Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building that you might have passed without noticing, in the past they have ranged from a modernist car park; a penguin pool; to a Hanoverian gatehouse.
This house must be the most famous in London, and yet, passing it during the day in the melee, that is, the Berkeley Square gyratory system the driver could be forgiven for escaping his attention.
[D]escribed by Nicholas Pevsner as ‘the finest terrace house in London’, 44 Berkeley Square does have an impressive pedigree.
Designed in 1742 by William Kent (and his only surviving town house) for Lady Isabella Finch a maid of honour to George II’s sister, Princess Amelia. Horace Walpole, neighbour and frequent visitor on seeing the staircase declared: “. . . as beautiful a piece of scenery and, considering the space, of art as can be imagined . . .”. The ornate ceiling in the grand salon is said to have been paid for by the Royal family.
Unfortunately for we mere mortals only its exterior can be viewed. It is a rare survivor in a square, much of which has been destroyed by commercial development.
The facade is in the fashionable Palladian style of the time having a central door with railings on either side supporting a lamp above the entrance, complete with a rare example of extinguishers for the link-boys’ torches. The link-boys were the only way Georgians could safely traverse London at night.
When the door is open for their well heeled guests you may see the small staircase leading up to a cubby hole where the porter slept.
Opened as the Clermont Club by John Aspinall in 1962 it became the favourite gambling haunt of Lord ‘Lucky’ Lucan. Last month the Earl was formally pronounced as deceased after disappearing on the night in 1974 when his nanny was found dead at his home at 46 Lower Belgrave Street. It was the Clermont that he had arranged to meet friends on that fateful night.