The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Sir Richard Wallace's Billiard Room, circa 1890
Sir Richard Wallace's Billiard Room, circa 1890
The Smoking Room, circa 1904
The Smoking Room, circa 1904
Plan of Hertford House, First Floor, circa 1890
Plan of Hertford House, First Floor, circa 1890
Plan of Hertford House, Ground Floor, circa 1890
Plan of Hertford House, Ground Floor, circa 1890
Hertford House in Sir Richard Wallace's Day

After the Commune, a revolutionary uprising, in Paris in 1871, Richard Wallace decided that it would be safer to move most of his Parisian collection back to London.

He acquired the lease of Hertford House from the 5th Marquess of Hertford with the intention of using it as the family’s London residence. He renamed the house Hertford House in honour of his father, thereby infuriating Lord Hertford who had planned to call his own recently-acquired London townhouse by this name.

Wallace soon found Hertford House too small for his collection and commissioned the architect Thomas Ambler to redevelop the property. Little is known about Ambler and commentators have been universally critical of his designs for the principal front, which is often described as ‘illiterate’. One critic even doubted if ‘another man [could] be found who would make almost as many mistakes with Doric entablature as Ambler had made with his stuck-on pilasters’. Wallace must have been happy with his work, however, as he paid him £900 in 4 instalments in 1873-5, gave him a marble console table and paid £250 to his widow when Ambler died in 1875.

Ambler built a new front portico with giant Doric pilasters, added storeys to each wing of the same façade, built top-lit galleries above the stables and coach house and created a new smoking room lined with Minton tiles in Turkish style at the back of the building. He modified the windows of the house and encased the whole building in a red brick facing.