Architects’ Biographies

Inigo Jones (1573-1652)

Inigo Jones’s greatest gift to architecture was simple yet of the most importance. He was, if not one of, the sole person responsible for bringing the language of the High Renaissance to Britain through whom there is hope that sculpture, modelling, architecture, painting, acting and all that is praiseworthy in the elegant arts of the ancients, may one day find their way across the Alps into our England.

It was Jones who was the first architect to travel to Italy in 1603, and again in 1613 as assistant to the 14th Earl of Arundel. The wealth of knowledge that was transcribed into his sketchbooks, and the purchasing of original Palladio drawings gave Inigo Jones a distinct and very unfair advantage over any of his contemporaries.

He had seen the architecture of antiquity and it was his aim to bring it home to Britain. In 1615 Jones was appointed Surveyor General of the King’s Works. Within the same year he was given his first major commission; the building of the Queen’s House at Greenwich, (1616). This small palace, with its white stucco facades owes to Scamozzi (who Jones had met in Italy), but more so Palladio in its dimensions and simple proportions.

Perhaps his masterpiece – The Banqueting House, Whitehall, (1619-22) was built within James 1’s huge Whitehall Palace. This again is highly influenced by Palladio, with its rustication, and uncomplicated geometry. It is the only part of the great Tudor palace remaining. Other evidence of his domestic building can be found in Northhamptonshire, at Stoke Park, where the two pavilions of what was a large Palladian house (the main part of which was destroyed by fire) are attributed to Jones.

He did also excel in the public sector – his work includes among others: St Paul’s Church at Covent Garden with its Tuscan order portico (1631-33), and on the grandest scale his West Facade for the Old St Paul’s (1634-40); at that time with the largest portico north of the Alps in Europe. Essentially, what Jones introduced was the information and therefore architectural ability to match that of Italy. The result of which was the spread of the High Renaissance ideal, and the paving of the way for Anglo-Palladianism in England.

Stoke Park. Image: Country Life Picture Library/Paul Barker

The Queen’s House, Greenwich is open to the public all year. For further details go to or ring on: 020 8858 4422.

The Banqueting House is also open all year. Further details can be found at or on: 0870 751 5178

Stoke Park Pavilions is open for the month of August, other times are by appointment only. For details ring on: 01604 862 172.

Recent literature on the subject includes:

  • Inigo Jones and the Classical Tradition by Christy Anderson.
  • Greenwich, an Architectural History of the Royal Hospital for Seamen and the Queen’s House , London and New Haven 2000.

    Sir William Bruce (1630- 1710)

    Sir William Bruce was the effective founder of classical architecture in Scotland. In a country in which the late medieval style was still dominant in the late 17th Century he introduced classical values, remodelled Holyroodhouse Palace, and designed several of Scotland’s greatest country houses.

    Bruce came to prominence when he acted as an emissary to Charles II contributing to bringing about the Restoration. For his role he was greatly rewarded, knighted, and given many appointments that provided him with sufficient wealth to purchase an estate.

    In 1671 Bruce was appointed “Surveyor of the Kings Works” for the sole purpose of directing the extensive rebuilding of Holyroodhouse Palace, an irregular group of 16th Century buildings. Bruce regularised these buildings by duplicating the most prominent feature of the existing buildings a tower from 1529. The two towers were linked with a screen wall containing a classical entrance portico to create a balanced formal composition.

    Although Bruce did carry out other works for the Crown the majority of his commissions came from fellow members of the Scottish aristocracy. These included Kinross House, for himself, Thirlestane Castle for the Duke of Lauderdale and Hopetoun House for Charles Hope, as well as advising on many other projects.

    Bruce was a pioneer of the Palladian Style introducing a new idiom and bringing the classical ideal to Scotland. He remodelled existing castles and designed new unfortified houses for the Scottish aristocracy’s changing needs. The quality of his works and his wide influence had a great impact upon the future development of the country house in Scotland.

    Hopetoun House. Image: Country Life Picture Library/Paul Barker

    Holyroodhouse Palace- Open to the public all year except 7th August, 7th November and 25/26th December, Adults £8.80 ( or 0131 556 5100 for more information) Hopetoun House- Open to the public 13th April- 13th September, Adults £8.00 ( or 0131 331 2451 for more information)

    Literature on this subject includes: Architect royal: the life and works of Sir William Bruce 1630-1710, by Hubert Fenwick, Published 1970 (Kineton, Roundwood Press) Hopetoun House, West Lothian, Article by Sebastian Pryke in Country Life, August 10th 1995, p. 44-49.

    Sir Christopher Wren (1632- 1723)

    Sir Christopher Wren designed many secular buildings including the Royal Greenwich Hospital, oversaw 53 churches across London, and with the construction of St Paul’s is responsible for one of Britain’s most recognisable buildings. For over 40 years he was the leading authority on English architectural taste, and his work, and that of those who worked for him defines the English Baroque. Although not renowned as a builder of country houses, Wren’s huge architectural output and lengthy period of influence, means that he was an influence upon their development.

