The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 4

Allen, Thomas

1827

St. George's Palace.

Palace, formerly Buckingham House, which was erected in , on the site of what was originally called the Mulberry gardens; the author of the New View of London, mentions its vicinity to Arlington house, then the residence of the learned and accomplished John, duke of Buckinghamshire; who, after passing an active life distinguished by bravery, retired from his labours to that mansion, and died -, aged .

The editors of

London and its Environs described,

vo. , have preserved a letter written by this nobleman to the duke of Shrewsbury, which accurately and elegantly describes Buckingham house--

The avenues to the house are along St. James's park, through rows of goodly elms on one hand, and gay flourishing limes on the other; that for coaches, this for walking; with the Mall lying betwixt them. This reaches to an iron pallisade that encompasses a square court, which has in the midst a great basin with statues and water-works; and from its entrance rises all the way imperceptibly, till we mount to a terrace in the front of a large hall, paved with square white stones, mixed with a dark coloured marble; the walls of it covered with a set of pictures, done in the school of Raphael.

Out of this on the right hand we go into a parlour thirty-three feet by thirty-nine, with a niche fifteen feet broad for a beaufet, paved with white marble, and placed within an arch, with pilasters of divers colours, the upper part of which, as high as the ceiling, is painted by Ricci. From hence we pass through a suite of large rooms, into a bed-chamber of thirty-four feet by twenty-seven; within it is a large closet that opens into a green-house.

On the left hand of the hall are three stone arches, supported by three Corinthian pillars, under one of which we go up. forty-eight steps, ten feet broad, each step of one entire Portland stone. These stairs, by the help of two resting-places, are so very easy, there is no need of leaning on the iron balluster. The walls are painted with the story of Dido; whom, though the poet was obliged to despatch away mournfully, in order to make room for Lavinia, the better natured painter has brought no further than to that fatal cave, where the lovers appear just entering.

The roof of this staircase, which is fifty-five feet from the ground, is forty feet by thirty-six, filled with the figures of gods and goddesses. In the midst is Juno, condescending to beg assistance from Venus, to bring about a marriage which the Fates intended should he the ruin of her own darling queen and people. By which that sublime poet intimates, that we should never be over-eager for any thing, either in our pursuits or our prayers, lest what we endeavour or ask too violently for our interest, should be granted us by Providence only in order to our ruin.

The bas-reliefs and all the little squares above are all episodical paintings of the same story: and the largeness of the whole had admitted of a sure remedy against any decay of the colours from saltpetre in the wall, by making another of oak laths four inches within it, and so primed over like a picture.

From a wide landing-place on the stairs' head, a great double door opens into an apartment of the same dimensions with that below, only three feet higher: notwithstanding which, it would appear too low, if the higher saloon had not been divided from it. The first room of this floor has within it a closet of original pictures, which yet are not so entertaining as the delightful prospect from the windows. Out of the second room a pair of great doors give entrance into the saloon, which is thirty-five feet high, thirty-six broad, and forty-five long; in the midst of its roof a round picture of Gentileschi, eighteen feet in diameter, represents the Muses playing in concert to Apollo lying along a cloud to hear them. The rest of the room is adorned with paintings relating to arts and sciences; and underneath divers original pictures hang all in good lights, by the help of an upper row of windows which drowns the glaring.

Much of this seems appertaining to parade; and therefore I am glad to leave it, to describe the rest, which is for conveniency. At first, a covered passage from the kitchen without doors, and another down to the cellars and all the offices within. Near this, a large and lightsome back stairs leads up to such an entry above, as secures our private bed-chamber both from noise and cold. Here we have necessary dressing-rooms and closets, from which are the pleasantest views of all the house, with a little door for communication betwixt this private apartment and the great one.

These stairs, and those of the same kind at the other end of the house, carrying us up to the highest story, are fitted for the women and children, with the floors so contrived as to prevent all noiseover my wife's head. In mentioning the court at first, I forgot the two wings in it, built on stone arches, which join the house bycorridores, supported by Ionic pillars. In one of those wings is a large kitchen, thirty feet high, with an open cupola on the top; near it a larder, brewhouse, and laundry, with rooms over them for servants; the upper sort of servants are lodged in the other wing,, which has also two wardrobes, and a store-room for fruit.

