Visiting Lord Derby

ScandsmHi, Jo here, planning a visit to an aristocratic town house — in my imagination! I just picked up a book called The Classic English Town House, by Rachel Stewart. It has Adam's plan for Lord Derby's house at 26, Grosvenor Square. I've seen it before, but this time I decided to simplify it to make the layout easier to follow, so we could imagine visiting it.

It's a plan for the refurbishing of the interior of an existing house, probably a similar one to these. Grosvsq

The plan is only of the ground floor and first floor, which is the second to an American. There were probably two more floors of bedrooms and servants' quarters in the attics. There was certainly a basement with storerooms, kitchens and other offices.

So here's the simplified plan of the ground floor. Remember, you can click on an image to see it in a larger size.

The house was about 30 feet wide.

Townhouse2

Visiting the House.

(All that follows is my interpretation of what I've read. I'd love to have additional or conflicting information.)

Simple folk like us.
We knock at the door, which is in the center of the hall. Of course, being of the lower orders we're shooed away, or to the servents' entrance, but let's assume we have some reasonable reason for invading. We'll be left in the hall, or perhaps offered a chair under the beady eye of the porter. His quarters are the tiny square in the hall there.

If we're respectable enough, we would be taken to the anteroom whilst the footman goes to inform milord or milady of our arrival.

Dinner guests

Let's assume we're invited to the house to dine. You'll see that the dining room is on the ground floor. This is efficiently closer to the kitchens, but it's also on the public floor of the house, not the more intimate first floor. We will probably be taken through the anteroom to the parlour before the meal. If it is a gentlemen's meal, which they often were — business lunches, in effect, and in the 18th century an afternoon meal — then the diners might progress no further than the dining room.

However you'll see that beyond the dining room is the library, which would largely be a male domain, so some might be invited there after the meal for further discussions.  Beyond that lies milord's dressing room. There would be a single bed there for his use when not visiting his wife on the upper floor. Interesting to see both here and in milady's suite a water closet, though it's not clear where it discharges to.

If the meal was for gentlemen and ladies then the ladies would leave and go to one of the drawing rooms on the first floor to enjoy tea or coffee while the gentlemen got down to serious business over port and such. Townhousedr

A Rout

Now let's consider that popular form of entertaining, the rout. I assume, but do not know, that the name comes from route, because it was a matter of traveling through the house, seeing and being seen. For these events as much furniture as possible would be removed.

I've cut down to the drawing rooms. There's a reason for three. We enter the house and divest ourselves of cloaks and such, giving them into the care of our maid or valet. We go upstairs and work our way through the first, second, and third drawing rooms, where there's a convenient exit to the stairs and off we go!

A Ball?

These townhouses weren't suitable for grand balls, but the Third Drawing Room, at 22 x 33 feet could hold a small dance. In that case the other two rooms could be for cards or gossip.

Other Entertainments

There could be a musical evening, a card party, a salon of poetry and discussion, all in one or more drawing rooms. This museum room has no furniture, but we could enjoy the like.

Room

I hope you enjoyed this visit. Remember, too, that this would be one of the grander townhouses in London, where land was scarce and expensive. Others were narrower and might have fewer floors.

The book The Classic English Town House points out that these small aristocratic houses only worked because there were surrounded by services. In the country the nobility could house many servants, incluing maintenance staff, services such as a bakery and brewhouse, and large storage areas. That wasn't possible in a London townhouse, but extra servants, food, drink, repair people and such were all around, for there wasn't much separation between rich and poor. If the house didn't have stables there would be a livery stable not far away.

So, any comments or additional information?

Cheers

Jo

 

80 thoughts on “Visiting Lord Derby”

  1. Fascinating, Jo, thank you for sharing this. It is indeed a grand town house to have its stables so near rather than in a mews (I love wandering round London looking at the bijou houses in the mews, and trying to work out what it must have looked like when it was just stables).
    Estate Agents (Real Estate in the US, I think), often put floorplans online now, and when some of the grand houses in Bath are for sale you can look at these and trace the old layout – as most of the buildings are listed, many haven’t changed much since they were built.

    Reply
  2. Fascinating, Jo, thank you for sharing this. It is indeed a grand town house to have its stables so near rather than in a mews (I love wandering round London looking at the bijou houses in the mews, and trying to work out what it must have looked like when it was just stables).
    Estate Agents (Real Estate in the US, I think), often put floorplans online now, and when some of the grand houses in Bath are for sale you can look at these and trace the old layout – as most of the buildings are listed, many haven’t changed much since they were built.