    At 29 Wren was appointed Savilion Professor of Astronomy at Oxford and was considered an academic of some note; so much so that Sir Isaac Newton considered him to be one of the best three geometricians of all time. This education including a thorough knowledge and understanding of maths and geometry was to be fundamental to his career as an architect.

    Architecture, in the Age of Reason, was seen in many ways as a scientific pursuit, based upon geometry, and after taking an interest in his scientific work in 1661 Charles II invited Wren to supervise the fortification of Tangier. From this point Wren seems to have committed a greater amount of time to architecture, being consulted on the reconstruction of St Paul’s in 1663. Although still not a professional architect, Wren was not unusual in designing and constructing buildings; non-professional gentleman architects often designed buildings then.

    The Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed much of London. Wren quickly created a master plan using the destruction as an opportunity for the regularization of the City. Although this plan was quickly dismissed Wren was given the opportunity to oversee rebuilding all the city churches including St Paul’s, as in 1668 he was made Surveyor General of the King’s Works.

    With little money available the churches had to be built on existing foundations, often with strange and varied floor plans. Within these constraints Wren and his assistants created many ingenious solutions regularising these churches to create appropriate buildings for Protestant worship. By far the most notable feature of these churches are the varied and interesting spires, each intended as classical reworking of the traditional Gothic spire.

    The greatest surviving testament to Wren’s architectural capability is St Paul’s Cathedral, possibly London’s most famous monument. The Cathedral is the greatest example of Wren’s sober baroque and appears externally to be a regular and classical building. However the outer façade masks typically gothic features such as buttresses. The exterior of the Dome too conceals its structural elements, the familiar form being a wooden structure built on top of a conical stone structural element, allowing Wren to create a consistent external experience.

    Wren’s secular activities were almost wholly for the Royals, working for Charles II at Winchester and then James II at Whitehall. He survived the Whig revolution of 1688 without losing his office and subsequently carried out extensive work at Greenwich and Hampton Court for William III and Mary II. Although circumstance prevented the completion of any of these major projects his plans give us an insight into his potential as a palace designer.

    Kensington Palace. Image: Country Life Picture Library

    St Paul’s- Open to the public all year, Mon-Sat, Adult £9 ( or 020 7246 8357 for more information) Naval College- Open all year, closed 24- 26 December, Adult £4 ( or 020 8269 4747 for more information)Hampton Court- Open to the public 26 March 2006 – 28 February 2006, Adult £12.30 ( or 0870 752 7777 for more information)Kensington Palace- Open all year, Adult £11.50 ( or 0870 751 5170 for more information)

    Recent literature includes:

    His Invention So Fertile: A life of Christopher Wren, by Adrian Tinniswood, Published Jan 2001 (Oxford, Oxford University Press) On a Grander Scale: Christopher Wren, by Lisa Jardine, Published 2002 (London, HarperCollins)

    William Talman (1650- 1719)

    During the 1680’s and 1690’s William Talman was arguably the leading Whig architect, enjoying a considerable reputation as a country house builder.

    The work for which Talman is best known is one of Britain’s first Baroque houses, Chatsworth. Designed for the first Duke of Devonshire this house enjoyed all the resources only usually available for works of Royal patronage, ensuring the status of the building. The revolutionary south façade of Chatsworth has no attic or hipped roof and is first known use of classical Giant order on a country house in Britain.

    In 1698 Talman became “Controller of the Royal Works” and in this capacity was largely responsible for the gardens and interiors at William III’s new building at Hampton Court.

    Talman’s abrasive personality and arrogance, not only led to him being sacked at Chatsworth, and losing his controllership, but also in ensuring he received few commissions in his later career. Most notably Talman lost the commission to build England’s most famous baroque house Castle Howard to Vanburgh.

    Chatsworth. Image: Country Life Picture Library

    Chatsworth House- Open to the Public mid march- mid December, Adults £9.75 ( or 01246 565300 for more information) Literature on the subject includes: William Talman: maverick architect, by John Harris, Published 1982 (Allen & Unwin, London) Baroque Brio Revealed, Article by John Cornforth in Country Life, April 20th 2000, p. 94-99. Recent literature on the subject includes:

    # Sir John Vanbrugh and Landscape Architecture by Christopher Ridgway (Editor), Robert Williams (Editor)

    # Sir John Vanbrugh and Landscape Architecture in Baroque England, 1690-1730 by Robert Williams

    # Sir John Vanbrugh: A Biography, by Kerry Downes

    Sir John Vanbrugh (1664-1726)

    Vanbrugh had no architectural education, and little experience, yet his genius would enable him to go on to become the great English Baroque architect.

