In 1772 Ancaster was granted Crown ‘waste’ land on Queen’s Road outside Richmond Park in gratitude for his military service, and a year later he commissioned Robert Adam to design a house for the plot facing the Richmond Gate to the Park. According to Robey, this was intended as a weekend retreat from the Ancaster townhouse on Berkeley Square (on which Adam also worked). The eight extant Adam office drawings at Sir John Soane’s Museum show the fabric of the house as executed with some alterations, for example, the mezzanine level with windows on the northwest front appears to have been omitted. It is not known if Adam was responsible for the interior decoration of Ancaster House. A single surviving eighteenth-century neo-classical plaster ceiling was removed in 1979 as it had become unsafe, but there is no evidence that this had been originally executed to a design by Adam. The Imperial staircase was executed in accordance with Adam’s designs and survives in situ.
The house was sold following Ancaster’s death in 1778, and it is apparent from observation of the extant building that the fenestration has been altered, and that various extensions were added to Adam’s fabric during the nineteenth century. Ancaster House and the surrounding land were purchased by Royal Star and Garter in 1915. The Star and Garter Home was built for the rehabilitation of servicemen, across the road from Ancaster House in 1921-24, to designs by Sir Edwin Cooper (1874-1942). From this time Ancaster House provided residential accommodation for the medical commandant and nurses. The house suffered bomb damage in 1944, following which a plan to demolish the building was quashed by the Georgian Group, who persuaded the Royal Star and Garter to undertake repairs in 1947. In 2013 both properties were sold by Royal Star and Garter to developers. The Star and Garter Home is to be converted into flats, and planning consent is currently being sought to convert Ancaster House back into a single or smaller number of dwelling.
I am grateful to Ann Robey, an independent scholar who wrote an historical report on Ancaster House to accompany the 2014 planning application to redevelop the building for domestic use, for her thoughts and allowing me access to her research.
See also: Berkeley Square, number unknown, London: designs for friezes for the 3rd Duke of Ancaster
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 26, 61; B. Cherry, and N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: London 2: south, 1983, p. 533; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 105, 124-125; ‘Ancaster House, Star and Garter nurses’ home’, British listed buildings online; A. Robey, ‘Final report on Ancaster House, Richmond Hill’ planning application historical report, 2014
Frances Sands, 2014
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.
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