CHAPTER 6: LXXXVII—DOVER HOUSE (FORMERLY KNOWN AS YORK HOUSE AND MELBOURNE HOUSE)
The property is the freehold of the Crown, and is used for the purposes of the Scottish Office and the Scottish Education Department.
History of the Structure and Site.
The greater portion of the site of Dover House was in 1670 covered
by the lodgings of the Duke of Ormonde (James, the 1st Duke) and Colonel
Darcy. When reporting on the subject of a new lease of the premises in 1696,
Wren stated that he understood ("wee are very credibly informed") that
the greater part had been built at the cost of the first Duke. (fn. 1) As Ormonde
only arrived in London with Charles II at the end of May, 1660, and was
certainly in occupation of the premises in August of that year, (fn. 2) it is difficult
to imagine that they had been erected in this short interval, and it is necessary to suppose that he found some building on the site, and afterwards to a
large extent reconstructed it. What the original building was, there is practically no evidence to show. (fn. 3) As has already been pointed out (see p. 38),
it is probable that a portion of the site had at one time been occupied by the
little open tennis court. (fn. 4)
On 1st February, 1674, an order was given (fn. 5) for "a new brick building to be errected adioyning to the lodgings belonging to His Grace, the
Duke of Ormond, Lord Steward, being about seventy foot in length and about
Twenty foot in front towards the parke, at the cost and charges of the Right
Honoble the Earle of Ossory, (fn. 6) and to have and possesse the same for his owne
use." The rear wall of these premises is probably indicated by the thickened
line (21 feet 4 inches long) shown on the plan of the Ormonde property in
1696 (see p. 58). This site agrees perfectly with the representations of
the building in the views reproduced in Plates 3, 4 (see p. 103).
Butler, Duke of
Col. Darcy also was in occupation soon after the Restoration, for a reference (fn. 7)
occurs to works done in July, 1660, to "Mr Darcyes lodgings." The Darcy
rooms had originally formed part of the duke's premises. (fn. 8) On 23rd September, 1689, "those roomes under the staires going into St. James Parke
out of the long Gallery in Whitehall in which Mr. Darcy did lodge"
were ordered to be delivered to Richard Hampden, (fn. 9) who in the following
year became Chancellor of the Exchequer. He resigned in February,
1693–4, being succeeded by Charles Montague, and on 24th July of that
year, an order (fn. 10) was given "to marke ye roomes under ye Great Staires going
into St. James's Parke for ye Rt. Honble Charles Montague Esqr. Chanler
of ye Exchequer, which do belong to his Office."
Ormonde died on 21st July, 1688, (fn. 11) and in 1696 the 2nd Duke,
his grandson, applied for a new lease. In Wren's report, (fn. 12) dated 24th March
of that year, on the application, we have the first description of the Ormonde
premises. They adjoined the Holbein Gate, and intermingled with them on
"ye Second Story" (fn. 13) were (i) a "publick Gallery" (the Tilt-yard Gallery)
and (ii) another passage leading from the gallery southward towards the
Cockpit. They are described as bounded on the south by the Lord Chamberlain's lodgings, on the west partly by Mr. Montague's lodgings, (fn. 14) and
partly by St. James's Park and the passage leading to the Cockpit buildings,
north by the Tilt Yard, and east by the open way (now thrown into Whitehall)
leading to King Street. The plan accompanying Wren's report is here
reproduced. A lease of the property for forty-two years was granted, the
two galleries referred to being excepted therefrom.
The evidence of the ratebooks shows that from 1710 to 1715 the
lodgings were in the occupation of the Earl of Arran, Ormonde's brother.
In the latter year Ormonde joined the Old Pretender, and was attainted for
high treason. The grant became forfeit, (fn. 15) and in the following year (1716)
we find the house in the occupation of Hugh Boscawen, (fn. 16) Comptroller of the
Household. On 19th July, 1716, notice was given to Sir Christopher Wren
that His Majesty had been "Pleased to give Leave to the Right Honourable
Mr Boscowen … to fitt up the Lodgings appointed him att the Cockpitt
att his Own Expence," and about the same time (12th July) Boscawen was
granted permission "to enclose the Passage Gallery from Mr Secretary
Stanhopes Lodging to the Park Stairs, and the Great gallery from Mr
Vanhulls to them, and to Pull downe ye said Stairs: also to enclose a Little
part of the Ground in ye Park [and] to keep the materialls when Pull[ed]
downe till such time as the Building is finished." (fn. 17)
Plan of the Duke of Ormonde's premises in 1696.
