‘..Berkeley Street leads to the aristocratic Berkeley Square…’
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.
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.
The family also own Spetchly Park, built in 1606
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 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.
The east side is all new buildings.
On the west side of the Square the original houses remain, with amazing link extinguishers, ‘..amongst the best in London..’ according to Pevsner. No.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.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.