Monday, 13 May 2013

(7) Carlton House London - A Virtual Tour of the West Range of State Apartments on the Lower Floor including the Gardens

"The King at Home, Carlton House", 1825-26

This is a continuation of our fully guided 'virtual tour' of Carlton House, London. Should you not have read the earlier instalments in this series, please commence from HERE.

Should you reference this Blog elsewhere, please cite

Marked plans of each floor will show your location as you progress through each room.

To refresh our memory, we are now back in the 'Ante-Chamber' or Lower Vestibule on the Basement Floor.

Location of the Ante-Chamber or Lower Vestibule

The image below reminds us of the view as we stand by the windows and look back through the Corinthian style columns towards the entrance from the 'Great Staircase'.

The 'Ante-Chamber or Lower Vestibule'

We now turn and enter the 'Bow Room' through the folding doors which can be seen to our left.

Location of the "Bow Room"

Unfortunately there is no known engraving of the 'Bow Room'.

We do know that the Bow Sitting-Room was adorned with decoration of scarlet cloth with gold mouldings. Also placed in this room were several beautiful cabinets of ormolu, gilt tables, China vases, and candelabras of elegant design. 

Paintings in this room, being from the Flemish and Dutch Masters, included "The Wise Men's Offerings" by Rembrandt; two interiors by Teniers; "Boy with an Ass" by Van de Velde; "Sleeping Pigs" by Van de Velde; "Portrait of a Painter" by Metsu; "A Lady at a Window" by Douw, a portrait by Metzer, a Landscape by Poelemburgh; a Landscape by Berghem, a landscape by du Jardin; two interiors by Ostade; "The Assumption of the Virgin" by Reubens; "A Castle Piece" by du Jardin; "Robbers Attacking a Waggon" by Wouvermans, a self-portrait by Sir Peter Paul Reubens; a portrait of Reuben's wife by Reubens; and a self-portrait by Vandyke.  

Peter Paul Rubens -
[The Royal Collection]
Lady at a Window
by Gerrit Douw [Dou]
[The Royal Collection]

The Assumption of the Virgin
by Peter Paul Rubens
[The Royal Collection]

We now enter the 'Ante-Room to the Dining Room' (previously the Prince's 'Chinese Drawing Room') :

Location of the Ante-Chamber to the Dining Room

Again, there appears to be no later engraving of this room except for that reproduced below which dates from 1793. Originally fitted up in the Chinese style, the Prince had much of his "Chinese Room" dismantled and transferred to the Royal Pavilion at Brighton, possibly around 1811 but elements of it may have been removed as early as 1802. In 1811 many of the remaining furnishing were transferred to the Chinese themed 'Rose Satin Drawing Room' on the Principal Floor. All evidence of the previous Chinese decoration appears to have been removed. The two Chinese themed panels either side of the windows would presumably have gone to Brighton. The style of decoration thereafter is described as being "in the same elegant style as the [previously described] Bow-Room, and ornamented with a profusion of splendid articles in cabinets, vases, and ormolu, with richly gilt mouldings and candelabra." 

An Engraving of the Chinese Drawing Room at Carlton House.
 The cabinet, Chinese figure and candelabra show here are now
in Buckingham Palace. From "Cabinet Makers and Upholsterers
Drawing Book", by Thomas Sheraton, 1793.

A period observer from 1821 at least tells us that this room "is extremely interesting, from its fine chimney-piece, magnificent clock, set in marble, cabinets of ebony, valuable stones, slabs of red porphyry, and a great variety of superb porcelain vases. The sofas and chairs are richly gilt and covered with scarlet cloth, as are also the walls of this room." It is therefore unfortunate that no later engraving exists.

A chinoieserie chimneypiece, previously located in the
Chinese Drawing Room at Carlton House and
now situated in Buckingham Palace.
[Source : Country Life]

The numerous paintings displayed in this room are given as "A Conversation Piece' by Mieris; "Pan and Syrinx" by Reubens; "Hawking" by Wynants; "The Blind Fiddler" by Ostande; "A Farrier's Tent" by Wouvermans; "Cavaliers" by Cuyp; "A Lady and Parrot" by Mieris; "Maternal Affection" by Mieris; "Cattle" by Potter; "The Drummer" by Teniers; "Returning from Hawking" by Wouvermans; "An Interior" by Ostade; "Cattle" by du Jardin; "Milking" by Van de Velde; "Fishermen" by Teniers; "Domestic Employment" by Douw; "An Arbour" by Ostade; "A Poulterer's Shop" by Mieris; "A Village Fête" by Teniers; and "A Conversation Piece" by Mieris.

