This is a beautiful stately home to visit. It’s a magnificent eighteenth-century private aristocratic palace which was built between 1756-1766 for John, the first Earl Spencer and an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales (1961-1997). Today it’s recognised as one of the most sumptuous private residences ever built in London and a building of unique importance in the history of English architecture.
Designed by John Vardy and James ‘Athenian’ Stuart, the State Rooms are amongst the finest neo-classical interiors in Europe. Over the years the house has been the Spencer family home and has been subject to restoration and renovation work to help bring the house back to its former grand state. Today, the house has regained the full splendour of its eighteenth-century appearance after a painstaking ten-year restoration under the Chairmanship of Lord Rothschild.
My visit to the house in late June was outstanding, and I fully recommend it as a historic and beautiful place to visit.
Here’s a couple of things you will need to keep in mind.
1. The house is only open on Sunday, and you can only visit it on a a pr-booked guided tour.
2. Much of the house is still let out as office space, but 8 state rooms have been restored to their 18th-century splendour, and are open to the public. These rooms are on the Green Park side of the building.
3. Photography is not permitted in some of the rooms; the guide will indicate which rooms can be photographed.
4. The tour I booked allowed access to the garden. I’m not sure if that was just a ‘summer’ thing; you will certainly be taken onto the balcony overlooking the garden, if you are not permitted to access the garden.
5. The tour of the state rooms takes about an hour. Our guide, a French lady, was excellent: knowledgeable, informative, interesting and very amusing. You can stay as long as you want in the garden.
6. The entrance to the house is on St James’s Place. Arrive about ten minutes before your designated tour time; you’ll be warmly welcomed, and will wait in a side room on the ground floor until the tour group is complete. There were 20 people in the tour group I was on.
7. Adult tickets cost £18.50; as a senior my ticket cost £15.50. For the quality of the tour I got, I thought it represented very good value.
The mansion overlooks Green Park and you will see some of the graceful front facade from Green Park.