HANDEL, George Frideric (1685-1759)
Plaque erected in 2001 by English Heritage at 25 Brook Street, Mayfair, London, W1K 4HB, City of Westminster
Music and Dance
GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL 1685-1759 Composer lived in this house from 1723 and died here
The current plaque replaces the LCC plaque of 1952, which replaced a brown SoA plaque of 1870.
George Frideric Handel was an 18th-century composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, organ concertos and anthems. He lived for much of his life at 25 (formerly 57) Brook Street in Mayfair, and it was there that he composed his best-known work, the oratorio Messiah (1741).
HANDEL IN LONDON
Born in Halle in what is now Germany, Handel was a talented musician by the age of seven and saw the staging of his earliest opera, Almira, at the age of 20. Five years later he paid his first visit to London, and he settled in the capital permanently in 1712, becoming a naturalised British citizen in 1727.
Handel moved to 25 Brook Street in July 1723, when the house was newly built, and remained here until his death 36 years later. This was the period of his greatest eminence. Here he wrote masterpieces including Israel in Egypt (1739), ‘Zadok the Priest’ (composed for the coronation of George II, 1727), Messiah and Samson (both 1741) and ‘Music for the Royal Fireworks’ (1749).
Number 25 – a terraced house now bearing a late 19th-century attic floor and a shop front added in 1905 – was conveniently placed. From here, Handel could walk to the King’s Theatre, Haymarket, where many of his operas were performed, and to St James’s Palace, where he served as Composer of Music for the Chapel Royal. Unmarried, and a lover of good food and wine, he held frequent dinner parties, but was in increasing poor health in his later years, suffering from failing eyesight. He died at his Brook Street home on 14 April 1759, at the age of 74.
A PLAQUE FIRST
Handel’s residence at number 25 was first commemorated, by the Society of Arts, in about 1870 – making his the first plaque to be erected to a musician. However, by the middle of the 20th century, the plaque – chocolate-brown in colour – had become illegible and so was replaced by the London County Council in 1952. In 2001 English Heritage replaced the plaque again, taking the opportunity to correct the Anglicisation of Handel’s middle name – given as ‘Frederick’ – and to move the plaque lower down on the façade. Later the same year, the Handel House Museum opened in numbers 25 and 23, with rooms restored to their early Georgian appearance.
In 1997 Handel’s plaque was joined by that to the guitarist and songwriter Jimi Hendrix (1942–70) at 23 Brook Street, creating one of the most famous pairings of blue plaques in London.