Too Good for that Infamous ‘Whore’ – Bridgewater House

‘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.

remember this one?

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.

Bridgewater House bombed in the Blitz

Great Regency Fortunes

Lansdowne, Holland, Devonshire and the others–great London residences that were also Whig powerhouses of Regency London. We leave them now, along with their satellites Kenwood and No. 10 St. James. Time to visit the London palaces built with Tory fortunes.

Richard Rush, by Thomas Sully
Yes, but can the American tie his neckcloth properly?

In 1817, the United States sent a most unlikely ambassador to Regency Britain. Richard Rush was the son of Benjamin Rush, prominent physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Upon entering service with the federal government, Rush became one of President Madison’s closest advisors. He was a strong advocate for waging the War of 1812 with Britain. When John Quincy Adams returned from Europe, Rush was no doubt was surprised as everyone else when he was appointed to take Adams’ place as the new Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain.

He remained in England for eight years and became very popular there, successfully negotiating a number of important treaties with Britain and laying down the foundation of a “special” relationship between the U.S. and the “mother ship” — the foundation of the world’s most strategic alliance.

His “Residence at the Court of London,” a journal of the time he spent as ambassador shows remarkable insight into the latter years of Regency England.

He made the following observation:

At dinner, I sat between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Lord Lynedoch. Speak-
ing of the property-tax, the former mentioned that the four largest incomes in the kingdom,
as returned under it while in operation, were those of the Duke of Northumberland, Earl
Grosvenor, the Marquis of Stafford, and the Earl of Bridgewater ; these, he said, were the
richest Peers in England, and there were no Commoners whose incomes were returned as

It was estimated each of these noblemen enjoyed an income of over 100,000 pounds sterling a year–an enormous sum at the time.

Their London homes were among the finest. Well-worth a visit.

Will you join me?