Pan & Syrinx
by Peter Paul Rubens
[The Royal Collection]
by David Teniers
[The Royal Collection]

We now walk through to the Dining Room.

Location of the Dining Room

Apparently used as the 'Prince's Dining Room' from at least 1795, this room is shown with chairs in the engraving below but devoid of a dining table. It no doubt became multi-use after the opening of the 'Gothic Dining Room' in 1814. The Architect has again employed the technique of painting the large flat ceiling in a scene reminiscent of a slightly cloudy sky to give the illusion of height while the columns, which actually help to 'break up' such a large room, support the 'Throne Room' above.

The Dining Room

The large Ionic columns are of scagliola in imitation of porphyry with gilt capitals and bases, while looking-glasses have been "placed in all the advantageous parts of the room". The ornaments within this room are described as being "extremely numerous" with window-curtains of scarlet silk, chairs of corresponding coloured fabric which are also richly carved and gilt.  The panelled folding doors we have just passed through at the western end are of black and gold and match the colour of the window shutters. Five folding French doors also give direct access to the front garden.

"The King at Home, Carlton House", 1825-26
The setting is the Dining Room looking through the glazed folding
doors to the Conservatory. Taken from a larger engraving drawn
by Bernard Blackmantle and published by Sherwood, Jones & Co.

Paintings include four different views of "A Calm", by Van de Velde [two of these show "the splendid yacht which usually conveys King George in his voyage between Holland and England"]; "The Billet-Doux" by Terburg; an "Interior" by Steen; "A Music Party" and "An Interior", both by Scalcken; "An Interior" by Ostade; "An Approaching Gale" by Van de Velde; and "A Merry-Making" by Steen.

Merrymaking in a Tavern
by Jan Steen
[The Royal Collection]
A Calm
by W. Van der Velde
[The Royal Collection]

Before we leave the Dining Room, we note that almost adjoining the Dining Room on the room plan above can be seen part of a circular room which matched the outline of the Dining Room / Music Room directly above. This is recorded on plans as the 'Confectioners Room' with the 'Coffee Room' on the opposite side. We know that two 'Confectioners' were employed by the Prince and one can only wonder at the delectably sweet delights they must have created. 

The western end of the 'Dining Room' is comprised of a large centrally placed double sash door but with additional sash-doors placed on each side, all being in black and gold with panelled glass [as opposed to panels at the eastern end] which open out into the absolutely breathtaking fan-vaulted Conservatory. 

Location of the Conservatory

A very talented young Architect named Thomas Hopper designed and oversaw the construction of this exquisite space in 1807-09. Hopper achieved an architectural masterpiece by utilising the neo-gothic style, modelling his design on aspects of King Henry VII's Chapel in Westminster Abbey. The design resembles a cathedral in form, having a nave and two side aisles. Constructed of cast iron with translucent glass, sunlight filtered through producing a "chaste mellow light", while also highlighting the delicately moulded ironwork. The effect, as we can glimpse below, would have been simply quite wondrous. The architectural style is know as "Florid Gothic".

The Conservatory, looking back through the
glazed doors towards the Dining Room. Here we
can appreciate the enfilade of doorways through
to the Gothic Dining Room.

"The windows are ornamented with stained glass, on which are painted the arms of all the sovereigns of England from William the First to the present reign [King George III], those of the Electoral Princes of the House of Brunswick, and all the Princes of Wales, in chronological order, inscribed with their names and dates of creation... [sixteen Princes in all from Prince Edward in 1284 to Prince George Augustus Frederick in 1762].

On the same side are emblazonments, in stained glass, of the illustrious ancestry of his present Majesty... [nineteen Rulers from Henry, Duke of Bavaria and Saxony who married Matilda, daughter of King Henry II of England, and died in 1195 to King George III, King of Great Britain, &c.&c.]  

