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Buckingham House

BUCKINGHAM HOUSE: A brief history (Keith Feltham)

There are proposals to convert Buckingham House, on the High Street, into a small historic house hotel. Restoration is badly needed to preserve the character and features of this important building, which dates from the 16th century, and a new use for the property will facilitate this work and bring it back to life.

Buckingham House acquired its name from George Villiers, the first Duke of Buckingham, who was murdered in the house by John Felton on 23 August 1628. The Duke of Buckingham was responsible for paying the army and navy, and was unpopular because he regularly failed to do so. Although John Felton considered that his act was a favour to his country and the Commonwealth, he was hanged at Tyburn for his crime and his body hung in chains on Southsea beach.

The origin of the house is, however, much earlier than this. The first known record was in 1523 when the house is referred to as "le Greyhounde" and licensed as "a brewery, granery and garden". Shortly after that time, it was rebuilt although it is said that many of the original features were retained. In 1544 it was the home of John Chadderton, Captain of Southsea Castle, and in 1626 it was purchased by Captain John Mason, a Governor of Newfoundland and founder of New Hampshire in America. He used the house between his many voyages to America. There is a memorial plaque to John Mason in the Royal Garrison Church in Penny Street.

Major rebuilding work is thought to have taken place in 1627 and in about 1700 the adjacent building (now number 11, High Street) was incorporated into the premises. It was then refronted and internal alterations carried out. In 1705, it was purchased by Dr William Smith, who founded Portsmouth Grammar School, and who seems to have made a few changes of a minor nature.

In 1760 part of the house was demolished to permit the construction of the building of 10 High Street and then, about 1800, the house was divided in two becoming 101/2 & 11 High Street. Further major work was carried out in 1818 when the owner at that time, Rev. George Cuthbert, had the west wing refronted, so destroying the symmetry of the façade. The building stayed as two dwellings until it was damaged in the blitz of 1941 during WW II when No.11 became derelict although No. 101/2 apparently remained intact and in use.

In 1947, a local architect, Mr R A Thomas, acquired the building and commenced restoration. The damaged parts of the structure were reinstated, partitions separating the two halves of the building were removed and the many original features exposed and preserved, the most notable, perhaps, being the Tudor panelling in the 'Red Room', which had been decorated in tempera colours in the William and Mary period.

In 1953 the building was listed Grade II* as being of special architectural and historic importance. Since then it has been used as offices for R A Thomas & Son, Architects, and subsequently as offices for other architects, estate agents and advertising agents.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 01 March 2007 )
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