Aldersgate Street, number 152, London: unexecuted designs for interior decoration for the Hon. Thomas Harley, 1771 (5)
Now a short portion of the A1, Aldersgate Street was originally named after one of the city gates. Number 152 Aldersgate Street was the home and business premises of Alderman the Hon. Thomas Harley (1730-1804). Harley was the fourth son of the 3rd Earl of Oxford. He served as MP for the city of London in 1761-64, and Herefordshire in 1776-1802, as well as being an Alderman of London in 1761-1804, the Sherriff of London in 1763-64, and Lord Mayor of London in 1767-68. In 1772 he was chairman of the secret committee on East India affairs, and as such introduced the bill to restrain the Company from sending out supervisors to India. He had no personal interest in the Company.
Harley established himself as a wine merchant on Aldersgate Street in c.1752, and within a decade he had branched out into clothing and military contracts. During the American War of Independence this became extremely lucrative, and in 1778 he went into a banking partnership with Sir Charles Raymond, forming 'Raymond, Harley, Webber and Co.'; on George Street. At the same time he purchased an estate near Leominster, Herefordshire, and built Berrington Hall in 1778-81 to designs by Henry Holland (1745-1806).
In 1752 Harley had married Anne Bangham, the daughter of Edward Bangham MP, with whom he had two sons and five daughters. In 1781 their second daughter, Sarah Harley, married Robert, 10th Earl of Kinnoull, the son of Archbishop Robert Hay-Drummond, Adam's patron at Brodsworth Hall, South Yorkshire in c.1761-65. It was not, however, through this connection that Robert Adam came to Harley's attention, as it was a decade before the Kinnoull marriage that Adam was employed by Harley to make interior decorative designs for 152 Aldersgate Street.
Five drawings survive for the house, showing a ceiling design, a chimneypiece design, and a frieze design. The frieze is inscribed as being for the back drawing room (traditionally the rear room on the first storey), and as such it is possible that the ceiling and chimneypiece were also intended for this location. However, none of Adam’s designs for the house were executed. Much of Aldersgate Street was rebuilt during the twentieth century, including a large office building at number 50, which encompasses the plot of Harley's former house.
Literature: A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 34, 74; B. Weinreb, and C. Hibbert, The London encyclopaedia, 1983, p. 13; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume II, p. 180; History of Parliament online: 'Harley, Hon. Thomas (1730-1804), of Berrington, Herefs.'