On the windows of the south side [to correspond with the north side] are the armorial bearings of the Kings of England, in regular succession, from William I. to the present reign; the west end of the building is filled with niches, and appropriate figures; from the point of the interior arches are suspended Gothic hexagonal lanterns, ornamented with stained glass." [C.M. Westmacott, 1824]

"Tabernacle work and appropriate figures give a delicate finish to the west end of the building; among which is a most exquisitely finished piece of sculpture... in white marble by Canova,... it is a master-piece of the art. Candelabras support lamps of six burners each; and also from the arches are suspended Gothic lanterns, decorated with figures in stained glass. The pavement is composed of Portland stone." [Pierce Egan, 1821]     

The "Fountain Nymph" by Canova was joined by "Mars and Venus", also by Canova, in 1824. 

"Fountain Nymph"
by Antonio Canova, 1817
[The Royal Collection]
"Mars & Venus"
by Canova, 1822
[The Royal Collection]

On the 19th June 1811, and to celebrate his Regency, George threw a lavish party for 2,000 persons which included a long table set up in the Conservatory for two hundred of his most honoured guests :

"Along the centre of the table about six inches above the surface, a canal of pure water continued flowing from a silver fountain beautifully constructed at the head of the table. Its banks were covered with green moss aquatic flowers; gold and silver fish swam and sported through the bubbling current, which produced a pleasing murmur where it fell, and formed a cascade at the outlet. At the head of the table, above the fountain, sat his Royal Highness...on a plain mahogany chair with a feather back...." [The Gentleman's Magazine"] A full account can be found in "The Regency Fete".

The Conservatory, looking towards the end doorway
which gave access to Carlton House Gardens

 But what did our 1816 visitor have to say about this architectural masterpiece? 

"The new conservatory is a most rich display of what is called the florid Gothic style : inferior, it is true, to that master-model of this species of ornament in Henry VIIth's Chapel in Westminster Abbey; but in the groinings of the roof, the drops, or pendants, the tracery, &c. are not a disgraceful imitation of it. It is seventy-two feet in length, twenty-three feet in breadth, and twenty high.

It was built under the superintendance [sic] of Mr. Hopper. The selection and arrangement of its parts have been made with infinite judgement and taste; so that, notwithstanding their extreme richness, they are perfectly free from confusion. A great degree of cheerfulness pervades the whole, from the admission of the light from the roof; and, in this respect, it has somewhat the advantage of the chapel just mentioned, in which many of the beauties of the ornaments are hidden from the sight for want of sufficient light from above." [J.N.B., 1816] 

At the annual Carlton House Children's Ball in 1822, the [then] King George IV sat for an hour and a half in the Conservatory with Lady Conyngham and Mme de Lieven, "...while the children, including his niece Princess Victoria - danced before him and the company stood around him". Princess Victoria - later to become Queen Victoria in 1837 - would then have only been about three years of age. The King became very fond of the young Victoria who later visited him at Windsor Castle. King George IV, according to Lord Melbourne, was in fact always fond of children, buying "an enormous amount of playthings to give away as presents. His accounts are replete with bills for dolls and lead soldiers, boxes of ninepins, miniature farm yards, play houses, [and] mechanical animals...."[Hibbert]    

An early 19th century engraving showing
the exterior of the conservatory.
[Source : Wikipedia Commons] 

Notably, despite being called a 'Conservatory', no plants are shown in the above two engravings. 

"Doubtless the great banks of flowers, which were such a feature of nineteenth-century festive occasions, could be installed as and when the Prince required them.
[Ref : "Nineteenth Century Decoration- The Art of the Interior", by Charlotte Gere, 1989]    

Interestingly, it would appear that prior to the construction of the Gothic Conservatory in 1811 there existed a "Temporary Conservatory". This is referred to both in the engraving below held in the Royal Collection and a reference to an item placed in this temporary building. This earlier building would appear to fulfil our description of a 'conservatory', being full of small trees with ivy trailing up to the glass roof. It would also appear to be built up against a solid wall.

The Temporary Conservatory, Carlton House, London
 a watercolour as drawn by Humphrey Repton 1752-1818
[Source : The Royal Collection]
The Gardens :

The walled gardens at Carlton House had originally been the work of William Kent, the great Architect, Designer, Painter, and Gardener, being completed in 1734. 

Carlton House Gardens as it appeared in a coloured engraving
 by William Woollett, c.1775. This is just prior to the Prince's
occupation of Carlton House sometime after 1783

In May 1784, not long after the completion of the initial alterations, and to celebrate the return to parliament of his controversial friend, the Whig politician Charles Fox, "...nine huge marquees were put up in the gardens for an even more magnificent fête during which the guests were entertained on the newly mown grass by four bands playing triumphant airs." [Hibbert] Although the engraving below is dated 1784 there is no indication that it is set during this particular event.

