The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 19 From Charing Cross To St Paul's Cathedral

The Adelphi

Previous - Next

To the south (right) of this part of the Strand lies the district known as THE ADELPHI, laid out on the site of Durham House by the four Scottish brothers Adam, who obtained a ninety-nine years� lease in 1768. Durham House, originally built by the bishop of Durham circa 1450, was the residence of Sir Walter Raleigh from 1583 to 1603. The names of the �Adelphi� survive in Adam, James, John, and Robert Streets, but �William Street � has been renamed Durham House Street. The reputation of the �Adam Style� still stands high, not only in architecture, but also in interior decoration and furniture; and the design of the Adelphi, due mainly to James Adam, is a monument of both boldness and charm. Above a system of subterranean vaults, constructed on the slope between the Strand and the Thames, stands a unified series of streets and riverside terrace, a creative adaptation of classical models. ADELPHI TERRACE, the forefront of the design, was directly inspired by the Palace of Diocletian, on the Bay of Spalato. The original effect has suffererd from the formation of the Thames Embankment, and still more from the clumsy refacing which has obliterated the delicacy of the Adam frontage. Until about sixty years ago the arches, now mostly used as cellars by wine-merchants, offered a refuge to desperate characters. A battery of guns was concealed here in the time of the Chartist riots. A glance at these dark recesses (reached from the Strand via the narrow Durham House St.) is desirable for a proper appreciation of the constructive feat achieved in the erection of the Adelphi. The most notable single building is that of the ROYAL SOCIETY OF ARTS in John St., forming an almost intact example of an Adam exterior. The Society, established in 1754 to foster art, manufacture, and trade, was an active promoter of the Exhibitions of 1851 and 1862. The large hall (open free daily, 10-4; Saturday, 10-1) contains six huge moral paintings by James Barry (1777-83), illustrating (not very perspicuously) the benefits of civilization. The Little Theatre, likewise in John St., was formerly the hall of Coutts's Bank, with which the bridge over Durham House St. connected it. Tablets in Adelphi Terrace commemorate the residence at No. 4 of Robert and James Adam, and the death at No. 5 of Garrick in 1779 (ceiling with medallions by Antonio Zucchi). Here are the premises of the Savage Club (Nos. 6 & 7) and of the Royal Statistical and Royal Economic Societies (No. 9). Thomas Hardy lived at No. 8 in 1863-67. Other names associated with the Adelphi are those of Rowlandson (died 1829), the caricaturist. Thomas Hood (at No 2 Robert St.), Charles Dickens, whose youthful experiences in this quarter are described in �David Copperfield,� and, more recently, George Bernard Shaw and Sir James Barrie.