Copied from plan preserved
in the Public Record Office
It is obvious that the demolition of the Park Stairs must have involved
the destruction of the Darcy rooms, which were underneath, and the plan
accompanying the lease of the premises to Boscawen (fn. 18) (which was granted in
1717, for a period of 31 years) shows that this was the case. The premises
are described as "all that Mesuage Tenement or Lodging … scituate in
or near that part of the Palace of Whitehall called the Cockpitt … on the
West Side of the Street leading from Charing Cross to Westminster, abutting
on the said Street East, on the House or Lodging in the Poss[ess]ion of the …
Lord Viscount Stanhope South, on St. James's Parke West, and on the Tilt
Yard North, containing in Front to the said Street One hundred and One
Feet, … Which said Premises are irregular and consist of many Breaks,"
except such rooms built over any part of the premises which belonged to
Lord Stanhope, and any rooms standing above the premises in the possession
of William Van Huls. (fn. 19) Boscawen's expenditure in repairing and rebuilding
the premises was estimated at £2800.
In 1719 he obtained possession of Van Huls' rooms (see p. 22),
and in 1721 he applied for and obtained a new lease which included not
only those rooms, but a portion of St. James's Park 102 feet long by 62 feet
wide, and a part of the Tilt Yard 83 feet long by 25 feet wide. The whole
premises now contained 127 feet along the street, 145 feet on the north side
towards the Tilt Yard and St. James's Park and 102 feet on the west by the
Park. (fn. 20)
Boscawen, who in 1720 had been created Viscount Falmouth, died
in 1734, leaving the house to his widow (fn. 21) for her lifetime. In 1738 the latter
asked that, in consideration of the great sums she had laid out in repairing the premises, and the further repairs which were necessary, the lease
might be extended so as to fill up the existing term to fifty years. The report
on the petition stated (fn. 22) that it appeared that there had been an encroachment
on the Tilt Yard of about 69 feet 2 inches in length, with a breadth of about
6 feet towards the street and 3 feet towards the Park, on which some additional
offices and conveniences had been erected; that, owing to the low situation
of the house, considerable expense had had to be incurred in lead and terrace
work to keep it dry at Spring tides; and that the late viscount had new-fronted
it towards the Park and Tilt Yard; but that in other respects it was an old,
bad building, which required "great repairs to support and keep it up."
As a result, a reversionary lease of the old premises, as well as a lease of that
which had been encroached upon, was granted, (fn. 23) to expire in 1789.
On the death of the
viscountess in 1754 the
premises came into the
market. (fn. 24) In the same year
they were purchased by Sir
and the report (fn. 25) on his petition for a reversionary lease
states that "part of the sd
Buildings are some of the
remains of the palace that
were not burnt down [in
1698], & other part thereof
was built about 40 years ago,
but all of them are in so
ruinous a Condition that the
petr proposes to pull the
whole down & Rebuild."
A plan of the premises as
then existing was attached
to the report, and is here reproduced. On 20th March, 1755, a new
lease for 50 years was granted. Sir Matthew duly carried out his intention, (fn. 26) and erected a new house from the designs of James Paine. (fn. 27) This
was substantially the house as at present existing. According to Paine,
the building was finished in 1758. (fn. 28) Unlike the old premises the new house
was not built flush with the street, and in fact occupied the site of the old
garden. The owner of the adjoining house to the south, the Duke of Dorset,
entered a caveat against this proposal, but withdrew it on condition that Sir
Matthew should "leave a vacant space of 15 ft between the House Wch he
proposes to erect … & the pales next the Parade, & likewise a vacant space
of 11 ft between such House & the Garden Wall belonging to the Duke of
Dorsett." on Sir Matthew's protest, however, the restriction was limited
to a provision that he should not erect any building, rails or pales higher than
the duke's garden wall within 15 feet of the Park, or within 11 feet of the
duke's garden wall for the space of 25 feet from the Park. (fn. 29)
Plan of Sir Matthew Featherstonehaugh's premises before Paine's rebuilding.
