From a talk by John Moses to the Marble Hill Society
Sunday 3rd March 2013
If the Cunard family had had their way, you would not be sitting here as this house would have been demolished in 1901 and the park would have been filled with rows of semi-detached houses. In 1888 the Cunard family had bought this estate with the express intention of developing it. The ‘crunch’ came in July 1901. On 4th July a journalist on The Saturday Review, wrote:“I was knocked out of sleep this morning by the crash of a tree felled on the grounds of Marble Hill. Down went, while we are discussing their preservation, another of those green cathedrals that it has taken near two hundred years to build. The roads and drainage are being rapidly completed,the ground is plotted for villas, and the builders have not the slightest intention of waiting on the leisure of Town and County Councils.”
Fortunately, Marble Hill was saved as part of the well-orchestrated campaign to save the view from Richmond Hill, which included Marble Hill Park. At the end of July 1901, a number of local authorities together with some local charities and individuals agreed jointly to purchase the Marble Hill estate for £72,000. On 1st August 1902, the estate was formally conveyed to the London County Council, the principal contributor and the park was opened to the public on 30th May 1903. Although Marble Hill was not saved for its architectural importance, it is actually one of the most important examples of the English Palladian style, which dominated English architecture from about 1720 to 1760. The style took its name from an architect called Andrea Palladio who was born in Padua in 1508 and worked primarily in Vicenza and Venice and died in 1580.
As most of you know Marble Hill was built for Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk and the architects were Lord Herbert, later the 9th Earl of Pembroke and Roger Morris. I propose to consider six points:
- What do we mean by the English Palladian Style?
- Who commissioned Marble Hill?
- Who were the architects of Marble Hill?
- The building of Marble Hill including the type of craftsmen working there and the materials used.
- Was Colen Campbell was involved in the building of Marble Hill?
- Why we have developed an entirely different style in England from the dominant style in continental Europe?
1. What do we mean by the English Palladian Style?
The term Palladian is very obviously derived from the name of the architect Andrea Palladio who lived from 1508 to 1580. Sir John Summerson said that the English Palladian style had three characteristics, which I propose to adopt here.
a. Loyalty to Vitruvius
b. Loyalty to Palladio
c. Loyalty to Inigo Jones
Vitruvius was a Roman who had lived in the first century BC and had written a treatise called the Ten Books of Architecture in about 25 BC, which is the only complete ancient classical treatise on architecture to survive. The influence of the chance survival of this treatise can not be underestimated. Vitruvius strongly emphasised the importance of symmetry in his treatise and was relied upon by most Italian Renaissance architects, particularly Palladio.
Palladio himself had far greater influence on the development on English architecture than any other Italian Renaissance architect. He had been actually christened Andrea di Pietra Gondola and had been apprenticed to a stone carver. He broke his contract of apprenticeship and went to Vicenza where he came into contact with a Vicentine nobleman called Trissino, who took him under his wing and gave him the name ‘Palladio’. He accompanied Trissino to Rome in 1541. Palladio himself made four journeys to Rome and even wrote a guidebook on the antiquities of Rome in 1556. It was probably because of his knowledge of antique architecture that Palladio was invited by the distinguished Venetian humanist Daniele Barbaro to do the woodcut illustrations for his Italian translation of Vitruvius. There is a portrait of Daniele Barbaro by Veronese, on loan to the National Gallery London, showing Barbaro holding a copy of his translation of Vitruvius with woodcuts by Palladio.
Palladio’s architectural practice covered public buildings, town palaces, villas, bridges and churches. One of his last commissions was to design a theatre at Vicenza – the Teatro Olimpico. His influence abroad did not come primarily through his buildings, but through a treatise called The Four Books of Architecture, written in 1570, in which Palladio made very extensive reference to Vitruvius. The Four Books of Architecture are often known by their Italian name I Quattri Libri. The First Book covered the five classical orders and the building requirements for both private and public buildings. However, Book Two was probably the most influential as far as the English Palladian architects were concerned, as Palladio set out details of each of those buildings which he was actually commissioned to build, giving the names of the patrons who had instructed him. Not all were actually executed. The Third Book concentrated on public buildings including bridges and roads and Book Four, which was by far the largest, illustrated a number of antique Roman buildings.
