A Fashionable Georgian Address: Berkeley Square

Berkeley Square c.1816

Berkeley Square c.1816

Since the Georgian era, Mayfair has been one of the most prestigious places to live in London.  And during the Georgian era, Berkeley Square was one of the most desirable addresses.

Berkeley Square is actually an oblong garden that was, and is, surrounded by residential and commercial buildings. It’s named after John Berkeley, the 1st Lord Berkeley of Stratton (1602-1678). When Lord Berkeley built his town home on Piccadilly in 1675 for £30,000, he purchased the adjacent land north of his property. In 1692, Berkeley House was sold to William Cavendish, the 1st Duke of Devonshire and the house was renamed Devonshire House. From this 1830’s map, you can see the relationship between Devonshire House and Berkeley Square.

Berkeley Square

The five acres that encompass Berkeley Square were designed in 1730 by William Kent and is home to approximately 30 Maple trees. An equestrian statue of George III originally sat in the square, commissioned by his daughter, the Princess Amelia. The statue was removed in 1827 due to structural problems and a gazebo was erected on the site.

Berkeley Square

During my last visit to London, I stayed near Berkeley Square and took frequent walks around the Square. Sadly, only a few of the original buildings remain. Lansdowne House is one of those buildings, except the structure has been altered over the years. It is now an office building and private club. It stood next to Devonshire House until that building was torn down in 1920. Lansdowne House was designed by Robert Adam for Prime Minister John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute. In 1765 it was sold, unfinished, to William Petty-Fitzmaurice (1737-1805), Earl of Shelburne, later 1st Marquess of Lansdowne and a leading Whig statesman of the period. His home was a popular meeting place for social and political circles. Information on the dining room of this home can be found elsewhere on this website.

Lansdowne House

Lansdowne House

And speaking of dining, Gunter’s Tea Shop was a fixture on Berkeley Square beginning in 1757. This shop was housed in Nos. 7 and 8, and was one of the finest confectioners in London. They sold syrups, candied fruits, cakes, biscuits, ices, delicate sugar spun fantasies, and elaborate table decorations. In addition to eating your ice or ice cream inside the shop, you could also order from the convenience of your carriage. A waiter would bring your order out to you, giving you the opportunity to eat your treat in your carriage under the shade of Berkeley Square. It was a popular destination during the Regency era, since it was the only establishment in London where a lady could be seen eating alone with a gentleman who was not her relative, without it harming her reputation.

John Linnell's design for a State Bed, 1765

John Linnell’s design for a State Bed, 1765

Another business located on Berkeley Square belonged to cabinetmaker John Linnell (1729-1796), who occupied No. 28. He was one of the first English furniture makers to be educated in design, studying at St. Martin’s Lane Academy. During his lifetime, John Linnell produced high-quality furniture that rivaled other leading craftsmen of the day such as Thomas Chippendale. Aside from producing beautiful furniture, Linnell submitted designs for the State Coach of George III and produced the designs for the boxes at Drury Lane Theater. These boxes might have been occupied, at one time or another, by some of his notable neighbors.

Horace Walpole by Joshua Reynolds

Horace Walpole by Joshua Reynolds

Horace Walpole, the Whig politician, lived at no. 11 from 1779 until his death in 1797.

Sarah Child Villiers, Lady Jersey

Sarah Child Villiers, Lady Jersey

No. 38 was the Jersey Residence. On May 23, 1804, in the drawing room of that home, Lady Sarah Sophia Fane, the daughter of the 10th Earl of Westmorland, married George, Viscount Villiers, and became Lady Jersey when her husband inherited the title. She was a patroness of Almack’s and a prominent figure in Society. Her Berkeley Square town house was her London residence throughout her marriage, and she died there in 1867 at the age of 81.

George Bryan "Beau" Brummell

George Bryan “Beau” Brummell

Beau Brummell, the arbiter of men’s fashion, lived at No. 42 in 1792.

