Author(s): David Pearce
The Great Houses of London is an account of extraordinary buildings, most of which no longer exist, of such great designers as Robert Adam, and of the enormously rich English aristocratic grandees who commissioned these houses. When Queen Victoria remarked to her neighbor, the Duchess of Sutherland, I have come from my house to your palace, she was by no means exaggerating. The palaces of the nobility were second only to churches in architectural and aesthetic significance, and defied comparison with the chateaux of France or the palazzi of Venice. Filled with astonishing French and English furniture, generally equipped with a large private picture gallery to display priceless paintings bought on the Grand Tour, staffed by between 50 and 60 servants, these houses expressed the taste and aspiration of a single person, and usually one rich and powerful enough to have his own way. A distinguished designer, large rooms for entertaining formally, an imposing facade to impress passers by and visitors were the background for the endless balls and costume and garden parties, and formal dinners that made the dazzling London Season one of the high points for European royalty and society from June through August. This book, the only publication on a fascinating subject, covers some 40 major home and 100 lesser ones, starting in the 13th century in the walled city of London and moving on to the then suburbs of Bloomsbury, Holborn, Soho, Piccadilly and St. James, finishing in Park Lane from which the aristocrats were driven by the noises of motor traffic. This is a book that will fascinate architects, decorators, Anglophiles and social historians.