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The Music Room
Workshops on Music and the Domestic Interior
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Tessa Murdoch (V&A Museum)


Great Music Rooms in London and Paris 1660–1760


Tessa Murdoch will examine the revival of interest in secular performances of music from the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.  Under Charles II, St.James's Palace was revived as a centre of musical perfomance in the Chapel Royal and then in the Palace Music Room. Performers were mostly foreigners, French and Italian musicians. This court style created a taste for Italian music taken up by the nobility including Lord Sandwich and Lord Brounckner and London's citizens including Thomas Britton, a coal merchant, witnessed by Pepys and Evelyn. 

In the early 1700s, noblemen returning from Italy, brought musicians back with them and a taste for Italian music and opera. Under 2nd Duke of Bedford, Southampton House became a centre for music. Charles Montagu, 1st Duke of Manchester, British Ambassador in Venice, followed Bedford's example. Contemporary paintings by Venetian artist Marco Ricci capture the fascination of rehearsal for public performance of the Italian opera.

The patronage of George Frederick Handel by Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington at Burlington House and by James Brydges, Duke of Chandos at Cannons, Edgeware is better known. The recently published inventory of Cannons details the musical contents of the Chapel, Dressing Room, Little Saloon and the Music Room, the latter created in 1723.

Inspiration for such interiors drew on French example at Versailles under Louis XIV and the influence of the Princess Palatine and her son the Duc d'Orleans in about 1700. By 1725 under Louis XV, the Tuileries Palace in Paris had become a centre of musical excellence. This was matched by Madame de Pompadour's own apartments at Versailles and at Bellevue. The earliest surviving music room is that created at Versailles form Madame Adelaide.

By the mid-18th century the music room became a feature of private Paris Hotels in the Quartier St. Germain; examples include the Hotel de Lassay and the Hotel de Lude. Such interiors inspired the 9th Duke and Duchess of Norfolk to create the sumptuous Music Room for Norfolk House, St. James's Square to the designs of the Turinese architect Giovanni Battista Borra and the French-born carver Jean Cuenot between 1748–1756. Although not documented as a setting for live music in the 18th century; the trophies of instruments and gilded mirrored interior reflected Royal French precedent and fostered continental taste in England.


Further Reading


Gallois, Jean Musiques et Musiciens au faubourg Saint-Germain, 1996

Fitz-gerald, Desmond, The Norfolk House Music Room, 1973

Jenkins, Susan 'An Inventory of his Grace the Duke of Chandos's Seat att Cannons Taken June the 19th 1725, The Walpole Society, LXVII, pp.93–193.

Murdoch, Tessa 'The Mysterious Mr Cuenot', Apollo, June 2006, pp.54–66

Scott-Thomson, Gladys The Russells in Bloomsbury, 1669–1771, 1940

The New Grove




V&A Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2RL

Seminar Room A, Research Department, 17.15–19.00


Nearest tube: South Kensington (link to map)

Please note that the V&A Museum closes at 17.45 on Mondays, so latecomers (after 17.30) cannot be admitted.  Seminar Room A is found at the top of the Ceramics staircase, above the Silver Gallery.




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