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Lancaster House (Stafford House) (York House)

  • Built / Designed For: Frederick, Duke of York

    House & Family History: Lancaster House was originally called York House and was designed for Frederick, Duke of York (the "Grand Old Duke of York," younger brother of King George IV and son of George III), who died before paying for it. This was the third house by this name: Frederick had started out with Fetherstonhaugh House in Whitehall (today Dover House, home of the Scotland Office), and then moved to Melbourne House, Piccadilly, both of which he renamed York House. Lancaster House is built of Bath stone and is one of the largest and most sumptuous townhouses in London. After the death of the Duke of York the leasehold (the freehold being owned by the crown) was sold to the Marquess of Stafford (later 1st Duke of Sutherland), who completed its building in 1840 and renamed it Stafford House. Most of the interiors are in the Louis Quinze Versailles style and date from the 1820s; the enormous and sumptuous staircase hall was decorated in the 1830s in the Italian style. Queen Victoria supposedly said, upon visiting her friend, the Duchess of Sutherland, wife of the 2nd Duke, at Lancaster House, "I come from my house to your palace." The Sutherlands entertained frequently at Stafford House, inviting the cream of artistic and liberal society. Their guests included Harriet Beecher Stowe, Giuseppe Garibaldi, and Frédéric Chopin, who gave a recital in 1848 in the Music Room in the presence of Queen Victoria. The Sutherlands, progressive Whigs, also backed causes they believed in, holding the first meeting of English ladies protesting against American slavery at Stafford House in 1853. The soap millionaire Sir William Lever purchased the lease from the 4th Duke of Sutherland in 1912, renamed it Lancaster House after his native Lancashire, and presented it to the nation in 1913. From 1924 until 1948 Lancaster House was the home of the London Museum (today the Museum of London), though its collections were closed to the public during most of World War II. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, lived in part of the house between 1919 and 1930. After the London Museum decamped, Lancaster House was used by the government for official conferences. The European Advisory Commission, formed to study the post war political problems in Europe, met at Lancaster House in 1944. It was at Lancaster House in 1956 that the agreement for the independence of Malaya was signed. South Africa affirmed its intention to become a republic at Lancaster House in 1961. And, in 1979, the Lancaster House Agreement, which granted independence to Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe), was signed here. The House, today managed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, continues to be used for high-level diplomatic visits and government conferences.

    Collections: Giovanni Battista Moroni's "Titian's Schoolmaster" (see "Images" section), formerly at Stafford House, is today in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

    Comments: Lancaster House has incredible Louis XV interiors and is considered by many to be the greatest surviving London townhouse.

  • Architect: Philip William Wyatt

    Date: 1825-27
    Designed: Together with Benjamin Dean Wyatt, took over from Smirke and worked on designs for Frederick Augustus, Duke of York.

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    Architect: Benjamin Dean Wyatt

    Date: 1825-33
    Designed: Took over from Smirke; together with Philip Wyatt, he rebuilt House for Frederick Augustus, Duke of York (1825-27). In 1833 Wyatt completed interiors for 2nd Duke of Sutherland.

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    Architect: Robert Smirke

    Date: 1833-38
    Designed: Worked on original design as supervisory architect (1825), then replaced by the Wyatts; completed house, 1840, for 2nd Duke of Sutherland.

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    Architect: Charles Barry Sr.

    Date: Circa 1838-41
    Designed: Interiors, including redecoration of Staircase Hall and alteration of Lantern, for 2nd Duke of Sutherland.

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  • Country Life: Nov 7-14, 1968 ("Stafford House Revisited" by John Cornforth).

  • Title: Architect King: George III and the Culture of the Enlightenment, The
    Author: Watkin, David
    Year Published: 2004
    Reference: pgs. 197-199
    Publisher: London: Royal Collection Publications
    ISBN: 0902163508
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Inside London: Discovering London's Period Interiors
    Author: Friedman, Joe; Aprahamian, Peter
    Year Published: 1988
    Publisher: New York: Prentice Hall Press
    ISBN: 0134674650
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Lancaster House: London's Greatest Town House
    Author: Yorke, James
    Year Published: 2001
    Publisher: London: Merrell Publishers Limited
    ISBN: 1858941261
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 1995
    Reference: pgs. 104, 881, 1105
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 0300072074
    Book Type: Softback

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: No Park

  • "Reds" (1981). "King Ralph" (1991 - as Buckingham Palace stairs, entrance to the Ballroom, and the State Dining Room). "The Golden Bowl" (2000). "The Importance of Being Earnest" (2002 - as Lady Bracknell's London house). "What a Girl Wants" (2003). "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" (2007 - as interiors of Buckingham Palace). "The Young Victoria" (2009 - for the scene of the Buckingham Palace Coronation Ball). "Into the Storm" (2009). "The King's Speech" (2010 - as interiors of Buckingham Palace). "Downton Abbey" (2013 - TV series, as interiors of Buckingham Palace in the episode "The London Season"). "The Theory of Everything" (2014 - as interiors of Buckingham Palace). "The Crown" (2016-20 - TV series, as interiors of Buckingham Palace). "Our Kind of Traitor" (2016 - as interiors of the Russian hotel and the Bellevue Hotel, Bern, Switzerland). "Bridgerton" (2020-22 - TV series, as interiors of St. James's Palace).
  • Past Seat / Home of: Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, 19th century. George Granville Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 2nd Duke of Sutherland and Marquess of Stafford, 19th century. Egerton family. Sir William Lever, 20th century.

    Current Ownership Type: Government

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Conference Center

    Ownership Details: Owned by the government and administerd by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and used for state banquets and conferences.

  • House Open to Public: No

    Website: https://www.gov.uk/

    Historic Houses Member: No