Originally the Royal Terrace of the Adams’ Adelphi development, Robert and James Adam lived here in 1773–8; so did Dr Johnson’s friend, Topham Beauclerk, in 1772–6; and David Garrick in 1772–5. His widow continued to live here for a further 43 years after his death, dying in 1822. A room from the demolished house was reconstructed at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The quack doctor James Graham had his Temple of Health here in 1778–81 before moving to Schomberg House, Pall Mall. His temple was hung with ‘walking sticks, ear trumpets, visual glasses, crutches, etc. left and here placed as most honourable trophies by deaf, weak, paralytic and emaciated persons, cripples etc. who being cured had no longer need of such assistance’. Graham’s ‘celestial bed’ for conceiving perfect children was hired out at £100 per night. In 1781 Emma Lyon, later Lady Hamilton, is said to have posed for him as the Goddess of Health.
A resident in 1881–1901 was Richard D’Oyly Carte, producer of the Savoy Operas. Sir Arthur Blomfield had his office here in 1864–8. Thomas Hardy studied architecture under him during 1864–7. Hardy then returned to Dorchester, claiming that his health had suffered from the stench of the mud at low tide.
He recollected, ‘I sat there, drawing inside the easternmost window of the front room on the first floor, occasionally varying the experience by idling on the balcony. I saw from there the Embankment and Charing Cross Bridge built and, of course, used to think of Garrick and Johnson. The rooms contained fine Adam mantelpieces in white marble on which we used to sketch caricatures in pencil.’ Charles Booth, the shipowner, social reformer and author of Life and Labour of the People in London, lived here from 1894 to 1901.
The London School of Economics moved here in its third year of life. Miss Charlotte Payne Townshend, benefactor and friend of Sidney and Beatrice Webb, took the two upper storeys so that she could help with the social side of the school. In 1898 she married George Bernard Shaw and the couple lived here until 1929 when demolition threatened.
The London School of Economics moved to its own building in Clare Market in 1902. The terrace was finally replaced in 1936–8 by the New Adelphi, a ‘savagely ungraceful’ office block by Colcutt and Hamp.
Excerpted from The London Encyclopaedia by kind permission of the Publishers, Pan MacMillan.