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Cumberland House, 86 Pall Mall, London: designs for the interior, and additions to the house for the Duke of Cumberland, August 1780 - January 1788 (69)

Signed and dated

  • 1780-88


Cumberland House (originally York House) was built of brick in the Palladian style, on the south side of Pall Mall, in 1761-63 by Matthew Brettingham the elder (1699-1769) for Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of York and Albany, the second son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and brother of King George III. There are three plates of Brettingham's house in Woolfe and Gandon's Vitruvius Britannicus IV (1767). When the Duke of York died the house passed to his brother Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, and then in 1772 to his youngest brother, Prince Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn.

Prince Henry Frederick was created Duke of Cumberland and succeeded his uncle as Ranger of Windsor Forest and Great Park in 1766. He entered the navy as a midshipman in 1768, was promoted to Rear-Admiral a year later, Vice-Admiral in 1770, and Admiral of the White in 1782. Unfortunately, however, he is not remembered for his naval career, but for his romantic dalliances, first with the wife of the 1st Earl Grosvenor - another of Adam's patrons at Eaton Hall. In 1770 Cumberland was obliged to borrow money from his brother, the King, in order to pay £10,000 in damages to Lord Grosvenor, following his trial for 'criminal conversation' with Lady Grosvenor.

In 1771 Cumberland married Anne Luttrell (1743-1808), described by Horace Walpole as 'a gay young widow of 24 [...] and as artful as Cleopatra'. She was the daughter of Simon Luttrell, Baron Irnham, and the widow of Mr Christopher Horton, who had died two years previously. King George and Queen Charlotte were disappointed with the unauthorised match because Anne was a commoner, and thus any child born of the marriage would not have been a legitimate heir to the Electorate of Hanover. As a result Cumberland and Anne were exiled from court, and in 1772 the Royal Marriages Act was passed. This heavily proscribed the terms under which any descendant of George II was able to marry legally.

The Cumberlands were not to be reconciled with the King for almost a decade, and Anne was never received at Court. They spent much of their time on the Continent, but when in Britain they lived at Cumberland House. According to Matthew Kilburn - author of Cumberland's entry in the DNB - Adam's ostentatious designs for Cumberland House - though largely unexecuted - can be seen as an attempt to produce a social alternative to the royal court, at which the Cumberlands could entertain their own social circle.

The Duke of Cumberland died in 1790 as he stepped from his carriage outside Cumberland House (he had an ulcerated lung). Anne was awarded an allowance of £4,000, but being already encumbered by her husband's debts she was forced to move out of Cumberland House in 1793, selling its contents at Christie's, and transferring its ownership to her bankers for £20,000. The building was taken over in parts from 1807 by the War Office, and after years of neglect it was demolished between 1908 and 1912. The site was then taken over by the Royal Automobile Club which remains in situ.

J. Woolfe, and J. Gandon, Vitruvius Britannicus IV, 1767, pl. 5-7; A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index p. 44; F.H.W. Sheppard (ed.)., Survey of London, Volume XXIX: The parish of St James Westminster, part one: south of Piccadilly, 1960, pp. 364-67; E. Harris, The furniture of Robert Adam, 1963, pp. 57, 72; D. Stillman, The decorative work of Robert Adam, 1966, pp. 78, 82, 87, 95, 106; G. Beard, The work of Robert and James Adam, 1978, p. 66; B. Weinreb, and C. Hibbert, The London encyclopaedia, 1983, p. 1003; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 304-305, Volume II, pp. 177, 210; N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: London 6: Westminster, 2003, p. 615

Frances Sands, 2012



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Contents of Cumberland House, 86 Pall Mall, London: designs for the interior, and additions to the house for the Duke of Cumberland, August 1780 - January 1788 (69)