A private palace built for superlatives; glorious, splendid, magnificent. The house was commissioned by John, 1st Earl Spencer in 1756, the Earl requiring a large London house to cement his position and status. Spencer was MP (Whig) for Warwick from 1756 to 1761 and one of the richest men of the era. He was also High Steward of St Albans in 1772 and Mayor of St Albans in 1779. On 3 April 1761, he was created Baron Spencer of Althorp and Viscount Spencer by George III, and on 1 November 1765, he was created Viscount Althorp and Earl Spencer. His wealth was inherited from his grandmother, the Duchess of Marlborough. On 20 December 1755, Spencer privately married Georgiana Poyntz (1737–1814, born in St. James Palace), daughter of Stephen Poyntz, in his mother's dressing room at Althorp. They had five children, the most noted (infamous) of them being Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. Lady Spencer was a great philanthropist. The Spencers were generous patrons of writers and artists, and often hosted plays and concerts at Spencer House. According to biographer Donna T. Andrew, Lady Spencer was "exceptionally intelligent and well educated"; she was fluent in French and Italian, possessed some knowledge of Greek, and was "accomplished in botany." Her correspondence with the Hon. Mrs Howe "is reputed to be the largest single private collection of letters in the British Library."
The architect Spencer chose was John Vardy who had studied under William Kent. Vardy is responsible for the facades of the mansion that we see today. In 1758 James 'Athenian' Stuart who had studied the arcadian values of Ancient Greek architecture replaced Vardy as the architect of the project; as a direct result of this Spencer House was to have authentic Greek details in the internal decoration, and thus it became one of the first examples in London of the neoclassical style, which was to sweep the country. As the home of successive Earls and Countesses Spencer the state rooms of the house became a theatre for the pageant that was London high society. The Spencer family lived at the mansion continuously until 1895, when the house was let. The Spencers returned for a brief while in the first quarter of the 20th century; then again the house was let, at various times as either a club or offices. During the Blitz of World War II it was stripped of its few remaining authentic treasures, specially made furniture, and fireplaces. In the 90's it was restored to it's former splendour. 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. The maximum number of visitors on each tour is 20. No children under 10 admitted. Spencer House is fully wheelchair accessible.
Location : 27 St James's Pl, St. James's, London SW1A 1NR
Opening Times: Sunday 10:00 to 16:45.
Tickets : Adults £12.00. Concessions £10.00
Tel: 020 7514 1958