Lady Spencer’s Room

An exquisite salon ‘fitted up with all possible taste’ (Arthur Young, 1769)

Although originally described as ‘Lady Spencer’s Dressing Room’ this modestly sized yet lavishly decorated interior was not used as a dressing room in the modern sense, but a private salon where Lady Spencer could entertain her friends and display her fine collection of paintings.

Lady Spencer’s Room sets up a spectacular ‘reveal’ for guests about to enter the Great Room next door – the largest reception space in the house. As an adjunct to the Great Room, Lady Spencer’s Room can provide additional seated dining for up to 36 guests or it can stand alone as an intimate dining room for smaller parties.

More about Lady Spencer’s Room

As well as providing Lady Spencer with an intimate venue for her salons, this room also forms an ante room to the much larger Great Room next door. The two interiors were therefore decorated with matching silk wall hangings. The current crimson silk damask was woven specially for the restoration of Spencer House by Humphries Weaving, based in Sudbury, Suffolk, using traditional Jacquard looms. The pattern was taken from a fragment of eighteenth-century Pavia damask and the same fabric has been used to upholster the set of replica dining chairs made by Ben Bacon. The original chairs are now at the Spencer’s country house, Althorp.

The ceiling of Lady Spencer’s Room features a striking design based on a ceiling from the Baths of Augustus in Rome. James Stuart has cleverly adapted the square design to the rectangular shape of the room by inserting moulded bands of decoration along the west and east sides.  It is thought that Stuart may have originally intended to insert painted panels into the roundels. Lady Spencer’s friend, Mrs Howe, wrote to her in 1764: Mr Howe and I carried Lord Huntingdon to see your house in St James’s t’other day – the ceilings go on very well – none of the compartments in your dressing room are yet begun’. In the end, however, they were simply painted a pale blue.

Stuart also designed a hanging system for Lady Spencer’s paintings which featured ‘ribbons of gilt carving in the sweetest taste’ (Arthur Young, 1769).

Lady Spencer’s Room seems to have been used as an executives office or meeting room during the latter half of the twentieth century. The doorcases, chair rail, skirting and upright corner fillets all had to be recarved by Dick Reid and his team during the 1980s restoration while polyurethane foam was used to replicate the fillets that run along the cornice and above the dado rail. The original chimneypiece is now in the Marlborough Room at Althorp and was probably carved by the Flemish sculptor Peter Scheemakers. The replica took Reid and his team 5,800 hours to carve.

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