Georgian Era Artisans: Robert Adam

Robert Adam: His Story

Anyone who follows this blog is probably aware that Robert Adam is my favorite interior designer. I love the elegance, color, and classical design of his ceiling designs most of all. Every year when I visit the UK, I include stately manors featuring his work—and am ever so glad that there are so many of them still around to admire.

The second son of a prominent Scots architect himself—William Adam—Robert grew up with the advantages of money and an expectation that he would follow in his father’s footsteps. As a second son, however, that meant working under his older brother John, which he did for eight years before striking out on his own. Eventually, he was joined by his younger brother James. The youngest brother, William, served both enterprises with his building materials business.

Coming of age at a time when enthusiasm for the traditional Grand Tour was rekindled, Robert (who did not finish his studies at Edinburgh University due to illness) set out for Europe with the Honorable Charles Hope, younger brother of the Earl of Hopetoun. In Florence, the French antiquarian Charles-Louis Clerisseau agreed to instruct him in watercolor and draftsmanship. Rome, where he and Hope separated, was to be Adam’s base for the next three years, where he continued to study under Clerisseau and associated with other British artists and potential patrons, including James Wyatt and Adam’s lifelong rival, William Chambers, whom he identified as a “formidable foe.”

In Rome, Adam was careful not to jeopardize his gentleman’s status by identifying himself as an architect, which would preclude his participation in aristocratic circles. He was acutely aware that as important as it was to developi his artistic skills, it was equally important to develop relationships with the sort of people who might wish to take advantage of them in future endeavors. A “gentleman architect” was a bit of an oxymoron at the time, but Adam was one eventually who managed to achieve it.

Adam devoted himself to making detailed studies of both ancient and Renaissance buildings, particularly the decoration of the Roman vaults known as grotte, which led to the development of a type of ornamentation called “grotesque.” (Which seems an odd designation to me, since his designs are anything but grotesque. But I don’t speak the language of architecture.)

Adam was to achieve “a delicacy of detail…” which was new to England—and indeed to the world, for it was a delicacy by Roman and not Rococo means. The grottesque, painted and stucco decoration in Roman buildings, were his model.

Professor Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-1983)

Adam’s use of colour… was not, as is too often and disastrously thought, a gay “picking-out” of decorative motifs, but a subtle and gentle modification of the traditional white finish which Adam found too glaring in practice. Even the richest schemes are carefully built up from this principle.

Sir John Summerson (1904-1992)

James Adam, by Antonio Zucchi

At this time, Adam met Robert Wood, whose illustrated account of the Ruins of Palmyra became a useful sourcebook for architects and designers, and Adam was to eventually draw more from Wood than from his first-hand studies. Adam meant to write his own  such book on the baths of Diocletian and Caracalla, but the theorist of the family turned out to be his younger brother James. Robert was more of a doer.

Robert Adam’s criticism was directed against

the slavish imitators of Vitruvius and Palladio in his own century, who reduced the architectural heritage of the ancient world to a set of rigid rules to be dogmatically applied. Adam’s demand, which he believed to be soundly based on the realities of ancient practice, was that the architect should assert the flexibility and freedom proper to a creative artist: ‘The great masters of antiquity were not so rigidly scrupulous. They varied the proportions of the general spirit of their compositions required, clearly perceiving that however necessary these rules may be to form the taste and correct the licentiousness of the scholar, they cramp the genius and circumscribe the ideas of the master.’

This was heresy to eighteenth-century traditionalist architects, but Adam believed that the goal of architecture was not dependent on a set of rigid rules, but the achievement of a fluency and freedom of expression, that in his case meant the “ability to balance simplicity with enrichment.”

“Movement,” a fundamental principle of his work and a recurring motif in his projects, was defined by him with this analogy “…rising and falling, advancing and receding… with convexity and concavity… have the same effect in architecture, that hill and dale, fore-ground and distance, swelling and sinking have in landscape.” Architecture, like landscape, should “aspire to an agreeable and diversified contour, that groups and contrasts like a picture.”

