Extracts from Daniel Defoe’s Account of London

Selected by Pat Rogers
Introduction and Contents

Plans for a New Whitehall Palace

Many projects have been set on foot for the re-building the antient palace of White-hall; but most of them have related rather to a fund for raising the money, than a model for the building: But as I once saw a model for the palace itself, know its author, and when it was proposed, and that I still believe that scheme will, at last, be the ground-plot of the work itself, I believe it will not be disagreeable to give a brief account of the design.

A Scheme for a Royal Palace in the Place of White-Hall

First, it was proposed, That the whole building should be of Portland stone, and all the front be exactly after the model of the Banquetting House, with such alterations only, as the length and height of the building made necessary.

That the first floor of the building should be raised from the present surface, at least eight feet, as the present building of the Banquetting House now is.

That the whole building should make four fronts, one to the water-side and one to the canal in the park, a third to the north facing Charing-Cross, and the fourth to the south facing King-street in Westminster.

That every front should contain 400 yards, or 1200 feet, in length; that there should be four areas or squares in the inside of the building, the first from the north entrance to be oblong, taking up the whole length of the building from east to west, and that then a long building should cross the whole work, eighty feet broad, and from the east range one thousand feet broad to the west; and in the middle of which, should be a great arch or gate looking to the south gate of the palace: That the other side of the palace be divided into three squares, having two ranges of buildings to run cross them from south to north, and each range to joyn the great range of building which runs from east to west.

That the whole building be withdrawn from the river so far, at least, as where the statue of King James II. now stands, and a spacious terras to be carried on into the Thames twelve feet beyond low-water-mark, and over the river a handsome foot-bridge of twelve great arches only, with a causeway at the end over St. George’s Fields; That the terras and space between the palace and the water, be made into a fine garden, with an orangery on the north side, reaching to the edge of the terras so effectually, as it may cover the garden from the view of any of the buildings on the Strand side, and a royal bagnio at the other end likewise, to cover the necessary buildings for the kitchins which are behind it.

For the extent north, ’tis proposed, That all the buildings be taken down to the wall of Northumberland House, on that side; and to the north side of the Spring Garden, opposite to Suffolk-street and the Hay-Market on the other side; so the front of the building that way, will extend from the hither part of Scotland-yard-Gate, to Prince Rupert’s Garden, and the gate of the palace being in the center of the building, will open in that which is now called the Spring Garden.

One gate of the palace opening thus north, a ballustrade of iron, like that which surrounds St. Paul’s Church, should take in a large parade, reaching to the Meuse-Gate, a space for the street only excepted, and in proportion the other way towards Pail-Mall; and here on the east side, and on the west side, two large guard-houses should be erected, fitted, the one for the horse guards, and the other for the foot, both within the ballustrade, but without the palace, and two smaller guard-houses for detachments of both, be likewise placed on the south side, all at a proper distance from the main building, and all low built.

The canal in the park would be necessarily filled up for about a hundred yards, for the extent of the building that way; the street that now is, must, at the same time, be turned, and a large street for communication with Westminster, be allowed to cross the park from the Pail-Mall south, towards Westminster, to come out at the new iron gate, now leading to Queen’s-Square and Tottil-street; but no houses to be built in it, and four gates in the said street, to lead over the street, from the first floor of the palace, by galleries into the park; All buildings adjoining to the park to be taken down, nor any private doors or keys to be allowed; a stone wall of twenty feet high and eight feet thick, to be built round the park, and the park to be extended west, by taking in Buckingham House, with its gardens.

In this building, the proposer’s scheme was, To have all the offices of the King’s Exchequer, the Revenue, the Council, the Secretaries of State, the Admiralty, the Courts of Justice, and both Houses of Parliament, contain’d within the palace, as was the usage in former times.

To this purpose, the cross range of buildings, going from east to west, through the center of the palace, and looking into the great oblong court, which would contain a thousand feet, exclusive of the east and west fronts, and of the great arch or gate in the center, should be divided thus; That part on the east side of the gate to contain two spacious rooms, one for the House of Peers, the other for the House of Commons, with sufficient offices, galleries of communication, rooms of conference for committees, a court of requests, &c. for the use of the members, and rooms for all other occasions of Parliament business.