    Before Vanbrugh’s very sudden switch to architecture, he had involved himself in a series of unrelated vocations: from the wine trade, to the military, to the writing and production of comical plays. However none of these careers would match his qualities in architectural design – A skill that was instantly recognised by the 3rd Earl of Carlisle in 1699 when Vanbrugh, in partnership with the architect Hawksmoor, produced the design for Castle Howard, Yorkshire. This consequently saw the young and totally inexperienced Vanbrugh rise to the top of his new profession. Castle Howard (1700-1726) can be seen as a dramatic and extravagant symbol of wealth and pride; its monumental dome and grand salon producing the necessary grandeur required for the seat of the Earl.

    Yet for Vanbrugh it meant more – most importantly it saw him supersede William Talman, the Controller of His Majesty’s Works, and who in 1702 Vanbrugh succeeded at his post, and joined Wren on The Board of Works. In 1704 Vanbrugh was commissioned to build Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire (1705-25). Blenheim shows similar architectural aspirations to Castle Howard but on a bigger scale, and drew on medieval precedent: it was a national triumph expressed in stone.

    Again in partnership with Hawksmoor, this was their second example of domestic architecture which would see their names remembered always as the masters of the English Baroque.

    Castle Howard

    Castle Howard is open to the public from the 1st March to 5th November daily. Further details can be found at or on: + 44 (0)1653 648833. Blenheim Palace is open to the public from the 11th February to 29th October daily. Further details can be found at, or on: + 44(0)8700 602080.

    Recent literature on the subject includes:

    # Sir John Vanbrugh and Landscape Architecture by Christopher Ridgway (Editor), Robert Williams (Editor)

    # Sir John Vanbrugh and Landscape Architecture in Baroque England, 1690-1730 by Robert Williams

    # Sir John Vanbrugh: A Biography, by Kerry Downes

    Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1736)

    Hawksmoor is known for his duties as assistant to Sir Christopher Wren and later Sir John Vanbrugh, however he must also be recognised as a brilliant individual in his own right, emulating if not bettering his previous employers.

    It was at the age of just 18 that Wren took him on as a clerk after hearing of his ‘skill and genius’ for architecture. Consequently as Wren’s assistant Hawksmoor was involved directly in all his masters work from that age onwards. Nonetheless, in domestic architecture his name is of course linked to that of Vanbrugh’s, and rightly so.

    Whilst there is no doubt that it was Vanbrugh’s genius that first allowed for the elaborate designs of Castle Howard (1700-1726) and Blenheim Palace (1705-25), it was Hawksmoor’s skill as an architect proper which made these great projects and the collaboration of the two individuals feasible. Hawksmoor acted as Vanbrugh’s assistant surveyor from 1705 onwards, and at Blenheim was ultimately to succeed his former employer as Master Architect. Easton Neston, Northamptonshire, (1696-1702) is the only piece of domestic architecture designed and built by Hawksmoor alone; the influence from his two previous masters is evident, resulting in a powerful Baroque design – of particular note is the unusual one bay portico on the front façade.

    Easton Neston Image: Country Life Picture Library

    Castle Howard is open to the public from the 1st March to 5th November daily. Further details can be found at or on: 01653 648833

    Blenheim Palace is open to the public from the 11th February to 29th October daily. Further details can be found at or on: 08700 602080.

    Easton Neston is not open to the public.

    Recent literature on this subject includes:

    # Nicholas Hawksmoor: Rebuilding Ancient Wonders by Vaughan Hart . Or Hawksmoor, by Kerry Downes.

    William Kent (1685 – 1748)

    William Kent was one of the great early Georgian stars: a brilliant and versatile English architect, landscape architect and furniture designer. His career began as a sign and coach painter, but more intent on studying art, design and architecture, he moved to Rome in 1709 to study painting for the next ten years. It was here that Kent met Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester, with whom he toured the Palladian villas of Northern Italy in 1714, and Lord Burlington who brought Kent back to England in 1719, to become the designer of his Palladian interiors. Kent’s work included the interior decoration of Burlington House, Piccadilly and Lord Burlington’s villa at Chiswick.

    By 1730 Kent was beginning to turn his attention from decoration to architecture, for which he is better remembered as the central architect of the revived Palladian style in England. Burlington promoted him on all occasions, giving him the task of editing ‘The Designs of Inigo Jones?with some Additional Designs’ in 1727. Burlington’s influence procured Kent a seat on the Board of Works in May 1726, and it was here that he designed some of his best known works in London – the Horse Guards, the Royal Mews and the Treasury Buildings, all inspired by Burlington’s Palladian ideals.

    In country house design, Kent’s architectural work for private clients included designing the interiors at Houghton Hall (1725-35), built by Colen Campbell for Sir Robert Walpole, and at the great house at Holkham in Norfolk, Kent collaborated with Thomas Coke, working for a patron who fully sympathised with the aesthetic ideals of Burlington. Kent’s domed pavilions at Badminton House and Euston Hall are however masterpieces of a more individual kind.