Copied from plan preserved in the Public Record Office
Featherstonehaugh in 1774, and in the same year his widow
obtained a reversionary lease of the premises for 19 years as from 20th March,
1805. (fn. 30) On 4th December, 1787, she sold the house to H.R.H. Prince
Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (fn. 31) The premises are described as "all
that piece … of ground whereon a messuage … or lodging …
formerly stood, situate in or near that part of the Palace of Whitehall called
the Cockpitt … on the west side of a street leading from Charing Cross
to Westminster, abutting on the said street east, upon houses or lodgings
heretofore in the possession of the Earl of Stanhope and afterwards of His
Grace the Dukeof Dorsett south, on St James's Park wall west, and on the
Tilt Yard north, containing in front to the said street 101 feet; and all that
piece … of ground … part of St James's Park adjoining, containing in
length 102 feet and in breadth 62 feet; and also that one other parcel of
ground in the Tilt Yard also adjoining, containing in length 83 feet and
in breadth 25 feet; all which said pieces … of ground contain together
in length toward the aforesaid street … 127 feet, and in breadth abutting
on the Tilt Yard and St James's Park north 135 feet and to the west 102 feet,
and south on the house heretofore in the possession of the Earl of Stanhope
and afterwards of the said Duke of Dorset (except all rooms and chambers
built over any part of the of the premises which heretofore belonged to the Duke
of Dorset), and all that piece … of ground heretofore an encroachment on
the Tilt Yard within His Majesty's Palace of Whitehall, containing in front
to the said street 6 feet and in length 69 feet 2 inches, abutting east on the
said street, west and north on the said Tilt Yard, and south on the premises
above described; which said messuage and other buildings have been taken
down, and a large brick messuage … with stables, coach-house …
have been erected on the several pieces of ground above described, heretofore
in the occupation of Dame Sarah Featherstonehaugh, containing in front
to the said street … 139 feet 2 inches, … and next St James's
Park … 103 feet 2 inches, on the north side next ground and
buildings belonging to the Horse Guards 146 feet, and on the south
side … 144 feet."
The duke at once set about improving the premises, and in the
following year obtained the royal permission to extend the iron rails before
the west front of his house
11½ feet towards the Parade,
and to "erect a Portico and
extend it across the Footway
in the East Front of his said
House." (fn. 32) The portico, as
well as the well-known circular hall, were thereupon
added by Henry Holland,
the duke's architect. (fn. 33) Here
is reproduced a ground plan
of the house showing by
hatched lines "the soffeat of
the portico proposed to be
extended over the Footway,
Whitehall." On the other
side of the street the duke
erected stabling on the site
of the old Lottery Office. (fn. 34)
On 31st October, 1792, he
obtained a reversionary lease
of York House, as well as a
lease of the Lottery Office,
both to expire in 1842.
Ground plan of York House, Whitehall.
Copied from plan preserved in the
Public Record Office
The duke soon tired of
his new residence, and began
to covet Lord Melbourne's
mansion in Piccadilly (the central portion of The Albany). (fn. 35) Lady
Melbourne for her part was quite as eager to obtain York House.
An exchange was, therefore, effected, and on 7th November, 1792, (fn. 36) the
duke assigned to Melbourne "the Capital Mess[uag]e or Tenement, with the
Stables, Coach houses & other Offices thereunto belongg … lately called
York House, but now called … Melbourne House," as well as the stabling
on the other side of Whitehall.
On 17th November, 1823, Melbourne obtained (fn. 37) an extension of
(which otherwise would expire on 31st October, 1842) for a further
years and 44 days.
Melbournerne died in 1828, and on 29th September, 1830, his executors
sold the premises to the Rt. Hon. George James Welbore Agar-Ellis, (fn. 38) who
in the following year was created Baron Dover. Thus Melbourne House
became Dover House.
