Who Lived There?
Chandos House, a Grade I listed building, was designed by
Robert Adam, the most prominent architect in Georgian Britain,
and built by William Adam and company, the family building
firm. It is now seen as the first of a series of large
London Town Houses, including 20 St. James's Square
and Derby House.
The house was built speculatively, with
monies from the Adam family, and the banker Sir
George Colebrooke. It was started in 1769
and finished in 1771 on a plot between another Adam House
(for General Clark) to the west and the garden wall of Foley
House to the east, on land which was part of the Duke of
The facade is of Craigleith stone, perhaps as an advert for
the quarry to the west of Edinburgh on which the Adam
brothers' firm had recently taken a lease.
The First Sale
The Adam brothers failed to find a buyer for Chandos House,
even when put up for sale by the Auctioneers Christies in June
1772, who described it as "a most capital and elegant
leasehold mansion, with beautiful stone front...six noble
spacious rooms on a floor, a grand staircase...and
water closets to the different Apartments."
Whilst unsold James Adam, Robert's younger brother had to
pay an annual rate of four pence to the parish. Eventually
James Brydges, the third and last Duke of Chandos acquired the
lease to the property in 1774 for £11,000. On 14 October
1774 he wrote in his diary 'Lay the first time in my
new house in Chandos Street'.
Lunacy In The Family
In 1813 it was still home to the Duchess of Chandos, whom
the Duke had married as his second wife in 1777. However,
following the sudden death of
the Duke in 1789 the Duchess, Anna Eliza Brydges, was
declared a lunatic. As a consequence she was confined to the
house and lost control of her estate.
In May 1815 the unexpired portion of the lease (51 years)
was sold by her executors and purchased by the
The Scene Of Lavish Parties
The first resident Ambassador was Prince Esterhazy and for
the next 25 years Chandos House was the scene of entertainment
on the most lavish scale. Contemporary newspapers record
his wasteful splendour and oriental pomp.
Eventually his extravagance proved his ruin. He left the
Embassy in 1842 and was succeeded by Baron Neumann
(1843-1846), Count Dietrichstein
(1847-1849), Count Colloredo-Waldsee (1850 and 1852-1856),
Count Buol (1851-1852) and Count Apponyi (1856-1866).
The Embassy's lease on Chandos House expired before the end
of Count Apponyi's term of office and was not renewed. The
Count claimed the house was 'old and sadly in need of repair'
but it may have been that he simply wanted to move to
a more fashionable part of London.
Moving Into The 20th Century
The Duke of Buckingham and Chandos (a descendant through
marriage of the third Duke of Chandos) acquired a 99-year
lease on the property in 1866. He lived there only a short
while, but it remained in the possession of the family until
the end of the century, although it was sub-let to
a member of the Dering family for a short period.
In 1890 the lease was assigned to William Stephen,
Earl Temple, the Duke's nephew, whose death in 1902
brought an end to the Chandos connection.
Cora, Countess of Strafford, took over the lease in
1905 and she lived in Chandos house until 1924.
The Earl of Shaftesbury then purchased the lease
and modernised the property, providing
additional bathrooms and windows.
In 1927 the tenancy passed to the newspaper tycoon, Sir
James Gomer Berry, Viscount Kemsley. It was used as a family
home by Lord and Lady
Kemsley and at this time was the finest example of an Adam
town house remaining in private ownership.
During the Second World War the dramatic, toplit staircase
had it's ceiling and skylight bombedout. Thankfully it was
convincingly restructured in the 1950's before ownership
passed to The Royal Society of Medicine.
The Royal Society of Medicine
The Royal Society of Medicine acquired Chandos House for
the first time in 1963. The cost to the Society was £250,000
for a 99-year lease with a small ground rent and an additional
£7,200 due for fixtures and fittings. An appeal was
launched to cover the cost of purchase, conversion
and furnishing. In total £585,000 was raised, much
more than the target.
Individual benefactors were recognised by
being elected to a 'Court of Benefactors'. The
Council of The Royal Society of Medicine was
pleased with their purchase and the minutes of
27 November 1963 describe the building with
it's 'splendid ground and first floor rooms, many of them
with fine hand-painted Adam ceilings, Adam fireplaces,
polished floors and superb chandeliers'. Chandos House
provided 14,000 square feet of additional
accommodation and underwent conversion and restoration
work in order to meet the needs of the RSM. In 1967 the
conversion work was complete and Chandos House became a
favourite rendezvous for Fellows at lunchtime. Receptions and
concerts were also held there.
Accommodation For Members
The Domus Medica (hotel) was established in the former mews
at 10 Duchess Street. It opened less than six months after the
purchase of Chandos House and took more than 300
reservations in the first six weeks. Chandos House
also provided the RSM with book storage in
the basement, magnificent rooms for
meetings, receptions, and offices to rent. The
College of Pathologists, the Nutrition Society, the
Royal Medico-Psychological Association and the Excerpta
Media Foundation all took short leases.
Expansion Of The RSM
Chandos House was sold in August 1986 to help finance the
refurbishment of 1 Wimpole Street and the acquisition of the
adjoining building, the Western District Post Office.
In 1990 Chandos House was again sold, this time to Fairgate
Estates, but remained unoccupied. The building was neglected
and in 1994 was eventually
placed on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register. It
continued to be neglected and English Heritage, in conjunction
with Howard de Walden Estates (the freeholders) served a
Repairs Notice on the leaseholders. This was followed by a
Compulsory Purchase Order served by the local authority,
which prompted urgent repair work to make the
building watertight and secure from dry rot.
Works were also carried out to support and repair the
decorative ceilings, which were discovered, just in time, to
be on the point of collapse. New chimneypieces were carved to
replace the originals, which had been stolen, and the
gilded mirrors by Mewes and Davis were restored. However,
work came to a halt as no buyer with an approved use for the
building could be found.
Eventually the Howard de Walden Estate saved the house by
purchasing the lease in 2002, after identifying The Royal
Society of Medicine as future tenants. It agreed to refurbish
Chandos House so as to provide overnight
accommodation needed by the RSM and to restore the
Adam reception rooms as required by English Heritage. The
architects were ESA Ltd, working with the specialist
conservation architects Donald Insall Associates, who had been
the historic building consultants under Fairgate from 1996,
with Dargie Lewis Designs.
A New Lease of Life
Chandos House then entered its final phase
of refurbishment, involving collaboration
between architects, designers, craftsmen and other
building professions. Following research and analysis
by Catherine Hassall, the decorative schemes
were restored to the principal rooms. Chandos House has
truly been restored to its former splendour and is open again