Devonshire House was built on the site of Berkeley House, which John, Lord Berkeley, erected at a cost of over £30,000 on his return from his tenure of the viceroyalty of Ireland; it was constructed from 1665 to 1673. The house was later occupied by Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, a mistress of Charles II. The house, a classical mansion built by Hugh May, had been purchased by William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire in 1697 and subsequently renamed Devonshire House.
Devonshire House in Piccadilly was the London residence of the Dukes of Devonshire in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was built for William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire in the Palladian style, to designs by William Kent. Completed circa 1740, empty after World War I, it was demolished in 1924.
In 1897, the house was the location of a large fancy dress ball celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The guests, including Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and The Princess of Wales, were dressed as historical portraits come to life. The many portrait photographs taken at the ball serve to illustrate countless books documenting the social history of the late Victorian era.
Before the early 20th century, many of Britain’s peers maintained large London houses which carried their name, As a ducal house (only in mainland Europe were such houses referred to as palaces) Devonshire House was one of the largest and grandest, ranking alongside Burlington House, Montague House, Lansdowne House, Londonderry House Northumberland House and Norfolk House. All of these, like most of the great London free-standing houses are now long demolished, apart from Burlington and Lansdowne (which have both been substantially altered).
Today, the site is occupied by offices, known as Devonshire House; if the original Devonshire House stood, it would be a Listed building, considered of national importance.
Some of the paintings and furniture are now at the Devonshire’s principal seat, Chatsworth House. Surviving fragments of Devonshire House include the gateway at the entrance to Green Park and the wine cellar (now the ticket office of Green Park underground station). Other architectural salvage included doorways, mantelpieces and furniture which were relocated to Chatsworth.