CHAPTER 12: XCI—NO. 12 (FORMERLY 13) DOWNING STREET
The premises are the freehold of the Crown, and are used as the office
for the Government Whips.
History and Description of the Building.
On 17th April, 1723, Charles Downing demised (fn. 1) to James Steadman, for a term of 37¼ years from Lady Day following, a messuage situated
"in a place heretofore called Hampden Garden near Kingstreet … at the
West end of … Downing Street … containing in length on the East part
thereof Fifty eight Foot eight Inches, on the West part thereof Fifty eight
Foot eight Inches, on the North part thereof Forty Four Foot nine Inches,
and on the South part thereof Forty Four Foot nine Inches, being the Corner
house, and abutting in part upon Downing Street … on the East, and in
other part on the East on one other house of the said Charles Downings late
in the Tenure of Thomas Fredrick, Esquire, deceased, upon the Terras
Adjoyning to Saint James's Park Wall on the West and North parts, and
upon a Messuage … now under Repaire and lett to the Lord Harcourt
on the South." The premises are obviously those marked 2 on the plan of
1749, and correspond with the present No. 12, Downing Street. The house
was included in the sale on 24th November, 1772, by the Downing Trustees
to William Maseres (see p. 142), who on 25th May, 1775, leased the premises
for 30 years to Henry Hunt. They are described as "theretofore in the
tenure of Sir John Cust, Bart., since of Dame Elthreda Cust his Widow,
& then in the tenure of Simon Frazer, Esqr., Major General of his Majestys
Forces." Three weeks later (15th June) Fraser bought the lease from Hunt,
and on 17th May, 1777, acquired the interest of Maseres. Fraser died on
8th February, 1782, and his executors in April, 1783, disposed of the premises
to James Martin, of Whitehall. On 8th June, 1803, Martin sold the
property to the East India Company (fn. 2) under the description of the messuage
"theretofore in the Tenure of the Duke of Bolton, afterwds of Elthreda Cust
and since in the Tenure of … Simon Fraser and late of … James
Martin and then of the said United Company or their Agent." (fn. 3) In July,
1803, the residue of the
Downing lease (due to expire
in 1820) was purchased by
the Crown for £9,000 plus
£433 for fixtures. At first
the house was used as the
official residence of the
in 1827 it was appropriated
for the use of the Colonial
Office, already housed in
the premises immediately
adjoining to the south, and
communications on the first
and second floors were made
between the two houses. (fn. 4) A
view of the premises in the
same year is contained in
PLAN. OF GROUND FLOOR
(Before alterations carried out in 1879)
In 1879, after the
removal of the Colonial Office
to their new quarters, the
premises were reduced to one storey above the terrace. Plate 141 shows
the north and west elevations of the house before this alteration.
As regards the date of the existing portion, the historical evidence is
similar to that of No. 11 (see p. 145). The assessable value was considerably
increased after 1772, (fn. 5) and yet the case for historical continuity seems even
more clear. (fn. 6)
As in the case of No. 11, the Downing Street front may be assigned
to 1772, but the western front may well date back to the original building
in 1682. When the premises were reduced to their present height, internal
alterations to the remaining storey were made, including the removal of a
geometraical staircase and entrance porch, and the formation of a new entrance
hall, while extensions were carried out on the north. Another staircase has
since been formed leading to the first floor of No. 11. The windows on the
west side of the premises have red brick dressings with gauged arches.
Condition of Repair.