Major-General Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive

Major-General Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive

No. 45 was home to Major-General Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive, (1725–1774), also known as Clive of India. He was a British officer who established the military and political supremacy of the East India Company in Bengal. He’s credited with securing India, and the wealth that followed, for the British crown. After returning home, he sat as a Tory Member of Parliament. In 1774, Clive died in his Berkeley Square home. There was no inquest into his death, however there was speculation he died from a self-inflicted wound or an overdose.

The Right Honorable George Canning

The Right Honorable George Canning

A few doors down, the Right Honorable George Canning, a former Prime Minister, called No. 50 his London home, until his death in 1827. It was then leased by a Miss Curzon, who lived there until she died at the age of 90. The next resident is responsible for giving this house its reputation as one of the most haunted houses in London. A Mr. Meyers was soon to be married and took possession of the house, furnishing it for his bride. Shortly before the wedding, the woman jilted him. He moved into a tiny room at the top of the building and shut himself off from the world. Years later, a number of people died while spending time in that room, and in each instance their deaths were preceded by terrible screams. If you want to read more about this haunted house, check out the 50 Berkeley Square website listed below. And if you are every around Berkeley Square, you might want to look for No. 50. The house is still standing.

50 Berkeley Square

50 Berkeley Square

Resources used include:

50 Berkeley Square – http://www.haunted-london.com/50-berkeley-square

Jane Austen’s World – https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/tag/gunters-tea-shop/

British History Online – http://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol4/pp326-338

Number One London – http://onelondonone.blogspot.com/2012/03/death-of-lady-jersey-in-1867.html

Regency History – http://www.regencyhistory.net/2011/11/lady-jersey-1785-1867.html

The Devoted Classicist – http://tdclassicist.blogspot.com/2011/10/duke-of-devonshires-lost-london-house.html

The Georgian Index – http://www.georgianindex.net/Gunters/gunters.html

The Victoria and Albert Museum – http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/d/design-for-a-state-bed-by-john-linnell/

 

A Peek at the Prince Regent’s Art Collection

Aside from his passion for women and food, King George IV adored fine art. While he was Prince of Wales, he began collecting paintings and by 1816, 136 paintings decorated the suite of staterooms at Carlton House. His bedroom suite alone showcased an additional 67 paintings, and he had 250 other paintings in storage.

Amassing a collection this large took some help, and George turned to men who were influential and informed collectors of art in their own right. He looked to Sir Charles Long (later the 1st Baron Farnborough), Walsh Porter, and Sir Thomas Lawrence for advice on paintings to add to his collection. Lord Yarmouth, who became the 3rd Marquess of Hertford, served as the Prince Regent’s agent at art sales from 1810 to 1819.

So, if you strolled through the rooms at Carlton House during the Regency era, what would you have seen? Here is just a very small sample:

“The Shipbuilder and his Wife” by Rembrandt van Rijn (dated 1633)

The Shipbuilder and His Wife

This painting was purchased by George in 1811 for 5,000 guineas. The couple were identified as Jan Rijcksen and his wife Griet Jans. He was a shareholder in the Dutch East India Company and their master shipbuilder. This painting is part of George’s substantial collection of Dutch and Flemish masters. It hung in the Blue Velvet Room in Carlton House as shown in this 1818 watercolor by Charles Wild for The History of Royal Residences by William Henry Pyne.

The Blue Velvet Room at Carlton House

 “Self-Portrait in a Flat Cap” by Rembrandt van Rijn (dated 1642)

Self-Portrait in a Flat Cap by Rembrandt van Rijn

George purchased this self-portrait by Rembrandt in 1814 from Sir Thomas Baring along with of a group of 85 Dutch and Flemish paintings. Most of them were collected by Sir Thomas’s father, Sir Frances Baring. The self-portrait is dated 1642, when Rembrandt was 36 years old. It is comparable in many respects with his self-portrait of 1640, which is in the National Gallery in London. Unlike the earlier portrait, this one does not possess a ledge along the lower edge of the composition.

“A Kermis on St. George’s Day” by David Teniers the Younger (dated 1649)

A Kermis on St. George's Day by David Teniers the Younger

David Teniers’s work was much sought after in the early 19th century. This painting was the most expensive of Teniers’s work in George’s collection. It was valued in his 1819 inventory at 1,500 guineas.