It was Inigo Jones (1573-1652) who brought the Italian Renaissance architecture to England in its pure unadulterated form. He had spent a year in Rome in 1614, returning in 1615. In the same year he became the Surveyor of the King’s Works. Probably his two most famous works were the Banqueting House at Whitehall and the Queen’s House in Greenwich. Although Jones used Renaissance Roman Palace designs in building the Banqueting House, there are a number of important borrowings from Palladio such as the use of the cube. Furthermore, the interiors of both the Banqueting House and the Queen’s House use the cube and sub-divisions of the cube based on Palladio. Jones had obtained a copy of I Quattri Libri when in Rome, which he had carefully annotated and this copy is now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Jones also designed the South
Front of Wilton House, which was Lord Herbert’s country seat.
The Palladian style was revived as a national style in about 1715 and I shall be discussing how this came about at the end of the lecture. In 1715, a Scottish architect Colen Campbell (1676-1729) published the first of three volumes of Vitruvius Britannicus. The other two volumes were published in 1717 and 1725 respectively. In 1715, Dubois and Leoni translated into English for the first time a complete I Quattri Libri, thus making Palladio’s designs more easily available to the English patron. Most leading Whigs such as Lord Burlington were subscribers to both Vitruvius Britannicus and the English translation of the I Quattri Libri and this was a very important factor in promoting this style. Campbell in his first book of Vitruvius Britannicus was really as much promoting the architecture of Inigo Jones as much as Palladio. Wanstead House, one of the earliest examples of his designs, showed the influence of Inigo Jones’s unexecuted ‘palace designs’, which are very much reflected in Aldrich’s Peckwater Quadrangle at Christchurch, Oxford built in 1706. Wanstead, built in 1713, was close to London and was very influential. Campbell also designed Houghton Hall for Sir Robert Walpole, who was Prime Minister in all but name. The original design is much closer to Inigo Jones’s Wilton. Houghton was completed by James Gibbs after Campbell died in 1729.
However, in the third volume of Vitruvius Britannicus Campbell made much more direct reference to Palladio particularly in four villas he designed – Stourhead, Mereworth, Lord Herbert’s Villa at Whitehall and Newby in Yorkshire (which has been much altered). These four villas were more directly based on Palladio’s villa designs than the great country houses like Houghton. Stourhead was designed for the banker Henry Hoare and built between 1719 and 1722. The fenestration is 1-3-1 like the front of Palladio’s villas. The front elevation and planning of this is close to the Villa Emo, although Stourhead has an attic above the portico. Mereworth, built for Colonel Fane in about 1725, was based on Palladio’s Villa Rotonda, although Mereworth is slightly bigger than the Villa Rotondo.
At Marble Hill, it is not really possible to say which of Palladio’s villas were copied. It is probably based on an amalgam of the various villa designs by Palladio but the principal sources may have been the Villa Emo and possibly the Villa Pisani.
2. Who commissioned Marble Hill?
As most of you know, the house was built for Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk. In 1714, Henrietta had become a woman of the Bedchamber to Princess Caroline, the Princess of Wales, when George I became King. I propose to touch on her life briefly because although most of you know it, there may be a few who do not. Henrietta had been born in 1689, the daughter of Sir Henry Hobart of Bickling Hall, Norfolk, a house which now belongs to the National Trust. He was killed in a duel in 1696 and her mother died three years later. It appears that Henrietta went to live with her kinsman the Earl of Suffolk possibly in 1702, but the facts are uncertain. In 1705, she married Charles Howard, the third son of the Earl of Suffolk and their only child Henry was born in 1706. However, it was a disastrous marriage. As Henrietta learnt too late, her husband was addicted to drinking gambling and whoring. In 1713, after several years in penury, Henrietta persuaded Charles to accompany her to Hanover to ingratiate themselves into the home of Sophia, Electress of Hanover, because under the Act of Settlement 1702, Sophia would succeed to the English throne when Queen Anne died. But in the event, Sophia died in June 1714, less than two months before Queen Anne. As all Queen Anne’s children had predeceased her this meant Sophia’s son George became King.
