Bradshaw’s Hand Book, The West, Berkeley Square (no.26)

‘..Berkeley Street leads to the aristocratic Berkeley Square…’

John Berkeley, 1st Lord Berkeley of Stratton
John Berkeley, 1st Lord Berkeley of Stratton

John Berkeley, 1st Lord Berkeley of Stratton (1602-78), was a powerful and very wealthy man; an important General during the civil war, but also a statesman and ambassador and, together with Sir George Carteret ‘founded’ the state of New Jersey in America. (He was related to Lord Jermyn, who was active in the development of nearby St James’s Square.)

Lord Berkeley acquired extensive land to the north of Piccadilly (now Berkeley Square and the Hill Street area) and built Berkeley House fronting on to Piccadilly in 1665.

Berkeley House, c.1740
Berkeley House, c.1740

The country seat was Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, a motte and bailey built just after the Conquest, and the oldest castle to be continuously occupied in England after the Tower of London, and the oldest in occupation by the same family.

Berkeley Castle, 1712, by Jan Kip
Berkeley Castle, 1712, by Jan Kip
Berkeley Castle today
Berkeley Castle today

The family also own Spetchly Parkbuilt in 1606

Spetchly Park, owned by the Berkeley Family
Spetchly Park, owned by the Berkeley Family

The mansion was sold by his descendants to the 1st Duke of Devonshire in 1696 with the proviso that the view to the north of the house should be preserved, and this was the case for over 200 years – north of the mansion were the gardens of Lansdowne House, then the gardens of Berkeley Square, and the first buildings were on the north side of the square, on the Grosvenor Estate.

Berkeley Square on a hot summer day, looking north
Berkeley Square on a hot summer day, looking north

Berkeley Square was laid out in the 1730s, with large houses on the east and west sides. The developers were Edward Cock and Francis Hillyard, carpenters. The garden was enclosed in 1747, the ends rounded in c.01766-67, and the magnificent plane trees planted in c.1789 by a resident of the Square, Edward Bouverie. They are amongst the oldest in the centre of London.

Berkeley Square in 1767, unknown engraver, Mapco
Berkeley Square in 1767, unknown engraver, Mapco

The east side is all new buildings.

One of the old plane trees in Berkeley Square, with the new buildings on the west side of the Square in the background
One of the old plane trees in Berkeley Square, with the new buildings on the east side of the Square in the background

On the west side of the Square the original houses remain, with amazing link extinguishers, ‘..amongst the best in London..’ according to PevsnerNo.50 Berkeley Square (1740) was leased by Edward Cock in 1744 (according to Pevsner). The house reputedly haunted, has been occupied by Maggs Bros, dealers in rare and antique books, since 1853. On the railings surrounding the entrance are beautiful link extinguishers. (Link boys were found earlier, and beautiful photos and information about both here.)

No.50 Berkeley Square, Maggs Bros
No.50 Berkeley Square, Maggs Bros
Link extinguisher at no.50 Berkeley Square
Link extinguisher at no.50 Berkeley Square
Gas light and link extinguisher at no.43 Berkeley Square
Gas light and link extinguisher at no.43 Berkeley Square

No.45 Berkeley Square (and its neighbour no.46) were designed by Henry Flitcroft (Pevsner). Clive of India lived here between 1761-1774, and the house remains in family ownership.

No.45 Berkeley Square
No.45 Berkeley Square

No.44 Berkeley Square is now a listed building, designed for Lady Isabella Finch by William Kent in 1742-44 and is known for its elaborate double staircase which rises the entire height of the house. (Country Life has good images, and this is an interesting post. Here for a paper on the house, and Lady Isabella.) The building is now Annabel’s and The Clermont Club.

No.44 Berkeley Square
No.44 Berkeley Square
No.44 Berkeley Square, the double stair by William Kent
No.44 Berkeley Square, the double stair by William Kent

Berkeley Square was the site of ‘..the noble mansion of the Marquis of Lansdowne..’. The map shows the site of the mansion in 1830 and the photograph of 1922 appeared in Country Life. The original house, Shelburne House, was begun in 1762 for the 3rd Earl of Bute and sold, incomplete, to Lord Shelburne, later 1st Marquess of Lansdowne.

Lansdowne House, Greenwood's map of 1830
Lansdowne House, Greenwood’s map of 1830
Lansdowne House in 1922
Lansdowne House in 1922

Today the The Lansdowne Club retains part of the original facade refashioned on to a diminished building in order to accommodate a road, Fitzmaurice Place, and shops and offices.

The original facade of Lansdowne House, replaced on a foreshortened building
The original facade of Lansdowne House, replaced on a foreshortened building

The rooms which were lost have been recreated in the Philadelphia Museum, and can be seen here, and the stunningly beautiful dining room is preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Dining Room in the original Lansdowne House
The Dining Room in the original Lansdowne House
Lansdowne House, another view of the Dining Room
Lansdowne House, another view of the Dining Room
Lansdowne House, a detail from the Dining Room
Lansdowne House, a detail from the Dining Room

Why is  this mansion preserved in America? Because the Treaty to grant independence to America was negotiated in the Round Room in Lansdowne House. The Round Room was not demolished, but the association with the Treaty and the chance to acquire Adams rooms appealed to Fiske Kimball, the Director of the Philadelphia Museum.

And look at this marvellous view of Berkeley Square in 1813, looking down the western side of the Square towards Lansdowne House and its garden.

Berkeley Square, 1813, looking towards Lansdowne House along the west of the Square
Berkeley Square, 1813, looking towards Lansdowne House along the west of the Square

The gardens have been replaced with a modern office block, and Lansdowne Row marks the boundary between Devonshire House and the former Lansdowne House. The statue of the Woman of Samaria was erected in 1858 by the 3rd Marquess of Landsdowne.

Woman of Samaria, facing the new Landsdowne House Offices
Woman of Samaria, facing the new Landsdowne House Offices
Lansdowne Lane
Lansdowne Row

Berkeley Square tells a story of people of great wealth, influence and power, able to command the best architects and designers of the time to design town residences of startling splendour, close to the Palace and seat of power. Nowadays the square is offices and clubs, apart from no.48.

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