“A Stag Hunt at Versailles” by Jean-Baptiste Martin (c.1700)

A Stag Hunt at Versailles by Jean-Baptiste Martin

This painting was purchased for George from M. De la Hante in Paris. In the center of this painting, the Duc de Bourgogne is sitting a grey charger and holding out his sword to kill the stag. In the background is Versailles, the Orangerie, and the city.

“A Woman at her Toilet” by Jan Steen (dated 1663)

A Woman at her Toilet by Jan Steen

It didn’t surprise me when I found a painting like this one in George’s collection. This is an allegorical painting about seduction and temptation. The woman is shown partially undressed, putting on her stocking. She looks straight out at the viewer with an inviting expression. The viewer is kept out by the arched doorway, which no sensible person should cross, however strong the temptation. The images on the doorway symbolize constancy, domestic virtue and chastised profane love. The objects scattered throughout the room signify the effects of misdirected sensual pleasure. Steen implies that to pass through the doorway would be to risk the loss of virtue.

“The Prince of Wales’s Phaeton” by George Stubbs (dated 1793)

The Prince of Wales's Phaeton by George Stubbs

This is a scene designed to appeal to the discerning eye of a man of fashion, who in this era would have possessed an understanding of horseflesh and an appreciation for an efficiently run mews and well turned-out servants. These things mattered, because they were a reflection on the owner and master—in this case the Prince of Wales. The depiction of his phaeton shows the viewer that George was unstuffy enough to drive his own carriage. The pomp of a Prince is replaced by the elegance of a man of fashion. The men in the painting are George’s portly coachman and the man’s assistant.

“The Three Eldest Princesses: Charlotte, Princess Royal, Augusta, and Elizabeth” by Thomas Gainsborough (dated 1784)

The Three Eldest Princesses: Charlotte, Augusta, and Elizabeth by Thomas GainsboroughGeorge commissioned Gainsborough to paint his three eldest sisters in a full-length group at the cost of 300 guineas. Gainsborough placed Princess Augusta on the left, Princess Charlotte in the center, and Princess Elizabeth on the right. Their arms are affectionately entwined, reminiscent of the intimate depictions of the Three Graces. The work was originally to be shown at the Royal Academy in 1784, however Gainsborough and the hanging committee could not agree on where the painting should be hung. He withdrew the work, showing it instead in his studio in Schomberg House before it was hung in Carlton House.

I think my favorite is the Gainsborough, but that might be because I am very partial to portraits. Let me know which one caught your eye.

Resources used:

http://www.georgianindex.net/Prinny/Prinny.html

http://www.royalcollection.org.uk

 

Museum Exhibitions to Keep You Busy on a Cold Day

White leather boot c. 1845

When the cold weather hits, I’m always looking for interesting things to do indoors. Here are a few museum exhibitions that caught my eye. If only I had my own private plane, I would lace up my boots and visit each one.

IN GREAT BRITAIN:

Wedding Dresses, 1775-2014 at the V&A

Now through March 15, 2015, visit the V&A in London to see romantic and iconic wedding dresses.

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/wedding-dress-1775-2014/

The Lost Art of Writing also at the V&A

For anyone who still enjoys putting pen to paper, this is for you. This small display explores some of the objects used in writing, from a medieval penner to an ingenious 18th century globe inkstand. This exhibition runs through April 19, 2015.

http://www.vam.ac.uk/whatson/event/2885/the-lost-art-of-writing-4256/

Bonaparte and the British at The British Museum

This exhibition at The British Museum in London, focuses on the printed propaganda that either reviled or glorified Napoleon Bonaparte, on both sides of the English Channel. It explores how his formidable career coincided with the peak of political satire as an art form.

http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/bonaparte_and_the_british.aspx

Georgians – Dress for Polite Society at The Fashion Museum

The Fashion Museum in Bath holds a world-class collection of contemporary and historic dresses. Now through January 1, 2016, you can see over 30 original 18th century outfits and ensembles drawn from the museum’s collection.

