Lancaster House is a relatively late addition to The Mall, being built in 1825. Its initial construction was fraught with problems, with the intended occupant – the Duke of York – dying in debt before the foundations had been laid.
The government then took over the property (still called ‘York House’) and leased it to the Marques of Stafford. The money thus raised was used to buy the land for Victoria Park in the East End.
The Marques soon succumbed to the curse and passed away before the building was complete, and it was left to the second Duke of Sutherland to finish it off. He hired Charles Barry to complete the interior – fresh form working on the new Houses of Parliament ten minutes down the road.
The exterior may look austere, but the insides are pure glam. There is even a staircase which rises to the full height of the house, lit by a clerestory above.
It soon became the hub of London’s social life, and the Sutherlands entertained everyone from Queen Victoria to Lord Shaftesbury and the Duke of Wellington. Chopin was said to have played the piano in 1848.
In 1912 the fourth Duke sold the house to Sir William Lever, who renamed the place Lancaster House after his home county. It is now largely used for government conferences and receptions.
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