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Extended History

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 Portland's Estate. 

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 Austro-Hungarian Embassy.

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.

Bomb Damage

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 for use.