I regularly post about my visits to public buildings whose architecture is testament to the artistry of the workers of earlier times (and perhaps the profligacy of their employers) but what treasures lie hidden, mouldering and consigned to decades of neglect elsewhere on these shores?
I ask the question because I spent this weekend working in London, more specifically Mayfair, an area with some of the highest property rental values in the world so you might expect to find some plush hotels and residences.
I must have walked past the building in question dozens of times in my life when travelling to and from such varied attractions as Hyde Park, the Burlington Arcade, the Royal Academy and the Hard Rock Café! Dressed in white stone it is slightly smaller than some of its Palladian neighbours, but Coventry House has a story to tell.
Built in 1761 for Sir Henry Hunloke, a baronet whose family had been rewarded by Charles I for support during one of the battles of the English Civil War, the site had previously been occupied by the Greyhound Inn at the fringes of an area of fields (where the May Fair took place each year). That open area was heavily redeveloped during the 17th and 18th Centuries with the building of a number of fashionable residences.
Four years later Hunloke sold to the Early of Coventry who renamed it and remained in residence until the 19th Century when after a short period housing the French Ambassador, the property became the St James Club, a gentleman’s club whose clientele included Evelyn Waugh, and during World War II Ian Fleming, who took up residence here.
A building with history, but also artistry. Robert Adam and Thomas Cundy the Elder were both contracted to remodel the property and much of their work remains.
Nowadays it is a conferencing facility and as such seems to be treated a nothing more than a collection of large rooms where care of the fabric is less important that providing comfortable chairs. Paint, plaster and woodwork crack and crumble without the attention of a National Trust conservator.
After 250 years of existence I wonder what lies in store next for 106 Piccadilly.