Upon the completion of his Grand Tour, Adam decided to set up his independent practice in London, rather than following the family business in Edinburgh, which was a much less risky proposition. The family wealth was useful in helping him set up a house with six servants in fashionable St. James Place, and later purchase a house in Lower Grosvenor Street. His sisters managed his household and his brothers James and William came along to assist in his endeavors.

Networking was second nature to Adam. He joined the recently established Royal Society of the Arts, but by virtue of birth he already belonged to an informal institution far more powerful than any official association—the club of London Scots. The unofficial head of this ‘tartan mafia’ was John Stuart, third Earl of Bute and tutor to the future king George III. Adam inveigled an introduction…, and, although the initial contact with Bute was brusque almost to the point of insult, he was to gain commissions from him in both town and country. But by the time he did so Adam was already on course to be England’s most fashionable architect.

The Saloon at Kedleston Hall


Tea House Bridge, Audley End

Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, was Adam’s first major commission. Adam created the south front and also designed the much of the interior, furniture, and grounds. Although his was somewhat of a partial role—some rooms having been done by others—his work includes the library, saloon, ante-room, dressing room, state bedroom, and dining room. Very few changes have been made in the design, so Kedleston remains a significant example of his work.

Osterley Park

At Syon House, in 1761, the first Duke of Northumberland challenged him “to create a palace of Graeco-Roman splendour.” Adam was only too eager to accept the challenge, submitting, as he often did, an overly-ambitious plan that had to be modified. The result, however, included a “sequence of rooms of contrasting geometrical shapes, each originating in a classical prototype.” Lord Norwich claimed that “this spectacular sequence of rooms is enough to earn its creator a lasting place in the Halls of Fame and makes Syon one of the showplaces not just of London but of all England.

That same year, Adam was commissioned to decorate Osterley Park in Middlesex, owned by the Child banking dynasty. Among his repertoire of projects in the coming years was Ugbrooke, Devon; a gatehouse for Kimbolton Castle, in Cambridgeshire; Bowood, in Wiltshire; Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill at Twickenham; Newby Hall, North Yorkshire; Harewood House, in Yorkshire; Nostell Priory, in Yorkshire; Audley End, in Essex; Saltram, in Devon; Landsdowne House, Kenwood, Chandos House, Home House, Portland Place, Derby House, Home House, Northumberland House, all in London. When Northumberland House was destroyed to make way for Northumberland Avenue, the duke had Adam’s glass drawing-room packed up and stored; it is partially restored in the British Galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Music Room at Home House

The Adelphi Project, which would turn out to be a major failure that brought his business to the brink of bankruptcy, was conceived to be a “riverside terrace of residences of imperial grandeur… positioned above an arcade of warehouses.” Thinking that they would be besieged by eager tenants, the Adams brothers sank their own money and political power (Robert was an MP for Kinross-shire at the time) into getting this project up and running. Unfortunately, errors in calculations for the positioning of the wharf, as well as other problems, proved disastrous, and the brothers had to sell the property for a pittance, as well as their own private collections of antiquities.

Adam’s obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine was unequivocal in its judgement—’Mr. Adam produced a total change in the architecture of this country.’ ‘Architecture’ in that context must be understood as an all-embracing term. The papers Adam bequeathed to posterity include designs for organ-cases, sedan-chairs, coach-panels, candlesticks, door-handles, salt-cellars—and over five hundred different fireplaces.

Fireplace, Strawberry Hill

“… the chief merit of the Adam variation of the classical style was its recognition of the ancillary trades and crafts. It had, moreover, the attraction of being economical while retaining the appearance of being costly.”

Sir Albert Richardson (1880-1964)

Robert Adam is buried at Westminster Abbey.

Bookcase designed by Adam and built by Thomas Chippendale

My Pinterest Pages

Robert Adam

Osterley Park

Syon Park

Kenwood House

Harewood House



Quotes are from Robert Adam, by Richard Tames, 2004, Shire Publications.



Drawing of the drawing-room at Derby House, 1777


Gatehouse at Kimbolton Castle

Pulteney Bridge, Bath

Records Office, Edinburgh, 1775

Susana’s Adventures in England: Syon House


If you’re looking for a stately home to visit in or near London, Syon House is a great choice. Located on the Thames across from Kew Gardens, you can get there by Underground (take the District line toward Richmond, get off at Gunnarsbury) and bus, (take the 237 or 267 bus to Brentlea). The pedestrian entrance is on your right when you get off the bus).