On the expiry of the lease in 1883, Lady Clifden, the widow of Lord
Dovers son, who was then in possession, continued to occupy the house for
a few years on a yearly tenancy. (fn. 39) In 1885, however, the premises were
resumed by the Crown and have since been used for the purposes of the
Description of the Building
The west elevation, overlooking Horse Guards Parade, is executed
Portland stone, and consists of a restrained symmetrical design
embracing three storeys and an attic with dormer windows in a slate mansard roof (fn. 40)
(Plates 43, 44). The wall surface is rusticated, with the jointing of the
ground storey more defined. The ground-floor windows finish at the floor
level, and similar treatment is carried out to the principal floor; the windows
of the latter, however, are enhanced with architraves springing from panelled
dies, and have pedimented heads. The focal point of the façade is a large
three-light centre window within an arched recess, divided by Ionic columns
dics supporting a moulded head at the springing, above which is a panelled
tympanum. The windows to the floor above have moulded architraves.
The whole composition is completed by a delicate modillion cornice surmounted
by a high balustraded parapet. Subsequent to the erection of the
building a verandah with glass-and-iron roof was placed at the first-floor
level, but the roofing was removed some years ago.
On either side of the facç are slightly recessed wings, the height of
which was originally limited by the agreement with the Duke of Dorset (see
p. 61). The southern wing has, however, since been carried up higher, and
the symmetry of the front impaired.
The elevation of the main block to Whitehall (Plates 45, 46) is
more restrained, and has low projecting wings which formerly contained
offices and stabling. The general effect as seen from the road is dominated
by the entrance portico and screen wall.
When the Duke of York acquired the premises, Holland altered the
old entrance hall at the ground level, and constructed a new entrance which
occupied the site of the porter's lodge and part of the open courtyard. His
scheme included the circular hall, whence a flight of steps leads to an upper
hall on the first floor, formerly the ante-chamber. The entrance comprises
a portico of four columns of the Ionic order supporting a pedimented entablature, while a curtain wall extends on each flank to the projecting wings.
Detached Ionic columns with, a blocked entablature supporting vase terminals
ornament this curtain wall, while the general surface is rusticated, and the
whole is crowned with a balustraded parapet above a moulded cornice.
A small vestibule leads to the circular hall (Plate 49), which has a
range of eight Doric columns supporting an entablature, while above, upon
a shallow drum, springs a saucer-domed ceiling containing a circular lantern
light. The columns are executed in scagliola representing Sienna marble,
and half of them are on high cylindrical pedestals, screening the passage
to the rooms on the ground level of the main building. The remainder of
the columns are supported on a curved podium wall, against which finish the
ends of the segmental steps leading to the upper hall on the first floor. An
external lead dome of a flat pitch forms the roof over the circular hall.
Corner of coved ceiling in Room No. 19.
Room No. 4 (Plate 50) on the ground level has a screen of Ionic
columns, which was probably introduced when the room was enlarged, and
takes the place of the wall shown on the plan of the premises by Paine.
This room also contains a decorative marble mantelpiece.
The upper hall (Plate 52), rearranged by Holland, (fn. 41) gives access to the
main rooms. It is an eight-sided apartment, and contains a decorative plaster
ceiling with an enriched cornice and frieze. The mantelpiece is executed in
marble, and has term-shaped angle pilasters with goats' heads and Ionic caps.
Above the shelf is a modelled plaster circular panel illustrating a family group.
The rooms on the principal floors are lofty, and generally, with the
exception of one or two features, plain.
Room No. 21 has a modillion cornice and an ornamental plaster
ceiling, divided into panels by ribs enriched with the guilloche, while the
panels are decorated with acanthus leafage, and scrolls (Plate 53). The
marble mantelpiece is ornamented with caryatides supporting the shelf,
while the frieze contains a delicate design of foliated scrolls (Plate 54).
Rooms Nos. 19 and 20 have plaster cornices with coupled trusses,
which support a cove to the ceilings. The coves contain a scrollwork around
cartouches bearing the arms of Lord Dover. Room No. 19 has a mantelpiece
in marble with Doric columns, which support a frieze containing the
fret (Plate 5).
