« PreviousContinue »
In the days of Charles the Second, when Piccadilly was almost open country, the space between Clarges Street and the Albany was occupied by three large villas, each surrounded by spacious pleasure-grounds, built respectively by Lord Berkeley of Stratton, the great Lord Clarendon, and the well known and wealthy poet, Sir John Denham. Opposite, on the site of Arlington Street, stood Goring House, the residence of the notorious statesman, Henry Bennet, Earl of Arlington.
We will first speak of Berkeley House, which stood nearly on the site of the present Devonshire House. It was built by Lord Berkeley of Stratton, about the year 1670, on a property called Hay Hill Farm; from whence Hay Street, Hill Street, Farm Street, and Hay Hill have derived their names, as have Berkeley Street, Berkeley Square, and Stratton Street, from his Lordship's titles. Pepys writes, “ 25th September, 1672, I dined at Lord John Berkeley's. It was in his new house, or rather palace, for I am assured it stood him in nearly 30,000l. It is very well built, and has many noble rooms, but they are not very convenient, consisting but of one corps de logis; they are all rooms of state, without closets. The staircase is of cedar; the furniture is princely; the kitchen and stables are ill placed, and the corridor worse, having no respect to the wings they join to. For the rest, the fore-court is noble, so are the stables, and, above all, the gardens, which are incomparable, by reason of the inequality of the ground, and a pretty piscina.
The holly hedges on the terrace I advised the planting of.”
Evelyn also speaks with enthusiasm of the “noble gardens” and “stately porticos” of Berkeley House. The former must have been of great size when we remember that they extended over the ground now occupied by Lansdowne House and Berkeley Square. In 1684, a part of them were let out for the purpose of being built upon. Evelyn mentions his deep regret at witnessing the work of partitioning, and the sacrilege offered to the "sweet place; ” while at the same time he inveighs against the “mad intemperance of the age,” in increasing the city, which he says is far out of proportion to the nation, and which in his time had been enlarged nearly ten-fold. What would Evelyn say to London as it now stands!
In 1695, when on bad terms with her brother-inlaw, King William, Queen Anne, then Princess of Denmark, took up her abode at Berkeley House.* A few years afterwards, the original mansion was burnt down, and, early in the last century, the present unsightly structure was erected,-after a design by Kent-by William, third Duke of Devonshire. Beyond the fact of its having been tenanted by more than one titled “ transmitter of a foolish face,” we know of no particular interest that attaches itself to the present structure. except, however, the brief period, when the beau
Lord Dartmouth's “ Notes to Bishop Burnet's History of his Own Time."
tiful Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, held her court within its walls, and when Fox, Burke, Wyndham, Fitzpatrick, and Sheridan, did homage at her feet. It would be difficult, at the present day, to convey even the slightest notion of the sensation which the lovely and charming Duchessherself a poetess and a wit,-created in the last age, or of the influence which she exercised over the fashion and politics of her time. Distinguished by her high rank, her surpassing lovelinesss, and the peculiar fascination of her manners ;—surrounding herself with the gay, the beautiful, the witty, and the wise ;-Devonshire House, under the auspices of this charming woman, displayed a scene of almost romantic brilliancy to which the court of our own day can present no parallel. Berkeley House, it may be remarked, was the residence of the Cavendish family, at least as early as the reign of Charles the Second. We find the venerable Christiana, widow of William the second Earl,—to whom she had been given away at the altar by James the First,—maintaining a splendid and hospitable establishment here in 1674, when Waller and Denham were her guests; in 1697, we find William the Third dining with William the first Duke, and here both the first and second Dukes, and the “ beautiful Duchess," breathed their last.
The gardens of Clarendon House appear to have adjoined those of Berkeley House, and to have extended to the east as far as the present Burlington Arcade. Clarendon House, the delight and
pride of the great Earl of Clarendon, is said, by Burnet, to have cost him 50,0001.; a vast sum, if we consider the relative value of money in the days of Charles the Second's time, and at the present time. His enemies called it Dunkirk House, asserting that it had been built with a sum which he had received as a bribe from the French government for permitting the sale of Dunkirk. Evelyn writes on the 15th of October, 1664, “ After dinner, my Lord Chancellor and his lady carried me in their coach to see their new palace, now building at the upper end of St. James's Street, and to project the garden.” Pepys also writes, on the 31st of January 1665–6, “ To my Lord Chancellor's new house, which he is building, only to view it, hearing so much from Mr. Evelyn of it; and indeed it is the finest pile I ever did see in my life, and will be a glorious house.” Evelyn speaks of Clarendon House as possessing many architectural defects, but he adds that, on the whole, it stood most gracefully, and was a stately and magnificent pile.
In Evelyn's Diary for the 27th of August 1667, a few days after the disgrace of the great Chancellor, we find an interesting passage connected with Clarendon House. “ I visited the Lord Chancellor,” says Evelyn,“ to whom his Majesty had sent for the seals a few days before: I found him in his bed-chamber very sad. The Parliament had accused him, and he had enemies at Court, especially the buffoons and ladies of pleasure, because he thwarted some of them and stood in their way.
I could name some of the chief. The truth is, he made few friends during his grandeur among the royal sufferers, but advanced the old rebels. He was, however, though no considerable lawyer, one who kept up the form and substance of things with more solemnity than some would have had.” Again Evelyn adds, on the 9th of December, “ To visit the late Lord Chancellor, I found him in his garden at his new-built palace, sitting in his gout wheel-chair, and seeing the gates setting up towards the north and the fields. He looked and spake very disconsolately. Next morning I heard he was gone."
The Chancellor died in exile, and shortly afterwards Clarendon House was sold by his successor to Christopher Monk, second Duke of Albemarle, for 25,000l. The Duke appears to have resided here for some time, but afterwards parted with it for about 35,0001., when it was immediately levelled to the ground, and the present Dover Street, Al-' bemarle Street, Old Bond Street, and Grafton Street, were erected on the site of its beautiful gardens. Evelyn witnessed with great pain “ the sad demolition of that costly and sumptuous palace of the late Lord Chancellor, where he had often been so cheerful with him, and sometimes so sad.” And on the 19th of June 1683, he writes, “I returned to town with the Earl of Clarendon: when passing by the glorious palace his father built but a few years before, which they were now demolishing, being sold to certain undertakers, I