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Wimpole Street, number 37, London: designs for interior decoration for Colonel Sir William Mayne Bt, 1771 (5)

Signed and dated

  • 1771


Wimpole Street was developed by John Price from 1724, and named after the home of the ground landlord, the Earl of Oxford: Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire. Number 37 was the townhouse of Colonel Sir William Mayne, Baronet (1722-94). The fourth son of William Mayne of Powis Logie, Clackmannanshire, Mayne first worked in his father's mercantile business, and then lived in London as a director of the Royal Exchange Insurance Company in 1757-65. Despite his later political and military careers, Mayne was listed in the trade directories as a merchant until 1780.

Mayne inherited estates in Ireland through his marriage in 1758 to the Hon. Frances Allen, daughter of Joshua Allen, 2nd Viscount Allen, and heir of her brother John Allen, 3rd Viscount. Through this connection Mayne served as an Irish MP for Carysfort in 1761-76, standing as a member of the Irish Privy Council in 1766, and then as a British MP for Canterbury in 1774-80, and Gatton in 1780-90. Throughout his career in British politics Mayne was an advocate of leniency towards the Irish, and of lifting restrictions on Irish trade. He did, however, object to American independence, being especially concerned for the welfare of the loyalist community. He was created Baronet of Marston Mortaine, Bedfordshire, in 1763, and Baron Newhaven of Carrick Mayne, County Dublin, in 1776. The marriage between William Mayne and Frances Allen produced one son, but he died in infancy, and Mayne's titles became extinct on his death in 1794.

Sir William and his brother Robert were both subscribers to Adam's Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro in Dalmatia in 1764. It was presumably by these means that Adam was known to him, and in 1771, Sir William commissioned Adam to make designs for the interior decoration of his house on Wimpole Street. It is not known how extensive this commission was, but there are surviving drawings for a ceiling, a chimneypiece and overmantel, and mirror frames for an unknown room or rooms. It is possible that these designs were executed, but this is not known. The house was destroyed during the Second World War, and is now one of the offices of the General Dental Council; it is currently under consideration for planning permission for an extension to its twentieth-century building, along with extensive internal rearrangement, proposed to be undertaken during 2014.

A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 51, 80, 82; E. Harris, The furniture of Robert Adam, 1963, Index p. 58; B. Weinreb, and C. Hibbert, The London encyclopaedia, 1983, p. 993; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, p. 395, Volume II, p. 181; History of Parliament online: 'Mayne, Sir William, 1st Bt. (1722-94), of Arnos Grove, Mdx, Surr.; and Carrick Mayne, co. Dublin'

Frances Sands, 2013



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Contents of Wimpole Street, number 37, London: designs for interior decoration for Colonel Sir William Mayne Bt, 1771 (5)