In 1717, the King had an almighty row with his son, Prince George, the then Prince of Wales. First the King put him under house arrest and then expelled him from St. James’s Palace. Charles stayed with the King having a minor post in the King’s Household, but when Henrietta followed her mistress the Princess of Wales, Charles ordered her to remove her possessions from their rooms at St. James’s. The Prince of Wales’s town house was in what is now Leicester Square and his country retreat was Richmond Lodge in Richmond Old Deer Park, which he leased in 1718. About then Henrietta began a relationship with the Prince of Wales. In 1722 he agreed to pay her about £11,500 in stock and an annual pension of £2,000, a very substantial sum then. Tracy Borman in her book King’s Mistress, Queen’s Servant has put forward a very interesting theory why the Prince of Wales paid this sum. Henrietta wisely put this money into property and in 1724 started building Marble Hill. She was formally separated from her husband in 1727, but this did not prevent her from becoming the Countess of Suffolk, when he became the Earl of Suffolk in 1731. Her husband died in 1733 . She obtained permission to leave the Court and married Captain Berkeley in 1735, who died in 1746 and Henrietta died in 1767.
3. Who were the architects of Marble Hill?
As I have mentioned already, the two architects were Lord Herbert and Roger Morris who was originally a carpenter by trade. Strictly speaking there was no such profession as an architect at this date. Anyone who was involved in building could describe himself as an architect and often did. The architectural profession as we know it really started to develop at the end of the 18th century when Chambers and Soane and some of their contemporaries started charging scale fees and taking pupils.
Lord Herbert was known as the ‘Architect Earl’. His country seat, Wilton House, 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. The south front had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1647. He was born in 1689 and had held the usual posts such as a leading nobleman would expect to do that time, but he was also 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, boxer and runner and he was also known for his appalling bad temper. Unusually for the 18th century, he was a vegetarian, and was apparently seen walking on one occasion in Paris munching watercress and beetroot from a haversack. Lord Herbert had taken an early interest in architecture. When he had been an undergraduate at Christchurch, Oxford, Dr Aldrich was the Dean and had been responsible for designing the Peckwater Quadrangle at Christchurch, based both on Palladio’s architecture and Inigo Jones’ palace designs. Lord Herbert contributed £20 towards building the Peckwater Quadrangle. 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 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. He was very likely to have been personally involved in designing his town house at Whitehall given his subsequent work as an architect. Apart from Marble Hill, Lord Herbert designed a number of works with Roger Morris including 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. The wings were added later.
Later on Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough commissioned Lord Herbert and Roger Morris to design the column of Victory at Blenheim Palace and also Wimbledon House, for which they got little thanks. This house was burnt down in 1785. Lord Herbert and Roger Morris also worked together in redesigning some of the state rooms at his home at Wilton. However, probably their most famous joint enterprise there was the building of the Palladian Bridge, completed in about 1737, based on Palladio’s bridge design in his I Quattri Libri, but generally considered to be superior to Palladio’s own design. Lord Herbert, who had become the ninth Earl of Pembroke in 1733, died in 1750.
Roger Morris, was born in about 1690 and may have been Colen Campbell’s assistant at some point, possibly in the building of Pembroke House, Whitehall and this is where he may have met Lord Herbert. Apart from Marble Hill and other commissions with Lord Herbert, Morris also built a number of other important houses including Adderbury House, Oxfordshire, Whitton Park, Middlesex and Inveraray Castle, Argyllshire all for the Duke of Argyll. He also built Clearwell Castle, Gloucestershire and Combe Bank, Kent. Morris had described himself as a carpenter when he took a lease of a house on Lord Harley’s Marylebone estate in 1724, but he was clearly intent on being ‘upwardly mobile’. He already had an account at Hoare’s Bank and shortly after this he was describing himself as being employed as a surveyor. Surveying had been recognised as a profession since the 16th century. When building Covent Garden theatre in 1731, Morris described himself as an architect. By 1730s he was living in a house, which he built, in Oxford Street and was now describing himself as a ‘gentleman’. In 1731 he had married Elizabeth the daughter of Sir Philip Jackson, as his second wife. He had previously married a girl called Mary, about whom we know really nothing about. He appears to have been successful in developing and speculating in land and obtained the office of Master Carpenter to the Office of Ordnance and also Surveyor of the Mint. These various posts brought him in a sizeable income and he died a rich man in 1749.
