Robert Adam, Architect: Portland Place London

April 30, 2013 at 6:21 am (carriages & transport, diaries, entertainment, estates, history, london's landscape, news, places, research) (, , , , , , )


exterior Portland Place

This is No. 5 – renumbered No. 28 – Portland Place, London as it appears today. There is an extra “attic” story that the Goslings would not quite recognize; a traffic island filed with trees and statues parade the avenue; and there’s the Royal Society for Public Health occupying their premises!

I’ve written a couple of previous posts about Portland Place

But today am writing to say that I’ve posted interior pictures — but to keep these public venues a bit ‘private’, invite Two Teens in the Time of Austen readers to go to Memoirture, a new website specifically for memoirs, memories, connections and comments in order to view them. [UPDATE (April 2015): Memoirture has been taken down; I’ll see if I can refind all the interior shots – but I’m making no promises.]

{NOTE: visitors seem to be able to see the Memoirture write-up and the thumbnails for No. 5 Portland Place, but to view the full-sized photos – or any of the “public” memoirs on the site – you’ll have to log-in; creating an account is FREE and easy.}

A fascinating discussion (now that I know the current numbering!) can be found in David King’s Complete Works of Robert and James Adam: Built and Unbuilt. “Portland Place is a street which the Adams formed and lined with houses. They left the street closed at its northern end by Marylebone Fields — now Regent’s Park — and closed at its southern end, just south of Duchess Street, by the grounds of a large house, Foley House; so the only access to the Place was through side streets.” Langham Place has replaced Foley House, and it was in “New Church, Langham Place,” in 1826, that Mary Gosling married Emma’s brother, Sir Charles Joshua Smith.

all souls_langham place

King notes that “Unfortunately, the facades of the surviving houses have all been altered. For example, all have been extended upwards with an extra floor. … Another important change occurred in the last century, when all the houses were given a rusticated finish for their ground floors — except, of course, for 37 and 46-48 which had such treatment originally. Further, the original paned-glass windows in almost all the houses have ben replaced with something more modern, and most of the houses now have continuous iron balconies at first floor level whereas they originally had separate iron balconettes for each first floor window.” As my book opens in the mews of No. 5 (Mary Gosling’s earliest journal records a journey to Oxford in 1814), describing the surroundings from which Mary emerges, it’s great to see King touch on the mews: “Virtually all the houses were given stables behind. It is possible that many of these stables were given attractive facades to face the back windows of the houses to which they belonged. Unfortunately, while most of the stables survive, almost all have been altered so that atheir original house-facing facades have been lost.” Hmmm…, King uses phrases of unfortunately often, doesn’t he?

King mentions No. 28 (ie, No. 5 Portland Place, the Gosling’s London home), specifically: “There are rather less characteristic [Adam brothers] ceilings in the (larger) front and back rooms on the first floor of 28 and in the two drawing rooms of 42; and much less characteristic ones in the ground floor back room of 28, a small first floor room at the back of 36 and the ground floor front room of 58.” In short, you will see what No. 5 looks like today, but — use imagination! — think of Mary and her sisters, running down the stairs to meet that coach coming around the corner of Cavendish Street.

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