Second Duke of Buckingham - SW1
Poet and Statesman
Born 10th January 1628
Died 16th April 1687
In the mid 16th century this site was the timber yard for the nearby Whitehall Palace. In 1560 Sir Francis Knollys, Treasurer of the Royal Household, leased the land to "buylde a convenient house", which later passed to his son, Viscount Wallingford, becoming known as Wallingford House.
In 1622 George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, the Lord High Admiral, purchased Wallingford House and so began an association between the site and the direction of the Royal Navy that lasted for some 350 years. Sir Christopher Wren recommended this site for the first planned Admiralty Office, which opened in 1695. The builder, John Evans, became Navy Board Purveyor but his building soon failed to meet the Admiralty's growing needs.
The present building was designed by the Master Carpenter, Thomas Ripley, and completed in 1726 (at an "Expence that hath very much exceeded the Estimate"), becoming known as Ripley Block.
The screen wall facing Whitehall was designed in 1760 by the great Scottish architect, Robert Adam. In 1826 "in" and "out" side entrances were added to allow easier access for the carriage of the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV, but the screen was restored to its original condition in 1923.
The building contains the room where Nelson's body lay overnight 8th/9th January 1806, before his funeral. It also contains the Admiralty Board Room, a survivor from Evans' building of 1695, with its finely carved overmantel, attributed to Grinling Gibbons' workshop, depicting ancient nautical instruments.
The Board Room boasts an imposing table, with a cut out portion to accommodate the Secretary and his papers. The wind dial, controlled by a vane on the roof , and the carving have survived from the 1695 building. The room was expertly repaired after being damaged by a bomb in World War 2.
From here the worldwide affairs of the Royal Navy were run for centuries by " the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty" until they were replaced, on the formation of the Ministry of Defence in 1964, by the "Admiralty Board of the Defence Council". The board still occasionally meets in the Old Admiralty Board Room.