1698 - Present

1698 - Present

George III


In use as a chapel, the Banqueting House is extensively repaired and renovated, and becomes known as a concert hall in the 19th century before being given to the nation as a museum by Queen Victoria in 1893

Plans for rebuilding Whitehall

Although both William III and Queen Anne considered rebuilding Whitehall Palace after the fire and a number of schemes were produced, no work proceeded.

Four days after the fire, Sir Christopher Wren was given instructions to fit up the Banqueting House as a Chapel Royal to replace the destroyed Tudor chapel and on Christmas Day 1698 William III attended a service there. The Banqueting House continued in use as a chapel until 1890.

Repairs in the 18th century

During the course of the 18th century extensive repairs were found to be necessary both to the fabric of the building and to the painted ceiling. In 1732, William Kent supervised repairs to the Rubens paintings and the painted decoration of the hall.

The first exterior work on the Banqueting House since its erection was carried out by Sir William Chambers (1723-96) who replaced the original Oxford stone of the basement with more durable Portland stone, thus removing some of Inigo Jones's colourful effect. 

19th century

From 1808 the chapel acquired a military character being used to provide a place for worship for the Horse Guards.

The architect James Wyatt was directed to provide additional seating for more than 2,000 soldiers, necessitating the building of a second gallery (later removed). At the same time, Wyatt rebuilt the northern annexe, which contained the main entrance staircase. The Times of March 1815, recorded that the 'new alterations and the new organ by Elliot attracted a crowded chapel'.

The concerts begin

In 1796, George III, Queen Charlotte and five of their daughters attended a Handel Commemoration Festival at the Banqueting House.

This was to become a constant feature of the building through into the 19th century when concerts were given in aid of German war refugees during the Napoleonic Wars.

Finally in 1890, the Chapel Royal Commissioners were granted permission to discontinue Whitehall Chapel as a place of worship. The Schmidt organ of 1676 was transferred to the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London and other ecclesiastical fittings removed.

The Royal United Services Institute Museum

In 1893, Queen Victoria granted the Banqueting House to the neighbouring Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) for use as a museum.

The main hall was used to display personal items of famous commanders, including the skeleton of Marengo, Napoleon's horse, and trophies of victory, with colours and historic ensigns hung from the galleries; the crypt housed contemporary military exhibits, with a series of 15 dioramas. In 1962 the museum closed and the great south window, previously blocked by the RUSI building, was restored.

 

Lead image of George III by Zoffan copyright Phillip Mould Bridgeman Art Library

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