Feb 252014

Though it no longer stands, during the Regency, Grosvenor House held one of the finest collections of paintings in all of England. In today’s article, Regency romance author, Angelyn Schmid, shares her research into this remarkable house and the extraordinarily wealthy family that owned it, and the surrounding property. The question is, once you have read Angelyn’s article, would you want to live in this house?

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In 1805, Gloucester House, home of several lesser Royals, was purchased by the Grosvenor family. The house had a long frontage along Park Lane and extensive gardens beside Mount Street. The noted architect William Pordon was hired to remodel it. Upon initial inspection, he found it to be "dirty..and not so cheerful as the situation would lead one to expect."

Print of the facade of Park Lane

In 1808, Grosvenor House, as it was renamed, was thrown open for the ton’s inspection. Lord Lonsdale, Lord Grosvenor’s fellow Tory, pronounced it "expensively furnished, but in bad taste."

Portrait of Richard Grosvenor

Richard Grosvenor, 2nd Marquess of Westminster – red looks good on him

No matter—Grosvenor House was principally known for its collection of paintings. Stubbs, Gainsborough, Benjamin West were just a few of the artists represented in a collection that required extensive additions to the House. An entire wing some fifty feet long, double story, was added. An entire room was devoted to the religious paintings by Rubens, looted by the French from a Carmelite convent during the Spanish Peninsular War. These were purchased for 10,000 pounds. Presumably the nuns saw none of that money.

The development of the Grosvenor Estate, of which the house was only a small part, made the family one of the wealthiest in England during the Regency. Successive generations became wealthier, eventually becoming the Marquesses and later Dukes of Westminster. The present duke is almost (if he isn’t) the wealthiest person in the U.K.

Grosvenor House is now demolished.

The Viscount Belgrave, Richard Grosvenor, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Leveson-Gower, as she was known before her marriage, lived in Grosvenor House during the London Season with his parents, the first Marquess and Marchioness of Westminster.

I’ve pictured them here because they are both rather good-looking.

Lady Elizabeth published two very interesting travel diaries. During her trip to Russia in 1827 her knee suddenly swelled. An English doctor was found, along with eight leeches:

"…more voracious animals never were seen. I could hardly prevent them from biting my fingers in taking them out of their glass; and they fixed the moment they were applied; biting like pen-knives, we put on seven, and never saw anything like their size, and the quantity of blood they took away."

Head and sholders portrait of Elizabeth Grosvenor

Elizabeth Grosvenor, Marchioness of Westminster – no leeches in this 1816 portrait

© 2012 – 2014 Angelyn Schmid
Originally posted at Angelyn’s Blog
Posted at The Beau Monde by permission of the author.

  2 Responses to “Grosvenor House — Regency Treasure House   By Angelyn Schmid”

  1. Thanks for posting this. I went brain dead recently and could not remember the name of this house, which has long been gone from the London landscape. I saw an exhibition about it at the Victoria & Albert. Oh, to have actually see it. . .

  2. What a good looking family. Can’t imagine the house being anything but wonderful. Too bad we can’t see it today.

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