‘I din’d, together with Lord Ossorie and the (Earl) of Chesterfield, at the Portugal (Embassy), now newly come, at Cleveland House, a noble palace, to good for that infamous…the staircase is sumptuous, and the gallerie and gardens..” — John Evelyn, Memoirs (1641 – 1705)
I’m sure he meant to say “whore.” Barbara Villiers was the most infamous mistress of Charles II, first Lady of the Bedchamber to his queen, Catherine of Braganza, of little dowry and no heir. I highly recommend Charles II: The Power and the Passion, a TV series starring Rufus Sewell.
Anyway… my lady Castlemaine, Barbara Villiers, was made Duchess of Clevelend. She purchased Berkshire House, an isolated mansion separated from Westminster by a deer park. Surrounding properties were also acquired and two wings were added to the mansion, now called Cleveland House.
By 1700, the Earl of Bridgewater had purchased most of the property, a rambling collection of unrealted houses surrounding an area some called “Cleveland Square.” Frances Egerton (1736 – 1803), third and last Duke of Bridgweater largely rebuilt the mansion using James Lewis, neo-classical architect. His great painting collection was housed there, in the tradition set by Lansdowne House and other London mansions that showed off the political and intellectual influence of their aristocratic owners. Even the Orleans paintings, the spoils of the French Revolution, found their way into the former whore’s house.
The 3rd Duke died, unmarried. He bequeathed the mansion and its fabulous collection to Earl Gower, owner of Stafford House of the previous post.
From the lengthy description of Cleveland House given by British History Online:
George Granville Leveson-Gower, Earl Gower, who was the third Duke’s nephew, became Marquis of Stafford in 1803, shortly after his uncle’s death. He carried on the third Duke’s work of restoration at Cleveland House and had a new gallery built, designed by Charles Heathcote Tatham, to accommodate his own as well as his uncle’s pictures. The new gallery was opened tot he public in May 1806.
In 1840, the whole of the original part of Cleveland House was demolished. The roof was falling in and the supporting walls were found to be quite derelict. Interestingly enough, Lord Francis Leveson-Gower, the 2nd son of Earl Gower, Marquis of Stafford and lastly Duke of Sutherland, was charged by the trust which devolved the house to him in accordance with his father’s will for an amount of money equal to the waste he incurred by the demolition. The Bridgewater estates, including the mansion, still belonged to the duchy of Sutherland and Lord Francis had only a life estate in them. Therefore he was charged with their upkeep.
Demolition of the whorehouse is not quite what the Trust had in mind.