The mantelpieces in some of the other rooms are of a decorative character,
and are executed in marble. Room No. 18 has a statuary and Sienna
marble mantelpiece, with a central tablet containing a representation of
Androcles and the Lion" (Plate 54).
Some of the rooms on the second floor have carved wood mantelpieces
with foliated. trusses (Plate 56), and the main corridor has a groin-vaulted
plaster ceiling (Plate 56).
Condition of Repair.
The following is a list (compiled from ratebooks, directories, etc.) of the occupiers of
|1756–74||Sir Matthew Featherstonehaugh|
|1777–78||The French Ambassador|
|1788–92||The Duke of York|
|Lt.-Col. Sir W. Stirling|
The ratebooks show the house in the occupation of "Sr Matt. Featherstone" from 1756
to 1776. This a mistake, for Sir Matthew Featherstonehaugh, Bt., died on 24th March, 1774,
at his house near the Horse Guards." He is described as "member in the last and present parliament
for Portsmouth, and before for Morpeth in Northumberland; a governor of St. Thomas's
and Middlesex hospitals, and F.R.S." (fn. 42)
According to the rate books for 1777 and 1778 the French Ambassador was then resident
in the house. This was the Marquis de Noailles. On the outbreak of war with France in 1778
he was compelled leave, (fn. 43) and the ratebooks for 1779 to 1787 show that he was succeeded in
his occupation of the house by Lord Amherst.
Jeffrey Amherst, Baron Amherst, was born in 1717. As a boy he entered the service of the
Duke of Dorset, who in 1731 procured him an ensigncy in the Guards. He showed great abilities,
and was rapidly promoted until he became lieutenant-colonel in 1756. In 1758 he became majorgeneral, and was sent out by Pitt in command of the expedition to North America. The enterprise
was crowned with brilliant success, and Montreal surrendered in 1760. Amherst was appointed
Governor-General of British North America, received the thanks of Parliament, and the Knighthood
of the Bath. His subsequent proceedings (against the Indians) were not so successful, and he
returned to England in 1763. In 1768 he was made Governor of Virginia, and in 1770 of Guernsey.
From 1772 to 1782 and again from 1783 to 1793 he was officiating Commander-in-Chief, and from
the latter year to 1795 Commander-in-Chief. In 1796 he was made Field-Marshal. In 1776 he
had been created Baron Amherst, and in 1787 was re-created with remainder to his nephew. He
died in 1797. "His greatest glory is to have conquered Canada; and if much of that glory belongs
to Pitt and Wolfe, neither Pitt's combinations nor Wolfe's valour would have been effectual without
Amherst's steady purpose and unflinching determination." (fn. 44)
Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany, second son of George III, was born in 1763.
From 1781 to 1787 he was on the Continent, studying languages and military tactics. On his
return to England he bought Lady Featherstonehaugh's house and resided there for five years.
This period included his duel with Colonel Lennox, in which he showed to much advantage, and
his marriage. On the outbreak of war in 1793 he was put in command of the English army in
Flanders, and miserably failed. On returning in 1795 he was promoted to be Field-Marshal, and
in 1798 was appointed Commander-in-Chief. In 1799 he was placed in command of the army
destined to invade Holland, and for a second time failed. In 1809 he was forced to retire from his
position as Commander-in-Chief owing to the scandal arising from the sale of commissions by Mrs.
Clarke, but was reappointed in 1811. He died in 1827. He founded the Duke of York's School,
in Chelsea (removed in 1894–5 to Dover) for the sons of soldiers.
Peniston Lamb, 1st Viscount Melbourne, son of Sir Matthew Lamb, was born in 1748.
He entered Parliament in 1768 as member for Ludgershall, and in the same year succeeded to the
baronetcy. He was elevated to the peerage of Ireland in 1770 by the title of Lord Melbourne,
Baron of Hilmore, and was created a viscount in 1781. In 1815 he became Baron Melbourne in
the peerage of the United Kingdom. He died in 1828 "at Melbourne-house, Whitehall." (fn. 45)
William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, was born in 1779 in Melbourne House,
Piccadilly, but must have spent part of his boyhood in Melbourne House, Whitehall. (fn. 46)
He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1804 he was called to
the Bar, but in the following year, on the death of his elder brother, gave up the law for politics.
