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From its conception, Spencer House was recognised as one of the most ambitious aristocratic town houses ever built in London and is, today, the city's only great eighteenth-century private palace to survive intact.
Spencer House was conceived as a showcase of classical design but it was also designed for pleasure and a festive theme runs through the decoration of all the many state rooms which were used for receptions and family gatherings. The first Earl Spencer and his wife were prominent figures in London society, and during their lifetime Spencer House was often the setting for lavish entertainments. Their descendants, notably the fourth and sixth Earls, both of whom served as Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household, continued this tradition.
Built in 1756-66 for John, first Earl Spencer, he employed the Palladian architect John Vardy, a pupil of William Kent. James 'Athenian' Stuart, then newly returned from Greece, superseded Vardy as Lord Spencer's architect in 1758. As a result, the House became the first example in London of the application of accurate Greek detail to interior decoration, making it one of the pioneer examples of neo-classical architecture.
Following the death of the first Earl Spencer in 1783 the House was partly remodelled by the architect Henry Holland. He added the Greek Ionic columns in the Dining Room, and the large mahogany doors in the Staircase Hall, the Ante Room, and the Library. Thirty years later the Parisian designer, Barbier, redecorated the ground floor rooms.
During the war the House was occupied by the nation's nursing services, and later the House was converted into offices. In 1963 the Economist Intelligence Unit moved to Spencer House; they remained in occupation until 1985 when the lease was assigned to J.Rothschild Holdings and thence to RIT Capital Partners plc.
They regained the full splendour of its late eighteenth-century appearance after a ten-year programme of restoration, complimented by a magnificent collection of paintings and furniture, specially assembled for the House, including five Benjamin West paintings graciously lent by Her Majesty The Queen.