An 1828 steel-engraved print of the first house, Hertford Villa, from "Metropolitan Improvements; or London in the 19th Century."
Earlier Houses: The first house on the site of the current Winfield House was Hertford Villa, a white stucco house commissioned by the 3rd Marquess of Hertford and designed by the young Decimus Burton. Later known as St. Dunstan's, this was the largest of the eight villas originally built in Regent's Park as part of John Nash's development scheme. The newspaper magnate Lord Rothermere was the last owner of St. Dunstan's. In 1936 the House was partly destroyed by fire; later that year it was purchased by Barbara Woolworth Hutton (1912-79).
House & Family History: On August 10, 1936 the Crown Estate Commissioners gave permission for the old Regency villa to be demolished and a red brick Georgian style house with Portland stone dressings to be built in its place (the new house's name came from Barbara Hutton's grandfather, Frank Winfield Woolworth, founder of the famous chain of five and ten stores). Leonard Guthrie, a partner in the firm of Wimperis, Simpson and Guthrie, was commissioned to design the new house (the front entrance was added in 1954). In 1937 Hutton and her husband, the Danish Count Reventlow, moved into the red brick, 13-bay Winfield House. In 1939, with war clouds on the horizon and her marriage to Count Reventlow in shambles, Barbara Hutton returned to America, giving use of Winfield to the British military. During World War II the House was used by a Royal Air Force barrage balloon unit. Near misses from German bombs damaged the roof, moisture ruined the parquet floors, and in 1944 a flying bomb exploded forty yards from the House, killing one cadet and injuring twenty others. Six weeks later Winfield House ceased to host the RAF unit, though it was later used as an American officers' club. Visiting Winfield a year after the war ended, Barbara Hutton found a sad, dilapidated house; she immediately offered the House as the official residence of the American ambassador to Britain (Winfield House was actually sold for one dollar to the United States government). Her "most generous and patriotic offer" was accepted in a personal letter from President Harry Truman; Winfield has been the official residence of the United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James's since 1955. During the ambassadorship of John Louis (1981-83) Cary Grant (married to Barbara Hutton from 1942 to 1945) visited Winfield for the first time since World War II; with tears streaming down his face, he said "Forgive me for being so sentimental. I just remember a beautiful young girl who never saw a day of happiness." Between 1997 and 1999 Winfield underwent essential renovation work to correct structural and operational problems, including the installation of new heating, wiring, and plumbing systems. Winfield House is listed on the United States Secretary of State's Register of Culturally Significant Property, which denotes properties owned by the Department of State that have particular cultural or historical significance.
Collections: During Barbara Woolworth Hutton's time Winfield House contained a fine collection of art: two Canalettos (later given to the National Gallery of Art, Washington), Louis XV furniture, Chinese objets d'art, and Persian carpets.
Garden & Outbuildings: Winfield House is set in 12 acres of grounds in Regent's Park, making it the largest private garden in central London, after Buckingham Palace.
House Listed: Grade II
Park Listed: Not Listed
Current Seat / Home of: U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James's
Past Seat / Home of: SEATED AT EARLIER HOUSE: Francis Charles Seymour-Conway, 3rd Marquess of Hertford, 18th-19th centuries. Harold Sydney Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere, 20th century. Otto H. Kahn, 20th century. SEATED AT CURRENT HOUSE: Barbara Woolworth Hutton, 1937-39.
Current Ownership Type: Government
Primary Current Ownership Use: Other
Ownership Details: Owned by the U.S. government and used as the official residence of the United States ambassador to Britain.
House Open to Public: No
Historic Houses Member: No