http://www.fashionmuseum.co.uk/events/georgians

Waterloo Life and Times at The Fan Museum

2015 marks the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo and The Fan Museum in Greenwich, London has an exhibition that includes fans printed with portraits of heroic figures like Nelson and Wellington. The exhibition runs through May 10, 2015.

http://www.thefanmuseum.org.uk/exhibitions/waterloo-life-and-times

IN THE UNITED STATES:

Cosmopolitan Consumption: New England Shoe Stories, 1750-1850 at the Portsmouth Athenaeum

This is a great exhibition for anyone with a fondness for footwear. The Portsmouth Athenaeum in Portsmouth, N.H. is presenting an exhibition on the process of how shoes were made, sold, and worn in New England. Some beautiful shoes are included in this exhibition. It runs through June 5, 2015.

http://portsmouthathenaeum.org/exhibits.html

Downton Abbey Comes to the Biltmore Estate

If you love Downton Abbey, you’ll love this exhibition. The curators at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. have installed 47 costumes from the television series throughout the rooms of the house. As you wander the halls, you will see both the upstairs and the downstairs portions of life from Downton Abbey. The exhibition runs through May 25, 2015.

http://www.biltmore.com/media/newsarticle/downton-abbey-costumes-at-biltmore

An Intimate History of the Silhouette at the Bard Graduate Center

This exhibition examines the extraordinary ways in which women and men have shaped their bodies into distinctive silhouettes in the name of Fashion. The Bard Graduate Center is located in New York City. This exhibition runs from April 3 through July 26, 2015.

http://www.bgc.bard.edu/gallery/gallery-at-bgc/fashioning-the-body.html

Masterpieces of American Furniture 1700-1830 at the National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. has one of the largest and most refined collections of early American furniture. This exhibition is now part of their permanent collection.

http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/exhibitions/permanent/kaufman_furniture.html

UPCOMING:

Luminous Worlds: British Works on Paper, 1770-1870 at Legion of Honor

The Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco will present an exhibition that reflects the 18th century vogue of portraiture and caricature, and the rise of landscape painting. This exhibition will run from July 18, 2015 through November 22, 2015.

http://legionofhonor.famsf.org/exhibitions/luminous-worlds-british-works-paper-1770-1870

If there are other exhibitions you are excited about seeing, please let me know. And if you are lucky enough to catch any of these exhibitions, I’d love to hear about it.

Note: Thank you to Dr. Kimberly Alexander, who is co-curator of Portsmouth Athenaeum’s shoe exhibition, for providing me with the photograph of the white leather boot I used in this post. In case you’re wondering, it’s c.1845. Kimberly writes a wonderful blog entitled Silk Damask, where she discusses historical costumes. Here is the link to her blog: http://silkdamask.blogspot.com/

Discovering the Life of a Regency Era Gentleman

Once again January rolls around, and I find myself at the Winter Antiques Show in New York City. It is one of America’s premier antiques shows, and it provides curators, established collectors, dealers, design professionals, and first-time buyers with opportunities to view, learn about, and purchase lovely pieces showcased by the exhibitors. For me, on a cold day in January, I can’t think of a better place to be with one of my dearest friends.

This year I went with the intention of purchasing another miniature portrait to add to my collection. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any that caught my eye. I did, however, see a few items that were beautiful, intriguing, and/or just plain fun. It wasn’t until I began looking through my photographs that I discovered I’d been given a glimpse into the life of a Regency era gentleman. Let me show you what I mean.

Portrait of Anthony Groves by James Peale, c. 1810

The first portrait that caught my eye, was of this handsome gentleman showcased by Schwarz Gallery. This portrait was painted in 1810 by the renown American artist, James Peale (1749-1831). The sitter is Mr. Anthony Groves, who was a prominent Philadelphia merchant. One of the things I like best about this portrait, is the charming dimple Mr. Groves sports on his left cheek.

Stickpins from Wartski

On the lookout for stunning pieces of jewelry, we stopped by Wartski’s exhibit and saw this selection of stylish stickpins to adorn a man’s cravat.

