Sunday, 22 April 2012

Period Style: Jacobean Architecture 1603-49

Architecture at the beginning of the seventeenth century was a progression of that being built during the latter years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. There are many similarities between much of the architecture in these periods. That is not to say that there weren’t new innovations, and tastes and fashions did change over time.

Classical architecture was one new fashion to be introduced into England. I will look at this in another post on the work and influence of Inigo Jones.

In order to understand what was happening at the end of Elizabeth’s reign in the world of architecture, let’s just recap on some of the key features, and see how these were used in houses during the reign of James I.

Hardwick Hall was built between 1590 and 1596. It was one of the most modern houses of the age, and has many features which would appear again in Jacobean architecture.

The house faces outwards (a trend throughout the Elizabethan period) with large glass windows looking out over parkland and countryside. The older tradition of building around a courtyard was falling out of fashion.

There are decorative details; some loosely based on classical styles, some left to the imagination of the masons. Note the openwork balustrade along the roofline, and the tall, decorated chimneys.

The house is symmetrical in design. There is also a loggia, a colonnaded walkway open to the air, at the front of the house.

 Other features which appear on Elizabethan buildings include ogee shaped roofs on towers, and shaped, or Dutch gables.

All these features were to find there way onto Jacobean buildings. Even so, Jacobean buildings developed a distinctive style, as we shall see.

Internally, rooms which began life in Tudor England were to continue into the Jacobean age. The Great Halls, no longer the high status rooms they had once been, were still included in Jacobean houses. More and more private rooms were being included in houses, and the Great Hall can be seen as the start of a processional route, the closer you were to the family or the higher your social status, the further you progressed into the house, with new State Rooms for the VIPs, as well as private apartments for the family. Elizabethan Great Chambers (not to be confused with the Great Hall) were to become the salons and drawing rooms of the seventeenth century, and the long gallery, designed for indoor exercise, was to continue into Jacobean houses, before adapting itself into the picture gallery of later houses.

One feature of Hardwick Hall, which might seem of little consequence at first, was the positioning of the Great Hall. Traditionally, the Great Hall of houses ran with its longest walls at the front and rear of the house, with a screens passage at one end, behind which was the main entrance to the house, and the service rooms such as the buttery (not a dairy for making butter, but were drinks were stored and decanted, butts = barrels, hence buttery, and butler!)

At Hardwick, the Hall is turned 90 degrees, so that its longer axis is running at right angles to the rest of the house, allowing the Hall to be incorporated symmetrically into the centre of the house.

Here’s a plan (not drawn by me) to explain this a little more clearly.The Blue arrow in the topmost drawing shows the position of the Great Hall.

This was a novel feature at the time Hardwick was built, but was to become influential in the design and layout of future houses in England.

Of course, all these features and finery were for the very wealthy, ordinary homes changed very little, most still built from local materials and often with a timber frame. For this reason, I will be focusing mostly on the grand houses of the age, rather than humbler dwellings.

The first house we will look at was built on the cusp of the Jacobean period. Work on Audley End in Essex began in 1603, and was completed in 1616. It was designed by Bernard Jannsen. The house was originally built around two courtyards, a large one at the front of the house, with buildings gradually increasing in size before reaching the second courtyard. Between the two courtyards was the Great Hall, built in the traditional way with a screens passage and main entrance at one end. Notice though that this hall has been designed to look symmetrical. A large projecting bay window has been built in the centre of the hall, and a porch built at either end. The porch on the left hand side conceals the main entrance the one on the right is basically a sham, used to create a symmetrical balance. The porches use classical elements, but are juxtaposed with other fanciful decoration. Note also the open work balustrade.

Audley End has been altered greatly; much of it was demolished in the eighteenth century, taking away both courtyards, and the remaining building added to, but there are still enough surviving details of the original building to give you some idea of how it looked in the early seventeenth century.

Bernard Janssen also designed Northumberland House; Charing Cross London built in 1608 (destroyed 1870). Again this building has a symmetrical façade and openwork work balustrades. Note the highly decorated frontispiece, which is a feature of many houses from this period.

Bramshill in Hampshire was built between 1605 and 1612 and has a frontispiece very similar to that of Northumberland, another design feature used frequently in houses dating from this period.

You might have noticed that Bramshill was built of red brick. This material was becoming very fashionable in Jacobean grand houses.

