Wednesday 27 March 2013

(2) Carlton House London - A Virtual Tour of the Entrance Rooms.

Detail of the Ionic Columns and Decoration
in the Entrance to the Great Hall

Continuing our series on Carlton House, we now commence our actual 'virtual tour' of this great house. Should you not have read the first instalment in this series, this may be accessed HERE.

Should you reference this Blog elsewhere, please cite

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

So, commencing our 'Tour', we approach Carlton House from Pall Mall, fronted by an attractive but merely ornamental Ionic colonnade "screen". This screen was considered by many as being superfluous, "a beautiful absurdity", but additionally obstructed the view of Carlton House. We must therefore drive past two sentry-boxes and through gates under one of two archways located at either side and then into the Principal Court.

An unfortunately low resolution but detailed engraving of 1813
depicting the guards outside Carlton House, including the Ionic
Portico. The road in the foreground is Pall Mall.
Published by Robert Laurie & James Whittle

While the classical dignity of the façade, together with the Corinthian portico added by Henry Holland were initially admired by most, favoured architectural styles are however apt to change. In later years public opinion became increasingly mixed.

Mr J Norris Brewer, an actual visitor from 1816, will provide us with his own scholarly observations throughout this tour :

"The façade has a centre and two wings, rusticated, without pilasters, an entablature, and balustrade which conceal the roof. The portico consists of six Composite columns, and a pediment with an enriched frieze, and a tympan, crowned with the prince's arms; but all the windows are without pediments, except two in the wings.... The front of Carlton House is too low, and consequently affords but one range of spacious apartments, [and] allows nothing more than a diminutive attic, with very small windows." [J.N.B., 1816] 

A Carriage departing Carlton House with the Ionic 'Screen' at right
[From an early 19th century engraving]

Our horse-drawn coach now pulls up under the elegant Corinthian styled Porte-Cochère. 

A close-up of the entrance to
Carlton House

Unusually for a mansion of this period, save for a flight of around six steps, we enter the 'First Hall' on the principal floor at the same level rather than ascending to an upper story. We shall now initially follow the normal route taken by the majority of visitors who entered Carlton House.

Using our 1795 plan of the Royal and State apartments of Carlton
House, we shall be led through each of the principal rooms. Here
we pass from the Front Portico through the First Hall.

We are now in the 'First Hall'. According to our plan of 1795, to our left lay an [East] Ante-Chamber then a Library at the bottom left corner of the above plan. A later plan from 1825 indicates that the library had by then become the kitchen - typically for the period being quite a long way from the Dining Rooms! There appear to be no extant images of the afore-mentioned [East] Ante-Room. As we shall see during this virtual tour, many of the rooms within Carlton House changed their purpose over the years. 

Now, walking through the small foyer or 'First Hall' shown above and past the East and West Ante-Chambers on either side (we shall pass through the West Ante-Chamber later), we walk straight ahead into the spacious 'Great Hall', which is fully 44 feet in length and 29 in breadth.  

Location of the Great Hall

We are immediately struck by the Graeco - Roman architecture of this handsome entrance hall.  The marble floor is chequered with black while the impressive light brown Ionic style columns of Siena marble support an entablature. The latter are painted to resemble the same Siena marble of the columns. The bases of the columns, capitals, and ornamentation, are all bronzed, and on the entablatures under recessed archways are a number of bronzed antique busts and vases by Nollekens.

"Upon the stylobate, are niches containing bronzed statues of the Antinöus and the Discobolus, with two corresponding female figures; above them, in bassi relievi [bass relief], on a ground of Sienna marble, are ornaments of the same material. Encompassed with festoons of oak, in the centre compartments, are cast-iron stoves, formed or Termini, supporting a canopy, over which is a beautiful bassi relievi of Roman armoury and implements of war. In the divisions of the corridor are painted sculptural ornaments and devices of the crest, and other insignia of the Royal possesssor." [C.M. Westmacott, 1824]

The 'Hall of Entrance', looking crossways. Visitors passed
 between the two sets of Ionic Columns on either side,
following the strip carpet.  

A high and impressive vaulted roof with a coffered ceiling which rises fully two stories while a delicate but effective oval fan-light in the ceiling usefully enables sun-light to filter down into this inner hall. The room is additionally decorated with "numerous sculptural ornaments". Six superb lanterns, being hung in various parts of the hall, provide lighting at night. We can just see all six lanterns in the view below.