Neopolitan Ballad Singers entertaining guests in
Carlton House Gardens, by Henry W. Banbury, 1784.
[Source : Wikipedia Commons]

At his Regency celebrations in 1811, "...matting had been laid over the smooth grass of the lawns; and covered walks, decorated with painted trellises, flowers and looking-glasses, had been specially built as promenades and supper galleries..."

In 1814, the Prince Regent arranged another large fête in the gardens for 2,000 guests as a personal tribute to the Duke of Wellington, "...he had a special polygonal building put up in the garden. It was a solid structure, one hundred and twenty feet in diameter, built of brick with a leaded roof; but the interior was to give the impression of summer light, airiness and festivity. This effect was achieved by painting the umbrella-shaped ceiling to resemble muslin and decorating it with gilt cords, by fixing looking-glass to the walls and hanging them with muslin draperies, and by the sparkling illumination of twelve chandeliers.... Huge banks of artificial flowers were arranged on the floor in the shape of a temple behind whose walls of petals and foliage were concealed two bands." [Hibbert] 

Elsewhere in the gardens were supper and refreshments tents and a covered promenade leading to a Corinthian temple. But rather than being a permanent structure, the 'polygonal structure' was moved to Woolwich where it then served as a weapons museum and armoury. 

A view of existing and planned improvements to the front
lawn and garden, as viewed from the Principal Floor.
Drawn by Humphrey Repton, 1808
[Source : The Royal Collection]

Although stables appear in the c.1783-84 engraving below - and the house would always of necessity have had stabling of some form or other, we know that a new stables and riding house were constructed after this date.

Our correspondent from 1816 notes a visit to the gardens and the adjoining stables :

"The gardens behind Carlton House are very beautiful, and full as retired as if in the country. At the end of the Palace are the stables, which are of brick, and semicircular : to say they are admirably contrived for the accommodation of the noble animals they contain is superfluous, when the predilection of the prince for his stud is remembered." [J.N.B., 1816]

The 'Stables' referred to, including the 'Riding House', took over three years to build, partly owing to the difficulty of obtaining timber of sufficient size during the French blockade of Continental ports but also because the Prince could not afford to pay the tradesmen due to his mounting personal debts. Finished in the Indian style around 1808 and together with the central 'Riding House' both cost over fifty-five thousand pounds. Stabling provided accommodation for fifty-five horses as well as living accommodation for the ostlers and grooms.  

An engraving (unfortunately low resolution) from c.1784-86 depicting
a crowd gathered in Carlton House Gardens, some with umbrellas, on
what appears to be a rainy day. The old stables appear at rear. But quite
why a milk-maid and cow appear in the foreground I do not know!
Drawn by John Nixon 

My references also refers to "the vast dome" or central cupola eighty-five feet wide which covered the stables, hence the need for timber of sufficient length. While our correspondent from 1816 refers to the "semicircular" stables we therefore know that the stables shown on the plan below have not already been partially reduced in size. As to the cupola, we can sadly only surmise as to its form of construction and appearance nor of the "Indian" form of the whole building.

A Plan of the Carlton House Stables drawn around 1850.
The Stables were not demolished until 1858 

After the demolition of Carlton House, the adjoining Stables and Riding House were allowed to stand for some years, being converted into a storehouse for some of the public records. It was long known as Carlton Ride. Its antiquarian contents were subsequently transferred to a building in Fetter Lane.

"The Garden side of Carlton House", 1820
[Source :]

It is recorded that also situated in the gardens were statues, a waterfall, a temple with an Italian marble floor, and even an observatory. Altogether, a 'perambulation' around the gardens must have proved most interesting. A period publication notes that upon the demolition of Carlton House the grounds were "to use a somewhat grandiloquent phrase, dis-afforested and the sweet shady side of Pall Mall marked out for public instead of Royal occupation".

This concludes the series of 'Virtual Tours' however our last Blog in this series [Click HERE to View] takes a more in-depth look at why Carlton House was pulled down and what happened to its architectural elements as well as its many exquisite fittings and treasures. 

Bibliography :

- Unless otherwise stated all images are from Wikipedia Commons and are in the Public Domain.
- Please refer to the first instalment in this series for the full bibliography.

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