A curiosity has struck me about two fine sculptures of stags that can be found on Albert Gate, a short road next to Hyde Park.
They flank either side of a new road, named after the Prince Consort, which was created as part of a property development in the 1840s. What had been a row of houses and Goding’s cannon brewhouse owned by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster was sold to the government for redevelopment.
The road was created to run between two grand buildings, designed by Thomas Cubitt, the prolific builder of grand buildings around Pimlico and also the designer of the original east front for Buckingham Palace.
The soon-to-be dethroned “Railway King”, aka George Hudson, bought one of the two houses. That purchase is slightly of interest as the house had stood empty for a while after it was completed and had gained the nickname of Gibraltar, under the belief that it would never be taken.
It was taken a second time though, when the Railway King’s iffy finances were uncovered and the house taken to settle debts. They did well out of the sale; he paid £15,000 for the house in 1845, and it was sold for £18,000 in 1849.
An extract from a satirical poem at the time wrote:
It was not in the panic;
His credit felt no shock;
The house of Albert Gate;
Stood firm as Albert Rock.
The other house was less newsworthy as the French government bought it for their embassy, but again only after several years of it standing empty.
One thing which is not that obvious today is just how huge the houses were in comparison to what was around them. They stood much higher than the surrounding houses, so much so that some reports called them “monster houses”, and others noted their dominant appearance on the landscape.
The two stags were relocated – as according to the Illustrated London News, they had previously stood at the entrance to Lady Gordon’s house in Piccadilly. That seems slightly different from other later sources, which say they came from the rangers’ lodge in Green Park.
The stags were said to have been modelled from drawings by the artist and engraver Bartolozzi, and the iron gates they stand above are said to have been based on the design from nearby Apsley House.
It initially seemed that either location was correct, as Rangers Lodge wasn’t a small hut but a grand house, not unlike Rangers House in Greenwich and more of a home for a royally connected person than for the park manager. It was designed by Robert Adam in 1768, although described as the Deputy Rangers Lodge — so how big were the plans for the boss’s lodge?
After a not insignificant amount of hunting, I finally found an image — of the two stags at the entrance to Rangers Lodge, Piccadilly — and that’s the solution to the mix-up of locations. References to Lady Gordon’s house on Piccadilly are to the lodge on Piccadilly — and while I can’t find a list of rangers, that a Lady would have been one is not unexpected.