On the top of all, a leaden cistern, holding fifty tons of water, driven up by an engine from the Thames, supplies all the water-works in the courts and gardens which lie quite round the house; through one of which a grass-walk conducts to the stables, built round a court, with six coach-houses and forty stalls. I will add but one thing before I carry you into the garden, and that is about walking too, but it is on the top of all the house, which being covered with smooth milled lead, and defended by a parapet of ballusters from all apprehension as well as danger, entertains the eye with a far distant prospect of hills and dales, and near one of parks and gardens. To these gardens we go down from the house by seven steps into a grand walk that reaches across the garden, with a covered arbour at each end of it. Another of thirty feet broad leads from the front of the house, and lies between two groves of tall lime-trees, planted in several equal ranks, upon a carpet of grass; the outside of these groves are bordered with tubs of bays and orange-trees. At the end of this broad walk you go up to a terrace four hundred paces long, with a large semicircle in the middle, from whence is beheld the queen's two parks, and a great part of Surrey; then going down a few steps, you walk on the bank of a canal, 600 yards long and seventeen broad, with two rows of limes on each side of it. On one side of this terrace, a wall, covered with roses and jessamines, is made low, to admit the view of a meadow full of cattle just under it (no disagreeable object in the midst of a great city,) and at each end a descent into parterres, with fountains and water-works. From the biggest of these parterres we pass into a little square garden; below all this is a kitchen garden, full of the best sorts of fruits, and which has several walks in it for the coldest weather.

Thus for the duke's own description: several alterations were

371

subsequently made. The

goodly elms and gay flourishing limes,

went to decay. The

iron pallisade

assumed a more modern and simple form; and of the

great bason with statues and waterworks,

no traces remained when Mr. Nightingale visited the palace. Many of these statues were deposited in the famous lead statue yard, in ; but that also has now ceased to exist.

mentioned in the duke's description was entirely done away. The

covered passage from the kitchen

was built up; the

corridores supported on Ionic pillars,

was filled in with brick work, and modern door-ways, windows, with compartments over them, inserted therein, with strings, plinth, &c. constituting concealed passages from the wings to the house. The duke's

kitchen, with an open cupola, at top,

was no where to be found.

The Gentleman's Magazine, above quoted, adds,

that Colin Campbell's plan, as seen externally, is now nearly the same, with the exception of the pallisade, great bason, covered passages, the building up of the corridores, terrace, or flight of steps, and an additional door-way, to the left wing. His front, the pilasters at the extremity of the line taken away, as is the terrace; circular pediment to the door-way, altered to a triangular

one

. The festoons of flowers and fruit, which were under the windows of the principal floor, are now cut out, and in their place the side ballustrades remain in continuation; cills of

three

mouldings only remain under the windows of the principal floor; a continued string occupies their place to the hall story; to the attic floor, architraves; to the

four

sides of the windows of the wings common modern cills; additions of a frieze and cornice have been made to the architraves of the windows of the hall and the principal floors. The inscription in the frieze is painted out; the statues on the dwarf pilasters are taken away, as also are the vases from the corridores. The pediments which were on the dormer windows of the wings have given place to a flat head; and there is an additional door-way to the left wing made out with common scrolls, cornice, &c. An extensive library has also been added to the place.

The front was of red brick, with white pilasters, entablatures, door and window frames. Had the house been of stone, the Ionic wings and centre might have had a far better effect.

The cartoons of Raffaello which formerly decorated this palace have been removed to Hampton-court. Besides several others by various masters, many of Mr. West's admirable productions adorned this house, particularly the following: Cyrus presented to his grandfather; Regulus leaving Rome on his return to Carthage; death of the chevalier Bayard; death of general Wolfe; death of Epaminondas; Hannibal vowing enmity to the Romans; the wife of Arminius brought captive to the emperor Germanicus.

Such was the state of Buckingham-house till the year , when the house of commons, on the motion of the premier, made a

372

considerable grant towards altering and refitting up this house as the principal palace of his majesty. The architect appointed was John Nash, esq. and at the present time an immense expence has been incurred without producing such an edifice as the nation fully expected for the residence of their sovereign.

The palace is very extensive, and occupies sides of a quadrangle; the sides will, when the structure is completed, be closed by a handsome railing on each side of a magnificent arch constructed entirely of marble; it is intended to be an imitation of the arch of Constantine. Of the main building, it is impossible to speak in praise; the design is frittered into a multiplicity of parts, and the detail is in a style of littleness unbecoming a building of so exalted a nature.

The eastern elevation being the principal front is the most ornamental; it consists of stories in elevation, besides a concealed by the ballustrade; the story is fronted by a colonnade or continued portico of the Greek Doric order, broken into occasionally by projecting parts of the whole main building; the columns are iron, the frieze is omitted, the architrave and cornice are stone, the order is surmounted by a ballustrade. In the centre of the building is a order of architecture, the Corinthian, which is displayed in a portico composed of columns in pairs, the lower order being similarly arranged for the sake of uniformity; the upper order is surmounted by its entablature with a richly sculptured frieze, and the whole is crowned with a pediment, in the tympanum of which is intended to be an alto-relievo, representing

the triumph of Britannia,

by Mr. Bailey, on the acroteria are full sized statues. This portico projects sufficiently to allow of a carriage passing under it.