4. The building of Marble Hill including the type of craftsmen and the materials used
Now let us look at Marble Hill, which was probably begun in 1724 and completed in 1729 and a very important example of English Palladian architecture. In style it is more like a villa than a country house. Although a villa is usually a secondary home, Marble Hill was Henrietta’s principal residence for most of the time that she occupied it. Marble Hill has the ‘classic’ fenestration of Palladio’s villas, namely 1-3-1, with a central saloon (or sala) lit by three windows and side rooms lit by one window. In building Marble Hill, it seems probably that Roger Morris had obtained assistance from his cousin Robert Morris (1703-1754) who was the leading Palladian theoretician and had written a book about an ideal Palladian house in his Lectures on Architecture (1734) in which he acknowledged Roger Morris’ help in the introduction. He had written an earlier book called, An Essay In Defence of Ancient Architecture in 1728. This is the illustration of an ideal house set out in this book, which is very close to Marble Hill in design.
Robert Morris pointed out in his Lectures on Architecture (1734) that Palladio had based his design of his buildings on the cube and the proportions of the cube and also that there should be seven basic ratios in designing a house. Robert Morris said that he agreed with Palladio that there should be seven ratios but said he would have used different ratios to Palladio. Lees-Milne in The Earls of Creation said that all these proportions could be found in the elevations and apartments of Marble Hill down to the proportion of the windows and chimneypieces. The windows on the principal floor are emphasised as they are in Palladio’s villas. However, the gallery is on the second floor is not derived from Palladio and was a frequent feature of English sixteenth and seventeenth century houses. The second floor in Palladio’s villas was used as a granary as the villas had been designed to be working farm houses as well as country villas. 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 in Livre d’architecture d’autels et de cheminees (1633) a book which we know Inigo Jones used.
In building Marble Hill, Lord Islay acted as Henrietta’s agent. Henrietta, being a married woman could not act on her own. He may have retained Roger Morris on the recommendation of his brother, the Duke of Argyll. Lord Islay had to buy up the land to build the house, which he did on a piecemeal basis as the present park was owned by several different people. Some of plots were quite small.
First he bought 11 acres from three different owners on a plot called Marble Hill shot. This plot apparently appeared on a plan dated 1350 as ‘Madelhylle’, so the present name Marble Hill may have been derived from ‘Mardelhylle’. By 1750 all the land of sixty-six and half acres, which comprises the present park, had been bought. The exterior of Marble Hill is brick with stone facings in the centre and around the windows. We know what the house looked like in 1749 from a print by Heckell of that date. The whole exterior was coated with stucco, although we do not know if it had stucco when the first built, as the first patent for stucco was patented in 1737 by a paint manufacturer, Alexander Emerton.
We do not know the number of craftsmen actually involved at Marble Hill, but we do know the workmen involved in the building of the Maids of Honour Row, Richmond, a building project almost as big. Similar types of craftsmen would have been used here. Dr Sally Jeffery (The Georgian Journal 2010) has shown that the Row was built as a speculation in 1717 and set out a list of craftsmen in the appendix. Looking at this list, the word ‘Deal’ meant wood from Scandinavia. Laths were the prepared pieces of wood put in before plastering – usually oak. Tilers were set out separately. Three of the workers were women. One, Anne Harris, was the plumber.
When work actually started on a house, the carpenters would have erected the skeleton of the house as well as scaffolding for the brick work. However the carpenters and brick layers would have been working closely together. The carpenters would have been responsible for laying the joists, rafters and the floorboards. Most of work would have been done at their home in their own workshop. The sections were marked with Roman numerals.
