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Berkeley Square, number 15 (later number 38), London: designs for interior decoration for Robert Child, 1768-76 (19)

Signed and dated

  • 1768-76


Berkeley Square is named after the 1st Lord Berkeley, a Royalist commander in the Civil War, who developed a large area north of Piccadilly following the Restoration. Berkeley Square itself was built up from the 1730s when the 3rd Lord Berkeley sold his house on Piccadilly to the Duke of Devonshire, with the proviso that the vista to the north should be unobscured by future development. The 4th and 5th Lords Berkeley continued to develop the area, leaving a rectangular square to the north of Devonshire’s house, facilitating the necessary view. The result was Berkeley Square.

On the west side of the square, number 15 (later number 38) was the townhouse of Robert Child (1739-82). Child was the second son of Samuel Child, and the grandson of Francis Child (1642-1713), the founder of the Child family banking dynasty. In the autumn of 1763 Robert Child succeeded his brother Francis as head of the family. This included his position as head of the family banking firm, as well as his property, including Osterley Park and 15 Berkeley Square. Child had been a partner in the bank since 1760, but following his succession, he is not known to have taken an active role in the business. Instead he served as MP for Wells from 1766 until his death in 1782.

15 Berkeley Square was purchased by Child in 1767 from the 4th Duke of Manchester for £10,000. It has been suggested by Harris that Robert Adam - already Child's architect at Osterley - acted as the 'go-between' in this sale, as he was concurrently working for the Duke at Kimbolton Castle. Child made this purchase in the name of his wife Sarah Jodrell (1741-93), and provided the family with a townhouse in the fashionable area of Mayfair. Previously, the Child family had been in possession of a townhouse at 42 Lincoln's Inn Fields, purchased in 1702 by Robert's grandfather Francis. This was sold by Robert Child in 1767, and most of its contents removed to Osterley Park. In addition to this, prior to inheriting his brother's property in 1763, Child had acquired the lease of number 59 Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1762, in preparation for his marriage a year later. Having inherited, however, this house was sold by Child in 1764 to his banking partner, Thomas Devon.

As 15 Berkeley Square had been built in 1740, Child commissioned Robert Adam to design new drawing rooms, and the bedchamber. It is likely that Adam installed ceilings in both of the drawing rooms as he also designed friezes for the rooms. There is no extant design for the bedchamber ceiling, and it is not known if a new interior decorative scheme was installed there.

Two months before Robert Child died, his only offspring, Sarah, eloped with John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland. On his death, Robert Child vested his entire fortune and property in his widow, also Sarah. She was required to keep Osterley and Upton in the condition her husband had done, but 38 Berkeley Square was hers to so with as she liked. Sarah installed new furniture by John Linnell, and made improvements to the house in 1790 in preparation for her marriage in 1791 to Francis Reynolds, 3rd Baron Ducie. Following Lady Ducie's death in 1793, Robert Child's estate - at his own behest - was then placed in trust for his eldest granddaughter, Lady Sarah Sophia Fane (1785-1867), who was not born until three years after her grandfather had died. Lord Ducie was granted the use of 15 Berkeley Square for his lifetime, but he chose not to live there, and it was occupied by the Earl of Westmorland. In 1804, Sarah Sophia Fane came of age, inherited the Child fortune - including 15 Berkeley Square - and married George Bussy Villiers, 5th Earl of Jersey.

Sarah Sophia was a renowned hostess, and undertook two schemes of improvements to the house to better suit this purpose, first to designs by Thomas Cundy (765-1825) in 1805, and second to designs by Henry Crace (ND) in 1831. She continued to receive guests in the house every evening until her death in 1867 aged 81. The Child property then passed into the possession of the Earls of Jersey. The 7th Earl sold the lease in 1888 to the 5th Earl of Rosebery, who made alterations, and then sold the house for demolition in 1939. There are no known photographs of the interiors prior to demolition.

There are four Adam office drawings for 38 Berkeley Square within the National Trust drawings collection at Osterley Park. These are all dated 1770, and comprise a design for a console table and pier glass, and a design for a girandole, both for the front drawing room, and designs for a pier glass and for a girandole, both for the back drawing room.

See also: Osterley Park; Church of St Leonard: monument to Robert Child.

A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1992, Volume II, Index pp. 25, 66; E. Harris, The furniture of Robert Adam, 1963, pp. 54, 73, 103; H. Hayward, and P. Kirkham, William and John Linnell: eighteenth-century London furniture makers, 1980, Volume I, p. 117; A. Rowan, Catalogues of architectural drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum: Robert Adam, 1988, p. 53; E. Harris, 'The Childs in London', in T. Knox, and A. Palmer (ed.), Aspects of Osterley, 2000, pp. 35-44; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 307, 311-314; S. Bradley, and N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: London 6: Westminster, 2003, p. 498; 'Child, Robert (1739-82), of Osterley Park, Mdx.', History of Parliament online

Frances Sands, 2014



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Contents of Berkeley Square, number 15 (later number 38), London: designs for interior decoration for Robert Child, 1768-76 (19)