Syon House history

Syon began as an abbey, founded in 1415 by Henry V and closed in 1539 by the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, was imprisoned here prior to her execution in 1542. The 1st Duke of Somerset acquired it and had it renovated in Italian Renaissance style. In 1594, the 9th Earl of Northumberland acquired it and has owned it ever since.

A Royal Row

Queen Anne (1705)

Queen Anne (1705)

(from Wikipedia)

In the late 17th century, Syon was in the possession of Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset, through his wife, Elizabeth Seymour (née Percy). After the future Queen Anne had a disagreement with her sister, Mary II (wife of William III, also known as William of Orange), over her friendship with Sarah Churchill, Countess of Marlborough, she was evicted from her court residence at the Palace of Whitehall and stayed at Syon with her close friends, the Somersets, in 1692. Anne gave birth to a stillborn child there. Shortly after the birth, Mary came to visit her, again demanding that Anne dismiss the Countess of Marlborough and stormed out again when Anne flatly refused.

Mary II, 1685

Mary II, 1685

In the 18th century, Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland, commissioned architect and interior designer Robert Adam and landscape designer Lancelot “Capability” Brown to redesign the house and estate. Work began on the interior reconstruction project in 1762. Five large rooms on the west, south and east sides of the House, were completed before work ceased in 1769. A central rotunda, which Adams had intended for the interior courtyard space, was not implemented, due to cost.

Robert Adam!

Robert Adam's plan for Syon House

Robert Adam’s plan for Syon House

from Wikipedia:

Syon House’s exterior was erected in 1547 while under the ownership of the 1st Duke of Somerset. Syon’s current interior was designed by Robert Adam in 1762 under the commission of the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland.

coloredceilingcornerThe well known “Adam style” is said to have begun with Syon House. It was commissioned to be built in the Neo-classical style, which was fulfilled, but Adam’s eclectic style doesn’t end there. Syon is filled with multiple styles and inspirations including a huge influence of Roman antiquity, highly visible Romantic, Picturesque, Baroque and Mannerist styles and a dash of Gothic. There is also evidence in his decorative motifs of his influence by Pompeii that he received while studying in Italy. Adam’s plan of Syon House included a complete set of rooms on the main floor, a domed rotunda with a circular inner colonnade meant for the main courtyard (‘meant for’ meaning that this rotunda was not built due to a lack of funds), five main rooms on the west, east and south side of the building, a pillared ante-room famous for its colour, a Great Hall, a grand staircase (though not built as grand as originally designed) and a Long Gallery stretching 136 feet long. Adam’s most famous addition is the suite of state rooms and as such they remain exactly as they were built.

geometricceiling2More specific to the interior of Adam’s rooms is where the elaborate detail and colour shines through. Adam added detailed marble chimneypieces, shuttering doors and doorways in the Drawing Room, along with fluted columns with Corinthian capitals. The long gallery, which is about 14 feet high and 14 feet wide, contains many recesses and niches into the thick wall for books along with rich and light decoration and stucco-covered walls and ceiling. At the end of the gallery is a closet with a domed circle supported by eight columns; halfway through the columns is a doorway imitating a niche.

More photos on my Syon Park Pinterest Page:







Romance of London: The Lansdowne Family

Romance of London: Strange Stories, Scenes And Remarkable Person of the Great Town in 3 Volumes

John Timbs

John Timbs (1801-1875), who also wrote as Horace Welby, was an English author and aficionado of antiquities. Born in Clerkenwell, London, he was apprenticed at 16 to a druggist and printer, where he soon showed great literary promise. At 19, he began to write for Monthly Magazine, and a year later he was made secretary to the magazine’s proprietor and there began his career as a writer, editor, and antiquarian.

This particular book is available at googlebooks for free in ebook form. Or you can pay for a print version.

