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Somerset House and King's College Old Building

A Grade I Listed Building in City of Westminster, London

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Latitude: 51.5116 / 51°30'41"N

Longitude: -0.1176 / 0°7'3"W

OS Eastings: 530725

OS Northings: 180871

OS Grid: TQ307808

Mapcode National: GBR KD.R9

Mapcode Global: VHGQZ.X86H

Entry Name: Somerset House and King's College Old Building

Listing Date: 5 February 1970

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1237041

English Heritage Legacy ID: 428227

Location: Westminster, London, WC2R

County: London

District: City of Westminster

Electoral Ward/Division: St James's

Built-Up Area: City of Westminster

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St Mary le Strand with St Clement Danes

Church of England Diocese: London

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Listing Text

Somerset House and
5.2.70 King's College Old
G.V. I
Government offices and college. The New Public Offices 1776-96 by Sir William
Chambers; sculpture by Carlini, Bacon, Cezacchi, Banks, Nollekens, Silton;and
Coade stone urns; the east extension for King's College 1829-35 by Sir Robert
Smirke and the west extension of offices to Lancaster Place by Sir James
Pennethorne, 1853-56. Portland stone to all main elevations, stock brick for
rear to subsidiary courts, slate and leaded roofs. Chambers' dignified
neo-classical interpretation of established Palladianism, but with some
markedly Parisian neo-classical details, rising to features of Piranesian
originality in the river front but not entirely resolved as design,viz the
scale of the dome - all executed in the finest masonry and with excellent
examples of late C18 sculpture. Smirke and, more remarkably for the date,
Pennethorne, laudably followed the precedent set by Chambers. The Strand block
with carriage archway leads into grand quadrangle of buildings with subsidiary
courts and the later flanking ranges of the east and west extensions; the great
river front is raised on a mighty basement/terrace, originally opening directly
on to the Thames with water-gates. 3 main storeys throughout on 2½ storeys of
basements. The Strand block has a 9-window wide entrance front. Rusticated
arcaded ground floor, the central 3 bays open as carriage arches into finely
detailed triple vaulted,columned vestibule and on into the quad. Piano nobile
with pilastered and pedimented windows with square architraved windows to half
storey 2nd floor, articulated by giant order of Corinthian columns; full
entablature with balustraded parapets flanking 3 bay central attic with
wreathed oculi with statues on vertical accents and crowning sculptural group.
Quadrangle side similar but able to be fully developed across width of site
behind Strand with projecting, 3-bay, giant order dressed wings and plainer
subsidiary wings. The quadrangle building on the south, east and west sides is
completely rusticated (with greater emphasis to ground floor) with giant order
centre-piece pavilions, that to the south with modest pedimented attic and
dome, the other 2 with small cupolas; arcaded ground floor fenestration;
pediments to piano nobile windows of pavilions. Rusticated gateways link north
ends of side ranges with Strand side range and give access to subsidiary courts
and Smirke's King's College range to east (25 bays wide with central and end
pavilions with giant orders of columns and pilasters respectively) and on the
west to Pennethorne's extension; the latter has a 13-bay front to
Lancaster Place flanked by 4-bay projecting wings and admirably reworks
Chambers' design for the quadrangle elevation of the Strand block. To the river
front the whole vast complex presents one great facade of which Chambers'
original work forms the major portion, a monumental palace elevation 45 bays
wide with central 5-bay giant order pavilion, surmounted weakly by the
pediment-attic-dome, and, the most original feature, the giant ordered,
pedimented colonnade screens set on giant semicircular archways, providing the
2 major flank accents linking the wings. The massive arcaded basement/terrace
has central semicircular water arch and water gates flanked by pairs of giant
rusticated Tuscan columns. A number of Chambers' very fine interiors survive,
of particular note the former rooms of the Royal Acadamy and the Learned
Societies with their staircases; the Navy staircase with its flying span in the
west end of the south block; chimney pieces, doorcases etc. Smirke's King's
College retains classical entrance hall and staircase either side; low great
hall with chapel above remodelled 1861-72 by Sir George Gilbert Scott in
Normano-Byzantine style with painted and mosaic decoration, arcaded semi-domed
altar apse, etc.
Sir William Chambers; John Harris 1600
History of the King's Works; Vol VI

Listing NGR: TQ3077880767

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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