Mansion House is one of the grandest surviving Georgian town palaces in London, with magnificent interiors containing elaborate plasterwork and carved timber ornament. It is unique as the only purpose-built home of the Lord Mayor of the City of London, providing not only living and working space for the Lord Mayor and his household but also room for large ceremonial entertainments and banquets.
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The building of Mansion House was first considered after the Great Fire of London in 1666, but the first stone was not laid until 1739 after much discussion over the selection of the site, the design and the architect. Sir Crispin Gascoigne was the first Lord Mayor to take up residence, in 1752.A fashionable Palladian style with a large classical portico was chosen by the City's Clerk of Works, George Dance the Elder. Built around a central courtyard it contained a cellar, a ground floor for the servants and the kitchen, a grand first floor of offices, dining and reception rooms, including the Egyptian Hall where banquets were held, a second floor with a gallery for dancing and chambers for the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, and a third floor of bedchambers.
The Egyptian Hall is so named because its form was thought to replicate the dining halls used in Egypt in Roman times, with giant columns supporting a narrower attic area. Reconstructions of such halls were studied in Roman times and became very fashionable in the 18th century. However, there is nothing Egyptian about the decoration, which is classical in style. Although Mansion House retains much of its original character, there have been changes - one of the most important of which was the covering of the internal courtyard to form what is now known as the Saloon to provide a large reception area.
During its life the house has undergone a number of extensive repair programmes. The most recent was the refurbishment work of 1991-3, when structural repair, careful conservation and complete redecoration were carried out. The result was well received and won a number of conservation awards. Mansion House was originally intended to enable the Lord Mayor to represent the City in appropriate style, and it continues to fulfil this function more than two centuries later.
Mansion House is open by appointment only for visits by organised groups (minimum 15 people, maximum 40). Applications should be made in writing to the Principal Assistant, Mansion House,
London EC4N 8BH.