    Reply
  3. Fascinating, Jo, thank you for sharing this. It is indeed a grand town house to have its stables so near rather than in a mews (I love wandering round London looking at the bijou houses in the mews, and trying to work out what it must have looked like when it was just stables).
    Estate Agents (Real Estate in the US, I think), often put floorplans online now, and when some of the grand houses in Bath are for sale you can look at these and trace the old layout – as most of the buildings are listed, many haven’t changed much since they were built.

    Reply
  4. Fascinating, Jo, thank you for sharing this. It is indeed a grand town house to have its stables so near rather than in a mews (I love wandering round London looking at the bijou houses in the mews, and trying to work out what it must have looked like when it was just stables).
    Estate Agents (Real Estate in the US, I think), often put floorplans online now, and when some of the grand houses in Bath are for sale you can look at these and trace the old layout – as most of the buildings are listed, many haven’t changed much since they were built.

    Reply
  5. Fascinating, Jo, thank you for sharing this. It is indeed a grand town house to have its stables so near rather than in a mews (I love wandering round London looking at the bijou houses in the mews, and trying to work out what it must have looked like when it was just stables).
    Estate Agents (Real Estate in the US, I think), often put floorplans online now, and when some of the grand houses in Bath are for sale you can look at these and trace the old layout – as most of the buildings are listed, many haven’t changed much since they were built.

    Reply
  6. I remember watching “This Old House” in England… They remodeled the top floor of a house similar to this.. Very interesting..and I like Sarah’s comment on floor plans by UK realtors…

    Reply
  7. I remember watching “This Old House” in England… They remodeled the top floor of a house similar to this.. Very interesting..and I like Sarah’s comment on floor plans by UK realtors…

    Reply
  8. I remember watching “This Old House” in England… They remodeled the top floor of a house similar to this.. Very interesting..and I like Sarah’s comment on floor plans by UK realtors…

    Reply
  9. I remember watching “This Old House” in England… They remodeled the top floor of a house similar to this.. Very interesting..and I like Sarah’s comment on floor plans by UK realtors…

    Reply
  10. I remember watching “This Old House” in England… They remodeled the top floor of a house similar to this.. Very interesting..and I like Sarah’s comment on floor plans by UK realtors…

    Reply
  11. Good point about floor plans from estate agents.
    In fact, here’s one in Brighton which is a small terraced house but would have been one used by the ton when visiting. Definitely limited entertaining space, but in Brighton people expected to socialize outside or at assemblies, concerts etc.
    When I was researching Brighton for The Devil’s Heiress I was very surprised how small most of the houses were on the fashionable streets.
    Jo

    Reply
  12. Good point about floor plans from estate agents.
    In fact, here’s one in Brighton which is a small terraced house but would have been one used by the ton when visiting. Definitely limited entertaining space, but in Brighton people expected to socialize outside or at assemblies, concerts etc.
    When I was researching Brighton for The Devil’s Heiress I was very surprised how small most of the houses were on the fashionable streets.
    Jo

    Reply
  13. Good point about floor plans from estate agents.
    In fact, here’s one in Brighton which is a small terraced house but would have been one used by the ton when visiting. Definitely limited entertaining space, but in Brighton people expected to socialize outside or at assemblies, concerts etc.
    When I was researching Brighton for The Devil’s Heiress I was very surprised how small most of the houses were on the fashionable streets.
    Jo

    Reply
  14. Good point about floor plans from estate agents.
    In fact, here’s one in Brighton which is a small terraced house but would have been one used by the ton when visiting. Definitely limited entertaining space, but in Brighton people expected to socialize outside or at assemblies, concerts etc.
    When I was researching Brighton for The Devil’s Heiress I was very surprised how small most of the houses were on the fashionable streets.
    Jo

    Reply
  15. Good point about floor plans from estate agents.
    In fact, here’s one in Brighton which is a small terraced house but would have been one used by the ton when visiting. Definitely limited entertaining space, but in Brighton people expected to socialize outside or at assemblies, concerts etc.
    When I was researching Brighton for The Devil’s Heiress I was very surprised how small most of the houses were on the fashionable streets.
    Jo

    Reply
  16. I posted a series on Edwardian interiors last year, and Lord Derby’s house is quite similar to the layout of a house in Charles Street (built ca 1900): http://edwardianpromenade.com/home/edwardian-interiors-an-edwardian-town-house/
    The mention of the ballroom reminds me of a few photos in Nicholas Cooper’s “The Opulent Eye”–I was surprised to see that ballrooms in few London houses that had them were so narrow! The only residences with huge ballrooms were those newly built with them, or a large mansion like Devonshire House or Londonderry House. These houses had electricity or gas, but I can only imagine how sweltering it must have been to dance for hours in such close quarters.