A 'Scrolled-back' chair which decorated the
Great Hall, part of a set of ten made c.1790
and attributed to François Hervé.
Note the crown and Royal cypher.
[Source : The Royal Collection]

The engravings above and below are taken from a side perspective, ie., guests would walk transversely across the strip carpet between the two sets of Ionic columns on either side at left and right of our view. Service rooms were located on the opposite sides (straight ahead of us and behind us in the above view) and we see can see two doorways leading to such rooms straight ahead in our view.

The Hall as viewed in 1808, published in "Microcosm of London".
The Prince of Wales himself is represented with black top hat,
blue jacket, and wearing his Garter Badge.

As a visitor, we now walk straight ahead into 'The Octagon' or Vestibule Room. Our eyes will be instinctively drawn upwards.

Location of The Octagon

"From the hall, which is exceedingly magnificent, you pass through [into] an octagonal room, richly and tastefully ornamented, conducting to the grand suite of apartments on one side, and to the great staircase on the other." [J.N.B. 1816]

The appropriately named and quite delightful 'Octagon' room, surmounted by a most attractive gallery, efficiently provided access to the 'Great Hall' on the north side, the 'Great Staircase' on the western side, and servants and pages service areas on the eastern side. Above us is the 'Gallery of the Staircase' which we shall view later as we can only access the Gallery by ascending the adjoining 'Great Staircase'. 

The Vestibule (Octagon Room)
We have just walked into this room from the doorway at centre-right

We stop to admire the detailed plasterwork of the walls and ceiling, the rich velvet draperies edged with gold tassels suspended above each doorway, and also the marble busts placed on wall plinths being of the Duke's of Devonshire and Bedford, Lord Lake, and of the Prince's good friend, the Right Honourable Charles Fox [a Whig Politician], all executed by J.Nollekens, R.A.   

The Hon. Charles Fox
(Whig Politician)
by Joseph Nollekens
[The Royal Collection]
William Cavendish,
5th Duke of Devonshire
by Joseph Nollekens
[The Royal Collection]

We now continue to walk straight ahead and into the 'First Ante-Chamber' which formed part of the south range of Apartments on the Principal Floor facing the front lawn of Carlton House Gardens.

Location of the First Ante-Chamber

The First Ante-Chamber "Operates as a sort of prelude to the ... magnificent rooms [of the State Apartments]".

"The 'Coup d'oiel' of this chamber is singularly chaste and beautiful, the emblematical decorations well designed, and in fine keeping with the splendour of the superior apartments."

First Ante-Chamber Looking North.
Through the doorway can be seen the 'Octagon' room.

Through the doorway in the view above (looking north) can be seen the 'Octagon' room which we have just passed through. 

We now turn back around to look south. This is the view we see below. We can just see some of the shrubbery of Carlton House Gardens through the lace curtains covering the two windows overlooking the front lawn. We are now on the 'piano-nobile', i.e., on an upper floor in relation to the gardens below. All windows on this floor are in the French style, opening inwards to reveal a wrought or cast iron railing but only extending to the width of the window casement itself.

The First Ante-Chamber looking south towards Carlton House Gardens

Large pier-glasses above the mantle piece and between the windows reflect the objects before them. The chimney-piece is in fact of white marble and "is very fine". Above the latter may be seen (in the image below) the oval portrait of the celebrated Madame Pompadour, "an animated picture displaying the peculiarities of the French school".

Two superb Boulle cabinets decorate opposite sides of this room. A magnificent cabinet by Etienne Levasseur c.1700, also of Boulle [oak, ebony, tortoiseshell and brass with gilt bronze mounts] and placed opposite the fire-place, supports a bronze equestrian statue of King William III portrayed in Roman armour and crowned by Victory and tramping rebellion under his feet [Attrib. to Roger Schabol, pre 1720]. Two further small antique bronzes are of the Venus de Medicis and of King Louis XIV in Roman armour [by Louis-Claude Vassé, c.1759-63].

The Boulle Secretaire by Etienne Levasseur, c.1700
which can be seen at left in the above engraving.
[Source : The Royal Collection]

Above each of the four doors are charming portraits by Sir William Beechey of King George IV's Royal sisters, being the Princesses Augusta, Elizabeth, Mary, and Sophia, "more pleasing than great works of art" but all "painted with great delicacy". A portrait of Louis XV when a youth by Van Dyke is located over the door to the Octagon Room. Two full-length portraits occupy the spaces on each side of the north door, being of "Gaston De France, frère unique du Roi Louis", by Van Dyke, 1634; and "Henry, Prince of Wales" [eldest son of King James I] reputed to be by Van Dyke but may be by Jameson, both artists having studied under Rubens. Occupying the centre of the east side of the apartment [from 1821] is "The Interior of a Convent, during the Ceremony of High Mass" by Grenet. On the right of the door is a landscape by Titian. Finally, this room contains yet another oval portrait of Madame Pompadour, after the manner of the French school.

