As Byron was languishing inside the comfortable environs of 13 Piccadilly Terrace on a warm June over two hundred and four years ago, he was firing off the above epistle to his literary pal and champion of liberal thought, Leigh Hunt.
We came to town what is called late in the season – & since that time – the death of Lady Byron’s uncle (in the first place) and her own delicate state of health have prevented either of us from going out much…
From Moore I have not heard very lately – I fear he is a little humourous because I am a lazy correspondent – but that shall be mended.
And despite their friendship of many years standing and of Hunt’s loyalty to the poet during the fall-out that would surround the sensational end of his marriage less than a year later, Byron was to write scathingly of Hunt in 1818:
He is a good man, with some poetical elements in his chaos; but spoilt by the Christ-Church Hospital and a Sunday newspaper, – to say nothing of the Surry Jail, which conceited him into a martyr…
However, as the doors to MY 13 Piccadilly Terrace have been closed for some time now, I too plead guilty to the charge of being a ‘lazy correspondent’ and although my state of health is far from delicate unlike that of Byron’s pregnant spouse – I have found myself centre stage in a series of unfortunate events since the spring – all of which have kept me from darkening the doors of Number 13.
And although a generous helping of ‘chaos’ has certainly abounded as of late – I remain very far from assuming the mantle of martyrdom, unlike the much maligned Leigh Hunt!
However, after reading an old newspaper tale about the proposed development of 139 Piccadilly which stands near Hyde Park Corner, the parts of which were once 13 Piccadilly Terrace – I was intrigued and upon discovering that the plans allow for the creation of a mansion including magnificent rooms, a swimming pool and a roof terrace – I was more than a little envious!
It was once the London home of Lord Byron, the grand mansion where the dissolute poet wrote some of his most famous works and where his short-lived marriage came to an end.
The 20th century saw this elegant Georgian building converted into office space, its proud history buried beneath modern fixtures and drab commercial fittings.
But now No. 139 Piccadilly is to be restored to its former glory as a single residence, by two of London’s wealthiest property investors.
David and Simon Reuben have been given planning permission by Westminster Council to convert the building into an eight-bedroom mansion with swimming pool, sauna and staff quarters, worth an estimated £45 million.
The developers say the restored building – which is likely to be snapped up by a wealthy foreign buyer attracted by its prime location close to Green Park and Buckingham Palace – will be almost 20 times bigger than the average British home.
A price tag of £45 million for an abode that Byron once ambled through, albeit not very happily?
Now that’s priceless!
Wedlock’s the Devil Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 4 Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1975)
The Trouble of an Index Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 12 Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1982)