    Reply
  17. I posted a series on Edwardian interiors last year, and Lord Derby’s house is quite similar to the layout of a house in Charles Street (built ca 1900): http://edwardianpromenade.com/home/edwardian-interiors-an-edwardian-town-house/
    The mention of the ballroom reminds me of a few photos in Nicholas Cooper’s “The Opulent Eye”–I was surprised to see that ballrooms in few London houses that had them were so narrow! The only residences with huge ballrooms were those newly built with them, or a large mansion like Devonshire House or Londonderry House. These houses had electricity or gas, but I can only imagine how sweltering it must have been to dance for hours in such close quarters.

    Reply
  18. I posted a series on Edwardian interiors last year, and Lord Derby’s house is quite similar to the layout of a house in Charles Street (built ca 1900): http://edwardianpromenade.com/home/edwardian-interiors-an-edwardian-town-house/
    The mention of the ballroom reminds me of a few photos in Nicholas Cooper’s “The Opulent Eye”–I was surprised to see that ballrooms in few London houses that had them were so narrow! The only residences with huge ballrooms were those newly built with them, or a large mansion like Devonshire House or Londonderry House. These houses had electricity or gas, but I can only imagine how sweltering it must have been to dance for hours in such close quarters.

    Reply
  19. I posted a series on Edwardian interiors last year, and Lord Derby’s house is quite similar to the layout of a house in Charles Street (built ca 1900): http://edwardianpromenade.com/home/edwardian-interiors-an-edwardian-town-house/
    The mention of the ballroom reminds me of a few photos in Nicholas Cooper’s “The Opulent Eye”–I was surprised to see that ballrooms in few London houses that had them were so narrow! The only residences with huge ballrooms were those newly built with them, or a large mansion like Devonshire House or Londonderry House. These houses had electricity or gas, but I can only imagine how sweltering it must have been to dance for hours in such close quarters.

    Reply
  20. I posted a series on Edwardian interiors last year, and Lord Derby’s house is quite similar to the layout of a house in Charles Street (built ca 1900): http://edwardianpromenade.com/home/edwardian-interiors-an-edwardian-town-house/
    The mention of the ballroom reminds me of a few photos in Nicholas Cooper’s “The Opulent Eye”–I was surprised to see that ballrooms in few London houses that had them were so narrow! The only residences with huge ballrooms were those newly built with them, or a large mansion like Devonshire House or Londonderry House. These houses had electricity or gas, but I can only imagine how sweltering it must have been to dance for hours in such close quarters.

    Reply
  21. A fun visit to a London town house, Jo! I’ll admit that I tend to cheat and sometimes give my grander characters one of the rare free standing mansions, but of course most folk lived in tight quarters like these. Just thinking about those routs tends to make me feel claustrophic!

    Reply
  22. A fun visit to a London town house, Jo! I’ll admit that I tend to cheat and sometimes give my grander characters one of the rare free standing mansions, but of course most folk lived in tight quarters like these. Just thinking about those routs tends to make me feel claustrophic!

    Reply
  23. A fun visit to a London town house, Jo! I’ll admit that I tend to cheat and sometimes give my grander characters one of the rare free standing mansions, but of course most folk lived in tight quarters like these. Just thinking about those routs tends to make me feel claustrophic!

    Reply
  24. A fun visit to a London town house, Jo! I’ll admit that I tend to cheat and sometimes give my grander characters one of the rare free standing mansions, but of course most folk lived in tight quarters like these. Just thinking about those routs tends to make me feel claustrophic!

    Reply
  25. A fun visit to a London town house, Jo! I’ll admit that I tend to cheat and sometimes give my grander characters one of the rare free standing mansions, but of course most folk lived in tight quarters like these. Just thinking about those routs tends to make me feel claustrophic!

    Reply
  26. A wonderful and informative tour, Jo! Thank you. Based on the grand English country houses, I somehow imagined that London townhouses would be very large too, so on my first visit to Apsley House and Sir John Soane’s House, I was surprised by the more intimate scale. But as you say, land was expensive.