The bricks would often be made on site. We know that at Ham House when the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale were remodelling the house, one and half million bricks were baked on site, but we do not know definitely if the brick making was done on site at Marble Hill, but it probably was. The further away the brick kiln was from the site the higher the cost to the client. In the London area, clay unlike stone was readily available and there would have likely to have been available clay nearby. The clay would have been dug in the autumn so that the winter frosts made the material more malleable. The bricks would have been made in hand made in wooden moulds and heated in a specially set-up kiln. The law laid down that bricks made within 15 miles of the City of London, as here at Marble Hill, had to be 9” x 4½” x 2¼”. These were known as statute bricks. The bricklayers would have also made bricks of a higher quality to be placed around the surrounds of doors and windows, known as gauged or rubbed bricks. A good brick layer could lay as much as 1,000 bricks in one day. Stone masons would have been needed at some point for the stone facings.
For the more decorative work such as the Ionic volutes, the builders would have used a special hand made cement and I am sure that you would like to have a go at making this when you get home, so here is the recipe taken from Richard Neve’s The City and Country Purchaser published in 1703. He says to make cold cement:
“One should take a half pound of Cheshire cheese, peel grate very small, put into a pot. Then take a pint of cow’s milk let them stand all night. Then get white of 12 to 14 eggs, then a ½ lb of best unslaked quick lime, and then sift it through a fine-hair sieve into a mixture all well together. This cement will be white – add dust if brick colour required.”
Once the work had reached a fairly advanced stage, the joiners would have been brought in. As a general rule, the joiners worked on site and were concerned with finishing the woodwork of the interiors and the timber detailing on the outside. Joiners were involved in the more delicate woodwork. They played a key role in the construction of the windows, which I shall be dealing with in some detail shortly. Both carpenters and joiners worked in wood and inevitably there were disputes as to what was carpentry work and what was joinery, which led to the issue coming before the court of Aldermen in the City of London in 1632 to arbitrate as what was joinery and what was carpentry. In their decision, they set out a clear distinction as to what the two trades could do.
To make matters more complicated, outside London the same person was often both a joiner and a carpenter. At Marble Hill, the joiners would have been responsible for the famous mahogany staircase. The wood comes from Honduras, which was then a Spanish colony and the wood was a gift from George II. It is said that the naval captain, who was instructed to get the timber, cut the trees down in Honduras with so little ceremony that there was almost a war with Spain. The floor, though also mahogany in this room, would have probably done by the carpenters. The rich wood carving in the house was done by James Richards who was a pupil of Grinling Gibbons. Richards had been appointed Master Sculptor in Wood to the King on the death of Grinling Gibbons in 1721.
Dan Cruickshank and Peter Wyld have convincingly argued that in the 18th century the overall design was controlled by the placing of the windows and based in the width of the window (London: The Art of Georgian Building). This was particularly important in a Palladian building with its emphasis on symmetry. In antique classical architecture, the module was based on the diameter of the column. At Marble Hill the width of every window here is about 40″ and the whole of the design of the exterior is based on proportions of this module of 40″ both vertically and horizontally.
The windows here are counter-balanced sash windows, which had almost become universal in new buildings in England by the 1720s. It was an English invention probably invented probably by Thomas Kinward, who was master joiner to the Crown in 1660s, working in the King’s Surveyors office. The earliest surviving sash window was discovered in the remains of the Prince’s lodgings at Newmarket dated about 1667 and a half sized copy is at Ham House in the basement. In fact, the earliest major installation of sash windows may have been at Ham House, when twenty-six sash windows were installed in the ground floor for the Duke of Lauderdale, a leading member of the Court, when Ham was extensively remodelled in the 1670’s. The present sash windows were put in by John James in the 1730s. Apart from Ham House, the earliest references to counter balanced sash windows are generally from the records of the Royal Palaces. The earliest complete set of sash windows, which still survive are in the King’s apartments at Hampton Court, put in by Wren in 1690s.
The installation of the sash windows would have been done by joiners, glaziers and plumbers. The plumbers would have been used because they were responsible putting in the lead and at this date the counter-balance weights are made of lead. The joiners would have been responsible for the glazing bars. Special tools were made to make the glazing bars for the sash windows as sash windows became more and more popular such a specialists moulding planes. Initially the glazing bars were too thick, but improved quality of joinery enabled the glazing bars to be made much narrower.