William Petty, 1st Marquis Lansdowne

William Petty, 1st Marquis Lansdowne

In 1805 died the second Marquis of Landsdowne, having by this time passed very much out of popular notice, and the principal cause of public regret for his demise was that only a fortnight before his death he had declared his knowledge of the Junius secret [see below], and yet among his papers was to be found no indication that could lead to its discovery. He was succeeded by his eldest son, the Earl of Wycombe, whose first act on coming into possession was to sell almost all of the literary and artistic treasures which his father had accumulated with so much love and labour. The greater part of these were dispersed under the hammer of the auctioneer, many of the pictures going to enrich the Grosvenor, the National, and other galleries; only the Lansdowne MSS. Were kept together, being purchased by the British Museum; while the gallery of antique marbles was the sole portion of the collection for which the Marquis showed any appreciation—his opinion being expressed in the fact that he purchased it from his father’s executors for 6,000l. If, however, this nobleman did not show much respect to his father’s cultivated tastes, he was not without a certain ancestral pride; for he tried to build a vessel on the principle of Sir William Petty’s double-bottomed ship that was to sail against wind and tide—a model of which was then, and is perhaps still, exhibited in the Council-room of the Royal Society. Of nautical habits, he also built near the Southampton Water a marine villa, in which, from dining-hall and private bower to kitchen and scullery, all was utter Gothic, while the gardens belonging to the castle were laid out at Romsey, some ten or twelve miles distant, on a site which formed the original estate of the Petty family.

John Petty, 2nd Marquis of Lansdowne

John Petty, 2nd Marquis of Lansdowne

Here, if not in his yacht voyaging to Ireland or the Continent, he spent most of his time. In London he was a marked man—remarkable for his disregard of dress, and for the pride which he took in appearing on the coldest days in winter without a greatcoat and without gloves. He died in November 1809, and was succeeded by his half-brother, the fourth [third] Marquis, whose first care was to purchase the antique marbles from his sister-in-law, and there at Landsdowne House they may now be seen—some of them, as the youthful Hercules and the Mercury, justly considered the finest statues of the kind that have found their way to this country. As for the pictures, when the Marquis succeeded to the title, in 1809, there was not one in this splendid mansion, with the exception of a few family portraits; but Lord Lansdowne set himself to the formation of a gallery which now comprises nearly 200 pictures of rare interest and value, but miscellaneous in their character, no school nor master predominating unless it be Sir Joshua Reynolds. Some of the portraits in this collection are of great interest. There is the celebrated portrait of Pope by Jervas; Reynolds’s wonderful portrait of Sterne; one of Franklin, by Gainsborough; a beautiful one of Peg Woffington, by Hogarth; Lady Hamilton appears twice—as a bacchante and a gipsy, from the pencil of Romney; Horner, the old college friend of Lord Lansdowne, is not forgotten; but, most interesting of all, there is the lovely portrait of Mrs. Sheridan, as St. Cecilia, painted by Reynolds.

mrs. sheridan

Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, by Gainsborough

It may recall with some vividness the fashion of those times if we record a little incident connected with this portrait. During the short-lived Ministery of “All the Talents,” the Whig leaders celebrated their return to power by a continual found of festivities, in which Sheridan outside all his colleagues. One Sunday (25th of May 1806) he gave a grand dinner; on the Monday following a supper and ball, at which the dancing was prolonged to past eight o’clock next morning; on the Tuesday, a christening, a masque, and another ball, the Prince being present on each occasion, and the Lord Chancellor Erskine and the young Chanceller of the Exchequer, Henry Petty, being conspicuous among the dancers. On the occasion of the dinner, the portrait of Mrs. Sheridan was redeemed for one night only from the pawnbroker’s, and exhibited in its place in the dining-room; when poor Sheridan died, it was still in possession of the pawnbroker; it then fell into the hands of Sheridan’s solicitor, and from him it was purchased for 600l. By Lord Lansdowne. In this little incident we get some glimpses of that conviviality for which the Whigs were distinguished. “Le Whig est la femme de votre Gouvernement,” says Balzac, and the truth of the remark is especially illustrated in that social influence which the Whigs have always cultivated more than the Tories.*

Lansdowne House (1820)

Lansdowne House (1820)

Lansdowne House was built by Robert Adam for the Marquis of Bute, when minister to George III, and sold by the Marquis before completion to Lord Shelburne, afterwards Marquis of Lansdowne, for 22,000l., which was supposed to be 3,000l. Less than it cost. There is, also, a piece of political scandal—that Lansdowne House was constructed by one Peace (Lord Bute’s, in 1762), and paid for by another (Lord Shelburne’s, in 1783).