    Finally, Kent has a very important place in the history of English landscape gardening, leading the revolt against the formal garden of the 17th century, to the revolutionary style of ‘natural’ informal garden. He said: “All gardening is a landscape painting”. His buildings were reminiscent of an Italian landscape, in which buildings, cascades, and the like attracted the eye at every turn, combining the formality of Palladian architecture with the studied informality of the surrounding park.

    Kent worked at Stowe, Buckinghamshire from 1730 onwards, at Alexander Pope’s villa garden at Twickenham, for Queen Caroline at Richmond and Kew and at Rousham House, creating a sequence of Arcadian spaces scattered with temples, cascades, grottoes, and Palladian bridges. His lost gardens at Claremont, Surrey, have lately been restored.

    Kent’s versatility extended to Gothic designs at Westminster Hall and Gloucester Cathedral, to the illustration of books, the designing of sculpture, silver, a royal barge and even lady’s clothing!

    Holkham Hall Image: Country Life Picture Library

    Houghton Hall is open to the pubic from 16th April to 29th September, on Wed, Thurs, Suns, BH Mon and Easter Sun, from 11am – 5pm. The House opens for viewings at 1.30pm until 5pm. For further details contact: 01485 528569. Holkham Hall is open from 8th May to 30 Sept, Sunday to Thursday from 12noon – 5pm. For details contact: 01328 710227. Chiswick House is open to the public from 1st April to 31st October, Wednesdays to Sundays, 10am – 5pm. Contact No: 020 8995 0508.

    Literature on the subject includes:

    ‘William Kent: Architect, Designer, Opportunist,’ by Timothy Mowl, published by Jonathan Cape 2006.

    ‘William Kent, Landscape Garden Designer,’ by John Dixon Hunt, 1987 Recent literature on this subject includes:

    # Nicholas Hawksmoor: Rebuilding Ancient Wonders by Vaughan Hart . Or Hawksmoor, by Kerry Downes.

    Richard Boyle: Lord Burlington (1694 -1753)

    Lord Burlington hand in hand with Colen Campbell was one of the central figures of the Palladian movement, enthusiastically following the precedent Inigo Jones had set a century earlier.

    Whilst a amateur architect of merit, Burlington must also be recognised for his role as a patron of the arts. He travelled extensively in Europe; particularly in Italy following Inigo Jones’s footsteps where he soon found the delights of Palladio and Scamozzi – his aim; to bring the Renaissance back to England.

    For Chiswick House, Middlesex (1725) Burlington took direct influence form Palladio’s and Scamozzi’s designs using a large rotunda, above a porticoed façade; this was the Palladian ideal at it’s English best. At Holkham Hall, Norfolk (1734) we first see the collaboration between Burlington, and the architect William Kent. Built on a design based around four corner pavilions taken directly from Palladio’s unfinished Villa Mocenigo. Holkham was built specifically to hold the painting and sculpture collections of Lord Leicester, who like Burlington, was a keen collector of antiquities when on tour in the Mediterranean.

    One of Burlington’s greatest legacies was his patronage of Kent – indeed the relationship was once described as: “Burlington the Apollo of arts and Kent his proper priest.” It was Burlington who brought Kent back from Italy to work in England, and therefore he who enabled the continuation of Palladianism under his protégé.

    Chiswick House Image: Country Life Picture Library

    Chiswick House is open to the public from 1st April to 31st October, Wednesdays to Sundays. Contact No: 020 8995 0508. Holkham Hall is open to the public. For details of opening times contact: 01328 710227.

    Recent literature on this subject includes:

    # Lord Burlington: Architecture, Art and Life

    by Toby Barnard (Editor), Jane Clark (Editor).

    # The Palladian Revival : Lord Burlington, His Villa and Garden at Chiswick by John Harris

    Francis Smith of Warwick (1672-1738)

    Francis Smith of Warwick, known as ‘Smith of Warwick’, was the son of a bricklayer Francis Smith. Like his two brothers, Richard, and William, he was brought up in the building trade. Whereas William learnt their father’s skill of bricklaying, ‘Smith of Warwick’ specialised in masonry. The brothers became the leading master builders in the Midland counties of England.

    Francis was based at Warwick for thirty years. In 1694 a great fire had destroyed much of the town, and William became one of the surveyors in charge of regulating its rebuilding. Although this was a great opportunity for Francis, and gave him much work, particularly with his brother (for example the rebuilding of St. Mary’s parish church), his career really developed through the commissions from the Midland gentry to build their country houses. Nearly all of these houses fall within a 50 mile radius of Warwick.

    His country houses have a recognisable pattern; in general they are three stories high, the centre is highlighted by a slight projection or recession, and the fenestration is uniform. Simple external ornamentation is in the form of keystones, architraves, aprons, quoins, and sometimes a balustraded parapet; internally there is excellent plasterwork and joinery. Besides his work on country houses, he was largely responsible for Chicheley Hall (Buckinghamshire), Stoneleigh Abbey (Warwickshire), and Sutton Scarsdale (Derbyshire), which is now a ruin. His one public building is The Court House in Warwick.