The following is a list of occupants of No. 12, Downing Street, from 1723 until its use by
the Colonial Office in 1827:—
|1724–1743||Archbishop of York|
|1744–46||Earl of Huntingdon|
|1749–50||Duke of Bolton|
|1751–57||Lord Petersham (Earl of Harrington)|
|1757–62||Earl of Halifax|
|1763–70||Sir John Cust|
|1774–75||Sir John Eden|
|1775–82||General Simon Fraser|
|1804–06||Sir Chas. Morgan|
|1806–07||Sir Chas. Morgan (junr.)|
|1817–27||John Beckett (Sir John Beckett)|
Lancelot Blackburne was born in 1658, ordained in 1681, and shortly afterwards went to
the West Indies. After his return he attached himself to the Bishop of Exeter, becoming a prebendary
in 1691 and sub-dean in 1695. In 1696 he obtained the rectory of Calstock in Cornwall. He became successively Dean of Exeter (1705), Archdeacon of Cornwall (1715), Bishop of Exeter (1717),
and Archbishop of York (1724). Blackburne was witty and gay, though it seems likely that these
characteristics have been exaggerated. Horace Walpole refers (fn. 7) to him as "the jolly old Archbishop
of York, who had all the manners of a man of quality, though he had been a Buccaneer and was a
Clergyman." The latter allusion is to the story that Blackburne in his West Indian journey had
acted as chaplain on one of the ships engaged in buccaneering, and shared the booty, "the joke
running that one of the buccaneers on his arrival in England asked what had become of his old chum
Blackburne, and was answered that he was Archbishop of York." (fn. 8) His residence in Downing
Street is mentioned by both Horace Walpole (fn. 9) and Hervey. (fn. 10) He died in 1743 and was buried at
St. Margaret's, Westminster. His residence at No. 12, Downing Street, is shown by the ratebooks
to have lasted from 1724 to his death.
The ratebooks from 1744 to 1747 show the Earl of Huntingdon in respect of the house. This
was Theophilus, the 9th earl, who was born in 1696 and succeeded to the title in 1705. His wife,
who presumably lived with him for a time in Downing Street, was the well-known Selina, Countess
of Huntingdon, the friend of the Wesleys and Whitefield, who founded the still existing "Lady
Huntingdon's connexion." The earl died in 1746 "at his house in Downing-street," (fn. 11) and the
countess in 1791.
According to the ratebooks the Duke of Bolton occupied the house during 1749–50, and
the residence is confirmed by the plan of Downing Street in 1749 (see Plate 106).
Charles Paulet, 3rd Duke of Bolton, was born in 1685. On completing his education he
travelled on the Continent. He was in the House of Commons (save for an interval of 5 years)
from 1705 to 1717, and in the latter year was summoned to the House of Lords as Lord Basing.
In 1722 he succeeded to the dukedom. He was an opponent of Walpole, who in 1733 deprived him
of his offices. Until 1728 he was a notorious rake, but in that year fell a victim to the charms of
Lavinia Fenton, with whom he formed a constant connection which culminated in marriage on the
death of the duchess in 1751. He died three years later.
The ratebooks from 1751 to 1757 show that he was succeeded at No. 12, Downing Street,
by Lord Petersham, afterwards Earl of Harrington.
William Stanhope, Viscount Petersham, was born in 1719, and succeeded his father as
Earl of Harrington in 1756. "He was a somewhat eccentric personage, and from a peculiarity
in his gait was nicknamed Peter Shambles." (fn. 12) He entered the army in 1741, distinguished himself
at Fontenoy (1745), and became general in 1770. He died in 1779.
The next occupant of the house is given by the ratebooks from 1757 to 1762 as the Earl of
George Montagu Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax, was born in 1716, and took the name of Dunk
on his marriage with Anne Richards, who inherited the property of Sir Thomas Dunk. He succeeded to the earldom in 1739. From 1748 to 1761 he was President of the Board of Trade.
Under his supervision the British mercantile interests were greatly promoted, and the commerce of
the American colonies so much extended that he obtained the title of Father of the Colonies. The
name of Halifax in Nova Scotia still attests his energy in aiding the foundation of that colony.
In 1761 he was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, in 1762 First Lord of the Admiralty, and in
the same year and 1763 was made Secretary of State for North and South respectively. In this
capacity he signed the general warrant against Wilkes, for which damages were afterwards awarded
against him. Halifax retained his office until 1765, and again became Secretary of State in 1771.
He died the same year.
The ratebooks for 1763 to 1770 show the house in the occupation of Sir John Cust (fn. 13) and,
for the following year, of Lady Cust.
Sir John Cust, Bt., the eldest son of Sir Richard Cust, was born in 1718 and succeeded his
father in the baronetcy in 1734. In 1742 he was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple, and in the
following year entered Parliament as member for Grantham. In 1761 he was elected Speaker of
the House of Commons, a position which he held until a few days before his death in January, 1770.
In 1743 he had married Etheldred, daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Payne, of Hough-on-the-Hill,
Lincolnshire. She died in 1775.
Sir John Cust.
