners, which were held at Grillon's, at the St. Alban's, and at the Clarendon Hotels. Some particulars of these feasts, with their bills of fare, were published in the , from an account of of its members. On occasion the bill was above per head, and the list of toasts included the
not only of John, Duke of Roxburgh, but of William Caxton, Dame Juliana Berners, Wynkyn de Worde, Richard Pynson, the Aldine family, and
In year, when Lord Spencer presided over the feast, the account above mentioned thus records the fact:
The mansion of the Duke of Roxburgh had previously been the residence of William Windham; after the death of the duke it was occupied for some time by Lord Chief-Justice Ellenborough, and at a later date by the Earl of Blessington, who possessed a fine collection of pictures. The Windham Club, which was afterwards established here, was founded by the late Lord Nugent for
| gentlemen |
Adjoining the Windham Club is the mansion once tenanted by Lord Amherst, when Commanderin-Chief, and formerly known as Beauchamp House. It is now the London Library. This library, which dates its origin from , is conducted upon the subscription and lending plan, and its books may be borrowed by subscribers and taken to their homes. It embraces every department of literature and philosophy. The library was opened on the , with a collection of about volumes, which, by the following March, when the catalogue was published, had increased to .
as we learn from the report published in ,
It may be added that its contents have since continued to increase. A striking proof of the success with which the library has fulfilled and continues to fulfil the purpose for which it was created, will be found in the names of the many illustrious writers which appear in the various published lists of its members, and in the use they have made of its treasures. In addition to this silent testimony to the usefulness of the institution, may be quoted the opinion of M. Guizot, given in evidence before a Committee of the on Public Libraries in , an opinion which is supported by that of many other participants in the benefits of the library.
says M. Guizot,
Here also the Statistical Society of London and the Institute of Actuaries hold their meetings periodically.
The house No. , formerly the residence of the Earl of Lichfield, when Postmaster-General in Lord Melbourne's Ministry, was the scene of the
as the friendly understanding between the Whigs of that day and Daniel O'Connell was often jestingly styled.
The house doors beyond the London Library, in the direction of , was at the beginning of the present century in the occupation of Mrs. Boehm. Here the Prince Regent, Lord Castlereagh, and many of the leading politicians of the day, were dining, on the , when the news was brought of the victory of Waterloo, thus putting: an end to and confirming the rumours by which London had been kept in suspense for more than hours. The scene is thus described by Lady Brownlow in her
It was, of course, the work of a few minutes for Lady Brownlow to dress and join Lady Castlereagh at Mrs. Boehm's house. She continues thus: --
With reference to Mrs. Boehm, Captain Gronow, in his
This house is now the home of the East India United Service Club, which was established here about the year .
The next house (No. ) was once the property of Lady Francis, the widow of [extra_illustrations.4.190.1] , to whom the
are usually attributed. Lady Francis lent this house to the unfortunate Queen Caroline, in the month of ; and it was from its doors that her Majesty proceeded every day in state to the House of Peers during the progress of the attempted Bill of
In this square lived Mr. Robinson-
--the Secretary of the Treasury, under Lord North. He is described by Sir N. W. Wraxall as knowing the secrets of ministerial and political affairs better than any man of his day.
[extra_illustrations.4.190.2] was residing at No. in , when dispatched abroad to enter into negotiations with Napoleon. In , during the riots at the West-end, on account of the rejection of the Corn-Law Alteration Bill, his lordship's house was attacked by the mob, together with that of Mr. Robinson, from the parlour window of which shots were fired, which proved fatal to innocent persons. The cavalry appearing, the rioters desisted and retired, to vent their fury by damaging the mansions of Lord Bathurst, Lord King, &c. The riots continued more or less to the latter end of the week.
Lady Brownlow records an instance of the coolness and self-possession of Lord Castlereagh. night, when an excited mob attacked his house in this square, and paving-stones were being thrown at his windows, he quietly mixed with the crowd outside, till some whispered to him,
He did so, and then went to the drawing-room, and, with the utmost composure, closed the shutters while a shower of stones fell all around him.
adds her ladyship,
Lord Castlereagh was always unpopular with the mob. In , Mr. Rush, in his
speaks of several official interviews which he had here with Lord Castlereagh, then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and describes the mansion as having lately suffered much, especially in its windows, from the effects of the violence of the mob in a late election.
Lord Castlereagh played a foremost part in effecting the union of Ireland with England, and in entered the Imperial Parliament as member for County Down. He held the post of President of the during Mr. Addington's administration, and Secretary of State for War and the Colonies in the ministries of Mr. Pitt and the Duke of Portland. In , the year of the Walcheren expedition, occurred his duel with Canning, then Foreign Secretary. In this affair Canning was wounded, and both the duellists resigned their offices. Before the end of the year, however, Lord Castlereagh succeeded his antagonist as Secretary for Foreign Affairs, an office which he retained till his death, in . His remains were buried in , between Pitt and Fox. Mr. Rush, in the work above mentioned, avers of him that
and in his description of the funeral he adds,
Near the north-east corner of the square are the offices of the Copyhold, Inclosure, and Tithe Commission. The Tithe Commissioners for England and Wales were appointed in to provide the means for an adequate commutation and compensation for the tithes payable to the clergy of the Established Church. The Copyhold Commissioners were appointed in , and the Inclosure Commissioners some years later. The duties of the commissioners are
Nearly the whole of the south side of the square is occupied by an uneven row of houses, the fronts of which face ; and a considerable part is taken up by the back of the Junior Carlton Club, which we have already described in our chapter on .
[extra_illustrations.4.183.1] fine equestrian statue of William III
[extra_illustrations.4.184.1] Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, Bart.
[extra_illustrations.4.185.1] The old mansion
[extra_illustrations.4.188.1] Medal of Lord Bathhurst
[extra_illustrations.4.190.1] Sir Philip Francis
[extra_illustrations.4.190.2] Lord Castlereagh