There were three types of glass – cylinder glass, crown glass and plate glass. The type most frequently used was crown glass and it would probably have been used here. Plate glass was prohibitively expensive at that date. Wren used both crown glass and plate glass at Hampton Court. He estimated that he spent £2,200 on eighty-four windows using plate glass for the Royal Apartments, compared with £800 for 250 windows elsewhere in the palace. The same technique for plate glass was used for mirror glass.
To make Crown glass, the glass maker blew the heated liquid glass into a balloon shape with a blow pipe and then transferred this globule of molten glass to the end of a rod, called a pontil rod. He would then spin the rod until centrifugal force caused the glass globule to flash into a circular disc. After it had been slowly cooled under a process called annealing, the glass was cut up into sections leaving the bull’s eye in the centre which often used in shops as it was cheaper.
The final stage would have been the plastering and painting and installing wallpaper, where wallpaper was put up. Rough plaster would have been applied, probably mixed in with lime and animal hair, and then light smooth plaster would have been applied for delicate plaster work. At the top end, plasterers were artists in their own right, such as the two Swiss-born plasterers, Guiseppe Artari and Giovanni Bagutti who helped James Gibbs at the Octagon Room Orleans House. Sometimes up to a year was given to allow the plaster to dry before painting or putting up wallpaper. The method of gilding would have probably been water gilding similar to the method of applying gold background in a mediaeval altar-piece. Basically the method was to put on a red pigment from a red clay called bole and when this was completely dry, water was applied to the area to be gilded. In the Middle Ages gold leaf came from gold coins which were beaten to produce the wafer thin gold leaf. The gold leaf had to be applied very delicately and when it was dry, it would be rubbed with a tool called an agate burnishing tool.
We know that Chinese wallpaper was installed in the Dining Parlour and this was probably the most valuable wallpaper in the house. The original has been lost. The present wall paper was installed by English Heritage in 2006, but we also know from the surviving 18th century accounts that Henrietta Howard installed Chinese wall paper here in about 1751. There is correspondence between Bromwich, a well-known upholsterer, and Henrietta’s steward in which Bromwich had said that if payment of 42 guineas is not made for this wallpaper, to a Mr Hallett, who had installed the paper, he would have to “sue her Ladyship” for this sum. In the 18th century an upholsterer was responsible for the overall work, the closest modern equivalent being an interior designer. When English Heritage installed this wall paper, they ensured that the same techniques were used as their predecessors would have done in the 18th century. English Heritage commissioned the leading expert De Gournay who used their studio in China using Chinese artists. Paper used here is composed of white mulberry paper backed with another layer of mulberry paper. All the painting is done with two brushes, one to hold the paint and the other to hold water. Before hanging the wallpaper, the wall was lined with battens of timber. Superfine unprimed linen was stretched over the battens and the wallpaper was then pasted to the linen. It was decided to use the bird and flower decoration, here, which was based on an amalgam of different styles from Chinese wall paper in various English country houses of the early and mid 18th century.
5. Was Colen Campbell was involved in the building of Marble Hill?
A more difficult point is the extent of the influence of Colen Campbell in designing Marble Hill. He was the architect to George Prince of Wales and Henrietta was the Prince’s mistress. The Prince in effect financed the cost of the building. Campbell almost certainly illustrated this house in the third volume of Vitruvius Britannicus, in his illustration of a house at ‘Twittenham’, although there are differences between this design and this house as built. In particular, Campbell’s design had a perron, but Marble Hill does not. However, in this design Campbell more significantly did not name himself or anyone as the architect. In all the buildings which we know he designed, he had put ‘Campbell Architectus’. Campbell was never slow to promote himself. Indeed he probably published Vitruvius Britannicus as a promotion to obtain commissions. Both Lord Herbert and Roger Morris had already had experience in designing Palladian style villas in their involvement with Lord Herbert’s own villa Pembroke House, Whitehall. Roger Morris could and probably did call on his cousin Robert Morris for help. I would therefore argue that it is unlikely Campbell had any direct influence on the designs of Marble Hill. I would also suggest that Lord Herbert might have given the design of Marble Hill to Colen Campbell, in order that Campbell could publish this plan in the third volume of Vitruvius Britannicus. Lord Herbert had been an important client of Campbell’s. At this date Campbell was overwhelmed with commissions.
