At one time, my fifth great grandfather, Philip Champion de Crespigny (1738 – 1803), lived at 4 Old Palace Yard, beside the Palace of Westminster (the Houses of Parliament). Philip Crespigny was a lawyer: an advocate at Doctors’ Commons from 1756 and a King’s Proctor from 1768 – 1784. He also served as a member of Parliament.

Old Palace Yard was opposite the King’s Entrance to the House of Lords near the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. It was one of a block of old houses re-fronted in the Georgian style. The residence leased by Philip de Crespigny was the property of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey.

Old and New Palace Yards were two main courtyards of the medieval Palace of Westminster.


“Old Palace Yard, Westminster” watercolour by Thomas Malton, probably exhibited in the Royal Gallery in 1796. No 4 Old Palace Yard is apparently one of the houses pictured.


Philip de Crespigny’s maternal uncle, Thomas Fonnereau (1699 – 1779) lived at 4 Old Palace Yard and died there 20 March 1779. Thomas was a member of Parliament; his residence was conveniently close to the Houses of Parliament. (I wrote about Thomas Fonnereau earlier in this series of posts. He commissioned the building of the lighthouse on Lizard point, Cornwall.)

In 1780 Philip re-entered Parliament. In 1774 he had been returned to Parliament on the Fonnereau interest at Sudbury after a contest, but lost his seat on petition. In 1780 he was returned unopposed at Aldeburgh on the Fonnereau interest, and at Sudbury after a contest. He held both seats until 1781 when he lost Sudbury on petition, and continued to sit for Aldeburgh. Philip de Crespigny supported the administration of Lord North, a Tory, or conservative, administration.

On 14 February 1780 P.C. Crespigny Esq. of Old Palace Yard joined the Somerset House Lodge of Freemasons and that year he also joined another Lodge of Freemasons, the Stewards’ Lodge.

Philip Champion de Crespigny portrait by Opie

Philip Champion de Crespigny (1738–1803), MP by John Opie RA (1761–1807) Portrait in the collection of Kelmarsh Hall and image retrieved through


In 1786 Philip sold the lease of 4 Old Palace Yard to William Wilberforce (1759 – 1833), later to become a noted leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade.

On 16 October 1834 the Houses of Parliament caught fire. Among the buildings burned was 4 Old Palace Yard. Number 6 and 7 Old Palace Yard survived.


6 – 7 Old Palace Yard. The Palladian design is said to be by Isaac Ware.


In the 1890s and early 1900s the Office of Works acquired the leaseholds to 1-4 Old Palace Yard and 1 – 3A Poet’s Corner. The site was redeveloped as a memorial to King George V.


The statue of George V and the Henry VII Chapel of Westminster Abbey

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