Spencer House visit
Tuesday 25th July 2023
Aldersgate Ward Club Visit to Spencer House
On Tuesday 25th July some of our Ward Club members and myself were delighted to visit Spencer House near St James’ Palace. There was great excitement in the air because this visit had been a year in planning and also because the date had to be moved back due to refurbishment work. It was a beautiful day as well which enhanced the visit. Having got there early I met several of our members who also had arrived early and were taking the opportunity to have a look at some of the other buildings in the vicinity. We stood outside a house with a very impressive coat of arms and later on discovered this was the offices of the Rothschild Foundation. Shortly thereafter a gentleman came out of Spencer House and we thought that it was time to step inside. Having been greeted in the lobby we were show to a beautiful room where the Spencer china had been laid out for our teas and coffees. A member of staff served us and we had delicious biscuits as accompaniment. What opulent surroundings. We were transported back in time to a bygone era as it contains many of the most beautiful mid eighteenth century rooms in the capital.
Spencer House is a Grade 1 listed Building commissioned by John Spencer in 1756, who later became the 1st Earl Spencer. He inherited a collection of pictures from his great grandmother, Sarah Duchess of Marlborough but had no suitable London home. In 155 Spencer commissioned The Architect John Vardy was responsible for the façade. In 1758 James Stuart replaced Vardy as Spencer wanted something more up to date and he added Greek detail in the internal decoration. His wife Georgiana, Lady Spencer was a partner in the creation of the house with its classic iconography. The building of the house took around eleven years. During this time Earl and Lady Spencer went on a Grand Tour and collected object d’arte. One of the most impressive rooms is the Dining Room with two column screens. It also contains Kentian tables where the corners are removed. An exceptional room is the Palm Room which has columns with gold palm leaves. On the first floor one can see the Great Room which has a high coffered ceiling which is so impressive. Red Brocade wall paper offsets toe red and patterned carpet with large and magnificent paintings on the walls. There is inventive detail on the door handles with very ornate gold details with S for Spencer.
Other generations of the Spencer family have added their own personality to the house. The Second Earl Spencer turned the Palm Room into a library. In successive centuries it has welcomed kings and queens, nobility and celebrities. More recently the late Queen in her Diamond Jubilee year entertained four of her Prime Ministers. President Putin entertained Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip when he visited London. Although the current freeholder is Charles Spencer 9th Earl Spencer, brother of the later Diana, Princess of Wales, Spencer House is leased to the family company of Jacob Rothschild. Following the talk and tour of the House we were delighted to step onto the terrace to view the magnificent garden which has many wild flowers growing in a structured way. The Aldersgate Ward Club members were really fortunate to have such an superb guide to escort us around sharing her extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for the house which was infectious.