From its conception Spencer House was recognised as one of the most ambitious and splendid private palaces ever built in London and is today the city’s only great eighteenth-century house to survive intact.
John Spencer initially employed the Palladian architect John Vardy, a pupil of William Kent. Vardy was responsible for the external elevations of Spencer House and the design of the ground floor rooms including some of the furniture.
James ‘Athenian’ Stuart, then newly returned from Greece, superseded Vardy as Lord Spencer’s architect in 1758. As a result, the House became the first example in London of the application of accurate Greek detail to interior decoration, making it one of the pioneer examples of neo-classical architecture.
Spencer House was conceived as a showcase of classical design but it was also designed for pleasure and a festive note runs through the decoration of the rooms which, from the late 1760s, were extensively used for entertaining guests and for gatherings of close family and friends.
Spencer House, London’s most magnificent private palace, is open to the public for viewing every Sunday (except during January and August) from 10.00 a.m. – 4.45 p.m. (last tour). Access is by guided tour, which lasts approximately 1 hour. Tours begin at regular intervals and the last admission is at 4.45 p.m.
In 1796, Arthur Young wrote of Spencer House “…The carving and gilding is all unrivalled; the taste in which every article throughout the whole house is executed, is beyond conception just and elegant…”