Image: Main Entrance to *Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road: Built 1899–1909
*Benjamin Franklin, in Poor Richard’s Almanack (1736). The proverb had appeared in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde (1385); George Herbert (1593-1633) later modified it: “Whose house is of glass, must not throw stones at another.”
From: Chapter Six (1757-1758) of Benjamin Franklin in London (2016) by George Goodwin:
“William (son of Benjamin Franklin) was on the social circuit, enjoying himself in “this great metropolis”. Given time he would be invited to Northumberland House, the vast metropolitan home of the Earl and Countess of Northumberland, just a stone’s throw from Craven Street, and be delighted to send some of the Countess’s cards to his sister.”
Victor Keegan (born 1940), a British journalist and author who spent most of his working life at The Guardian, blogs extensively about London on LondonMyLondon.co.uk + OnLondon.co.uk:
“Many buildings have been lost from around Trafalgar Square, but none as enormous as Northumberland House, the last and biggest of the majestic aristocratic houses that once dominated the whole of the southern side of the Strand.
It started life as Northampton House before becoming Suffolk House and then Northumberland, when it was sold to the Earl of Northumberland in 1640. It remained in the family until 1866, when, by that time owned by the then Duke of Northumberland, it met a force even greater than itself – the Metropolitan Water Board (sic) in 1874 under the leadership of Sir Joseph Bazalgette, who wanted to build a road from Trafalgar Square to his newly planned Embankment. What Bazalgette wanted, Bazalgette got. The Duke accepted an offer of £500,000. As a small gesture to history the new road was named Northumberland Avenue.
The only way to appreciate what the Strand looked like in those days is to view it from across the river and imagine that the entire Thames frontage was taken up with huge mansions owned first by bishops and later by aristocrats who wanted to be a short journey by water from the power and patronage of Whitehall. None survive to this day apart from Somerset House, which was a much later reconstruction.
Northumberland House may have gone but parts of it live on in other areas of London, not least the lion – almost 22 feet long and 5.5 feet high – which used to sit proudly at the top of Northumberland House and which is now keeping watch at the top of Syon House (another family property) near Brentford. Part of the bottom of Northumberland House can also be seen today in the East End. An archway designed by William Kent is now the main entrance to the Bromley-by-Bow Centre where it was moved in 1998. If you want to know how the aristocracy lived inside the building, there is a sumptuous interior wall from Northumberland House in the Victoria and Albert Museum*.”
From: Sir John Soane’s Museum Collection Online:
“Numerous programmes of alteration were carried out at Northumberland House. Adam had already started work for the 1st Duke of Northumberland at Syon and Alnwick, and in 1770 he took over from James Paine (1717-89) to decorate the interiors of the drawing room and dining room in the garden-facing range. Work began in 1773. It is not thought that Adam’s dining room scheme was executed, but prior to demolition the famous interior of Adam’s glass drawing room was dismantled and removed in crates to the riding school at Syon. In 1945 the interior was sold to Mr Bert Crowther of Syon Lodge, who leased it as temporary décor for parties which sadly caused considerable damage. In 1953, the remains of the room were purchased by the V&A Museum.”
From the website of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London:
“British Galleries, Room 118, The Woolfson Gallery
This section, composed of gilded metal pilasters on a green glass background, forms part of of the former Glass Drawing Room at Northumberland House, London, the Charing Cross mansion of the Dukes of Northumberland. (Northumberland House was built in about 1605 and demolished in 1874.)
The Glass Drawing Room was designed for Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland (1714-1786) by Robert Adam (1728-1792), one of the leading architects and designers in Britain at the time. Giambattista Cipriani (1727-1785) probably painted the insets: Adam frequently employed him to execute decorative paintwork for his interiors.
With the completion of this room, Adam hoped, but failed, to create a fashion for similar glass drawing rooms.”
From: The Antique Dealers project interactive Map website:
“Bert Crowther bought Syon Lodge, on the western outskirts of London and built in the 1770’s as a dower house of Syon Park, the great home of the Dukes of Northumberland. He had acquired it to live in but he and his partner-brother split up and he moved his business into his home. It has been a haunt of decorators, architects and landscape gardeners.
Crowther of Syon Lodge were established in 1943 by Albert (Bert) Crowther, the grandson of Thomas Crowther, of T.Crowther and Son, architectural salvage dealers. Albert split from his brothers (T. Crowther & Son) in 1943. The business had purchased Syon Lodge in 1928. The business closed in 2002.”