In 1710, James Johnston, joint Secretary of State for Scotland, commissioned architect John James to build a simple yet substantial house. It was one of the first important villas along this stretch of the Thames.
In 1720 the Baroque Octagon Room was constructed. It was designed by the Scottish architect James Gibbs as a building to curry favour with the royal family. In this respect it was a resounding success, as both George I and George II visited, and Queen Caroline (wife of George II) and her children dined here in 1729.
Notable 18th century residents of the house included George Morton Pitt MP, who changed the Octagon Room and added the link building in 1750, and naval officer Sir George Pocock.