Mansion House, London

Coordinates: 51°30′47.7″N 0°5′21.7″W / 51.51325°N 0.089361°W / 51.51325; -0.089361

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 storeys 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 in Britain 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 and from 2 December 2008, these will be held at 2pm every Tuesday. Visitors just turn up and wait in Walbrook near the porch entrance to Mansion House. Tours are first come/first served and limited to 40 per group.


In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Mark Twain made up a story about the construction of the building:


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