Manchester House was built between 1776-88 for the 4th Duke of Manchester because there was a good duck shooting nearby.
In 1791-95 it was used as the Spanish Embassy and soon after, in 1797, the 2nd Marquess of Hertford (b.1743-d.1822) acquired the lease of the house. The 2nd Marquess used the house as his principal London residence, holding many parties there, the most prestigious of which was the Allied Sovereigns’ Ball held after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814.
The 3rd Marquess (b.1777-d.1842), as Earl of Yarmouth, was a close friend of the Prince of Wales and from 1810 to 1819 sometimes acted as saleroom agent for him. In 1836-51 the house was let by the 3rd Marquess as the French Embassy.
The 4th Marquess (b.1800-d.1870) lived largely in Paris and used Hertford House as a London store for his increasing art collection. It was only with the Paris Revolution of 1871 that Richard Wallace (b.1818-d.1890), the 4th Marquess’ illegitimate son, decided to move back to London, bringing a substantial amount of his Parisian collection with him.
He redeveloped the house, creating a range of galleries on the first floor. After his death the house was converted into a public museum by the Office of Works and first opened as a museum on 22 June 1900.
Redeveloped by Rick Mather Architects for the Centenary Project in 2000, Hertford House now contains impressive new educational faculties and an elegant public restaurant.