Charlton House in Greenwich was built between 1607 and 1612. This house follows the example of Hardwick Hall in having an axially- entered hall. This house also has a highly decorative frontispiece, which I am told owes much to a book published in Nuremberg in 1598 Architectura by Wendel Dietterlin. In his book he describes the classical orders and their correct use, but Dietterlin shows more interest in decoration and ornament, and his book was used extensively as a design source in the early seventeenth century. The decorative stonework used during this period is sometimes known as Artisan’s Mannerism.

Holland House, London was built c1605, much of it was lost in a bombing raid during the Second World War, but parts of the building remain. Notice the shaped gables, still being used in the design of many houses during the Jacobean period.

Another Jacobean house with many of the features mentioned above is Hatfield House in Hertfordshire where work began in 1607. This house has red brick, ogee shaped roofs on the towers, an arched loggia, shaped gables, and a beautiful frontispiece, which has been attributed to Inigo Jones. The clock tower is a later 19th century addition.

Ham House in Surrey was also built in fashionable red brick, in 1610. Parts of the house’s exterior have been altered, but it is still very much in the Jacobean style.

Of course, not all houses were being built in red brick, stone was still widely used. Cranborne Manor in Dorset (1608-11) was built by Lord Salisbury as a hunting lodge. The house has an attractive loggia with some fine decorative carving.

Charlton Park in Wiltshire (not to be confused with Charlton House in Greenwich) was built  c1607.

Wootton Lodge in Staffordshire was also built between 1607and 1610. I think that it looks similar to Hardwick Hall, and may have been designed by the same architect, Robert Smythson.

Smythson’s son, John, was the designer of Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire. Built between 1612 and 1617. 

Further additions were made to Bolsover Castle  between 1629 and 1634 including a detached wing, containing a long gallery.

Another house built between 1607 and 1612 is Chastleton House in Oxfordshire

Campden House in Chipping Campden was built c1613. The house itself was burnt down during the Civil War, but the banqueting houses and lodge gates remain, to give you some idea of the grandeur and craftsmanship that would have been used in the design of the house.

Blickling Hall, Norfolk is another good example of the Jacobean style. Built 1616-1627, it has many of the features of the period. From what I can make out the clock tower is part of the original design, not a later addition.

Work started on Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk in 1620, it was to be enlarged later in the seventeenth century (1674-87) and again in 1750, but the style remains essentially Jacobean.

Aston Hall in Birmingham was designed by John Thorpe and built 1618-35.


Abbot’s Hospital in Guildford was built for George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, between 1619 and 1622, and shares many of the architectural features of the houses built in this period.

Apethorpe Hall in Northamptonshire dates from the fifteenth century, but its State Apartments were rebuilt to receive James I between 1622-1624. Recent renovation work at the house by English Heritage has revealed a door and passage linking the King’s bedroom to that of George Villiers, later Duke of Buckingham. George Villiers was one of the King’s favourites (it’s claimed that James I had an eye for gentlemen, which reminds me of something I once read ‘Elizabeth was the King of England and James I its queen!!).

It is from the 1620s that we perhaps see a slight shift in architectural design in England. Certainly there was more of a Dutch style emerging in houses from this date. Raynham Hall in Norfolk started c1620 and completed in 1635 shows a different style from what had preceded it. The building’s facade includes more Renaissance elements, particularly in the door surround, and is dominated by Dutch gables. 


Raynham is perhaps most famous for its ghost, the Brown Lady, which appeared coming down the staircase in a photo from 1936.

The Dutch House at Kew, 1631(later Kew Palace), is another aptly named example of the Dutch style emerging in England. The windows have been altered since the house was built. The house also has a stone loggia on the rear façade.

Swakeleys in Ickenham, London was built in between 1629 and 1638. Again it is a strange mixture of Dutch and Renaissance influences.

The final house we will be looking at in this post is Broome Park in Kent, built 1635-38. It is yet another curious mixture of Renaissance and Dutch styles, with its red brick Giant Order pilasters and Dutch Gables. 

However, none of these houses, even with their European influences could be said to be classical style buildings, they each borrow decorative elements from various sources and blend them together, some more successfully than others. There was really only one man who brought the classical style to England in the early seventeenth century, and we shall meet him in my next post!