Appendix 2: How the classical style spread

Politics and the Spread of Classical Architecture

From its early development Palladianism had political associations because the Whig Lord Shaftesbury, had personally attacked the earlier Baroque style in a letter of 1712, for its frivolity and use of foreign elements. It is perhaps important then that in Norfolk there was a strong Whig presence, who were using Georgian style. Sir Robert Walpole had Houghton Hall constructed in the Palladian manner in 1721, while the Georgian Wolterton Hall was built for his brother Horatio (later Lord Walpole of Wolterton), by Thomas Ripley (1727-1741). Robert Walpole was very popular in Norfolk, for Mr Wright in his “England Under the House of Hanover” noted that Walpole’s return to his county after the close of Parliament in 1733 was received “with unusual marks of respect, and his entry into Norwich resembled a triumph” (Mason, 1884, p670) and it may be that his popularity meant people to tried to emulate his style, especially in the towns as these tended to be more Whiggish than the rural districts.

 

Pattern Books

Local architects and builders were aided by the profusion of pattern books that were available. These were required because the Georgian style was thought to be more demanding to put into practice than the vernacular or the English Baroque, as it was subject to more rules of taste. The architect James Gibbs realised this, stating that his ‘Book of Architecture’ of 1728 was for, gentlemen who might be concerned in buildings, especially in in remote parts of the country, where little or no assistance for design can be procurred.This book was arguably the most influential pattern book of the eighteenth century.

patternbook_tn.gifThis page is from William Pain's The Practical House Carpenter of 1789, one of many pattern books in circulation at this time. It provided detailed instructions on how to achieve the Georgian look.

An influential pattern book in Norfolk of the more practical kind was by Thomas Rawlins (c1727-1789), a Norwich architect and stonemason, called ‘Familiar Architecture, or original designs for gentlemen and tradesmen, etc’ of 1768, which included Palladian style examples. Rawlins’ own designs included Weston Longville House for John Custance, in 1781, and there are several buildings in Norwich which can be attributed to him. Pattern books like these were so important that, by 1750 the most striking regional design differences had been ironed out (Cruikshank, 1985, p13).

 

The Influence of Estate Architecture

It was probably the really wealthy in the country houses that used the style to the best effect as country gentlemen were able to afford the services of more eminent architects. Important for the county were the architect Matthew Brettingham (1699-1769), and the arbiter of taste at this time, the Third Earl Burlington (1694-1753) who were both involved in the development of Holkham Hall, possibly aided by another nationally acclaimed architect, his protege William Kent (1685-1748). Burlington’s presence in Norfolk was very significant as English Palladianism was centred around him . Another notable figure was Colen Campbell (1684-1729), author of Vitruvius Britannicus in 1717, the influential discussion of the works of Palladio, who also worked on designs for Houghton Hall (1721-1725) in Norfolk, for Sir Robert Walpole. Later in the century another leading architect Sir John Soane (1753-1837), did some of his earlier work in Norfolk, such as Shottesham Hall (1785-88), for the Fellowes family, Letton Hall (1785-88), and the Rectory of Saxllingham Nethergate.

holkhamhall_tn.gifHolkham Hall, built to the design of Colen Campbell. burnhamhall_tn.gifHall at Burnham Market. This was built in 1783 for Sir John Soames in the Palladian style.

However, where as Soane started to concentrate upon commissions elsewhere, Matthew Brettingham (1699-1769), despite becoming successful at a national level, continued with local projects such as the alterations at Langley Hall (1740-50); the re-building of Gunton Hall after it was gutted by fire in 1742; and the plans for Shadwell Lodge at Rushford in 1760. Brettingham was a very important figure helping to spread Palladianism throughout the whole of East Anglia.

It was doubtless the example of such prominent architecture in Norfolk that caused the widespread adoption of the Georgian style in Norfolk small towns. Thus Holkham Hall, says Cruikshank (1985, p68), provided, if not exactly a model, a good starting point for architects undertaking more modest works. This was because it was constructed in a simple, undecorated Palladian style, in brick, which was a formula which could be easily adapted to smaller scale building schemes. Indeed the Hall at Burnham Market green, built for Sir John Soames, has actually been described as, a poorer, less imaginative man’s Holkham (Herbison, 1962, p617).It is also likely that craftsmen employed in the construction of larger country houses would absorb stylistic influences, which they would transfer to smaller scale commissions within the towns.

 

The Influence of Architecture in Larger Towns and Cities

Lesser builders might also have copied examples from the larger towns of the area, such as Norwich, which was rich in Georgian architecture, as it was a prosperous merchants’ city. Georgian buildings in Norwich include the Octagon Chapel, by the local architect Thomas Ivory, in 1754, and there are long runs of domestic houses in Colegate; while there are many examples of early Georgian domestic architecture at the South Quay of Great Yarmouth.

octagon_tn.gifThe Octagon Chapel, Norwich, 1754 friendsmh_tn.gifFriends' Meeting House, Goat Lane, Norwich

 

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