The west part of this great range of building to contain a hall, as Westminster-Hall now is, with proper separated courts for the King’s Bench, Chancery, Common-Pleas, and Exchequer-Bars, and a distinct court fix’d, and suitably prepared, for tryals of peers or others, by the House of Lords, notwithstanding which, this court would be sufficiently large to celebrate the Coronation feast, with all its ceremonies, the building being from the middle arch to the west range of buildings, five hundred feet long at least, and one hundred feet broad.

Thus the king’s Court of Justice, his High Court of Parliament, and all the affairs of the Administration, would be managed within his own house, as it anciently was; and as the two cross ranges of buildings, which form’d the three courts on the south side of the Parliament House and Hall of Justice, would be very large, they would afford room for the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, the Admiralty, the War Office, the Green-Cloth, the Wardrobe Office, and all the other family offices, too many to name here.

Then the main range of building on the north side of the palace, should contain (because nearest the city) the Treasury Office, the Secretary’s Offices, the Council Chambers, and the Exchequer Offices.

The apartments of the other three ranges to be wholly taken up with the king’s houshold: for example;

  1. For the royal apartments, being the king’s lodgings, rooms of state and audience, the closet, the oratory, and all the rooms belonging to the apartment of a king; this to take up the east range, fronting the terras garden and the Thames, and looking directly towards the city.
  2. The queen’s lodgings to be in the east end of the south range, fronting the City of Westminster; but between the said city and the lodgings, the queen’s garden to be extended from the terras garden mentioned before, to a wall joining a passage from Westminster to the south gate, which wall begins at the iron ballustrade and gate of the great parade before the south entrance of the palace, and ends at the outer stone wall, which surrounds the garden and park. The family for the royal children, to take up the west end of the said south range of buildings, with the like garden also, and a gate joyning the two walls in the middle of the passage, leading to the south gate of the palace, by which, with an easy ascent of steps, a communication should be made between the said two gardens.

The west range of buildings fronting the park, should be divided also into two parts, the first being the north end, to consist of royal apartments for the entertainment of foreign princes and foreign ambassadors, at the pleasure of the king, and the other half, or south end to be called the Prince’s Lodgings, and to be for the Prince of Wales for the time being, and his family.

The great arch in the center of the whole, and in the middle of the long range of buildings, to support a large church or chapel royal, for the service of all the houshold, and for preaching before the Houses of Parliament on publick days, as is now at St. Margaret’s and at the Abbey: over this church a large dome or cupola of stone, covered with copper and double gilded.

At the two angles of the building, fronting the river, two private chapels, the one for the queen and her houshold, and the other for the king and his houshold, and either of these to support a dome covered with copper and gilded, as before, tho’ smaller than the other, with a large lanthorn on the top, and a small spire, all of stone.

The fronts to have pavilions and pediments in their proper places; the whole work to be built with the utmost regularity, in the Corinthian order of building, and with all possible beauty and ornament.

The galleries of the royal chapel to be supported with pillars of marble, of the finest and most beautiful workmanship also, the E. end of the building, the altar and balustrade of the same, also niches, with their columns, and pediments of the same, and two pillars of the finest marble, eighteen feet high, standing single, one on each side the steps to the communion table, and on them two statues of the apostles St. Paul and St. Peter, or as the king shall direct, the statues to be large as the life, the capitals of the columns gilded.

All the carv’d work in the walls, and round the cornish, and architrave within and without, double gilded; the ceiling of the chapel to contain one great oval, the rim of it of stone, carved as at St. Paul’s, and gilded, and the middle painted by the best masters, with either a figure of the ascention or the resurrection, the device to be new.

All the carved work in wood, and mouldings, and cornish in the quire and over the stalls, to be double gilded, as likewise of the organ and organ loft.

All the gates and door cases in the out-sides of the work, with all the columns and carv’d work belonging to them, especially the north and south gates, and the two fronts of the great arch in the middle, to be of the finest marble. All the chimneys and foot paces before them, to be of marble of divers colours, as well English as foreign: The steps, also, of the king and queen’s great stair-cases to be of marble, all the other stair-cases to be of the finest free-stone, fetch’d from Stamford in Lincolnshire, where is the whitest stone in England, and to be built as the stair-case in that called the Queen’s House at Greenwich; no wood to be allowed in any of the stair-cases, except for wainscotting up the side.

All the great stair-cases to be painted in the most curious manner possible, as also the ceilings of all the royal apartments, as well the queen’s as the king’s.

An equestrian statue of the king in the center of one half of the first great court, and the like of the late King William, in the other half.

