Built / Designed For: George Montagu, 4th Duke of Manchester.
House & Family History: Manchester House was designed by Joshua Brown (who is believed to have been influenced in his designs by Robert Adam) between 1776 and 1780 for George Montagu, 4th Duke of Manchester. Soon after the duke's death in 1788 the House was leased to the Spanish government to serve as its embassy; during this time Joseph Bonomi the Elder designed a chapel for the Embassy. The 2nd Marquess of Hertford took over the lease in 1797; it was during this time that the Prince Regent (later King George IV) was a frequent visitor, flirting with the marchioness, with whom the prince was rumored to be having an affair. Between 1834 and 1851 Manchester House was let by the 3rd Marquess to the French government to serve as their embassy. It was Sir Richard Wallace (the illegitimate son of the 4th Marquess) who renamed the property Hertford House and commissioned the architect Thomas Ambler to extend and alter the mansion to house the collections he inherited from his father and grandfather, laying the groundwork for today's Wallace Collection. Two important houses in the United States were influenced by the design of Manchester House. William Bingham, a Philadelphia banker, trader, and merchant, lived in London during the 1780s, where he was a frequent visitor to Manchester House. Before his return to Philadelphia in 1786 Bingham had an architect draw up plans for a fine house in the City of Brotherly Love based on the designs of Manchester House. Bingham House of 1786 (now demolished) became one of Philadelphia's grandest residences and a strong architectural influence throughout the new United States. This influence was felt in Boston, where the first Harrison Gray Otis House (today an important house museum that's open to the public -- www.HistoricNewEngland.org) was designed by Charles Bulfinch, American's first professional architect, in 1796 based on the designs of Bingham House.
Collections: The Wallace Collection has been called one of the greatest personal collections of modern times. It was started by the 4th Marquess of Hertford and continued and expanded by his illegitimate son, Sir Richard Wallace. Much of the collection was established with the help of political disruptions and revolution on the continent, making a large supply of reasonably priced art available, often with a royal or aristocratic provenance. The marquetry desk made for the Polish king, Stanislas Lescynski, by Riesener and Oeben, circa 1760, is considered the finest example of Louis XV furniture in existence. The main staircase balustrade, originally made for the Palais Mazarin, is probably the greatest surviving example of early 18th century metalwork.
Architect: Joshua BrownDate: 1776-88
Architect: Joseph Bonomi the ElderDate: Post 1788
House Listed: Grade II
Park Listed: No Park
Past Seat of: George Montagu, 4th Duke of Manchester, late 18th century. Francis Hugh George Seymour, 5th Marquess of Hertford, 19th century; Sir Richard Wallace, 19th century.
Current Ownership Type: Charity / Nonprofit
Primary Current Ownership Use: Museum
Ownership Details: Hertford House today houses The Wallace Collection.
House Open to Public: Yes
Historic Houses Member: No