*From The Times journal

Lansdowne House was partially demolished in the 1930’s to make room for a new road, and some of its noted interiors located elsewhere.

The dining room from Landsdowne House, now located at the Lloyd's Building

The dining room from Landsdowne House, now located at the Lloyd’s Building


A drawing room now found at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

A drawing room now found at the Philadelphia Museum of Art


Lansdowne House ceiling (Robert Adam)

Lansdowne House ceiling (Robert Adam)


*The Junius Secret

Junius was the pseudonym of a man who wrote letters exposing corruption in government from 1768 to 1772. His identity has never been discovered, but was the source of much speculation. If Lord Lansdowne indeed knew it, he died without revealing the secret.

More information on Wikipedia.

The Secret Revealed of the Authorship of Junius’s Letters

Romance of London: Carlton House and the Regency

Romance of London: Strange Stories, Scenes And Remarkable Person of the Great Town in 3 Volumes

John Timbs

John Timbs (1801-1875), who also wrote as Horace Welby, was an English author and aficionado of antiquities. Born in Clerkenwell, London, he was apprenticed at 16 to a druggist and printer, where he soon showed great literary promise. At 19, he began to write for Monthly Magazine, and a year later he was made secretary to the magazine’s proprietor and there began his career as a writer, editor, and antiquarian.

This particular book is available at googlebooks for free in ebook form. Or you can pay for a print version.


The frontage of Carlton House

Carlton House and the Regency

The Prince Regent’s residence at Carlton House is another place frequently mentioned in historical fiction that is no longer in existence. I had heard that it burned down, but Timbs reports the following:

Carlton House having grown dingy in its fittings, and its history prompting many disagreeable associations, the King projected the enlargement and eventually the rebuilding of Buckingham House; Carlton House was taken down in 1826; the columns of the portico have been transferred to the National Gallery. The exact site of this palace of a century is now the opening between the York Column and the foot of Regent Street.


Plan showing the main floor and the suite of reception rooms on the lower ground floor


Carlton House, as a royal palace, existed for nearly a century, and was the scene of many important state events, as well as of much prodigality and bad taste. The house, which fronted St. Alban’s Street and St. James’s Park, was originally built by Henry Boyles, Baron Carlton, on a piece of ground leased to him by Queen Anne, in 1709, at 35l. a year; it is described as “parcel of the Royal Garden, near St. James’s Palace,” and “the wood-work and wilderness adjoining.” From Lord Carlton the house and grounds descended to his nephew, Lord Burlington, the architect: he bested it, in 1732, upon his mother, the Countess Dowager of Burlington, who, in the same year, transferred it to Frederick, Prince of Wales, father of George III. The House was a building of red brick, with wings, and was afterwards cased with stone by Sir Robert Taylor. In Lord Burlington’s time, the grounds, which ran westward as far as Marlborough House, were laid out by Kent, in imitation of Pope’s garden at Twickenham. There is a large and fine engraving of the grounds by Woollett; bowers, grottoes, and terminal busts abounding.

Under the Prince Regent (George IV)

When, in 1783, the Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV, was allowed a separate establishment, Carlton House was assigned for his residence, and Holland, the architect, was called in, and added the chief features,—the Ionic screen and the Corinthian portico, fronting Pall Mall. [Horace] Walpole writes to the Countess of Ossor, in the autumn of 1785:

We went to see the Prince’s new palace in Pall Mall; and were charmed. It will be the most perfect in Europe. There is an august simplicity that astonished me. You cannot call it magnificent: it is the taste and propriety that strike. Every ornament is at a proper distance and not one too large, but all delicate and now, with more freedom and variety than Greek ornaments… As Gobert [French architect]… designed the decorations, I expected a more tawdry assemblage of fantastic vagaries than in Mrs. Cornelys’s masquerade-rooms. [Teresa Cornelys, operatic soprano, held many fashionable gatherings at Carlisle House, had many lovers, and bore a child of Casanova.]… There are three most spacious apartments, all looking on the lovely garden, a terrace, the state apartment, and an attic. The portico, vestibule, hall, and staircase will be superb, and, to my taste, full of perspectives; the jewel of all is a small music-room, that opens into a green recess and winding walk of the garden… I forgot to tell you how admirably all the carving, stucco, and ornaments are executed; but whence the money is to come I conceive not—all the tin mines of Cornwall would not pay a quarter. How sick one shall be after this chaste palace, of Mr. Adam’s [Robert Adam, popular 18th century architect] gingerbread and sippets of embroidery!


