19, Albemarle Street – A look back at a famous location

In 1964, Bill Patterson opened the doors of the W.H.Patterson Gallery at 19, Albemarle Street – a place that was to become our home for nearly 50 years. The site had a long and chequered history of which we are proud to have now played a significant part.

Clarendon House

Clarendon House

From 1664 until 1683, Clarendon House was located where today Dover, Albemarle and Bond Street run. Built by Edward Hyde, Charles II’s Lord Chancellor, reputedly with money from the French for the sale of Dunkirk and with stones meant for the rebuilding of Old St. Paul’s before the Great Fire, Clarendon House became both despised and celebrated.

One of the grandest Restoration houses in England mostly due to Hyde’s lavish spending and entertaining, with many influential people staying under its roof, including Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn. Evelyn famously commenting “Now bravely furnished, especially with the pictures of most of our ancient and modern wits, poets and philosophers and famous and learned Englishmen…” It was however one of the shortest lived. The source of Hyde’s funding was soon to come under scrutiny and he fled the country in 1667.

After his death in 1674, his heirs sold the great house for £26,000 to Christopher Monck, 2nd Duke of Albemarle who then in 1683, sold it on to a consortium of investors led by Sir Thomas Bond who demolished the house and laid Albemarle Street straight through what was the centre of it. Throughout the 17th Century, development of town houses continued on the site, close to the Royal Court, and then in 1803, Alexander Grillion opened his hotel at Number 7. It was here that Louis XVIII stayed before his return to France in 1814.

A Painting by David Teniers from the first Patterson's Catalogue

A Painting by David Teniers from the first Patterson’s Catalogue

The First Viscount Churchill was born at Number 32 in 1864. John Murray the publisher, who burnt Byron’s letters after his death, was conducting business from Number 50. Formed in 1799, the Royal Institution made its home at Number 21 and became a magnet for Victorian society – a place where Science and the Arts met. So popular was this to become indeed, that following a series of lectures by Humphrey Davy there which caused gridlock in London, Albemarle Street became the first one way street in the World.

Browns hotel at Number 37, formerly St. George’s hotel hosted many famous guests and notably in 1876 heard Bell’s first telephone call in Britain. During the Second World War, Numbers 45 and 46 were destroyed, however most of the street remained intact, and in 1955, the celebrated architect Erno Goldfinger designed some modern offices to replace them.

Number 19 formed part of a group of buildings comprising the former Clarendon hotel, and after the hotel closed various trades used the building including tailors, spilling over from Saville Row. The freehold for the town house at Number 19 was bought along with Number 20 by the Royal Institution in 1935. They had plans to demolish and replace the townhouse with a modern building, however at that time they lacked the necessary funds for such a large scale project.

Patricia Patterson

Helen Bradley

In 1964 William Patterson with his partner Shipman took on the lease for their art gallery. With excellent timing, the art market thriving post war and a ready stream of fine Victorian oils and watercolours could more easily sourced from his new location. Together with the relocation of many established houses moving West after the wartime blitz had destroyed premises in the Square Mile, the area was a good one for a new gallery. A passion for Dutch master works meant his first exhibition was heavily influenced by the Low Countries, and the first show ran from September until November 1964. The role call from that show included Hulk, Leickert, Eversen, Spohler, Koekoek, Kruseman and Klinkenberg to name but a few.

Throughout the 1970’s major paintings hung on the gallery walls and Number 19 developed a reputation for dealing in high quality paintings. Often working with other galleries to buy and sell expensive works. In the late 1970’s Bill was introduced to Helen Bradley, a loveable Lancashire lass, who came to painting late in life. They got on famously and his first show with her, titled “London” was held in 1977. Such firm friends they became that he was due to go to the Palace, as her guest, to get her M.B.E the day after she died.

W.H.P as it became affectionately known continued to develop links with living artists. Looking again to the Low Countries and Belgium, Willem Dolphyn’s first show was held in 1985 and was a total sell out.

The gallery was managed by Bill’s widow Patricia after his death and sold in 2004 to the Fuller family from Gladwell & Company in the City.

View the W.H.Patterson Collection


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