Among a number of mansions built between the Strand and the River Thames, the property was built for Henry Howard, first Earl of Northampton, in about 1605.
Then known as Northampton House, the Jacobean mansion at Charing Cross was built on the site of a former convent (roughly located on the corner of the modern-day Northumberland Avenue and The Strand).
The property was built around a courtyard with turrets at each corners and had a great hall and apartments for the various members of the household. It featured a four-storey high stone gateway opening onto the Strand and a large garden at the rear but it didn’t apparently reach all the way down to the river unlike many of the neighbouring properties.
The house passed to the Earls of Suffolk and then in the 1640s was sold to Henry Percy, the 9th Earl of Northumberland, at the discounted price of £15,000, as part of a marriage settlement (hence the name change).
Various improvements were made over the years – including relocating the principal living rooms from the Strand side of the building to that facing onto the gardens and adding extra wings which protruded into the gardens.
In the 1770s, Robert Adam was commissioned to redecorate the state rooms on the garden front – the ‘Glass Drawing Room’ at Northumberland House was one of his most celebrated interiors. Shortly after this, part of the Strand front had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1780.
By the mid-19th century, the mansions on The Strand had all been demolished and the Metropolitan Board of Works wished to acquire Northumberland House to construct a road across the site connecting The Strand to the Embankment.
The Duke of Northumberland resisted but after a fire substantially damaged the property, he agreed to sell which he did for £500,000 in 1874. The house was subsequently demolished and Northumberland Avenue built across the site.
A remnant from the property – a stone lion, known as the ‘Percy Lion’ – was taken from the property by the Duke in 1874 and placed atop Syon House, the Duke’s seat in London’s west. An archway from the property, designed by William Kent, is now the principal entrance to the Bromley by Bow Centre.