|The grand staircase lit by a lantern salvaged from a Venetian gondola|
Tuesday, 14 March 2017
Built in 1756 by John, First Earl Spencer, Spencer House is London's only surviving great 18th century townhouse. The Earl spared no expense to create a magnificent house that, on a small scale, rivals many a royal palace. His wealth was vast. As an example, on his honeymoon, the diamond buckles on his shoes alone were valued at £30,000
At twenty-one, he secretly married his childhood sweetheart, Georgiana Pointz, an acknowledged beauty. It was a love match and the house celebrates this. Classical motifs are everywhere. The Earl did the obligatory Grand Tour and came back full of enthusiasm for the art and architecture he had seen in Italy and Greece.
The Spencers were among a small group of families who were at the top of the society of the day and the house became a venue for political and social gatherings of the highest order.
Visitors were led through a series of impressive rooms, culminating in the extraordinary Palm Room, where the fronds of palm leaning towards each other over the arches symbolise married love.
After the Second World War, the house was in a state of disrepair and was used as offices, the gorgeous palm room demoted to being the typing pool with holiday postcards and office notices pinned or taped to the walls. However, under the care of the present owners, the Rothschilds, it has been restored to its former glory and limited viewing is possible with guided tours.