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St James's Square, number 33, London: executed designs for the house for the Hon. George Hobart (later 3rd Earl of Buckinghamshire), 1770 (12)

Signed and dated

  • 1770


St James's Square was developed by Henry Jermyn, Earl of St Albans following the Restoration in 1660. St Albans leased plots for speculative builders to erect individual houses. It was a convenient location for aristocrats with duties at St James's Palace, and soon became the most fashionable address in town. Most of the houses were rebuilt during the eighteenth century, but it became less fashionable during the nineteenth century when the square was populated by wealthy tradesmen and clubs rather than aristocrats. None of the houses in the square remain residential, and are mainly used as offices.

Little is known of the original seventeenth-century house at number 33 St James's Square. In 1770-72 the house it was replaced to designs by Robert Adam with a three-storey, four-bay house, facing the square, and with a seven-bay north side on Charles II Street. This has since been much extended. Adam's work was carried out for the Hon. George Hobart.

The Hon. George Hobart (1731-1804), was the fourth son of the 1st Earl of Buckinghamshire (d 1756). He served as MP for St Ives in 1754-61, and Bere Alston in 1761-80; lived in St Petersburg in 1762-63 as secretary to his brother, John 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire’s Embassy to Catherine the Great; and in 1757 he married Albinia, the daughter and co-heir of Lord Vere Bertie, the third son of Robert, 1st Duke of Ancaster. He was also a great lover of the opera, and promoted the Haymarket Opera House.

An inscription on one of the drawings for the fabric of the house suggests that 33 St James’s Square was rebuilt for Hobart at the behest of his brother, the 2nd Earl. This is unknown, but most of Adam's designs were executed, and his three ceilings on the first floor survive in situ.

Substantial alterations and extensions were made to the house by the 2nd Lord Eliot (later 1st Earl of St Germans) to designs by Sir John Soane (1753-1837) in 1805-23. In 1855-69 the house belonged to the 14th Earl of Derby, Prime Minister in 1852, 1858-59 and 1866-68, and a fourth storey was added in the 1870s for his son, the 15th Earl of Derby. Derby sold the building to the English and Scottish Law Assurance Association in 1910 for £54,000, and they undertook further works in 1911, including a stone balcony, stone facing to the ground storey, a mansard roof, and various alterations to the interior, all to designs by Messrs Edmerton and Gabriel. The house was remodelled in 1999. At this time some of the Soane interiors were demolished in favour of reproduction Adam interiors. The building is now used as offices.

A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 49, 75; F.H.W. Sheppard (ed.)., Survey of London, Volumes XXIX and XXX, 1960, pp. 206-10, and pls. 186-89; B. Weinreb, and C. Hibbert, The London encyclopaedia, 1983, pp. 740-42; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 264, 271-72; S. Bradley, and N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: London 6: Westminster, 2003, pp. 624-25, 633; P. Dean, Sir John Soane and London, 2006, p. 227; History of Parliament online: 'Hobart, Hon. George (1731-180), of Nocton and Blyborough, Lincs.'; British listed buildings online: 'City of Westminster, St James’s Square, No. 33'

Frances Sands, 2013



Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: drawings@soane.org.uk

Sir John Soane's collection includes some 30,000 architectural, design and topographical drawings which is a very important resource for scholars worldwide. His was the first architect’s collection to attempt to preserve the best in design for the architectural profession in the future, and it did so by assembling as exemplars surviving drawings by great Renaissance masters and by the leading architects in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries and his near contemporaries such as Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and George Dance the Younger. These drawings sit side by side with 9,000 drawings in Soane’s own hand or those of the pupils in his office, covering his early work as a student, his time in Italy and the drawings produced in the course of his architectural practice from 1780 until the 1830s.

Browse (via the vertical menu to the left) and search results for Drawings include a mixture of Concise catalogue records – drawn from an outline list of the collection – and fuller records where drawings have been catalogued in more detail (an ongoing process).  

Contents of St James's Square, number 33, London: executed designs for the house for the Hon. George Hobart (later 3rd Earl of Buckinghamshire), 1770 (12)