George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen,  Prime Minister. Oil on canvas by Partridge, John  (1789 - 1872), National Portrait Gallery London.

The House: a brief history

The Countess of Coningsby in the costume of the  Charlton Hunt, c.1760. Oil on canvas by Stubbs,  George, (1724 – 1806), Yale Centre for British Art,  Paul Mellon Collection USA.

In the early 18th Century, Berkeley Square was transformed from fields owned by the Earl of Berkeley, into an elegant Georgian square.  The bricks of the houses were made from local clay, with Number 42 completed in 1745.  The first incumbent was Margaret Newton, the 2nd Countess of Coningsby, and wife of Tory MP, Sir Michael Newton.

Margaret Newton was a great "salonnière".  This remarkable form of socialising flourished during the Age of Enlightenment and the House was considered a cultural hub for the dissemination of taste, manners, political debate and knowledge.

In 1776, a great fire tore through Berkeley Square engulfing Number 42.  The House was re-built in the same year and many of the features of that period still remain today.

The 19th Century brought another political inhabitant to the House, George Hamilton-Gordon, who became 4th Earl of Aberdeen in 1801.  An avid supporter of free trade, the Earl resigned from Parliament over the issue of the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.  He became the leader of the Tory Party in 1850 and was asked by Queen Victoria to form a coalition Government with the Whigs.  He served as Prime Minister between 1852 and 1855, when he was forced to resign, having been blamed for the mis-management of the Crimean War.  He died in 1860.