    Stoneleigh Abbey Image: Country Life Picture Library/Tim Imrie-Tait

    Stoneleigh Abbey, Warwickshire, 1720-26: largely rebuilt by Francis Smith for 3rd Lord Leigh (for whom he also built Stone Farm House, Stoneleigh, Warwicks., 1716). The Great West Wing is considered to be the architect’s masterpiece. The Abbey is open to the public from Good Friday to the end of October on Tue, Wed, Thurs, Sun, and Bank Holidays for guided tours at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm. (However, tour groups can also be booked outside those dates and times). Further details can be found at:

    The Court House, Warwick, 1724 – 31: designed and built by Francis Smith. Open daily from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm (01926 492212), email: Further details can be found at: Recent literature on this subject includes:

    Smith of Warwick: Francis Smith, architect and master-builder, by Andor Gomme Published 2000 (Stamford: Shaun Tyas)

    Colen Campbell (1676 – 1729)

    Colen Campbell was the eldest son of Donald Campbell, the laird of two Nairnshire estates. He trained as a Scottish lawyer, and it remains quite mysterious how he then made the shift from law to architecture, but by 1717 he had designed the Rolls House, London, and was established as an architectural designer and publicist. There is evidence that he had studied architecture in the UK and abroad and he had certainly travelled to Italy.

    Having made a name as the propagandist of the Palladian movement of British architecture, Campbell made a major contribution to Vitruvius Brittanicus, (including writing the introduction), which was a catalogue of design, conceived in 1713 and published in 1715, 1717, and 1725. He also translated Palladio’s First Book of Architecture, calling it Palladio’s Five Orders of Architecture.

    In December 1719 Campbell was appointed Architect to the Prince of Wales, and also caught the attention of Lord Burlington, who, in the same year, asked him to remodel his town house in the Palladian style. As soon as he was dropped by Lord Burlington in favour of Kent and Flitcroft, he enjoyed subsequent patronage from Sir Robert Walpole (who commissioned work at Houghton Hall, Norfolk), Henry Hoare (who commissioned Stourhead, Wiltshire), John Aislabie (who commissioned Waverley Abbey, Surrey, and asked for advice for Studley Royal, Yorkshire) and the Earl of Pembroke (who commissioned Pembroke House, Whitehall, which was demolished in 1913). His strictly classical house at Wanstead, Kent, inspired and influenced English country houses for more than a century, but perhaps he is most famous for Mereworth Castle, Essex, which is a faithful interpretation of Palladio’s Villa Capra (or Villa Rotunda).

    Stourhead Image: Country Life Picture Library

    Stourhead, Wiltshire, c1720-24: having bought the manor of Stourton, Henry Hoare had it demolished, and in its place commissioned the building of Stourhead to Colen Campbell. The house is open from mid-March to October, Fri to Tue, from 11.30 am to 4.30 pm. (The garden is open all year round). Further information can be found at:

    Literature on the subject includes:

    # The British Country House in the Eighteenth Century, by Christopher Christie, Published May 2000 (Manchester University Press)

    # Classical Culture and the Idea of Rome of Eighteenth Century England, by Philip Ayres Published Aug 1997 (Cambridge University Press)

    # The Architecture of Colen Campbell, by Howard E Stuchbury Published 1967 (Cambridge, Harvard University Press)

    Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716- 1783)

    Capability Brown is one of the two most famous gardeners the world has ever seen, Le Nôtre being the other. Responsible for revolutionising 18th-century landscape design, his legacy can still be observed across the England today. Brown also had a considerable impact as an architect although these achievements are much less well known.

    At the age of 16, Brown began his career becoming a gardener’s boy. In 1741, after being engaged on several small landscape commissions, he moved to Stowe as Lord Cobham’s head gardener. Here he met William Kent, one of the founders of the new English style of landscape gardening. As Kent’s assistant they naturalised what was already one of Britain’s favourite country parks. Here Brown also acted as an architect designing the Cobham Monument.

    After Lord Cobham’s death Brown left Stowe for London to set up his successful private practice. Brown created garden compositions of undulating sweeping lawns scattered with skilfully placed trees and serpentine lakes, designed to create a perfect natural appearing landscape. He gained his unusual nickname as he often informed his clients of their estates “great capability” for improvement.

    Brown’s landscapes were fundamentally different from the formal gardens that in many cases they replaced, and as such he received much criticism. However it is estimated that Brown created over 170 gardens, surrounding many of the finest houses in the country. He is responsible for landscapes at Blenheim Palace, Kew Gardens, Warwick Castle, and Milton Abbey, and in his later life was made master gardener at Hampton Court.

    Brown believed the house should be an integrated part of the estate and also acted as an architect. He carried out extensive work at Corsham Court and Burghley House. He also added many stables and offices to existing country houses, as well as garden temples and bridges.