The main staircase, from Pyne’s Royal Residences (1819)

Timbs’s later assessment was not so kind. He says that the conservatory, “imitated from Henry VII’s Chapel, was a failure,” the blue velvet draperies “heavy and dark”; and the “Gothic dining-room was poor.” He found the armory to be “the most curious collection of arms in the world, [filling] four rooms.”

Here was John Hamden’s sword, said to be the work of Cellini; and a golden throne of the King of Candy was backed with a sun of diamonds and precious stones. Here, too, were arms from all nations—caps, boots, spurs, turbans, shields, bows, dresses, models of horses, helmets, sabres, swords, daggers, canopies, palanquins, guns, coats of mail, and other costly presents from all parts of the world.

In the plate-room were some fine specimens of King Charles’s plate; other plate was disposed in the centre of the room, in columns of gold and silver plates, and dishes, and drawers filled with gold and silver knives, forks, spoons, &c.…

The palace was superbly fitted for the Prince’s marriage: 26,000l. Was voted for furnishing, 28,000l. For jewels and plate, and 27,000l for the expense of the marriage. Here was born the Princess Charlotte, January 16, 1796, and the baptism took place on February 11; here, also, the Princess was married, May 2, 1816.

The Fête of June 19, 1811

The most magnificent State event of the Regency was the event given at Carlton House on June 19, 1811, being then the only experiment ever made to give a supper to 2,000 of the nobility and gentry. Covers were laid for 400 in the palace, and for 1,600 in the pavilions and gardens. The fête was attended by Louis XVIII, and the French princes then in exile; and a vast assemblage of beauty, rank, and fashion. The saloon at the foot of the staircase represented a bower with a grotto, lined with a profusion of shrubs and flowers. The grand table extended the whole length of the conservatory, and across Carlton House to the length of 200 feet. Along the centre of the table, about six inches above the surface, a canal of pure water continued flowing from a silver fountain, beautifully constructed at the head of the table. Its banks were covered with green moss and aquatic flowers; gold and silver fish swam and sported through the bubbling current, which produced a pleasing murmur where it fell, and formed a cascade at the outlet. At the head of the table, above the fountain, sat His Royal Highness the Prince Regent on a plain mahogany chair with a feather back. The most particular friends of the Prince were arranged on each side. They were attended by sixty servitors; seven waited on the Prince, besides six of the King’s, and six of the Queen’s footmen, in their state liveries, with one man in a complete suit of ancient armour.


Fencing Match between Chevalier de Saint-Georges and ‘La chevalière D’Eon’ on April 9, 1787 in Carlton House, painting by Charles Jean Robineau

Historical tidbit

Timbs mentions that the portico of Carlton House was the site of the “first public application of the newly-invented lighting by gas.”

Author’s Reflections

I’m thinking the fête might come in hand for a scene in my next story—as an example of the decadence and excess of the Prince Regent. What do you think?


