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Carlton House

This is the splendidly-furnished town residence of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent. The difficulty of free access to a palace like this may be easily imagined; but the descriptions that are contained in this article result chiefly from personal observation.

Respecting its history, we learn that Frederick Prince of Wales, father of his present majesty, purchased the original Canton House and gardens in the year l732, of the Earl of Burlington. The necessary alterations for the reception of that prince were begun in January, 1733. Having come into the possession of its present royal inhabitant in 1788, it was modernized at a vast expense. Mr. Holland was the architect. Report stated that it was to be converted into an Egyptian Etruscan palace, the extravagant coalition of the styles of the day; if so, the superb pillars of the hall, the niches, statues, cornices, ornaments and enrichments of the state apartments must be removed.

The front of this palace is too low, and consequently affords but one range of spacious apartments, recently connected by large folding-doors, and thus opening to an enriched Gothic observatory; but it allows of nothing more than a diminutive attic, with very small windows.

The facade has a centre and two wings, rusticated, without pilasters, an entablature, and balustrade.

The portico consists of six composite columns, and a pediment with an enriched frieze, and a tympan crowned with the prince's arms; but all the windows are without pediments, except two in the wings

The gardens at the back of Carlton House are very beautiful, and as retired as if remotely situated in the country.

The screen in front ought to be removed: though the architect has selected the Ionic order with judgement, as next to that of the palace. On the centre of the entablature of this handsome colonnade is a very neat military trophy, between the royal supporters. The capitals and cornices are modelled from clumsy and imperfect remains of antiquity, in preference to those imitated by Inigo Jones at the banqueting-house. Besides this error, he has made his basement high enough for a wall; indeed, it effectually, screens the palace even from the opposite pavement, and gives it altogether a dark and heavy appearance. It is, however, intended to take it down, and at this time some trifling alterations are making in the interior.

There are many magnificent apartments in this building, and the finest armoury in the world. The collection is so extensive as to occupy four rooms, and consists of specimens of whatever is curious and rare, in the arms of every modern nation, with many specimens of ancient armour. There is also here the golden throne of the late king of Candy. Its form is rude, its size large and massive; and the sun (with diamond eyes) constitutes its back. There are many rich stones about it.

From the hall, which is exceedingly magnificent, an octagonal room, richly and tastefully ornamented, conducts to the grand suite of apartments on the one side, and to the great staircase on the other. On approaching closely to the latter, a most brilliant and almost magical effect is produced by the management of the light. Opposite to the entrance is a flight of twelve steps, 13 feet long; and on either side of the landing-place, at the top of these, is another flight of steps of the same length, which takes a circular sweep up to the chamber floor.

Underneath is another staircase, descending to the lower apartments. The general form is an ellipsis, 41 feet long by 23 feet wide, lighted by a skylight of the whole extent. On a level with the first are divisions arched over: two of these are occupied by Time pointing to the hours on a dial, and AEolus supporting a map of a circular form, with the points of the compass marked round it. The central division forms the entrance to an antechamber, and the others are adorned with female figures of bronze, in the form of Termini, supporting lamps. The railing is particularly rich, glittering with ornaments of gold, with bronze beads. The skylight is embellished with rich painted glass, in panes of circles, lozenges, prince's plumes, roses, &c.

The dining-room, the council-chamber, and throne-apartment, are splendidly furnished, and the library is commodious and well stored; besides the armoury already mentioned, the PLATE-ROOM is the greatest, the richest, peculiarity of this grandly decorated palace. By foreigners who have visited it, and who have been surprised by the succession of its costliness and taste, it is allowed to be the finest collection of plate in Europe. The plate is chiefly gilt, and most of it of modern fashion: it occupies the three sides of a large room (the fourth being formed of bronzed railwork,) and presents to the eye of the spectator an uncommonly beautiful sight. Its tasteful arrangement delights full as much as the richness of the plate. The cases which enclose the whole are well adapted to the purpose; the fronts being formed of plate glass, each square of which having cost 30l. or 40l. In this room are some fine remains of King Charles's plate, as well as some splendid presents from various branches of the royal family, particularly a silver-gilt antique salt-stand, &c., from the princess Elizabeth on the day of her marriage.

Many exquisite paintings, of the modern as well as of the ancient school, adorn the elegant rooms: and there are several fine busts of Fox, the Marquess of Hastings, &c.

The new conservatory is a most rich display of what is called the florid Gothic style, inferior only to that master-model of this species of ornament, Henry VIIth's chapel in Westminster Abbey. The groinings of the roof, the drops or pendants, &c., are a fine imitation of it: it is 72 feet in length, 23 in breadth, and 20 high. It was built under the superintendence of Mr. Hopper. The selection and arrangement of its parts have been made with infinite judgement and taste; so that, notwithstanding their extreme richness, they are perfectly free from confusion. A great degree of cheerfulness pervades the whole from the admission of the light from the roof; and in this respect it has somewhat the advantage of the chapel just mentioned, in which many of the beauties of the ornaments are hidden from the sight for want of sufficient light from above.

The whole front of Carlton House is now lighted with gas; when, therefore, the screen is removed, and the large and capacious street that is now making opposite is completed, the effect altogether will be grand and imposing, worthy a great nation, and a fit habitation for an enlightened and powerful prince.

The straight line from Carlton House is to terminate with a magnificent pile of architecture, intended for a public office. This will extend beyond the crescent in Piccadilly; the site fixed upon is Marylebone Street, branching off with a sweep to the left as far as Swallow Street, will be a superb double row of uniform buildings to be called Regent Street. There will be a beautiful colonnade on each side of the street, the models of which are taken from the finest buildings in Rome. The arrangements respecting the improvements to the east are concluded. The north side of Cockspur Street is to come down, and not a house is to be left in Suffolk Street, or any of the alleys adjoining. All the buildings in the King's Mews, except those fine stables erected by George IId. are to be pulled down; and one of the fronts of Carlton House will command a view of St. Martin's Church.

Source: Leigh's New Picture of London. Printed for Samuel Leigh, 18, Strand;
by W. Clowes, Northumberland Court. 1819