George III Secretaire Bookcase

Over at Hyde Park Antiques, where I could easily live if they’d let me, I found this rare Thomas Weeks Cabinet. It is a George III stainwood and mahogany secretaire bookcase attributed to George Simpson for Thomas Weeks c.1805. The best part of this piece, to me, was discovering a complete men’s dressing drawer above the fold out desk. Those stickpins would fit quite nicely into that drawer. I liked this piece so much, that I plan to devote an entire blog post to it in the coming weeks.

First Edition of Emma

And what novel would be a wonderful addition to that bookcase? I think the first edition of Jane Austen’s Emma would fit nicely behind those glass doors. Emma was the last novel Jane Austen published in her lifetime. It was first printed in 1816 in London as a three-volume set. This set is offered by Bauman Rare Books. Perhaps a gentleman might store the volumes inside his bookcase for his wife.

English Four-Barrelled Flintlock c 1810

If you read or write books about Regency era spies, you might find this piece fun. It is an English four-barrelled flintlock “Duck’s Foot” type volley pistol, by Lea of Mansfield. It was made around 1810 and is showcased by Peter Finer.

Wine Cooler or Cellaret, c. 1810

And after a long day of spying, a gentleman might just need a drink. This is a very fine English Regency wine cooler or cellaret made of mahogany (c.1810) from Georgian Manor Antiques.

Regency gilt bronze and marble cassolettes c. 1815

If he’d like to enjoy his drink by candlelight, a gentleman could have used this gilt bronze and marble casolette (ca.1815) to hold his candle. This piece was also showcased by Hyde Park Antiques. The top portion flips over, revealing a candleholder that rests back into the base.

"The Ruined Girl" 1800 by Joseph Allinson

And finally, if a gentleman wasn’t really a gentleman, he might find himself with a ruined girl. I adore this piece, from Nathan Liverant and Sons. It’s a watercolor and ink on paper by the artist, Joseph Allinson. It is either English or American and is dated 1800. The title of the piece is “The Ruined Girl.”

At the bottom it reads:

“Oh! fatal Day when to my Virtuous wrong, I fondly listened to his flattering Tongue, But oh! more fatal Moment when he gained, That vile Consent which all my Glory stain’d.”

I hope you enjoyed taking a short tour of the Winter Antiques Show with me and getting a peek at some of the objects that a Regency era gentleman might have used. I’d love to know which one is your favorite.

 

A Peek Inside the Dining Room of Historic Lansdowne House

Lansdown House 1800s

One of the sad parts about researching historical places, is discovering that a beautiful building had been torn down. I was recently reading about Berkeley Square in London and became intrigued by one of the late Georgian era’s prominent homes, Lansdowne House. It was designed by renowned Scottish architect Robert Adam and located on the southwest corner of Berkeley Square.

lansdowne_house_greenwood%27s_map_london_1830_edited

A fun fact about the house is that it was situated sideways, giving Devonshire House a direct view of Berkley Square through the gardens of both homes.

Lansdowne House was originally designed for Prime Minister John Stuart, the 3rd Earl of Bute (1713-1792). Lord Bute was a tutor and a friend of the young Prince George. Upon George’s accession as King George III, Lord Bute was made Secretary of State. In 1762, he became Prime Minister.

In 1765, Lord Bute sold the unfinished property to William Petty-Fitzmaurice (1737-1805), the 2nd Earl of Shelbourne. Lord Shelbourne was also a Prime Minister and was in power during the end of America’s War of Independence. The house was completed from Adam’s designs in 1768. In 1784, Shelbourne became the 1st Marquess of Lansdowne, and the house became known as Lansdowne House. Lansdowne was a leading Whig statesman and his house became a meeting place for Whig social and political circles in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

William Petty, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne

William Petty, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne

The central block of the house stills stands at the corner of Fitzmaurice Place and Lansdowne Row. In 1930, two of the wings of the House were demolished, and it was converted into a club. The dining room, or “Eating-room” as Adam labeled it, was in the south wing and was bought by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Owing to the restrictions of the space, the long walls were reversed when they were installed in the museum. I have been lucky enough to visit this room on two recent trips to The Met.