    Blenheim Palace Pic: Paul Barker/Country Life Picture Library

    Blenheim Palace- open to the public from the 11th February to 29th October (, or 08700 602080 for more information)

    Literature on the subject includes:

    # Capability Brown: An Illustrated Life of Lancelot Brown, 1716-1783, by Joan Clifford, Published 2001 (Shire Publications, Buckinghamshire)

    # The Truth About Mr Brown, Article by John Phibbs in Country Life, April 20th 2006, p.70-74.

    Sir William Chambers (1723- 1796)

    Along with Robert Adam, William Chambers is one of the most important figures in English Neoclassicism. For 30 years he was one of the most influential figures in British architecture, and was a founder of the Royal Academy of Arts.

    Born in Gothenburg, the son of a Scottish merchant, after being educated in England, he returned to Sweden to pursue a mercantile career with the Swedish East India Company. During this time he made several trips to China, as well as trips to Scotland, England, Holland, and France between voyages. In 1749 he turned his full attention to architecture studying first in Paris, under Blondel, and then in Rome at. In 1755 he returned to England with an extensive first hand knowledge of architecture to set up practice.

    He was appointed architectural tutor to the Princes of Wales, later George III. This relationship led to a fruitful royal patronage that Chambers would enjoy his whole life. From 1957 the Princess Dowager employed him to layout the grounds of her house at Kew, and embellish the gardens with ornamental buildings, including the famous Pagoda.

    In 1760 he joined the royal works and in 1769 became the Controller of the Royal Works. In this role he proved to be a distinguished public architect reworking Buckingham house, and designing the Gilded State Coach, that has been used for every coronation since George IV. However his greatest achievement, and the one that consumed the last 20 years of his life, was Somerset House, built to provide an appropriate building for London’s many public offices.

    Occupied with a busy London practice, Royal obligations, and Somerset House Chambers designed relatively few complete houses in the countryside. However he carried out alterations on some of the country’s grandest houses, including Goodwood, Blenheim, and Woburn Abbey and built Milton Abbey as well as many suburban town houses including Parkstead House, Roehampton.

    Somerset House Image: Country Life Picture Library

    Somerset House- Open to the public all year except Christmas day ( or 020 7845 4600 for more information) Kew Gardens- Open to the public all year ( or 020 8332 5655 for more information).

    Literature on the subject includes:

    Sir William Chambers: Architect to George III, Edited by John Harris and Michael Snodin, Published 1996 (Yale University Press, London)

    Somerset House, London: the Courtauld Institute, Article by Richard Haslam in Country Life, June 21st 1990, p. 114-117.

    Robert Adam (1728-92)

    Robert Adam was born into a already gifted family – both his father and brothers were architects of merit. Nonetheless it is the name Robert Adam that is recognised as one of the icons of British architecture.

    One of the champions of Neo-Classicism, the numerical extent of his involvement in country house building is unmatched – he worked on both exteriors and interiors and during his life rose to national acclaim. Adam’s work at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire (1759-70) sees the architect at his most successful.

    Here we find a bold and distinct break from Palladianism, Adam designed a south façade which moves away from the regimented simplicity of Palladio, and instead introduced an far more elaborately sculptural effect. His sumptuous interiors include the great marble hall, and the saloon inspired by the Parthenon. Culzean Castle, Ayrshire (1777-92) was probably Adam’s greatest piece of domestic architecture in his native Scotland.

    This castellated house incorporates a medieval keep, turrets and battlements, however the interior remains classically influenced as we see Adam synthesizing the picturesque with his more expected Neo-Classical designs. Situated in the west of London, Adam designed and built both Osterley Park (1763-80) and Syon House (1762-9). As with many of his other project we see Adam adding to previous buildings. At Osterley Adam added a pedimented portico, whilst at Syon he designed a huge central rotunda to fill the central courtyard.

    The ‘Adam style’ was one which transformed houses as a whole , his work on the interiors are as important as the exteriors, if not more so – he was aesthete in all aspects of the arts.

    Syon Park Image: Country Life Picture Library/Julian Nieman

    Kedleston Hall is owned by The National Trust. The house is open to the public from 11th March to 29th October. Details can be found on, or on: +44 (0)1332 842191.

    Culzean Castle is open to the public – for further details ring: +44 (0)131 243 9300.

    Syon Park is open between 22nd March and 29th October on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. For further information go to or ring: +44 (0)2085600882.

    Osterley Park is owned by the National Trust and open to the public. For further information ring: 020 8232 5050.

    Recent literature on this subject includes:

    # Robert Adam: Architect of Genius by Julius Bryant (Paperback – 1995).

    # The Genius of Robert Adam: His Interiors by Eileen Harris.

    James Wyatt (1746-1813)

    James Wyatt was the sixth son of architect and builder Benjamin Wyatt. Due to early signs of artistic ability he was sent to Italy (Venice and Rome) where he stayed for six years (1762 -1768) learning architecture.