King William III
Crowned with Victory
[The Royal Collection]
Equestrian Statue of
King Louis XV of France
[The Royal Collection]

Princess Sophia
by Sir William Beechey
[The Royal Collection]
Princess Augusta
by Sir William Beechey
[The Royal Collection]

Princess Elizabeth
 by Sir William Beechey
[The Royal Collection
Princess Mary
by Sir William Beechey
[The Royal Collection

In this room the visitor would now either turn right to enter the State Apartments or left were you invited to enter the Prince's Private Apartments. We shall however be viewing both.

Our next Blog in this series [click Here for link] takes us on a 'virtual tour' of the opulent State Rooms on this floor. These rooms are quite diverse from what we have viewed thus far.

Comments or corrections of any unintentional errors are appreciated however please cite your source.

Bibliography :

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

Tuesday 19 March 2013

(1) Carlton House London - A Background to this Great House

Carlton House, London A view of the North Front facing Pall Mall
and showing the elegant Corinthian styled Porte-Cochère

"At domus interior regali splendida luxu Instruitur
[From "The Æneid" by Virgil, 29-19 BC]

While Carlton House has not existed since 1826-27, the story of this grand London 'Town House' and its colourful owner and principal occupant, George, Prince of Wales, later to become Prince Regent in 1811 and then H.M. King George IV in 1820, endure. Carlton House was simply the most important house of its time in Britain.

Should you reference this Blog elsewhere, please cite

But thanks primarily to the Master Engravers, William James Bennett and William Henry Pyne, we can still view the opulent and breathtaking interiors of this amazing house in great detail, and even more surprising considering they were published in 1819, do so in vibrant colour.

The Prince of Wales, as painted
by Richard Cosway in 1792
[Source : Wikipedia]

In this new series, we shall embark on a fascinating fully escorted 'Virtual Tour' of Carlton House using the above-mentioned good quality colour engravings. Of necessity, this series is broken up into eight separate but contiguous blogs as follows : (with clickable links)

1) A Background to this Great House.
2) A 'Virtual Tour' of the Entrance Rooms.
3) A 'Virtual Tour' of the State Apartments on the Principal Floor.
4) A 'Virtual Tour' of the Prince's Private Apartments on the Principal Floor.
5) A 'Virtual Tour ' of the Staircase, Gallery and Upper Floor.
6) A 'Virtual Tour' of the East Range of State Apartments on the Lower Floor.
7) A 'Virtual Tour' of the West Range of State Apartments on the Lower Floor including the Gardens.
8) Demolition and Disbursement.

Carlton House sat on the present day Waterloo Place and
 between The United Services Club and The Athenaeum Club.
From an early map, circa pre 1790.

But first, a little background to the history of Carlton House which will help to put your tour into perspective :

In 1783, King George III, granted his son, George Prince of Wales, the "old-fashioned and in parts dilapidated" Carlton House, along with a refurbishment sum of £60,000  Directly facing Pall Mall to the north, the south side was at least separated from The Mall by a garden [shown on above plan] safely hidden from public view behind a wall. George promptly engaged the Architect Henry Holland to substantially rebuild this large and rambling early 18th century London mansion into a Town House more befitting his Royal position. Holland favoured the fashionable neoclassical and Parisian French style of Louis XVI and these became evident in his work at Carlton House. The majority of craftsmen, decorators, cabinet-makers, metal-workers, and wood-carvers employed on the house were brought over from France.

"Design for the Pediments, Panels over the Doors, Pateras and
 Trophies over the Columns and Pilasters" of Carlton House, as
drawn by the Architect James Adam and published in
"Works in Architecture" sometime before 1822.

