Richmond House, incorporating Nos. 1-8 Richmond Terrace
- Heritage Category:
- Listed Building
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- Richmond House (incorporating Nos.1-8 Richmond Terrace), Whitehall, London, SW1A 2NJ
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- Statutory Address:
- Richmond House (incorporating Nos.1-8 Richmond Terrace), Whitehall, London, SW1A 2NJ
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Greater London Authority
- City of Westminster (London Borough)
- Non Civil Parish
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Government offices, comprising a terrace of houses, designed 1819 by Thomas Chawner and built 1822-4 by George and Henry Harrison, the rear parts were demolished in 1979. In 1982-6 the surviving facade and end wings were restored and interiors reinstated by BDP and incorporated into a new structure, Richmond House, 1982-4 by Whitfield Associates. On completion the building was occupied by the Department for Health and Social Security (DHSS) and the whole named Richmond House.
Reasons for Designation
Richmond House, incorporating Nos. 1-8 Richmond Terrace, designed in 1819 by Thomas Chawner, and built in 1822-4 by George and Henry Harrison, restored, part demolished and reinstated in 1982-6 by BDP, and the 1982-4 building by Whitfield Associates is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: a particularly grand palace-fronted terrace of the late Georgian period, with a stately Neoclassical facade, skilfully incorporated in Whitfield's scheme for post-war government offices;
* Post-war architectural interest: exemplary use of materials, of massing and detail, executed to a high standard;
* Post-war plan: behind the formal Whitehall frontage, unequal spurs of shelved office floors are set round rear courtyards, terminating in robust towers, as if built against the curtain wall of a keep;
* Contextualism: the manner in which retained elements and new construction are bound together through contextual references to the historic setting is exceptional;
* Interiors: high quality interiors, fixtures and fittings conserved and reinstated in the front range of the terrace; Richmond House has a notable, monumental succession of principal internal spaces, unparalleled at the time in purpose-built post-war government offices; * Historic planning interest: a late Georgian development of unusual type, comprising a free-standing terrace built end-on to the main thoroughfare, facing its own landscaped forecourt;
* Historic interest: an extremely prestigious development at the heart of London's government district, inhabited during the C19 and early C20 by various important figures in politics and finance;
* Post-war planning interest: a sequence of events from the inception of Sir Leslie’s Martin’s Whitehall plan to the realisation of Whitfield’s skilful interpretation of the site, reflecting government strategy regarding its own estate and the conservation debate that generated Whitfield’s solution;
* Group value: with the rich and varied assemblage of historic buildings and structures in and around Whitehall, many listed at high grades, including the Cenotaph and the former War Office, Foreign Office and Treasury and the Norman Shaw Building.
C19 TO EARLY C20
Richmond Terrace occupies the site of Richmond House, the London residence of the Dukes of Richmond, which stood within what had been the Privy Garden attached to the old royal palace of Whitehall. The original Richmond House of about 1660 was superseded in 1733-4 by a new house slightly further to the west, built to the designs of Lord Burlington. This second house was gutted by fire in December 1791 and not rebuilt.
By 1819 the Duke was seeking to dispose of the remainder of his lease. The buyer was the Commission for Woods and Forests, whose architect – Thomas Chawner (1774-1851), a former pupil of Sir John Soane – drew up plans to replace the ruined mansion (along with a neighbouring house formerly owned by the Earls of Loudon and Mar) with a terrace of ‘eight capital messuages [dwelling houses] of the first class, fronting northwards on to the Privy Gardens with suitable domestic and stable offices behind, and for laying out the residue of that land for 'carriage accesses and ornamental gardens’. The concept of a free-standing terrace, not facing directly onto any street or square, was unusual in the London context, and Chawner’s design was probably influenced by John Nash’s contemporary schemes for the great palace-fronted terraces surrounding Regent’s Park.
The sale finally went through in March 1822, and work began during the summer. As was standard procedure in London developments of the period, the site was leased at a peppercorn rent to a builder – George Harrison, a Westminster man responsible for various Government contracts – who undertook to build the shells of the houses before passing them on to individual lessees for completion. Harrison agreed to spend at least £40,000 on materials and labour (a substantial sum, reflecting the prestige value of the site), and worked under close supervision by the Department’s surveyors, albeit apparently with some design input from his architect brother Henry. The houses were complete in shell form by the end of 1824, and a year later all the leases had been granted. The interior decorations were the responsibility of the lessees, some of whom appear to have employed the architect-decorator John Buonarotti Papworth.