    When he returned to England in about 1768 it is thought that he worked closely with the family firm, particularly with his brother Samuel. He was also in close contact with the neo-classical work of Robert and James Adam, and it is clear he was greatly influenced by their style. In fact at one point the brothers indirectly complained that Wyatt had copied their work. It is recorded that he later told the King that when he came from Italy he found ‘the public taste corrupted by the Adams’, and he was ‘obliged to comply with it’.

    His first important neo-classical country house was Heaton Hall, near Manchester, but the building that instantly made him a reputation was the Pantheon on Oxford St (which burnt down in 1792), the drawings of which were exhibited in the Royal Academy.

    James Wyatt was on excellent terms with George III (work for him included the castellated palace at Kew, which was blown up in 1828). By 1796 Wyatt was the principal architect of the day, which inevitably meant he was flooded with more commissions than he could cope with.

    Nevertheless between 1769 and 1813 he designed or altered several royal palaces, five cathedrals, seventeen other churches, eight colleges and well over a hundred country houses in England, Wales and Ireland. However, he was not an effective businessman, and his nephew remarked that he lost himself two or three thousand pounds a year from neglecting his accounts, and probably wasted time on tasks that he could have easily given someone else.

    Wyatt was also famous for ‘reviving in this country the long forgotten beauties of Gothic architecture’. Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire (of which only half the North wing now remains) was built for William Beckford, and was Wyatt’s supreme achievement in Gothic Revivalism. Other Gothic style houses that he designed are Wycombe Abbey, and Ashridge Abbey. He died from head injuries from a carriage accident that happened on a journey over the Marlborough Downs.

    Heaton Hall Image: Country Life Picture Library

    Heaton Hall, c1772-78, nr Manchester, open April to Oct, Wed to Sun and Bank Holidays, 11am to 5.30 pm. Free admission. Further information can be found at:

    Literature on the subject includes:

  • The Wyatts: An Architectural Dynasty, by John Martin Robinson Published 1979 (Oxford University Press)

    John Nash (1752- 1835)

    John Nash was one of the pivotal figures of the Picturesque Movement. In his later career Nash became architect to the Prince Regent designing for him Brighton Pavilion, and redeveloping both Regent’s Park and Regent Street. All these projects built on the Picturesque principles Nash had already developed in his early career.

    By the time Nash was made architect to the Prince Regent he had already been successful as a versatile country house and ornamental cottage builder. After his early attempts at property development had left him bankrupt he had to leave London for Wales. It was here that he became a successful, fashionable architect and began his successful collaboration with Humphry Repton. Although short lived this partnership had a great impression upon Nash’s developing design ideals.

    Nash designed cottages and villas, greatly influenced by Richard Payne Knight’s Downton Castle, which broke away from the common practice of country house building based upon strict Palladian rules. Nash’s great ability was to provide his clients with artistic expression and variety, whilst creating excellent compositions of forms. During this period Nash produced several important country houses, including, Luscombe Castle and Caerhays Castle, as well an entire collection of cottages at Blaise Hamlet. His Italian villa Cronkhill is felt to hold an important place in the history of English domestic architecture, for its simple asymmetry and relationship with the landscape.

    Nash holds an important place in the history of British architecture for his many works as Regency architect, including the introduction of the picturesque style to London, at Regent Street and Regent’s park. However we should also be very aware of his considerable contribution to countryside domestic architecture.

    Cronkhill Image: Country Life Picture Library/Alex Ramsay

    Caerhays Castle- Open to the public all year, Adults £9.50 to house and garden ( or 01872 501310 for more information)

    Literature on this subject includes:

    John Nash : a complete catalogue, By Michael Mansbridge, published 1991 (Oxford, Phaidon)

    Cronkhill, Shropshire, Article by Geoffrey Tyack in Country Life, February 19th 2004, p. 62-67.

    Sir Jeffry Wyatville (1766 – 1840)

    Jeffry Wyatville was the son of Joseph Wyatt, and the nephew of James Wyatt. Following an unhappy childhood with his father and stepmother, he became the apprentice to his uncle Samuel Wyatt for about 7 years, and from 1786 his skilful drawings were regularly shown at the Royal Academy. In 1792 he moved from Samuel’s office, to his uncle James Wyatt’s office for a further 7 years, and then left to set up a partnership with John Armstrong (a successful carpenter and building contractor).

    On James’s death, Jeffry took his uncle’s position as chief representative of the Wyatt dynasty, inheriting commissions such as Ashridge and Bretby. In contrast to his uncle, Wyatvile was efficient, methodical and dependable, and became well-known as a country house designer of the picturesque style, and furthermore as one of the handful of leading architects of the 1820s.