The house reflected the neoclassical style favoured by Holland. But cost over-runs, along with the Prince of Wales's personal debts (of around £250,000), plagued the rebuilding work, primarily due to his opulent lifestyle and his desire that only the best would do for what would be his primary residence. In 1787 George "contritely" approached his Father, King George III, who was finally persuaded to advance a further £60,000 to finish the rebuilding work. Such rebuilding work included the purchase of neighbouring properties which were then demolished to make way for new wings. In 1789 yet another £60,000 was required for "continuing improvements", further adding to the the Prince's debts. By 1796 the Prince himself owed the quite staggering sum of £630,000

An engraving of The Prince of Wales out for a Morning Ride
on Pall Mall, by James Gillray, 1804. Note the 'Ionic screen'
fronting Carlton House.
[Source : The National Portrait Gallery]

Opinions varied and for many, the sumptuous interiors of Carlton House were "really all too much", "superfluous", and "almost vulgar in its opulence", yet everyone wanted to see them. The Novelist Robert Plumer Ward believed that "[Carlton House] was worthy to stand comparison to Versailles". But Robert Smirke, the rather staid Architect of many public buildings in London including the British Museum, considered "it overdone with finery". To celebrate his Regency in 1811 [due to the serious illness of his Father, King George III], The Prince Regent opened his house to the public for fully three days. On the third day no less than 30,000 people tried to get in.

"Design of the Entablature & Britannic Order for 
the Gateway [portico?] proposed for Carleton
 House", As drawn by the Architect James
Adam and published in "Works in Architecture"
sometime before 1822.

In 1814, during the celebrations for the defeat and exile of Napoleon Bonaparte, which included the visit of the Russian Tsar and the King of Prussia to London, "Carlton House was illuminated... with green and yellow flares placed between palm trees in painted tubs..."

Coins of the Realm 1816 & 1822 - King George III on the left,
who reigned from 1760 to 1820, and King George IIII [IV] on
 the right, who reigned from 1820 to 1830 (and as Prince
Regent from 1811 to 1820).
[From my own family collection]

Despite considerable personal debts [still over £500,000 in 1811] the Prince Regent authorised further rebuilding work by the Architect John Nash, the premier Architect of the Regency Age, between 1814 and 1815. Nash worked in many architectural styles, from Gothic to Italianate, Palladian and Greek, and these are reflected in Carlton House.

A hand-coloured engraving of Pall Mall and the Ionic 'screen'
fronting Carlton House, 1809. Note the gas lamps within the
columns, having been installed as early as 1808.
[From "Ackerman's Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce,
Manufacturers, Fashion and Politics"]

While the Prince Regent no doubt had access to further Government funds on account of his new Royal duties, he was still hardly economical with his spending. At least one vocal Whig politician openly criticised his "reckless expenditure". But it must still be said that he was invariably generous to family and friends should the need arise.

The Ionic 'screen' which separated Carlton House from Pall Mall
[Source : Ackerman's Repository, 1811]

As a connoisseur of the arts - and a very knowledgeable one by most accounts - only the best would do. It is recorded that the furniture in Carlton House alone cost the nation an astonishing £260,000 But the Prince's patronage of the arts and of artists, scientists and scholars was commended by the otherwise critical Architect Robert Smirke, " compensation for his many faults and follies, and that he was a truly discerning connoisseur as well as a generous patron."

The Prince Regent, as painted
by Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1816
[Source : Wikipedia]

Alongside the magnificent collection of primarily French styled furniture, Carlton House also contained a large collection of valuable paintings which were intended to form the nucleus of a new National Collection, also replacing the valuable Royal Collection sold during the Commonwealth. These include contemporary artists which George patronised, including Reynolds, Gainsborough, Dance, Hoppner and Conway. With his Art Adviser, the Prince also bought a valuable collection of Old Masters by Rembrandt, Rubens, and Van Dyck. An 1816 inventory of Art Works in Carlton House lists 136 pictures in the State Rooms, a further 67 in the Prince of Wales' private suite, and another 250 spread around other rooms within the house. When lending pictures for an exhibition at the National Gallery in 1826 [then located at 100 Pall Mall], George is quoted as saying, "I have not formed it for my own pleasure alone.... but to gratify the public taste."

Carlton House London, South Front

After the death of his ailing Father, King George III in 1820, the Prince Regent was finally crowned King George IV. Considering that of the Royal residences in London neither Carlton House, St James's Palace, Kensington Palace, or his late Father's Buckingham House were adequate for his needs, some consideration was given to further enlarging Carlton House. Ceremonial occasions demanded additional space including the necessity of housing an "enormous" army of household staff. Space considerations finally favoured Buckingham House, then with Government approval, being rebuilt as Buckingham Palace. Carlton House was thus demolished in 1826-27, with many architectural features being transferred to the new Palace. But unfortunately, King George IV died in 1830 before his new Palace was completed.

