An illustration of Spencer House, a Palladian mansion Click the image to enlarge

Twenty years ago, nobody wanted the house, as it been allowed to get into such a bad state. Now, it is the most beautiful house of its kind in central London. It looks as it should look.

— Lord Jacob Rothschild

Learn more about Spencer House below...

History

The Earl of Spencer was just 21 years old when he commissioned Spencer House, which was built between 1756–66. The initial architect, John Vardy, is responsible for most part of the building but he was later replaced by James Stuart who finished the interiors of the upper rooms in a neo-classical style, complete with accurate Greek decoration — one of the first buildings in Europe to do so.

The House remained the residence of the Spencer family until 1943, where they would often entertain prominent guests of London society. After the family moved out along with some key decorative pieces such as the marble chimney, the building was later altered to accommodate offices and modern-day facilities for employees. However, in the mid 1980s, Lord Rothschild took a lease on the property and commissioned for it to be restored to its original appearance. Today, it stands as the headquarters for his investment company, RIT.

Did you know?

Lord Rothschild spent £16 million on the restoration of Spencer House, when the initial budget was just half a million.

The architecture

The western façade of the building which faces onto Green Park is the most elaborate with rusticated arcades on the ground and first storey, then a colonnade of eight Doric columns on the second. Each storey has seven recessed window bays; those on the first storey are in Venetian style, a feature common throughout Palladian architecture, and those on the second storey sit under alternating triangular and semi-circular pediments. Above the second storey is a large triangular pediment that spans over 5 window bays, with a circular window in the middle decorated by motifs of palm branches.

Directly above the pediment is a statue of a draped female figure, with two more appearing above the second and seventh Doric column where the pediment ends, and a balustraded parapet extends from each figure to the edge of the building with a amphora statues on the pedestals at the end of them.

Compared with its façade, the interior of Spencer House is much bolder and adventurous in decoration although the same motifs are often used throughout. The house contains eight state-rooms:

  • Ante-Room
  • Library
  • Dining Room
  • Palm Room
  • Music Room
  • Lady Spencer's Room 
  • Great Room
  • Painted Room

Although all beautifully decorated, the two of note are The Palm Room by John Vardy and The Painted Room by James Stuart. The Palm Room which is situated on the ground floor, is the most beautiful of the rooms designed by Vardy; the Corinthian columns are decorated as palm trees, a popular motif throughout the building representing fertility, and the domed ceilings of the alcove and its apses are covered in coffers with detailed floral designs gilded in gold.

The Painted Room upstairs, is the most famous of Stuart's work in Spencer House; completely inspired by classical references, the room is covered in details reminiscent of Ancient Rome and Greece such as a copy of the Aldobrandini Wedding, a famous ancient Roman painting in the Vatican. The theme of marriage runs throughout the room, with paintings of Venus and Cupid, amorini, female dancers, and musicians dotted amongst the festooned garlands of flowers and foliage.

See images of Spencer House