    In 1824 George IV appointed him to transform Windsor Castle (in accordance with Sir Charles Long’s detailed brief), having chosen him as winner of a competition with Sir John Soane, Sir Robert Smirke, and John Nash. It was the King who authorized the architect to call himself ‘Wyatville’, thus distinguishing him from his famous uncle James Wyatt.

    When building was completed at Windsor in 1828 he was knighted, and invited to reside in the Winchester Tower. A full account of the work carried out at Windsor was recorded by the architect in a publication entitled Illustrations of Windsor Castle by the late Sir Jeffrey Wyatville R.A , which was printed the year after his death. He worked on numerous country houses, including Longleat House, Wiltshire and Dinton House, Wiltshire.

    Windsor Castle Image: Country Life Picture Library

    Dinton House, Warwickshire (now Philips House), the house is open from April to Oct on Mon and Sat only from 10 am to 1 pm. (The garden is open all year round.) Further information can be found by clicking here

    Windsor Castle, Berkshire, c1824-40, open daily. It opens from 9.45 am, and between March and Oct it closes at 5.15 pm, and from Nov to Feb it closes at 4.15 pm. Further information can be found at:

    Recent literature on the subject includes:

  • The Regency Country House: From the Archives of ‘Country Life by John Martin Robinson, published Oct 2005

    John Soane (1752-1837)

    Soane was the great champion of the Georgian style and the celebrated creator of ‘the poetry of architecture.’

    Although Soane is best known for his work at the Bank of England, he did build throughout the country, and despite much of his work being later demolished, luckily much of his domestic architecture survives. Soane was the apprentice of George Dance, and it was under his tutoring that Soane learnt his trade, and specifically the influence of European architecture.

    He was also, like his master, a keen and extensive traveller. The influence on his domestic architecture is seen foremost at his London home (and now Soane Museum) Lincoln’s Inn Fields (1792-1824). Here Soane’s huge collection of antiques and paintings proves his various excursions, and the influence they in turn had on his architecture is undeniable. Soane later in his will left the house to the nation – describing it as: for ‘The study of Architecture and Allied Arts.’

    Chillington Hall, Staffordshire (1785-9) built in collaboration with Francis Smith of Warwick shows a red brick Georgian country house and estate at it’s finest. Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire (1791-4) follows on from the Georgian ideal set at Chillington, and especially known for its vast top lit ‘Yellow Drawing Room’. Moggerhanger Park, Bedfordshire (1809-11) is situated in Humphrey Repton landscaped gardens, and is one of the few houses that Soane returned to over and over again during his life to work.

    Moggerhangar Park/Image: Country Life Picture Library/June Buck

    Lincoln’s Inn Field is open to the public from Tuesdays to Saturdays all year round. Contact No: +44 (0)20 7405 2107

    Chillington Hall is open to the public, details can be found on their website:, or on: + 44(0)1902 850768.

    Wimpole Hall is open to the public, details can be found on their website:, or on: 01223206000

    Moggerhanger Park is all open to the public. Contact No: +44 (0)1234 824330

    Recent literature on this subject includes:

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  • Sir John Soane and the Country Estate, by Ptolemy Dean.
  • John Soane by Margaret Richardson (Editor), MaryAnne Stevens (Editor) (Hardcover – February 2000).

    Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens (1869-1944)

    Lutyens was perhaps the greatest of Britain’s pre 2nd World War architects, matched only by his contemporary in America; Frank Lloyd Wright. Lutyens actively fought against the trend in architecture which was Modernism, instead he would go on to become a great campaigner for the Arts and Crafts style.

    Lutyens first principal work was at Munstead Wood, Surrey (1896-7) built for the gardener Gertrude Jekyll. This was the first collaboration with Jekyll, who would go on to work at most of his houses, and produce what was a highly successful partnership. Both keen believers in the use of natural materials and the importance of nature to accompany architecture, Jekyll influence was lasting and their relationship highly significant to Lutyens work.

    They worked together again at Deanery Gardens, Berkshire (1899-1902), an example of a perfected synthesis of nature and architecture. Here Lutyens show his debt to the Arts and Crafts -especially in his use materials; specifically building in stone local to the area. In 1910 Lutyens started work on Castle Drogo, Devon. Built from local granite this mock castle bears similarity to another of Lutyens’s great projects; the restoration of Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island (1903). Again – both are accompanied by Jekyll gardens.

    Castle Drogo/Image: Country Life Picture Library

    Munstead Wood is open to the general public. For details go to www.national Castle Drogo is owned by the National Trust. More information can be found on their website: Or ring on: 01647 433306.

    Lindisfarne Castle is also owned by the National Trust. For more information go to their website, or ring on: 01289389244 Deanery Gardens is not open to the public.

    Recent literature on this subject includes:

  • Homes of Edwin Lutyens by Gavin Stam.
  • Sir Edwin Lutyens by Elizabeth Wilhide. Or The Domestic Architecture of Sir Edwin Lutyens by A. S. Butler.