6. Why we have developed an entirely different style in England from the dominant style in continental Europe?
The final question, which I would like to pose, is why did English Architecture follow an entirely different course from most of Western Europe in the first half of the eighteenth century. At time of Inigo Jones, Palladianism had really been a court style, rather than a national one and this style went out of fashion when Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) became the King’s Surveyor in 1669 and continued in this post until 1718. He had built his principal buildings, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, the east side of Hampton Court and the Royal Naval Hospital Greenwich in the Baroque style. He had spent almost a year in Paris in 1665 and had been very impressed by French Baroque architecture, particularly the use of the dome. The Baroque was based on the classical antique, but Baroque architects interpreted classical design much more freely than the Palladians and there was greater emphasis on grandiose and rhetorical designs such as Wrens St Paul’s and Hampton Court and Vanbrugh’s Blenheim.
The first sign of a reaction to the style used by Wren was in a famous open letter written by the third Earl of Shaftesbury in 1712 to Lord Somers. He said:
“Thro’ several reigns we have patiently seen the noblest publick Buildings perish (if I may say so) under the Hand of one single Court-Architect; who, if he had been able to profit from Experience; wou’d long since, at our expence, have prov’d the greatest Master in the World. But’, I question whether our Patience is likely to hold much longer . . . Hardly as the Publick now stands shou’d we bear to see Whitehall treated like Hampton Court or even a new Cathedral like St. Paul’s.”
Shaftesbury suggested the country should have a new national style, but did not suggest any particular new style. This was left to others and the English Palladian style could be said to date from 1715. In the introduction the first volume of Vitruvius Britannicus, Campbell, praised the leading Italian Renaissance architects, such as Palladio, but was damning the about the Italian Baroque and said:
“How affected and licentious are the works of Bernini and Fontana? How wildly extravagant are the designs of Borromini, who has endeavoured to debauch mankind with his odd and chimerical beauties, where the parts are without proportion, solids without true bearing, heap of materials without strength, excessive ornaments without grace and the whole without symmetry?”
Four examples of the continental Baroque, which incurred Campbell’s wrath, were Versailles, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Palazzo Carigno and S. Ivo alla Sapienza.
Campbell then continued in this Introduction as follows:
“It is then with Renowned Palladio, we enter the lists to whom we oppose the famous Jones.”
Indeed the title Vitruvius Britannicus is really implicitly dedicated to Inigo Jones. John Webb, Jones’s cousin and his principal assistant, called him the ‘English Vitruvius’.
What Campbell was seeking to introduce in the first volume was the style used by Inigo Jones. The Whig Aristocracy now adopted the Palladian style as the national style, because they could possibly see that Inigo Jones had used or adapted Palladio’s architecture in his own designs. The English upper classes sought to emulate classical values in almost every way and liked to call themselves the Augustans thus harking back to the early Roman Empire. Both Campbell and Burlington considered that Palladio’s designs should be followed as they believed that Palladio’s style was based on this purer classical style. What the English Palladians were seeking was a purer classical style and a rejection not only the relatively restrained examples of the English Baroque but the even more highly rhetorical styles which then dominated continental European architecture with their very free interpretation of the antique. A further attraction was Palladio’s woodcut designs, in his I Quattri Libri, were easy to follow.
However, what was particularly important here was that Jones was English. It was an age of patriotism. In 1713, we had just finished fighting the French in the War of the Spanish Succession and the French used the Baroque style so criticised by both the Earl of Shaftsbury and Colen Campbell and they chose to overlook the fact that Inigo Jones had actually introduced an entirely foreign (Italian Renaissance) style to this country.
Finally, it might be said that the porticoes of Palladio’s villas were not really suitable for the English climate. Though there is no portico at Marble Hill, there are in many Palladian buildings. Let Alexander Pope in his Epistle to Lord Burlington in 1731 have the last word:
“Proud to catch cold at a Venetian Door
Conscious they act the true Palladian part.
And if they starve, they starve by rules of art.”
Talk to the Marble Hill Society
Sunday 3rd March 2013