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Buckingham House (later Buckingham Palace), The Mall, London: designs for the interior, an illumination, rebuilding the palace, and a pianoforte, for King George III and Queen Charlotte, 1761-1763, and 1780 (25)

1761-80
Buckingham House was built by William Winde (d.1722) - possibly in consultation with William Talman (1650-1719) - for John Sheffield, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1647-1721) in 1702-5. On Buckingham's death it passed to his illegitimate son Sir Charles Sheffield (1706-74), who in 1760 approached the Treasury in the hope of renewing his lease of the land on which around half of the house had been built. Following negotiation the entire estate was purchased in 1762 by King George III, for £28,000, to serve as Queen Charlotte's dower house. The royal family used Buckingham House as their family home as it provided a more domestic atmosphere than the formality of St James's Palace. It was adapted for this use in the 1760s-1780s, principally by Sir William Chambers (1722-96), but also with minor additions by Robert Adam. Adam had met King George III in 1761 and was appointed joint Architect to the King. We know from Adam's obituary in the Gentleman's Magazine that he gave up this position in 1768 when he was elected to serve as MP for Kinross.

All of the doorcases and chimneypieces in Buckingham House were replaced in the early 1760s, and Adam was responsible for the chimneypiece in the saloon, the ceiling in the Japanned room (later the crimson drawing room), and the doorcase between the staircase and the saloon. The chimneypiece in the saloon was removed to the Queen's Presence Chamber at Windsor Castle by King William IV, but the rest of Adam's work was lost during the remodelling of the 1820s by John Nash (1752-1835). A plan of the house in the 1760s can be seen in the History of the King's Works, Volume V, p. 135. The exterior was altered for King George III by Chambers though Adam had made alternative designs, and as well as the preliminary designs for this in the Soane Museum there are finished drawings at Hovingham Hall.

Adam also made designs for Queen Charlotte, for a pianoforte in 1780, and for an illumination in 1763, designed for the garden at Buckingham House as a 25th birthday surprise for the King. There is one drawing for the illumination in the Soane Museum, and this is for the original, unexecuted, scheme: the executed structure being much smaller in scale. There are presentation drawings for Adam's original and executed schemes held at Windsor Castle, and publication drawings by Clérisseau for the original and executed schemes were sold at Sotheby's in 1988. There are also various designs made by Adam for King George III and Queen Charlotte included in the first volume of the Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam (1773), including the unexecuted original scheme for the illumination - engraved from Clérisseau's drawing sold at Sotheby's - various chimneypieces, a sedan chair, and the ceiling for the Japanned room. Moreover, there are two Adam drawings for Buckingham House held in the RIBA drawings collection: a design for a doorway and wall, and a doorcase for the dressing room.

See also: Richmond Park observatory

Literature:
Gentleman's Magazine, June 1763, p. 300; Gentleman's Magazine, March 1792, pp. 282-83; A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume I, pp. 48-49, Volume II, p. 292, Index p. 35; E. Harris, The furniture of Robert Adam, 1963, p. 54; Catalogue of the drawings collection at the RIBA, 1968, p. 16; H.M. Colvin (ed.)., The history of the King's works: 1660-1782, Volume V, 1976, pp. 133-37; A. Rowan, Catalogue of the architectural drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum: Robert Adam, 1988, p. 46; Sotheby’s, Early English drawings and Victorian watercolours: architectural drawings and watercolours, Thursday 28 April 1988; A.A. Tait, Robert Adam: drawings & imagination, 1993; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 307, 375, Volume II, pp. 129, 221, 269-70, 275; S. Bradley, and N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: London 6: Westminster, 2003, pp. 644-45

Frances Sands, 2011
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