    Reply
  27. A wonderful and informative tour, Jo! Thank you. Based on the grand English country houses, I somehow imagined that London townhouses would be very large too, so on my first visit to Apsley House and Sir John Soane’s House, I was surprised by the more intimate scale. But as you say, land was expensive.

    Reply
  28. A wonderful and informative tour, Jo! Thank you. Based on the grand English country houses, I somehow imagined that London townhouses would be very large too, so on my first visit to Apsley House and Sir John Soane’s House, I was surprised by the more intimate scale. But as you say, land was expensive.

    Reply
  29. A wonderful and informative tour, Jo! Thank you. Based on the grand English country houses, I somehow imagined that London townhouses would be very large too, so on my first visit to Apsley House and Sir John Soane’s House, I was surprised by the more intimate scale. But as you say, land was expensive.

    Reply
  30. A wonderful and informative tour, Jo! Thank you. Based on the grand English country houses, I somehow imagined that London townhouses would be very large too, so on my first visit to Apsley House and Sir John Soane’s House, I was surprised by the more intimate scale. But as you say, land was expensive.

    Reply
  31. No extra info Jo, but I just adore wandering around the floor plan. I like to imagine the furniture, colours and the sounds eminating from the different rooms. I’m not sure of the smells though. The great unwashed were often just that I think. Great post.

    Reply
  32. No extra info Jo, but I just adore wandering around the floor plan. I like to imagine the furniture, colours and the sounds eminating from the different rooms. I’m not sure of the smells though. The great unwashed were often just that I think. Great post.

    Reply
  33. No extra info Jo, but I just adore wandering around the floor plan. I like to imagine the furniture, colours and the sounds eminating from the different rooms. I’m not sure of the smells though. The great unwashed were often just that I think. Great post.

    Reply
  34. No extra info Jo, but I just adore wandering around the floor plan. I like to imagine the furniture, colours and the sounds eminating from the different rooms. I’m not sure of the smells though. The great unwashed were often just that I think. Great post.

    Reply
  35. No extra info Jo, but I just adore wandering around the floor plan. I like to imagine the furniture, colours and the sounds eminating from the different rooms. I’m not sure of the smells though. The great unwashed were often just that I think. Great post.

    Reply
  36. Thanks for the floor plan. I couldn’t get to the bottom part of it though and could only see the top two thirds.
    I found it very interesting that the master of the house didn’t have a separate bedchamber and only the dressing room. Did none of those people ever sleep in the same bed?? ;O)
    I would have expected the master to have a bigger bedchamber than the mistress though so I definitely learned something new!

    Reply
  37. Thanks for the floor plan. I couldn’t get to the bottom part of it though and could only see the top two thirds.
    I found it very interesting that the master of the house didn’t have a separate bedchamber and only the dressing room. Did none of those people ever sleep in the same bed?? ;O)
    I would have expected the master to have a bigger bedchamber than the mistress though so I definitely learned something new!

    Reply
  38. Thanks for the floor plan. I couldn’t get to the bottom part of it though and could only see the top two thirds.
    I found it very interesting that the master of the house didn’t have a separate bedchamber and only the dressing room. Did none of those people ever sleep in the same bed?? ;O)
    I would have expected the master to have a bigger bedchamber than the mistress though so I definitely learned something new!

    Reply
  39. Thanks for the floor plan. I couldn’t get to the bottom part of it though and could only see the top two thirds.
    I found it very interesting that the master of the house didn’t have a separate bedchamber and only the dressing room. Did none of those people ever sleep in the same bed?? ;O)
    I would have expected the master to have a bigger bedchamber than the mistress though so I definitely learned something new!

    Reply
  40. Thanks for the floor plan. I couldn’t get to the bottom part of it though and could only see the top two thirds.
    I found it very interesting that the master of the house didn’t have a separate bedchamber and only the dressing room. Did none of those people ever sleep in the same bed?? ;O)
    I would have expected the master to have a bigger bedchamber than the mistress though so I definitely learned something new!

    Reply
  41. Fascinating, Jo! And of course I hied myself quickly to Amazon and ordered a copy of the book. I too found it quite interesting the master of the house didn’t have the largest bedchamber in town. Perhaps because he spent so much time out and about or at his club?

    Reply
  42. Fascinating, Jo! And of course I hied myself quickly to Amazon and ordered a copy of the book. I too found it quite interesting the master of the house didn’t have the largest bedchamber in town. Perhaps because he spent so much time out and about or at his club?