King George IV, as painted
by Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1822
[Source : Wikipedia]

The final Blog is this series will discuss in greater detail the reasons behind the demolition of Carlton House. But as we shall read during this series, we also came so uncomfortably close to losing many, if not all, of the irreplaceable treasures within this great house. That would definitely have been a far greater tragedy.

The next blog in this series commences [click here for link] the actual fully guided 'virtual tour' of Carlton House using extant period engravings with each room marked on a floor plan while highlighting significant objects.

Should you reference this Blog elsewhere, please cite

Bibliography :

- Unless otherwise stated all images are from Wikipedia Commons and in the Public Domain.
- "The Beauties of England and Wales, Or, Delineations, Topographical, Historical and Descriptive", Volume X, Part V, by J Norris Brewer, 1816.
- "Life in London", by Pierce Egan, 1821.
- "British Galleries of Painting and Sculpture", by CM Westmacott, 1824
- "Illustrations of the Public Buildings of London", Vol 2, by Augustus Pugin and John Britton, 1838.
- "Old & New London", Vol IV by Edward Walford, 1878.
- "George IV", by Christopher Hibbert, 1972.
- "Nineteenth Century Decoration- The Art of the Interior", by Charlotte Gere, 1989.
- The Royal Collection Website.
- Various Internet written sources including Wikipedia. All have been considerably re-worded.
- Unless otherwise stated, all engraving were originally published in "The History of the Royal Residences" published in 1819, being the work of master engravers William James Bennett (1787-1844) and William Henry Pyne (1769-1843).

Monday 11 March 2013

A Cabinet of Curiosities - A 1930's Hand Held Calculator

The "Baby Calculator", Manufactured by
the Calculator Machine Company,
Chicago, USA, 1939
[From my own collection]

Continuing my occasional "Cabinet of Curiosities" theme, today's curiosity proves that modern hand-held pocket calculators are nothing new!

"The World's Handiest
Vest Pocket Adding Machine"
[Source : Prof Hamann, Beuth Hochschule

My "Baby Calculator" was manufactured by the "Calculator Machine Company" of Chicago Illinois, USA in 1939 although this design dates back to 1929. It retailed for US$3.50 or foreign sales at around US$4.00 plus postage. In this case my calculator was ordered by my Great Uncle, arriving by registered post and marked "Samples - No Commercial Value". One would assume that the eagle-eyed New Zealand Customs Department would not have been fooled by this deception designed to deprive them of a hefty sales tax, of which US imports (classed as a "foreign" non-British country for sales tax) were at this time subject to.

"Baby Calculator", complete with instructions, 1939.
[From my own collection]

The German firm of Carl Kubler based in Berlin had in fact commenced manufacturing a similar calculator called an "Addiator" in Germany in 1920. Although this firm continued to produce variations of their calculator until 1974, I have been unable to ascertain the fate of the American "Calculator Machine Company" past the 1940's. I can recall seeing my first electronic hand-held calculator in 1974 which would account for the sudden demise of the German firm. I wonder if these early 'calculators' were held in the same awe as a rather expensive and chunky looking early hand-held electronic calculator with a high power consumption light-emitting diode (LED) display?

Calculations for the "Baby Calculator" - attempt division if you dare!
[From my own collection]

My calculator comes complete with full instructions for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. These calculations are achieved by sliding the red or white slide up or down and around the top, depending on the specific calculation, by using a metal stylus. The calculations of multiplication and especially of division do however become rather (too) complex and were in my opinion best done by hand with some good old basic arithmetic! The final reading is cleared by drawing up the bar at top centre, thus returning the reading to a row of zeros.

A "Baby Calculator" from 1939 and a modern electronic calculator -
worlds apart in computing power!
[From my own collection] 

While probably not worth much it has great curiosity value in today's high-tech world where we expect to be able to do anything and utilize as little brain power as possible by means of new hand-held devices. Where will be be in another 75 years?

"Vest Pocket Adding Machine" advertisement
from "Popular Mechanics" magazine, Dec 1934

And finally, this advert which an eagle-eyed reader has brought to my attention, having been printed in the December 1934 issue of "Popular Mechanics" (via Google Books)

Bibliography -

- Various Internet resources
- Unless otherwise stated all images are from my own collections and may be freely copied provided a link is given back to this page.