OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Landmarks of Old London page 2

Pages: 1 <2>

As we leave the Strand we pass by the Adelphi of the Adams' creation - the Adelphi so often threatened and now apparently within sight of the inevitable end.

Sir Robert Peel once said that the view from the National Gallery across Trafalgar Square down Whitehall was the finest in Europe; and we all remember Dr. Johnson's assertion that here beyond all spots the full tide of humanity flowed. The square is not so fine as it might be and the National Gallery is frankly hideous; but when one remembers that before this space was cleared a row of houses ran in a semicircle at the spot where Nelson's Column was to rise, and the space behind was occupied by the solid uninspired buildings of the Royal Mews, one can realize how great an improvement took place here even if the "Golden Cross" of David Copperfield's recollection had to go.

Of another landmark, the unwieldly ramshackle palace of Whitehall, nothing remains but the lovely fragment of Inigo Jones's contriving, sole relic of a new royal residence which had it materialised would have rivalled the Louvre and outshone the Escurial. Just as the great houses of the Tudor nobles congregated in the Strand, so those of Caroline and Georgian times invaded Whitehall, and as the palace became a ruin and was finally removed, so Fife House and Richmond House (Richmond Terrace perpetuates its name), Pembroke House and Carring-ton House, Portland House and Stanhope House and Rochester House arose. Gwydyr House and Dover House are all that actually remain of these once splendid palaces, for Wallingford House, where Buckingham lived before going to York House, has been converted into the Admiralty and its uninspired lines (Ripley was the architect) are mercifully concealed by Robert Adam's graceful screen.

As fashion moved westward these great houses were in turn deserted, and Mayfair and, later still, Belgravia became peopled by those who had once lived in Whitehall and Bloomsbury and Soho, just as these centres had before been inhabited by those who had earlier still resided in Fleet Street and the Strand and in the heart of the City itself.

Great houses are great landmarks of a special kind, for not only are they often architecturally arresting as monuments, but they are, as a rule, filled with the wonders of art in all its expositions, as well as with innumerable memories. Some of these have gone in recent years, or have been turned to alien uses; and Piccadilly can no longer boast the presence of Burlington House in its original form, or Clarendon House, where Albemarle Street is to-day, or Devonshire House, which has become a massive monumental structure full of the ghosts, one thinks, which must have haunted the lordly abode it has swallowed up.

Piccadilly still possesses, however, Apsley House, the 'No. 1 London' of the foreigner's felicitous phrase, and the beautiful home of the St. James's Club which Sir Hugh Hunloke built and the Earl of Coventry inhabited, and Cambridge House, where Lord Palmerston lived. But that famous thoroughfare has little else left in the form many can remember. Perhaps the one dominant overspreading note of a single period to be found in London is the earlier Georgianism of Westminster and Mayfair and the later of Marylebone and Bloomsbury. But even in these fastnesses rebuilding is coming, and we shall soon have to search for the Victorianism of Tyburnia and Belgravia, and for the Neo-Georgianism of the far-flung areas where Holland House still lives brooding among the surrounding trees, which year by year seem to grow fewer and less protective.

<<< Previous page <<<
Pages: 1 <2>

Pictures for Landmarks of Old London page 2

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About