Various alterations were made to the houses over the following hundred years. In 1876 the central five bays of the terrace (Nos. 4 and 5) were raised by an additional storey, with a projecting porch added to No. 4; in 1877 the easternmost house (No. 1) received a belvedere tower designed by the architect George Devey; and in 1897 a pediment was added to the river front. All these elements have now been demolished or removed. No. 1 also received a significant internal remodelling in 1877-82, when the present plasterwork and wood panelling – by the decorators Turner Lord and Messrs Mellier respectively – were installed. In 1892 Nos. 4 and 5 were united into a single dwelling, with various internal modifications.
Famous residents during this period included the explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley (No. 2, commemorated by a blue plaque), the politician William Huskisson (No. 3), the philanthropist Quintin Hogg (No. 5) and the economist Thomas Tooke (No. 7). No. 8, which faced Whitehall, was used as offices from the start, and in 1850 became home to the newly-established General Board of Health. The other houses were gradually taken into official use as their leases expired, mostly during the late 1920s.
POST-WAR CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT During the post-war period various proposals were advanced for the radical redevelopment of Whitehall, replacing what was seen as a haphazard collection of overcrowded C18 and C19 buildings with a new purpose-built government complex. Plans to develop the site occupied by Richmond House originated in Leslie Martin’s Whitehall Plan, commissioned by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works (MPBW) in 1965. Martin proposed a continuous matrix of courtyards and galleries, spreading between St James Park and Victoria Embankment, obliterating existing government offices such as George Gilbert Scott’s Foreign Office and swallowing up New Scotland Yard. In the event, only three vestiges of the scheme were realised, and in a quite different form – QEII Conference Hall (Powell and Moya, 1982-6), Portcullis House (Michael Hopkins and Partners, 1998-2001) and Richmond House by Whitfield Associates (1982-4).
The Whitehall Plan was probably victim of the Wilson government’s policy to decentralise and Martin’s scheme was superceded in part in 1969 by MPBW proposals for a vast open-plan office block occupying the entire site between Derby Gate and Richmond Terrace, with a shopping mall to the south. It proved sufficiently contentious in the climate of a growing conservation lobby that a Public Inquiry ensued, recommending in 1970 the retention of the Shaw building and the 1820s façade of Richmond Terrace.
In 1975 William Whitfield was appointed to produce a masterplan for the site, including detailed designs for new development at the rear of the existing buildings. He proposed retaining the front of the terrace (one room deep behind the principal elevation, plus the east and west wings) whilst demolishing the rear parts and the mews to make way for a new office building. The refurbishment and remodelling of Richmond Terrace was undertaken by Building Design Partnership (BDP) in 1982-6 while Whitfield Associates were responsible for the new building.
Following a schedule prepared in 1978 for the conservation of the front rooms of Richmond Terrace, the building was demolished in 1979, save for its façade, while its fixtures and fittings were copied or conserved. The façade was restored to its 1820s appearance, while a new structure, reduced in depth from the original plan, was tied into the façade, and in accordance with the schedule, elements of the original decorative scheme were reinstated within the new plan. It was onto this and against the backdrop of the Shaw buildings at the rear that Whitfield fitted his courtyard of offices, the reinstated rooms linked via long spine corridors at each level to the new building behind. The combined building is known as Richmond House and has its main entrance on Whitehall.
