Arlington Street, number 23, London: unexecuted designs for interior decoration for Sir George Colebrooke, 1771 (16)
George Colebrooke (1729-1809) was the third son of James Colebrooke, a London banker originally from Arundel. In 1754 he married Mary Gayner, daughter of Peter Gayner of Antigue, from whom he inherited £200,000. He owned estates and enslaved people in Antigua, Grenada, Dominica and Jamaica. In 1761 he succeeded his brother James as 2nd Baronet; inherited Gatton Manor, Surrey, and his father's fortune and banking firm. He served as MP for Arundel in 1754-74, and was influential in the East India Company, speculating in East India Company stock in c.1766-72, and being elected as director in 1767, and then as chairman in 1769, 1770 and 1772. Colebrooke was known for his wealth, ostentation, and speculative investments. However, during his tenure the East India Company suffered a financial collapse. Moreover, from 1771 several of his own investments in raw materials resulted in major losses, and his bank was forced to close in 1773. Gatton Manor was sold in 1774, and Colebrooke was declared bankrupt in 1777. Following this set-back, Colebrooke retired to Boulogne, living on a modest pension of £200 per annum, which he had been voted by the East India Company in 1778. By 1789, however, he had returned to live in Bath, having paid off his creditors, and with a portion of his property salvaged.
Prior to his financial difficulties, Colebrooke's London townhouse was on Arlington Street, probably at number 23. Arlington Street had been built by Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington from 1682, on land which had previously been part of Green Park. The majority of the houses had been rebuilt in the 1730s. By 1771 Colebrooke clearly desired a new interior decorative scheme, and he hired Robert Adam to produce designs for at least seven rooms, and a selection of furniture. It is unlikely that any of Adam's designs for Colebrooke were completed owing to the start of his financial problems at around the same time. It is worthy of note, however, that Adam volume 12/86 - a ceiling design for the saloon - has an Italian pencil inscription which reads 1771 Commiciaro guesto Lavoro (work begun in 1771). This suggests that the work was begun, but it is not known to have been completed. Presumably Colebrooke gave up the house at sometime between commissioning Adam's designs in 1771, and his flight to Boulogne in 1777-78. 23 Arlington Street had been demolished by the time that Arthur Bolton wrote his two-volume work on Robert and James Adam in 1922. The site has since been re-used to erect a 1960s office block behind the Ritz Hotel.
Literature: A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 34, 66; E. Harris, The furniture of Robert Adam, 1963, pp. 53, 74, 97, 94; B. Weinreb, and C. Hibbert, The London encyclopaedia, 1983, p. 26; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume II, p. 180; S. Bradley, and N. Pevsner, The buildings of England, London 6: Westminster, 2003, p. 602; 'Colebrooke, George (1729-1809), of Gatton, Surr.', History of Parliament online; 'Colebrooke, Sir George, second baronet (1729-1809)', Oxford dictionary of national biography online; Legacies of British Slavery database, UCL: www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs