Description of Hertford House
Hertford House is home to Wallace Collection.
Formerly known as Manchester House, it was built between 1776-88 for the 4th Duke of Manchester because there was a good duck shooting nearby.
In 1791-95 it was used as the Spanish Embassy and soon after, in 1797, the 2nd Marquess of Hertford (b.1743-d.1822) acquired the lease of the house. The 2nd Marquess used the house as his principal London residence, holding many parties there, the most prestigious of which was the Allied Sovereigns' Ball held after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814.
The 3rd Marquess (b.1777-d.1842), as Earl of Yarmouth, was a close friend of the Prince of Wales and from 1810 to 1819 sometimes acted as saleroom agent for him. In 1836-51 the house was let by the 3rd Marquess as the French Embassy.
The 4th Marquess (b.1800-d.1870) lived largely in Paris and used Hertford House as a London store for his increasing art collection. It was only with the Paris Revolution of 1871 that Richard Wallace (b.1818-d.1890), the 4th Marquess' illegitimate son, decided to move back to London, bringing a substantial amount of his Parisian collection with him.
He redeveloped the house, creating a range of galleries on the first floor. After his death the house was converted into a public museum by the Office of Works and first opened as a museum on 22 June 1900.
Redeveloped by Rick Mather Architects for the Centenary Project in 2000, Hertford House now contains impressive new educational faculties and an elegant public restaurant.
After the uprisings in Paris of 1871, Richard Wallace decided that it would be safer to move most of his Parisian collection back to London.
He acquired the lease of Hertford House from the 5th Marquess of Hertford with the intention of using it as the family's London residence. He renamed the house Hertford House in honour of his father, thereby infuriating Lord Hertford who had planned to call his own recently-acquired London townhouse by this name.
Wallace soon found Hertford House too small for his collection and commissioned the architect Thomas Ambler to redevelop the property. Little is know about Ambler except that he was 52 years old at the time. Yet commentators have been universally critical of his designs for the principal front, which is often described as ‘illiterate'. One critic even doubted if ‘another man [could] be found who would make almost as many mistakes with Doric entablature as Ambler had made with his stuck-on pilasters'. Wallace must have been very happy with his work, however, as he paid him £900 in 4 instalments between 1873-5, gave him a marble console table and paid £250 to his widow when Ambler died in 1875.
Ambler built a new front portico with giant Doric pilasters, added storeys to each wing of the same façade, built top-lit galleries above the stables and coach house and created a new smoking room lined with Minton tiles in Turkish style at the back of the building. He modified the windows of the house and encased the whole building in a red brick facing.