Romance of London Series

  1. Romance of London: The Lord Mayor’s Fool… and a Dessert
  2. Romance of London: Carlton House and the Regency
  3. Romance of London: The Championship at George IV’s Coronation
  4. Romance of London: Mrs. Cornelys at Carlisle House
  5. Romance of London: The Bottle Conjuror
  6. Romance of London: Bartholomew Fair
  7. Romance of London: The May Fair and the Strong Woman
  8. Romance of London: Nancy Dawson, the Hornpipe Dancer
  9. Romance of London: Milkmaids on May-Day
  10. Romance of London: Lord Stowell’s Love of Sight-seeing
  11. Romance of London: The Mermaid Hoax
  12. Romance of London: The Bluestocking and the Sweeps’ Holiday
  13. Romance of London: Comments on Hogarth’s “Industries and Idle Apprentices”
  14. Romance of London: The Lansdowne Family
  15. Romance of London: St. Margaret’s Painted Window at Westminster
  16. Romance of London: Montague House and the British Museum
  17. Romance of London: The Bursting of the South Sea Bubble
  18. Romance of London: The Thames Tunnel
  19. Romance of London: Sir William Petty and the Lansdowne Family
  20. Romance of London: Marlborough House and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough
  21. Romance of London: The Duke of Newcastle’s Eccentricities
  22. Romance of London: Voltaire in London
  23. Romance of London: The Crossing Sweeper
  24. Romance of London: Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s Fear of Assassination
  25. Romance of London: Samuel Rogers, the Banker Poet
  26. Romance of London: The Eccentricities of Lord Byron
  27. Romance of London: A London Recluse

Susana’s 2015 English Adventure: Week 2

Hatfield House

Hatfield House is a Jacobean manor built by Robert Cecil, the son of William Cecil, the most trusted advisor of Elizabeth I. Robert succeeded his father as Elizabeth’s advisor, eventually becoming an advisor of James I as well. Robert Cecil is the one who discovered the plot of Guy Fawkes and others to blow up the House of Lords. A later Cecil (James) was made Marquis of Salisbury, and the Salisburys still own and live at Hatfield House more than 500 years later.

Hatfield Palace, which stood nearby (of which only a banquet room remains) was where all of Henry VIII’s children (Mary, Elizabeth, and Edward) were raised. It was here where Elizabeth learned that she was queen after the death of her sister Mary.


Elizabeth I

Photos of Hatfield House

Kenwood House

William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, bought the house in 1754 and commissioned Robert Adam to remodel it, which he did from 1764-1779. The library is a masterpiece of Robert Adam genius, but the rest of the house is equally splendid. It is a pity that most of the original Adam-designed furniture was dispersed long ago, but a later owner, a Lord Iveagh, purchased the house in 1925 and displayed his fabulous collection of paintings there before leaving the house and its contents to the nation in 1927.


Lord Mansfield and his wife never had children of their own, but they did take in two young daughters of nephews: Lady Elizabeth Murray and Dido Belle, who was a mixed-race daughter of an enslaved West Indian woman. Dido Belle was the subject of a recent film, Belle.

Dido Belle and Elizabeth Murray

Dido Belle and Elizabeth Murray

Pictures of Kenwood House

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace needs no introduction from me. I scheduled my trip this year so that I could visit, since it’s only open to visitors when the Queen is on holiday in Scotland (August and September). No photographs allowed, so I pinned these from other people’s Pinterest boards.

Here’s Squidgeworth ready to enjoy a coffee and scone with me after the tour.


Pictures of Buckingham Palace

Osterley Park

Built by Sir Thomas Gresham, financial advisor of Elizabeth I, Osterley Park was later purchased by Robert Child, a wealthy banker, who left it (and his entire fortune) to his granddaughter, Sarah Fane, who married George Villiers and became Lady Jersey (yes, Sally Jersey, one of the patronesses at Almack’s during the Regency period) a year later. But the house has been little used, as the Jerseys preferred spending their time at other properties. Here you will see not only the Robert Adam touches, but also nearly all of the original furniture, including the room where Adam worked and some of his drawings.


Pictures of Osterley Park

Devizes & the Bear Hotel


The Bear Inn was once owned by the father of a young Thomas Lawrence, who used to charm the clientele by reciting poetry and drawing likenesses. He was quite good, and was eventually knighted for his portrait painting. See my blog post here.

Pictures of Devizes


Squidgeworth and I had a very enjoyable two days in Bath, staying at the Brooks Guesthouse, where I stayed three years ago on my Rick Steves tour. Here I visited No. 1 Royal Crescent, the Jane Austen Centre, the Victoria Art Gallery, the Holburne Museum, the Assembly Rooms and Fashion Museum (second visit), and Sally Lunn’s.

Here’s Squidgeworth saying goodbye to Bath.


Pictures of Bath