Important to Whitfield were the long views south down Whitehall and from the river, and the very varied roof line, particularly of the Norman Shaw Building and Palace of Westminster. Consequently he imposed a height limit to avoid unseemly penetration of the existing silhouette. He perceived the site as a medieval castle, with the Shaw Building as the keep and the existing buildings on Parliament Street and Richmond Terrace as the curtain walls against which the new buildings would be built (AJ 1988, 50). Rather than compete with or indeed match the grandeur of the palatial government offices on the west side of Whitehall and the Norman Shaw Building, to the rear the scheme was intentionally subservient, but was informed too by the smaller scale commercial ‘buildings of the people’ adjacent to it (AJ 1988, op cit). It was only after work had begun on site that he was asked to provide a presence on Whitehall, to indicate an important government building (by then assigned to the DHSS), at which point the main entrance was moved, the succession of formal interior spaces and the façade created. Whitfield also advocated the retention of the newly-listed, small-scale commercial buildings, 54 Parliament Street and 85 Whitehall, which were incorporated in the scheme and form part of the Department of Health. Known as A Block, these are separately listed (National Heritage List for England references 1224206 and 1265852).
Government offices, comprising a terrace of houses, designed 1819 by Thomas Chawner and built 1822-4 by George and Henry Harrison. Rear parts were demolished in 1979; in 1982-6 surviving front parts and end wings restored by BDP and incorporated into a new structure, Richmond House, by Whitfield Associates.
The Details encompass the whole building but describe the two main phases in turn.
1 Former Nos.1-8 Richmond Terrace, designed 1819 by Thomas Chawner and built 1822-4 by George and Henry Harrison, restored and refitted 1982-6.
MATERIALS: amber brick with Portland stone facing to the ground floor and Bath stone dressings and columns above; a slate roof.
PLAN: the terrace was built as a single free-standing block, end-on to Whitehall, where a gateway and lodge (now demolished) gave access to the extensive landscaped forecourt. Behind stood a row of mews (also now demolished), accessed separately via an archway from Whitehall. Each house had three principal floors plus a half-basement and attic. Internal layouts varied somewhat from house to house, as individual occupants had the interiors fitted up (and subsequently altered) to their own specifications. The middle six houses (Nos. 2-7) faced north and shared the same basic ground plan: a lobby and stair hall on the right, principal rooms (front and back) on the left, with service ranges projecting behind. The two end houses were larger, forming return wings facing east towards the Thames (No. 1, with a terraced garden running down to the river) and west onto Whitehall (No. 8, with a deep area and a central doorway with steps and balustrade).
The 1980s development removed both the mews buildings and the rear parts of the terrace, including the service wings and the stairs. The party walls were also removed but replaced by modern construction to the same footprint to one room depth, and the reinstated rooms are accessed by a new spine corridor on each floor. The historic features have been reinstated to one room depth, and in Nos. 1 and 8 to two rooms depth in the rebuilt ‘pavilions’, including the stairs in No. 8.
EXTERIOR: the terrace is of three main storeys, with an area basement below and an attic above. The principal elevation faces north and is treated as a single Neoclassical composition, of 23 bays arranged 3-6-5-6-3. Six giant Ionic half-columns and a pediment (the latter restored in the 1980s, when the attic storey added in 1876 was removed) form a slightly projecting centrepiece; the end pavilions each have two half-columns in antis. Spiked cast-iron railings mark the area and entrance steps, curving outward through a quarter-circle on the Whitehall side. The raised ground floor is faced in channelled Portland stone, with round-headed multi-pane sash windows and doorways with panelled double doors, fluted surrounds and semicircular fanlights (all restored in the 1980s). The first and second floors are brick-faced, with square-headed windows – again multi-pane sashes – in moulded Bath stone surrounds. A continuous first-floor balcony with a slender iron balustrade (restored) runs the full length of the terrace; above, a stone balustrade (restored in the 1980s) conceals a mansard roof with dormers and broad stacks. The balcony and balustrade continue on the five-bay return elevations to the east and west wings, which display a giant pilaster order. The west return to Whitehall (No. 8) has a central doorway, and solid parapet walls instead of railings. The short, windowless south returns to the wings are largely creations of the 1980s.
INTERIORS: the interiors of note are on the ground and first floors. Within each house are the reinstated front rooms on each level, incorporating salvaged elements, plus the ground-floor entrance lobby and the first-floor hallway. The deeper rooms were truncated to accommodate the spine corridor. All of the surviving internal features were removed during the project, but original chimney pieces and panelling were reinstated, and joinery and plasterwork recreated to match original details. Chimneypieces in the main ground floor front rooms of houses Nos. 1, 2 and 5, and first floor front rooms of Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 are reinstated in their (reconstructed) original positions; others are relocated from demolished rear rooms.
