Mansion House is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London. Mansion House was built between 1739 and 1752, in the then fashionable Palladian style by the City of London surveyor and architect George Dance the Elder. The site, at the east end of Poultry, had previously been occupied by the "Stocks Market", which by the time of its closure was mostly used for the sale of herbs. The construction was prompted by a wish to put an end to the inconvenient practice of lodging the Lord Mayor in one of the City Halls. Dance won a design competition over solicited designs from James Gibbs and Giacomo Leoni, and uninvited submissions by Batty Langley and Isaac Ware. Construction was slowed by the discovery of springs on the site, which meant piles had to be sunk to form the foundations. The original building had two clerestory roof extensions, nicknamed the "Mayor's Nest" and "Noah's Ark". In 1795 George Dance the Younger re-roofed the central courtyard, and had the "Noah's Ark" demolished. In the same year, the original Grand Staircase was removed to make way for a further two rooms. In 1835 the entrance steps were reduced to one flight; and in 1842 the "Mayor's Nest" was demolished after the Ball Room was reconstructed. The Lord Mayor's private entrance in Walbrook was created in 1845; and in 1849 the former Swordbearer's Room was converted into the Justice Room, effectively the Magistrates Court of the City until 1999 when the court removed to a building on the opposite side of Walbrook.
Sir John Summerson wrote that "it leaves an impression of uneasily constricted bulk", adding that "on the whole, the building is a striking reminder that good taste was not a universal attribute in the eighteenth century". The main reception room, the columned "Egyptian Hall", was so named because Dance used an arrangement of columns deemed to be "Egyptian" by Vitruvius. No Egyptian motifs were employed. It has twenty niches for sculpture. There was originally an open courtyard, later occupied by a saloon. The residence used to have its own court of law, since the Lord Mayor is the chief magistrate of the City while in office. There were eleven holding cells (ten for men and one, nicknamed "the birdcage", for women). A famous prisoner here was the early 20th-century suffragette women's rights campaigner Emmeline Pankhurst. Mansion House is home to The Harold Samuel Collection of Dutch and Flemish Seventeenth Century Paintings, described as "the finest collection of such works to be formed in Britain this century". Mansion House is not open to the public apart from weekly tours or prearranged group tours. There is a ramp into the building, disabled toilets facilities, a sound loop in the Egyptian Hall and lift access to all floors. However, much of the art collection is on the stairs and it is difficult to see all of the collection from the top or bottom of the stairs. There are wheelchair-accessible toilets. Only guide dogs are allowed. The tours are unsuitable for most under-14s. Every year in September (27th September 2016), the Open House Architectural Festival opens the doors to venues not usually accessible to the public.
Location : Walbrook, London EC4N 8BH
Opening Times: Tuesday 14:00 for tours.
Self-organized tours (one hour) by arrangement
Art collection tours (90 mins.) by arrangement
Tickets : Adults £7.00 Concessions £5.00. Cash please.
Self-organized (to 40) £60 per group.
Art Collection (to 20) £90 per group.
Tel: 020 7397 9306