Large fountains to be kept constantly playing in the smaller courts, and in the terras garden.

Buckingham-House to be bought, and taken in, to be made a royal lodge for the park, with an observatory, and a chamber of rarities: And Marlborough House to be bought, and be made a green-house for exotick plants, and all botannick rarities, and the old royal garden to be again restored, laid open to the park, and be a planted orangery; all the orange and lemon trees to be planted in the earth, so as not to be removed in the winter, but covered and secured separately, as at Beddington in Surrey.

A large building to be added under the wall in the park, next to Tottil-street, Westminster, with separate wards for keeping the lyons and other the strange and foreign bred brutes, which are now kept in the Tower, and care to be taken to furnish it with all the rarities of that kind that the world can procure, with fowls, also, of the like foreign kinds.

A royal bagnio annexed to the green-house in the terras garden, like that for the ladies in the queen’s garden; but both distant from the palace.

A large alottment from the lodgings at the two ends of the N. and E. ranges, for the king’s kitchens, which should have also an additional range of low buildings, separate from the palace, and running down to the water-side; this building would stand just between the terras garden wall, which should hide it, and the wall of Northumberland House: And here (a dock being made for that purpose) all heavy things, needful for the kitchens, and for the whole palace, should be brought in by water; as coals, and wood, and beer, and wine, &c. at the east end, and the prince’s at the west end; the kitchens for the queen and the younger princes or childrens apartments, to be at the other extremes of their respective appartments.

Every range of building to have double rows of rooms on the same floor; but the royal apartments to have also a long gallery behind them, reaching the whole length, the one end to joyn to the Treasury Office and Council Chamber in the north range, and the other end to reach the queen’s royal lodgings at the south range; on the east side of this gallery and in the peers, between the windows on the west side, should be placed, all the fine paintings that the Court are possess’d of, or that can be procur’d.

In the north west angle of the building, a large room or rooms for the royal library, with apartments for the library keeper; galleries in the great room to come at the books, and a cupola upon the top.

In the south west angle, a like repository for the records, as well of the Exchequer as of Parliament, with apartments for the record-keeper, or register, and a dome over it as at the other angle.

The north and south gates of the palace to be embellished in the most exquisite manner possible, and the statues of the king and prince over the arch wrought in marble, in the finest manner possible; the gates to rise twenty five feet above the building, with an attick, and such other work as shall be contrived for the utmost beauty and ornament.

The great stair-cases to be in the angles of the building, built projecting into the squares, that of the king’s apartment, to open into the first court, and into the garden also, and in the like manner the queen’s stair-case, at the other side, to open into the little square and into the privy gardens.

The stair-cases to land upon the galleries, before they enter the apartments, and for that reason, to be in the inside of the building, and to be distinct from it, to prevent taking up any of the apartments of the angles, which are appointed for other purposes; in the middle of the long’s great gallery, doors should be made, leading into the great middle range of buildings; by one of which, his majesty may enter a gallery leading to the House of Lords, and by the other, enter thro’ another gallery to the chapel royal: In the great gallery and in the hall, sixteen large bouffetts or cupboards of gold and gilt plate of all kinds, to be set open on publick days.

Likewise by these doors, the king will have ready access to all the offices, to all the lodgings, and through the gates formerly mention’d, crossing the great New Street, which have steps to pass over their arches, and descend into the park.

This, indeed, is but an embryo; but it must be confessed, it would be a magnificent building, and would very well suit the grandeur of the British Court: Here a King of Great Britain would live like himself, and half the world would run over to see and wonder at it.

This whole building, the person projecting it, offered to finish, that is to say, all the out-side work, masonry and bricklayers work, with plaisterers, glasiers, plumbers, carpenters and joyners work, carvers, stone-cutters, copper work, iron work, and lead, including ballustrade and fine gates, and, in a word, the whole palace, except painting, gilding, gardening and waterworks, for two million three hundred thousand pounds, the king giving timber, but the undertaker to cut it down, and bring it to the place, the king giving the Portland stone also, and bringing it by water to the place.

Also the king to lay in four thousand blocks of Italian marble of the usual dimensions, the builder to make all the imagery that are to be made of stone; but the king to be at the charge of the equestrian statues in brass; the builder to form all the fountains and basins for the water-works; but all the pipes, vasa, busts, and statues in the gardens, to be at the king’s expence.