Choice and reasoning in the West End house, c. 1765-c. 1785
This thesis explores private and public expectations and perceptions of the West End
house in the period c1765 to cl785. By investigating aspects of occupancy or
ownership not obviously readable from the house itself, it shows that the town
house's significance to its occupants was often far greater and more diverse than its
appearance suggests, and it accounts for the terrace house's enduring popularity.
Chapter 1 notes the houseowner's absence in the architectural-historical
literature on the eighteenth-century town house, and the difficulty of finding or
accommodating the house itself within the literature on property ownership,
acquisition and transmission. The thesis addresses these deficiencies chiefly through
the use of anecdotal, financial and other documentary evidence from papers of
families of the landowning classes.
Chapter 2 looks at reasons for taking London houses, women's strong
associations with them, and houses' practical and more abstract functions, including
making a 'proper figure'.
Chapter 3 reveals the leasehold house's correspondences with personal rather
than real property; the house's prominence in settlements and wills; and its retention
within some families, particularly through bequests to widows.
Chapter 4 considers what people looked for and how they found it within an
active town-house market, and why people were prepared to bear the often damaging
cost of house ownership or occupancy.
Chapter 5 identifies and explains the discrepancy between public prescriptions
and private practice in town-house design. It shows how Robert Adam, in particular,
met the terrace house on its own terms and allowed it to come into its own,
architecturally, in this period.
The house's close associations with women, its ambiguous property status, its
commodity attributes, its financial ramifications, and the nature of its architectural
and decorative treatments, are used to explain its characterization in the eighteenth
century, and more recently, as inconsequential, inconstant, insubstantial, intemperate,
and ultimately emasculate.