Shelbourne_House_1765 later Lansdowne House

The dining room is the lower left room.

The ceiling was designed by Adam and created in plaster by Joseph Rose.

Ceiling of Dining Room of Lansdowne House

The carvings were executed by John Gilbert and the marble chimneypiece was supplied John Devall & Co., London. The oak floor in the room is original.

Dining Room of Lansdowne House

Dining Room of Lansdowne House

The niches originally held nine ancient marble statues acquired by Lord Lansdowne in Italy from the artist Gavin Hamilton. Unfortunately, they were sold off individually during the Lansdowne sale of 1930. The niches in the museum have been filled with plaster casts.

Dining Room of Lansdowne House

Dining Room of Lansdowne House

Dining Room of Lansdowne House

Sadly, the original furniture that was designed by Robert Adam for this room and executed by John Linnell, no longer survives. However, thanks to museums like The Metropolitan Museum of Art, we are still able to take a peek at a room that would have been lost to us long ago.

Update:

Victoria Hinshaw, from the wonderful historical blog Number One London, was kind enough to let me know that the Drawing Room of Lansdowne House is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. After visiting the Dining Room, I now have an itch to see the Drawing Room.  To continue with my love of Lansdowne, Victoria’s blog has posts on Lansdowne Club in London and Bowood, the Lansdowne’s country home. Check out her blog and search for these subjects: http://onelondonone.blogspot.com

Resources used include:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20499/lot/35/

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shelbourne_House_1765.jpg

http://www.gov.uk/government/history/past-prime-ministers/john-stuart-3rd-earl-of-bute

http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait.php?search=apnpgno=3938&eDate=&1Date=

 

Mourning Pictures – An Expression of Grief in the Georgian Era

Portrait of Catherine Lorillard, ca. 1810

I confess, I have a fascination with mourning customs of the Georgian era. I’m not sure how this interest developed, but I do know that I am drawn to objects that helped people express their grief at the loss of those they loved.

Recently, I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to see their exhibition entitled, “Death Becomes Her.” This exhibition focuses on the history of mourning attire from 1815 to 1915. There were a number of items that intrigued me. The portrait above was one.

This portrait is of Catherine Lorillard, who was the daughter of the New York City tobacco magnate Peter A. Lorillard. She was born in 1792 and, according to family history, died from cholera while in her teens. The portrait is dated ca. 1810.

Most early nineteenth century silk embroideries illustrate scenes from mythology or pastorals, copied from prints. Memorials, usually called mourning pictures, often included full-length figures standing at grave sites in landscapes appropriately featuring weeping willows. Catherine’s portrait is also a memorial, but in a different, possibly unique form.

It was almost certainly painted posthumously, because the drape over her head is a symbol of death. Her head and neck were painted by a professional artist, perhaps based on a portrait from life. The embroidery was probably by one of her female relatives.

Her expressive portrait, painted in oil on silk and embellished with silk and silk-chenille threads, is unlike any other needlework picture I have seen. What intrigued me most about this memorial, was that it focused on Catherine and not on the images of those she left behind, mourning her at her gravesite. I could understand her family wanting to have this piece as a way to keep Catherine close to their hearts. And for me, it gave me the opportunity to look into the eyes of the girl who must have been missed terribly by her family and friends.

Resources:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York

A Fashionable Georgian Address: Grosvenor Square

“My aunt,” she continued, “is going tomorrow into that part of town, and I shall take the opportunity of calling in Grosvenor Street.”

Jane Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

Since the Georgian era, the Mayfair district has been one of London’s most prestigious places to live. And Grosvenor Square was one of the most fashionable addresses.

Grosvenor Square

This garden square surrounded by residential buildings was designed by Sir Richard Grosvenor, the 4th Baronet, who is an ancestor to the modern-day Dukes of Westminster.

