Somerset House

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But we must turn and go down the river with the tide, and note how, on our right hand, the old marshes are gradually losing their character, and what a number of houses are springing up, especially in the neighbourhood of those curious-looking buildings where they bait bulls and bears, and act stage-plays.

But the object of our journey is to look at that magnificent house, or palace, lately built by the Lord Protector Somerset, in which, however, he never can have lived, as he departed in the usual way on Tower Hill in 1552.

In the five years before that date he had spent over £10,000 - a large sum for those days - on this splendid building, which was designed by the celebrated architect, John of Padua.

It is an unanswered question whether John of Padua was not a plain Englishman, because in a book of original drawings by John Thorpe preserved at Sir John Soane's Museum, there is the design for the Strand front as it was actually built; but if so, John Thorpe must have been very young at the time.

After the Duke's death the house remained unfinished and reverted to the Crown, and was granted by Edward the Sixth to his sister Elizabeth.

She was certainly here once before her accession, for in 1557 she came from Hatfield on a visit to her sister Mary, then at Whitehall, and stayed in Somerset House.

Elizabeth kept possession of it, although she created Somerset's son Earl of Hertford, and actually allowed him to live in it for a time. She principally used it as a house in which to lodge foreign ambassadors, but finally "lent" it to her kinsman, Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, who died here in 1596. Probably the house had been finished by that time.

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