On the ground floor the best interiors are in the east-facing No. 1, which was comprehensively redecorated in the late 1870s and early 1880s on behalf of the then lessee, the financier BW Currie. The ground floor rooms, of 1877-8 by Mr Turner Lord, featured delicate neo-Adam plasterwork to walls and ceiling; this is reinstated in the front room, along with a big Neoclassical fire-surround in golden marble with flanking columns and monochrome, painted grisaille figures inset; the rear room has been truncated, removing the columned semicircular exedra that once formed its northern on its northern side, but its Doric frieze, wave-scroll dado, and yellow marble fire-surround with scrolls and sinuous foliate and natural rocaille forms, are reinstated. Between these two rooms is a small lobby that once gave access to the river terrace. This too has Adamesque plasterwork, as well as pedimented doorcases to the two flanking rooms and an ornamental glazed screen to what is now the spine corridor. (The double-leaf mahogany doors to the corridor are standard throughout the building and were presumably installed in the 1980s.) In the main north-facing entrance lobby plasterwork includes a semicircular niche and an ornate yellow marble fire-surround beneath. Nos. 2 and 3 are much plainer, with plain marble fire-surrounds and simple moulded cornices. At No. 4 the main room has a French Empire-style marble fire-surround with sphinxes and torchères; the adjoining entrance lobby now forms the ceremonial entrance to the building, and contains a modern glazed screen and ironwork. The front room at No. 5 had been enlarged – presumably in 1892 when this house was united with No. 4 – to take in the adjoining entrance lobby. The plasterwork ceilings with their flower vases and monograms are probably contemporary with these works, as are the two ionic columns and entablature that replace the dividing wall; there is also an elaborate fireplace with egg-and-dart and mask ornament, and flaming urns in relief on the fire-back. Nos. 6, 7 and 8 are again plainer, with simple fire-surrounds and cornices. No. 8 contains the one stair (rebuilt), of open-well type with flying stone treads and wrought-iron baluster panels featuring palmettes, lyres and wreaths.
On the first floor, the most elaborate interiors are again in No. 1. In 1882 the two front rooms were fitted up as a library by Messrs Mellier, with glazed shelving and full-height hardwood panelling in a florid French C17 style, featuring portrait busts of famous authors (Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, Molière and Goethe) in rich scrollwork frames. The stone fireplace in the larger room has been stained to match, and the ceilings have ornamental plasterwork in a corresponding style. The adjoining hallway has more Adamesque plasterwork. Nos. 2 and 3 are plainer, having simple cornices and white marble fireplaces with some carved ornament. In Nos. 4 and 5 the front rooms were thrown together when the two houses were united; the walls have elaborate Rococo plaster panels – some with mirrors – featuring palm-fronds, shells, putti and dolphins. The two fire-surrounds, of richly variegated marble, are similarly ornate. Nos. 6-8 are again plainer, having simple Classical fire-surrounds with mirrored overmantels.
Aside from simple moulded cornices and (in some cases) small fireplaces with tiled inserts on the second floor, formerly bedrooms, and reinstated fireplaces on the attic floor, the second floor* and attic floor* are not of special interest. The basement rooms* have been comprehensively altered and are not of special interest.
2 Government offices, commissioned in 1975, before completion assigned to the Department of Health and Social Security, 1982-4 by Whitfield Associates.
STRUCTURE AND MATERIALS: reinforced concrete frame. The Whitehall frontage is in Tudor Perpendicular idiom, according to Whitfield taking its cue from the former Holbein Gate and King Street Gate, in amber brick with ashlar dressings of a similar palette to Richmond Terrace. The rear is in red brick banded with grey granite, reflecting the Norman Shaw building, and on a red granite plinth. The external treatment of the towers is carried through internally into the lift and stair lobbies. Floors and ceilings are coffered beams rather than slabs. Internally, principal areas are lined in ashlar; fairfaced concrete is painted white as a finish.