220px-Sir_Richard_Grosvenor,_4th_Baronet_of_Eaton

During the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the estates in London were being developed. In 1710, Grosvenor designed a plan for a large garden square at the center of his estate. It was intended to be the finest of all the then existing squares. The area was to have uniform houses, with stables behind them. Construction of Grosvenor Square began in 1725. The engraving below shows how the original plan was altered over time. On the far left side, the houses are identical. The further you travel along the street, the houses look different.

Grosvenor Square

Grosvenor Square

I visited Grosvenor Square during my last visit to London, to see for myself what it looks like. While some of the original buildings remain, the majority of them have been rebuilt over the years.

Grosvenor Square

Grosvenor Square

In the early 18th century, most of the garden squares in London were designed so that the central parkland was reserved for the exclusive use of the square’s residences. Grosvenor hired William Kent to design his garden. Originally a brick wall was constructed to enclose it. Later, this wall was replaced with iron railings, which gives the area an open feel.

Today, the general pubic is allowed into the garden and in the eastern end there is a memorial dedicated to the British victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Grosvenor Square 9/11 Memorial

Grosvenor Square

Grosvenor Square

Grosvenor Square

Grosvenor Square

Grosvenor Square is not cut off from the rest of London. To give you an idea of the surrounding streets during the late 18th century, here is a portion of the Horwood map of London, which was completed in 1799. The southeastern section of Grosvenor Square is in the upper left corner of the map.

Horwood Map of London 1799

If you are familiar with stories set in the Regency era, you’ve probably read about English aristocrats driving along Rotten Row during the fashionable hour. This portion of Christopher and John Greenwood’s map of London from 1827, shows how close Grosvenor Square is to Hyde Park.

Christopher and John Greenwood's Map of London 18276a00d8341c84c753ef0168e7420e96970c-800wiThere were a number of those notable aristocrats who resided in Grosvenor Square over the years. In 1739, a writer for Gentleman’s Magazine wrote, “the centre house on the east side of the square was raffled for, and won by two persons named Hunt and Braithwaite. The possessor valued it at £10,000, but the winners sold it two months afterwards for £7,000 to the Duke of Norfolk.”

The 11th Earl of Derby hired renowned architect Robert Adam to build him a residence at Number 23. It was regarded as one of Adam’s finest works. Unfortunately, it was demolished in the 1860s. The only image I was able to find of the earl’s residence is this engraving of the Third Drawing Room.

Earl of Derby's Third Drawing Room

The Duchess of Kendal, George I’s mistress, lived at Number 43 from 1728 to 1743. Her former residence is still standing.

Duchess of Kendall

The 3rd Duke of Dorset (1745-1799) lived at Number 38.

The 3rd Duke of Dorset

The 3rd Duke of Grafton (1735-1811), the Prime Minister who was famous for his indiscreet private life and racing stables, also called Grosvenor Square home.

The 3rd Duke of Grafton

Other notable residents include: John Wilkes, Esq. who was Alderman and Chamberlain of the City of London; the Marquis of Rockingham; and Lord North, the 2nd Earl of Guilford, who was the Prime Minister during the American Revolutionary War.

Grosvenor Square has other ties to America, which can still be seen today. In 1785, the first American Minister to the Court of St. James, John Adams, took up residence at Number 9 Grosvenor Square. His daughter, Abigail, was married from that house to Colonel William Stephens Smith. In 1788, Adams returned to America and became the second President of the United States. The building Adams lived in still stands on the corner of Duke and Brook Streets.

John Adams House Grosvenor Square

Today, Grosvenor Square looks different than it did in the Georgian era. When I was there, I sat in the park on a warm June evening and three teenage boys road their skateboards past me. On the grassy lawn to my left, a father was teaching his little girl how to dribble a soccer ball. At the time, I couldn’t help but wonder what Sir Richard Grosvenor would have thought of the changes to his elegant corner of the world.

Resources used include:

Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice

Gentleman’s Magazine, 1739

Greenwood’s Map of London, 1827

Horwood’s Map of London, 1799

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45202

http://www.georgianindex.net/London/Squares/grosvenorsquare.html

http://thethingsthatcatchmyeye.wordpress

http://wordwenches.typepad.com/word_wenches/2012/02/a-good-map-is-a-joy.html