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Grosvenor Square, number 25 (later number 28), London: designs for interior decoration for Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Rich, 5th Baronet, 1769-70 (9)

1769-70
Grosvenor Square is the second largest square in London, and at the centre of the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair. It was developed piecemeal as fifty-one plots, in 1725-31. Only two of the original houses now survive, but there was never any great architectural uniformity in the overall scheme. It was an affluent residential square, and remained as such until the Second World War, when it was largely requisitioned for the American military.

Robert and James Adam are known to have worked on five of the Grosvenor Square houses, including number 25 (later number 28). This was built in c1728 under lease to the carpenter Benjamin Timbrell. The first occupant was Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Wills, who was resident in the house for nine years from its completion in 1730. Following this, the lease was taken by Field Marshal Sir Robert Rich, 4th Baronet, on whose death it passed to his son, also Robert.

Robert Rich (1717-85) was the eldest son of Field Marshal Sir Robert Rich, 4th Baronet, and, aged eighteen in 1735, he followed his father into a 39-year long military career. Known as a harsh disciplinarian, Rich rose to the rank of lieutenant-general in 1760, also serving as governor of Londonderry and Culmore Fort in 1756-74. He saw action several times, and was severely wounded, including sustaining the loss of his left hand, at Culloden in 1746. In 1768 Rich succeeded his father as 5th Baronet, and inherited the family estates, including 25 Grosvenor Square, Roos Hall, Suffolk, and Waverley Abbey, Surrey.

One year after inheriting, Sir Robert commissioned Robert Adam to make designs for the interior decoration of 25 Grosvenor Square. This includes extant designs for ceilings and friezes for the dining room, back parlour, and the front and back drawing rooms; chimneypieces for the dining room and front drawing room, and pier glasses for the dining room and back parlour. Adam's interiors are thought to have been executed, although they must have been removed later as there was no evidence of them when the house was demolished in 1957. That Adam took the trouble to design friezes to match the ceilings suggests that the schemes were realised. Moreover, Adam went on to design mirrors for the two ground-floor rooms a year later, appearing to be an addition to an extant scheme. In 1785, alterations were made to the house for Sir Robert - shortly before his death - to designs by James Wyatt (1746-183), and it may have been Wyatt who was responsible for removing Adam's interiors, or indeed, one of numerous others who worked on the house in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Sir Robert's only son died at the age of seven, and in accordance with his own father's will, on his death the family property passed to his daughter, Mary Frances. She had married the Reverend Charles Bostock, who in 1790 assumed the name and arms of Rich, and was created a baronet in 1791. The lease of 25 Grosvenor Square must have been sold by Mary Frances as the following year, in 1786, the resident is recorded as the Marquess (later 3rd Duke) of Montrose.

Literature:
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 37, 85; Survey of London, Volume 40, 1980, chapter 8; B. Weinreb, and C. Hibbert, The London encyclopaedia, 1983, p. 350; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 380-86, Volume II, p. 180; S. Bradley, and N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: London 6: Westminster, 2003, p. 529; 'Rich, Sir Robert, fifth Baronet (1717-1785)', Oxford dictionary of national biography online

Frances Sands, 2014
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