In 1806 he entered Parliament. In 1827 he was appointed Irish Secretary by Canning, but resigned
office in the following year with the rest of the Canningites. He succeeded his father as viscount
in 1829, and in 1830 became Home Secretary in Grey's ministry. He had an exceptionally difficult task in dealing with a country on the verge of revolution. On the resignation of Grey in 1834
he formed a ministry, but was forced to retire in favour of Peel at the end of the year. The latter,
however, was unable to carry on, and in April, 1835, Melbourne's second term of office began,
and lasted for six years, during the last four of which he acted as adviser to the young Queen. He
died on 24th November, 1848. Melbourne seems to have entered into occupation of the Whitehall
house on his father's death, and the issues of Boyle's Court Guide for the years 1830 and 1831
(implying a residence in 1829–30) show Viscount Melbourne, (fn. 47) the Hon. Sir F. Lamb and the Hon.
George Lamb at the house. As it was sold to Ellis in September, 1830, Melbourne's occupation
must have ceased at that date. (fn. 48)
George James Welbore Agar-Ellis, 1st Baron Dover, only son of Henry Welbore AgarEllis, 2nd Viscount Clifden, was born in 1797. In 1818 he entered Parliament as member for
Heytesbury. At his initiation the Government in 1824 purchased the Angerstein collection of
pictures, and thus formed the nucleus of the present National Gallery. In 1830–1 he was Chief
Commissioner of Woods and Forests. He was created Baron Dover in 1831, and in 1833 "died
at Dover House, Whitehall." (fn. 49) He was a trustee of the British Museum and the National Gallery,
and a generous patron of the fine arts.
After his death, his widow, according to Boyle's Court Guide, continued at the house until
her death "at Dover House" (fn. 50) in 1860. From 1848, however, the name of Viscount Clifden is
associated with her. This was Lord Dover's son, who had succeeded his grandfather as viscount
in 1836. He died in 1866, and from that date until the house was taken over for official purposes
in 1885 it was in the occupation of his widow, who in 1875 married Col. Sir Walter George Stirling.
In the Council's Collection are:—
Before Holland's alterations.
| (fn. 51) Plan of principal storey and attic.||(photographs of plan and drawings in Paine's
Plans, Elevations, etc., of Noblemen's Houses.)|
| (fn. 51) Plan of principal storey and attic.|
| (fn. 51) Elevation of east front within the court.|
| (fn. 51) Front to the Park with additions.|
| (fn. 51) Section of premises.|
As at present.
(fn. 51) Plans of premises (measured drawing).
(fn. 51) Elevation to Whitehall (measured drawing).
(fn. 51) Elevation to Horse Guards Parade (photograph).
(fn. 51) View of premises facing Horse Guards Parade (photograph).
(fn. 51) View of premises facing Whitehall (photograph).
View of front courtyard (photograph).
(fn. 51) Longitudinal section through premises (measured drawing).
(fn. 51) General view of circular hall (photograph).
General view of staircase in south wing (photograph).
(fn. 51) View of screen to Room No. 4 (photograph).
(fn. 51) View of mantelpiece in Room No. 4 (photograph).
View of mantelpiece in Room No. 6 (photograph).
(fn. 51) Views of upper hall (photograph).
(fn. 51) Detail of plaster cove to Room No. 19 (photograph).
General view of plaster cove to Room No. 19 (photograph).
(fn. 51) View of mantelpiece in Room No. 19 (photograph).
(fn. 51) Ornamental plaster ceiling to Room No. 21 (photograph).
(fn. 51) View of mantelpiece in Room No. 21 (photograph).
(fn. 51) View of mantelpiece in Room No. 18 (photograph).
(fn. 51) General view of vaulted passage on second floor (photograph).
(fn. 51) View of mantelpiece in Room No. 30 (photograph).