The view of the dome of the garden front behind this portico, is universally considered a great eye-sore from its total want of ornament. At the distance of divisions of the main building are other porticoes composed of columns in pairs; on the entablature groups of military and naval trophies; an unsightly attic forms a bad finish to these porticoes; the main building has large and handsome windows between the porticoes, and the elevation is finished with the entablature continued from the porticoes, and surmounted by a ballustrade. The original wings were broken into distinct piles of buildings, a fault so glaring as to occasion their total re-construction; they have been finished in an uniform but plainer style with the principal front; the ends of each wing have a portico, the upper order consisting of columns surmounted with a pediment, the tympanum to be embellished with sculptures, having reference to the central group, and on the acroteria will be statues. The north and south fronts are nearly uniform, but the designs are far from complete, owing to the alteration which has taken place; a colonnade or continued portico having a concaved portion in the centre decorates the basement.

373

 

The chapel is an octagon situated on the south side at the junction of the wing with the main building; it is intended to be finished in the style of the tower of the winds at Athens. The garden front is deemed the finest piece of architecture; the basement is fronted by a raised terrace guarded by a ballustrade, above this the elevation shews stories in height, the lower rusticated and pierced with windows and entrances; it serves as a stylobate to the upper order, which is also the Corinthian. In width the front is broken by projections, the central is a circular bow decorated with a perystyle of columns, and crowned with an attic and spherical dome, the unlucky object which has been visited with such severity of criticism; the other projections are copies of the minor porticoes in the principal front; the lower stories are finished between the projections with a ballustrade, and the elevation with the entablature of the order which forms a crowning member throughout the building. At the extremities of the terrace are pavillions resembling Grecian temples of the Ionic order.

have been completely altered. In order to conceal from the windows of the palace, the great pile of stabling lately erected in , a large artificial mound has been raised, and planted with curious shrubs and trees. Behind this a fish pond has been formed; the remainder is laid out in parterres and shrubberies.

The entrance to the gardens from is through a splendid arch, an imitation of the arch of Severus at Rome, the architecture from the temple of Jupiter Stator, in the same city. It is intended to be richly decorated with statues and reliefs, and surmounted by a group of sculpture. The architect is John Nash, esq.

The screen of the Ionic order opposite which forms the entrance to consists of arches united by an open colonnade. The order is Ionic; the columns stand on a stylobate about feet in height; the centre arch has pair of insulated columns ranged at the sides of the entrance; the side arches have single columns grouped with antae, attached in like manner to the piers; the intervals between the arches are occupied by colonnades composed respectively of columns; the whole is crowned with an entablature and blocking course. The centre arch is crowned with a heavy acroterium, which is sculptured in basso relievo with a procession taken from the Temple of Theseus at Athens, and finished with a sub-cornice. Both faces of the screen are alike; subordinate entrances for foot passengers form a kind of wing in each side the main structure. The lodge is a small temple of the Greek Doric order. The architect of the building is Decimus Burton, esq. and the sculptor R. Westmacott, esq.

 
 
Footnotes:

[] Celebrated by Charles Dryden, in Horti Arlingtoniani, ad. el. Dom. Henricum Comitem Arlingtonia. See Nichol's Select Collection of Poems, vol. ii. p. 156.

[] Gent. Mag. vl. Ixxxv. p. 36.

[] Malcolm, vol. iv. p. 263.

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 Title Page
 Dedication
CHAPTER I: Site, local divisions, and government of the City of Westminster; history of the Abbey; Coronation Ceremonies; and lists of the Abbots and Deans
CHAPTER II: Westminster Abbey, and Description of the Tombs and Monuments
CHAPTER III: History and Topography of St. Margaret's Parish
CHAPTER IV: History and Topography of St. John's Parish, Westminster
CHAPTER V: History and Topography of the parish of St. Martin's in the Fields, Westminster
CHAPTER VI: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. James, Westminster
CHAPTER VII: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Anne, Westminster
CHAPTER VIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden
CHAPTER IX: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Mary-le-strand
CHAPTER X: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. Clement Danes
CHAPTER XI: History and Topography of the parish of st. George, Hanover Square
CHAPTER XII: History and Topography of the Precinct of the Savoy
CHAPTER XIII: History and Topography of the Inns of Court
CHAPTER XIV: History and Topography of the Precincts of the Charter-house and Ely Place, and the Liberty of the Rolls
 CHAPTER XV: Historical Notices of the Borough of Southwark
CHAPTER XVI: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Olave, Southwark
CHAPTER XVII: History and Topography of the parish of St. John, Southwark
CHAPTER XVIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Thomas, Southwark
CHAPTER XIX: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. George's, Southwark
CHAPTER XX: History and Topography of St. Saviour's Parish
CHAPTER XXI: History and Topography of the parist of Christ-church in the County of Surrey
 CHAPTER XXII: A List of the Principal Books, &c that have been published in Illustration of the Antiquities, History, Topography, and other subjects treated of in this Work
 Addenda et Corrigienda
 Postscript