PLAN: the main entrance, on Whitehall, leads to a shallow entrance hall spanning the width of the facade from which a monumental staircase rises to a lobby which opens onto the Cathedral Room; an imposing double-height conference room above the entrance. This centrepiece is flanked to the right (south) by grouped stair and lift towers which turn the corner and link the new building to the C18 and C19 commercial buildings on Parliament Street. The main staircase continues between stone portals to the first floor corridor which runs the length of Richmond Terrace. The building is spliced onto the rebuilt rear of Richmond Terrace, its shallower 7 levels offset against the 5 principal storeys of the latter. It provides 15000 sq m of offices, to the rear of Richmond Terrace and in side wings or spurs of unequal length which are stepped in above a central courtyard which is filled at lower level by conference facilities, the canteen and a small enclosed decked area. At the rear the wings terminate in robust stair and service towers which wrap round the courtyard.
EXTERIOR: the Whitehall elevation is set back from the adjacent buildings and is asymmetrically arranged with a strong vertical emphasis. The centrepiece is articulated by full-height facetted towers which rise above the Cathedral Room above. The lower level is clad in ashlar, the upper levels in banded brick and stone, the Cathedral Room having stone oriel windows. Above, are recessed bays of simplified mullion windows, while the top, mansard, level is in the idiom used at the rear, of glazed office floors set back beneath the pronounced profile of the beam ends of the roof structure. To the right, blind, grouped facetted towers flank lobbies, on the principal floors lit by vertical stone screens, while the upper stages of the turrets are lit by narrow slit windows.
At the rear, and glimpsed from Victoria Embankment and also from Derby Gate, are monumental towers, with facetted corners, in horizontally banded red brick and stone. Office floors are set back or ‘shelved’, with shallow hipped roofs, and have continuous anodised metal window units, again with a vertical emphasis, set back on each level beneath pronounced, projecting ceiling beams or on the courtyard elevations above a granite fascia band. To the rear, the footprint of the building is defined by an offset polished granite plinth and perimeter paving (see Land Registry plan).
INTERIOR: The entrance lobby leads to monumental stairs, framed by portals, which progress to the upper lobby and conference room. At upper level the stairs continue dramatically between narrow portals, from where a series of round arched openings are seen. The ensemble is lined in ashlar, while the first floor lobby and upper flight also have flush oak dado panelling, all executed to a high standard. The portals to the staircase are flanked by gridded oak screens, a similar device is used for the doors to the Cathedral Room, while stairs have steel and brass balustrades. The Cathedral Room, a monumental double-height space, has pronounced piers, facetted at the top, the coffered ceiling reflecting the articulation of the room. Windows are set in deep, facetted reveals and have bronze or bronze-finished frames.
Within the principal towers (T lift lobbies) offset lift lobbies and deep-set fenestration, reminiscent of a medieval tower and stairwells with facetted lanterns are arranged to dramatic effect and are executed in high quality materials. The same ethos is applied to the smaller rear lobbies, where the external materials are continued internally and where stairwells are top-lit. Within the building, the majority of the stairs are of masonry with deep moulded timber rails and many lit by a light well from above. Conversely, stair S2 (the minister's stair) is an open well stair with oak tread ends, a steel balustrade and brass rail. Office floor windows have a screen of rear timber spurs aligned with the ceiling beams; in some areas these have been removed.
Throughout the building, the underground car park and ramp*, office floors*, toilet and catering facilities*, plant and services*, provisions for the disabled* and security installations* are not of special architectural or historic interest and are excluded from the listing.
* Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that these aforementioned features are not of special architectural or historic interest.
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Books and journals
, Dean Hawkes, Architects' Journal, vol.187, no. 25, June 22, 1988, pp 31-49
Architects' Journal, vol.187, no. 51/52, 1988 Dec 21/28. p 50-52
Building, vol. 252, no. 7526 (50), 1987 Dec 11, p 24-27
Country Life, vol.182, no.9, 1988 March 3, p 84-87
Pevsner, N, Bradley, S, The Buildings of England: London 6 Westminster, (2003), 244-5
Sharr, Adam, Thornton, Stephen, Demolishing Whitehall, (2013)
English Heritage historians' files (Westminster 1)
English Heritage London photographic collection (boxes 909-10)
Richmond Terrace', Survey of London: volume 13: St Margaret, Westminster, part II: Whitehall I (1930), pp. 249-256.
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
The listed building(s) is/are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.
End of official listing