Cambridge House, Piccadilly, London
Cambridge House was built from 1756 to 1761 by Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont. The architect was Matthew Brettingham the Elder, better known for his more impressive work for the Curzons at Kedleston.
The house was built in a late Palladian style. It has three main storeys plus basement and attics and is seven bays wide. As is usual in a London mansion of the period the first floor (second floor in American English) is the principal floor, containing a circuit of reception rooms. This floor has the highest ceilings and its status is emphasized externally by a Venetian window in the centre.
Given its progenitor, it was originally known as Egremont House. Early in the 1820s, however, it was sold to George Cholmondeley, 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley and thus became known as Cholmondeley House (pronounced “chumley”). In 1829 it came into the hands of Field Marshal H.R.H. The Prince Adolphus Frederick, Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Tipperary, Baron Culloden.
Born in Buckingham Palace, Prince Adolphus was the tenth child of George III & Queen Charlotte. He also served as Viceroy of Hanover on behalf of his brothers George IV and William IV. His granddaughter, Mary of Teck, was Queen consort of the United Kingdom and paternal grandmother of the current monarch, Elizabeth II. With the Duke’s long occupancy at No. 94 Piccadilly the newly royal home became better known as Cambridge House.
Upon his death on 8 July 1850 at Cambridge House, ownership changed again when the townhouse was purchased by Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Lord Palmerston bought the home and lived there during most of his two premierships from 1855 to 1865. It was his London residence and the site of many splendid social and political gatherings.
After Palmerston’s death at Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire in 1865, his body was taken to Cambridge House from which his funeral procession departed to Westminster Abbey. Lord Palmerston had requested that he be buried at Romsey Abbey, but the Cabinet insisted that he receive a State Funeral and be buried in Westminster. There had only been three previous State Funerals for non Royalty before that of Lord Palmerston.
With Cambridge House being vacant, the property was then purchased by the Naval & Military Club, a gentlemen’s club originally founded in 1862 and in need of a new space. The club organised the traffic into the forecourt of Cambridge House by affixing large letters stating ‘IN’ on the west gate and ‘OUT’ on the east gate, thus gaining for itself the nickname of “the In and Out”.
By 1999, the Club moved to new premises, having sold Cambridge House in 1996 to entrepreneur Simon Halabi for £50 million. Halabi planned to convert the property into a private members club and hotel, part of his Mentmore Towers project. The project was halted in 2009, when Halabi’s companies went into bankruptcy.
Cambridge House and several adjacent buildings were offered for sale, but the building has been vacant since the Naval and Military Club left, and has fallen into a state of disrepair. Most recently the home has gone through another sale (alongside its adjoining properties) for £150 million to David and Simon Reuben, the enterprising pair of brothers from a Bombay Jewish family. The Reubens say it’s too early to tell what they might do with the property, but there are thoughts of perhaps selling it on to the current Duke of Cambridge, Prince William.