Mansion House, London
An early 19th century banquet
in the Egyptian Hall at the Mansion House
A public session at the
Mansion House, London
Mansion House is the official residence of the Lord
Mayor of the City of London in London, England.
It is used for some of the City of London's
official functions, including an annual dinner, hosted by the Lord Mayor, at
which the Chancellor of the Exchequer customarily gives a speech – his
'Mansion House Speech' – about the state of the British economy. The Guildhall
is another venue used for important City functions.
Mansion House was built
between 1739 and 1752, in the then fashionable Palladian style by the City of London surveyor and architect
George Dance the Elder; its site had formerly been occupied by St Mary Woolchurch
Haw, destroyed in the Great Fire of London. The construction was prompted by a
wish to put an end to the inconvenient practice of lodging the Lord Mayor in
one of the City Halls. Dance won a design competition over solicited designs
from James Gibbs and Giacomo Leoni, and uninvited submissions by Batty Langley
and Isaac Ware.
Mansion House has three
main stories over a rusticated basement. The entrance facade features a portico
with six Corinthian columns. The building originally had two prominent and
unusual attic structures, but these were removed in 1794 and 1843. The building
is on a confined site, and in the opinion of Sir John Summerson it gives
'an impression of uneasily constricted bulk… On the whole, the building is
a striking reminder that good taste was not a universal attribute in the
eighteenth century.' The main reception room was a colummned hall called
the 'Egyptian Hall', which was so named because the arrangement of
the columns chosen by Dance was deemed to be 'Egyptian' by Palladio,
rather than because it employed Egyptian motifs. British architecture's mild
flirtation with Egyptian motifs lay several decades in the future.
The residence is unique
in having its own court of law, since the Lord Mayor is the chief magistrate of
the City while in office. There are eleven holding cells (ten for men and one,
nicknamed 'the birdcage', for women). A famous prisoner here was the
early 20th century suffragette women's rights campaigner Emmeline Pankhurst.
Mansion House is home to
The Harold Samuel Collection of Dutch and Flemish Seventeenth Century
Paintings, described as 'the finest collection of such works to be formed
this century' (Sutton 1992). It consists of 84 paintings and includes some
outstanding works by artists including Hendrick Avercamp, Gerard Ter Borch, Pieter
Claesz, Aelbert Cuyp, Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch, Jacob van Ruisdael, Jan
Steen, David Teniers the Younger and Willem van de Velde.
Mansion House is not open
to the public except for guided group tours, which must be booked in advance.
Mansion House is a rare surviving Georgian town
palace in London.
With its magnificent interiors and elegant furniture, the Mansion House
provides the Lord Mayor of the City of London
with living, working and entertainment space. Built in the age of Hogarth, the
Mansion House, then as now, is a symbol of the City of London as the world’s leading international
financial and trading centre.
Click on the Lord Mayor of the City of
London to learn more about the office today, History of the Mansion
House to learn more about the building and its collections, and History of
the Government of the City of London
and History of the Mayoralty for a brief
Life at the Mansion
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
250 years later.
The Mansion House is both a private residence
for the Lord Mayor and family, and a base for the Lord Mayor’s office, a
department of the City of London
Corporation, and provides a location for business meetings, conferences,
banquets and entertaining. Some 40,000 people visit the Mansion House every
The Lord Mayor's office organises his overseas
and domestic programmes. See a Typical Day for the Lord Mayor in London and a Typical day for the Lord Mayor overseas.
When not abroad, the Lord Mayor sees on average
a head of state or government at least once a month and hosts a finance
minister or ambassador weekly. These are usually highly focused meetings
between the visitors and City businesses, and they are part of a busy schedule
of business visitors/ meetings at Mansion house.
the most famous events at Mansion House are the dinners and banquets. They have
always been splendid occasions: once upon a time they would last several hours,
and guests would take food to the window to hand down to waiting friends and
servants. Today the Lord Mayor hosts ten banquets a year which provide a
platform for ministers (at Guildhall), while every week sees businesses and
livery companies hold dinners at Mansion House, at the invitation of the Lord Mayor Literature
In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's
Court, Mark Twain made up a story about the construction of the
reminded me of something I had read in my youth about the ingenious way in
which the aldermen of London
raised the money that built the Mansion House. A person who had not taken the
Sacrament according to the Anglican rite could not stand as a candidate for
sheriff of London.
Thus Dissenters were ineligible; they could not run if asked, they could not
serve if elected. The aldermen, who without any question were Yankees in
disguise, hit upon this neat device: they passed a by-law imposing a fine of
£400 upon any one who should refuse to be a candidate for sheriff, and a fine
of £600 upon any person who, after being elected sheriff, refused to serve.
Then they went to work and elected a lot of Dissenters, one after another, and
kept it up until they had collected £15,000 in fines; and there stands the
stately Mansion House to this day, to keep the blushing citizen in mind of a
long past and lamented day when a band of Yankees slipped into London and
played games of the sort that has given their race a unique and shady
reputation among all truly good and holy peoples that be in the earth