    Reply
  43. Fascinating, Jo! And of course I hied myself quickly to Amazon and ordered a copy of the book. I too found it quite interesting the master of the house didn’t have the largest bedchamber in town. Perhaps because he spent so much time out and about or at his club?

    Reply
  44. Fascinating, Jo! And of course I hied myself quickly to Amazon and ordered a copy of the book. I too found it quite interesting the master of the house didn’t have the largest bedchamber in town. Perhaps because he spent so much time out and about or at his club?

    Reply
  45. Fascinating, Jo! And of course I hied myself quickly to Amazon and ordered a copy of the book. I too found it quite interesting the master of the house didn’t have the largest bedchamber in town. Perhaps because he spent so much time out and about or at his club?

    Reply
  46. I have a cutaway house picture/diagram that I got from the Geffrye Museum in London a few years ago. I was stunned at how small a fashionable house could be. Smaller even than this one.
    I liked the Geffrye. You walk along a sort of hallway and can see into rooms set up for various centuries and periods. It looks like the occupants have just stepped out.

    Reply
  47. I have a cutaway house picture/diagram that I got from the Geffrye Museum in London a few years ago. I was stunned at how small a fashionable house could be. Smaller even than this one.
    I liked the Geffrye. You walk along a sort of hallway and can see into rooms set up for various centuries and periods. It looks like the occupants have just stepped out.

    Reply
  48. I have a cutaway house picture/diagram that I got from the Geffrye Museum in London a few years ago. I was stunned at how small a fashionable house could be. Smaller even than this one.
    I liked the Geffrye. You walk along a sort of hallway and can see into rooms set up for various centuries and periods. It looks like the occupants have just stepped out.

    Reply
  49. I have a cutaway house picture/diagram that I got from the Geffrye Museum in London a few years ago. I was stunned at how small a fashionable house could be. Smaller even than this one.
    I liked the Geffrye. You walk along a sort of hallway and can see into rooms set up for various centuries and periods. It looks like the occupants have just stepped out.

    Reply
  50. I have a cutaway house picture/diagram that I got from the Geffrye Museum in London a few years ago. I was stunned at how small a fashionable house could be. Smaller even than this one.
    I liked the Geffrye. You walk along a sort of hallway and can see into rooms set up for various centuries and periods. It looks like the occupants have just stepped out.

    Reply
  51. Theo, sorry about the picture being too big. If you stick with the thumbnail and increase the screen size it should be clear enough.
    On milord’s bedchamber, his dressing room is as big as the upstairs bedroom, and as I said it would include a bed. The location of the library implies to me that it would be considered mostly his territory, so in a town house those scenes of women wandering to the library in the night are unlikely, though being surprised there by the hero, less so!
    More possible in a country house.
    Jo

    Reply
  52. Theo, sorry about the picture being too big. If you stick with the thumbnail and increase the screen size it should be clear enough.
    On milord’s bedchamber, his dressing room is as big as the upstairs bedroom, and as I said it would include a bed. The location of the library implies to me that it would be considered mostly his territory, so in a town house those scenes of women wandering to the library in the night are unlikely, though being surprised there by the hero, less so!
    More possible in a country house.
    Jo

    Reply
  53. Theo, sorry about the picture being too big. If you stick with the thumbnail and increase the screen size it should be clear enough.
    On milord’s bedchamber, his dressing room is as big as the upstairs bedroom, and as I said it would include a bed. The location of the library implies to me that it would be considered mostly his territory, so in a town house those scenes of women wandering to the library in the night are unlikely, though being surprised there by the hero, less so!
    More possible in a country house.
    Jo

    Reply
  54. Theo, sorry about the picture being too big. If you stick with the thumbnail and increase the screen size it should be clear enough.
    On milord’s bedchamber, his dressing room is as big as the upstairs bedroom, and as I said it would include a bed. The location of the library implies to me that it would be considered mostly his territory, so in a town house those scenes of women wandering to the library in the night are unlikely, though being surprised there by the hero, less so!
    More possible in a country house.
    Jo

    Reply
  55. Theo, sorry about the picture being too big. If you stick with the thumbnail and increase the screen size it should be clear enough.
    On milord’s bedchamber, his dressing room is as big as the upstairs bedroom, and as I said it would include a bed. The location of the library implies to me that it would be considered mostly his territory, so in a town house those scenes of women wandering to the library in the night are unlikely, though being surprised there by the hero, less so!
    More possible in a country house.
    Jo

    Reply

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