Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Northumberland House: The Last Mansion in the Strand

Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Loretta reports:

My aristocratic characters often live in adapted versions of non-fictional houses.  This is the case with Silk is for Seduction's Duke of Clevedon, upon whom I bestowed a slightly altered version of Northumberland House, a splendid Jacobean structure situated unfashionably (in 1835) on the Strand.

The house caught my fancy, partly because of its location but mostly because of the way it looked.  As this Canaletto painting shows, it’s absolutely not Georgian.  There was nothing neoclassical or Adams-ish about it.

In the time of my story, this area was undergoing transformation into Trafalgar Square.  It still manages to look very romantic by moonlight, in this painting, shortly before its demolition.  It was not taken down because it was falling apart, but to make way for a street, though—if the various protests to its destruction had it right—there was a perfectly good street nearby that only wanted widening.

Imagine my excitement, then, when my visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum brought me to one gorgeous remnant of its glory days.  Along with this doorway of its Glass Drawing Room was a miniature of the room.  Oddly enough, the reflected light (it’s not easy to photograph objects behind glass, in a dark room) does help us see what long-ago family and guests would have seen, as they gathered here in the evening before or after dinner.

Photos copyright 2011 Loretta Chekani
(You'll find more views of the room and the doorway at Loretta Chase In Other Words.)


Hels said...

Sometimes I despair at planners' stupidity. To destroy an important building just to make way for a street-widening exercise is vandalism in the extreme. And the councillors who approved the vandalism should be gaoled for the rest of their lives, living on bread and water :(

Sandra Brake said...

Thankyou for posting these glorious pics. I have so often wondered what some of the buildings I've read about looked like. Especially those that no longer exist. It makes me want to cry to think they were pulled down. But planners and developers have always been with us. I'd rather look at a lovely old sandstone building than some concrete and glass monstrosity. Yeah ok I'm a luddite!

David Cloke said...

Not sure that you can blame 'planners' on this occasion as the building was demolished in the mid-nineteenth century! There is an excellent book published, I think, by English Heritage called the Lost Buildings of London which covers this and other losses

LorettaChase said...

Sad, indeed. It was interesting to find so many protests of the demolition. I wonder how often anybody objected to palatial homes being torn down. But we can't always blame urban planners, even those of the 19th century. Does anybody know how much of an outcry there was when the Prince Regent had Carlton House torn down? David, thank you for the book recommendation!

Thea said...

I was delighted to win an advanced copy of your book from your publisher! I just finished Silk is for Seduction yesterday and I loved it. As I read it, I wondered if such a house really existed - something so large - in London. Thank you for the background story. Let me just say, you embroidered a story with exquisite stitching, layered with hidden folds, as fine as blond silk! Bravo! thea

LorettaChase said...

The blog gives me such a fine opportunity to take readers behind the scenes of my books. I'm so glad it added to your enjoyment of my story. Thank you for the very high praise!

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