According to the ratebooks the house, after Lady Cust had left, remained empty until
1774, when it was occupied by Sir John Eden, who removed in the following year to the house
adjoining on the south side, where he lived for many years. (fn. 14)
In 1775 the name of Sir John Eden is crossed through, and that of General Simon Fraster
substituted as from Christmas.
Simon Fraser, sometime Master of Lovat, eldest son of the 12th Baron Lovat, who was
executed for high treason in 1747, was born in 1726. In the 1745 rebellion he headed the clan in
the Jacobite interest, and was included in the general act of attainder, but in 1750 received a full
pardon. In 1752 he entered as an advocate, but subsequently abandoned the law for a military
career. In 1756 on the outbreak of the Seven Years War he raised a corps of Highlanders (78th or
Fraser Highlanders), with whom he did good service in America. In 1762 he was sent to Portugal
as brigadier-general and held the temporary rank of major-general (afterwards lieutenant-general)
in the Portuguese army. At the Peace of 1763 his regiment was disbanded, and he was put on halfpay. In 1774 he obtained the restoration of the family estates on payment of a capital sum. On
the outbreak of the American War of Independence, Fraser, then a major-general, raised another
regiment (the 71st or Fraser Highlanders) but did not accompany them to America. From 1761
until his death he was M.P. for Inverness-shire. "He died in Downing Street, London, 8 Feb.,
1782." (fn. 15)
The ratebooks from 1784 to 1800 show James Martin at No. 12.
In 1803 (see p. 155) the Government purchased the house for the residence of the JudgeAdvocate-General, and the ratebooks from 1804 to 1807, and Boyle's Court Guide for 1805 to
1807 show Sir Charles Morgan residing there.
Sir Charles Gould, who assumed the name of Morgan in 1792, was a son of King Gould,
Deputy-Judge-Advocate, and was born in 1726. He was called to the Bar in 1750, and in 1771
was appointed Judge-Advocate-General. He was knighted in 1779 and made a baronet in 1792.
He died at Tredegar in December, 1806. For a short time Sir Charles Morgan's son (also Sir
Charles) was allowed to reside at No. 12. (fn. 16)
In August, 1807, Robert Dundas, then President of the India Board, asked the Treasury
"to make over the house … to him as his official residence. From a Treasury minute of May,
1809, it appears that he was thereupon permitted to occupy the premises, though without any
formal assignment of them." (fn. 17)
Robert Saunders Dundas (2nd Viscount Melville) was the only son of Henry Dundas,
1st Viscount Melville, the friend of Pitt. He was born in 1771, and entered Parliament in 1794
as member for Hastings. The two chief offices which he held were those of President of the Board
of Control (1807–9 and again 1809–12), and First Lord of the Admiralty (1812–27 and again
1828–30). In 1811 he succeeded his father as Viscount Melville, and died in 1851.
Dundas's residence at No. 12 lasted about two years. The ratebooks show him as entering at
Christmas, 1807, (fn. 18) and leaving at Midsummer, 1809. The house then passed again into the hands
of the Judge-Advocate-General in the person of Charles Manners-Sutton.
Charles Manners-Sutton (1st Viscount Canterbury), son of Charles Manners-Sutton,
Archbishop of Canterbury, was born in 1780, and was called to the Bar in 1806. In the same year
he entered Parliament as member for Scarborough. In 1809 he was appointed Judge-AdvocateGeneral, and held that position until 1817 when he was elected Speaker of the House of Commons.
He lost the chair in 1835, and was created Baron Bottesford and Viscount Canterbury. He died
The ratebooks show Manners-Sutton in 1817 succeeded by John Beckett. (fn. 19) Beckett was
the eldest son of Sir John Beckett, who became a baronet in 1813. He was born in 1776 and was
educated at Cambridge. In 1803 he was called to the Bar of the Inner Temple. In 1817, when
Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, he was appointed Judge-Advocate-General,
and held the post for ten years. (fn. 20) In 1826 he had succeeded his father in the baronetcy. He died at
Brighton in 1847. (fn. 21)
In the Council's Collection Are:—
Basement and ground-floor plans showing proposed alterations in 1879 (copy of plans in
the possession of H.M. Office of Works).
(fn. 22) North and west elevations before 1879 (copy of drawing in the possession of H. M. Office