Architecture Biography

Henry Herbert

9th Earl of Pembroke (c.1689-1750)

Marble Hill was built by Roger Morris and Henry, Lord Herbert who became 9th Earl of Pembroke in 1733 on the death of his father, the 8th Earl. While inheriting his father’s interest in the arts, he made architecture his own special interest and was known as the “Architect Earl.” His country seat was Wilton House, which is still the family seat today. The state rooms there included the famous Double Cube Room and Single Cube Room and were almost certainly designed by Inigo Jones with the assistance of his relative John Webb. Lord Herbert held the usual posts associated with a leading nobleman of that time such as Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire and he became a Lieutenant General in 1742. However he was elected a member of the Royal Society in 1743, which very much reflected his intellectual interests. Being an aristocrat did not mean automatic entry into the Royal Society. He had a keen interest in archaeology visiting Stonehenge on a number of occasions. He was known to be an outstandingly good swimmer and unusually for the 18th century, he was a vegetarian, but he was also known for his choleric disposition.

He appears to have gone on the Grand Tour but the only evidence for this is a reference in a letter from the British minister in Venice to the Secretary of State saying “My Lord Herbert came last Saturday.” If this is right, he might well have seen a number of Palladio’s villas in the Veneto, but this is of course speculation. However, he was an undergraduate at Christchurch, Oxford when Dr. Aldrich was the Dean. Aldrich was responsible for designing the Peckwater Quad at Christchurch, based both on Palladio’s architecture and on Inigo Jones’s palace designs. It was built in 1706, nine years before Colen Campbell published his Vitruvius Britannicus and was thus one of the earliest examples of the revival of the English Palladian style. Lord Herbert contributed £20 towards building the Peckwater Quad. He had a town house, later known as Pembroke House, designed by Colen Campbell in the Palladian style and completed in 1724. Pembroke House was demolished in 1913.

Lord Herbert was very likely to be personally involved in designing his town house at Whitehall, given his subsequent work as an architect. Marble Hill is similar in design to Pembroke House and both houses seemed to have borrowed from various of Palladio’s villas, particularly the Villa Emo. Marble Hill is certainly one of best, if not the best example of an English villa based on Palladio’s villa designs. The Great Room here was almost certainly based on the single Cube Room at Wilton and the fire place is probably based on Le Barbet’s fire place designs, published in 1633. His designs were regularly used by Inigo Jones. Lord Herbert was no draughtsman, but neither was Lord Burlington nor even Vanbrugh and he would certainly had to rely upon Roger Morris to be the draughtsman and he may have sought advice from Robert Morris, (Roger Morris’s cousin), who was the leading Palladian theoretician.

The building of Marble Hill was probably the first time that Lord Herbert had worked with Roger Morris, but not his last. They designed the White Lodge in Richmond Park for George II, again in the Palladian style, which was completed in 1728 a year before the completion of Marble Hill. Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough commissioned them to design the column of Victory at Blenheim Palace and they also worked again for her in building Wimbledon House, for which they got little thanks. The house was burnt down in 1785. They also worked together in redesigning some of the state rooms at Wilton. However, probably their most famous joint enterprise at Wilton was the building of the Palladian Bridge, completed in about 1737. It was based on Palladio’s bridge design in his Four Books of Architecture, but generally considered to be far superior to Palladio’s own design. Lord Herbert was active in supporting the building of Westminster Bridge, which was the first bridge to be built over the Thames in central London since the building of the mediaeval London Bridge. The bridge was completed in the year of his death in 1750. In 1733, Lord Herbert had married Mary Fitzwilliam, daughter of the 5th Viscount Fitzwilliam and had one son, Henry Herbert, who succeeded to the title as 10th Earl of Pembroke.

John Moses

Writing for the Marble Hill Society