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Inigo Jones

Inigo Jones

‘Indeed, it came like a thunderbolt, the conviction that, buildings in England must, in order to be beautiful, conform absolutely to the ideals set by ancient Rome. Accordingly, Inigo Jones, brought about the most momentous revolution that English Architecture has experienced’.

James Lees Milne, The Age of Inigo Jones, Preface, p. 7


Inigo Jones, The Designs of Inigo Jones Consisting of Plans and Elevations for Publick and Private Buildings. Published by William Kent with some additional designs (London, 1727), 2 vols. in 1, vol. 1, title page portrait vignette.

Edward Worth added the publication The Designs of Inigo Jones, Consisting of Plans and Elevations for Publick and Private Buildings, Published by William Kent with some additional designs (London, 1727) to his collection during the last six years of his life. The book, containing volumes 1 & 2 in a single volume, is a collection of Renaissance architectural designs ascribed to Inigo Jones (1573-1652), William Kent (c.1685-1748), Lord Burlington (1694-1753) and Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), the renowned Italian architect. Edward Worth was 51 when the book was published. Booksellers Woodman & Lyon were responsible for handling subscriptions and the publication was delivered to 380 subscribers. Worth was not one of the original subscribers but may have acquired the book second hand from one of their number or from a collection sale. The book consists of an introduction, a short description of each of the featured plates and the plates themselves. The story of this book is interwoven around the lives of three men – Inigo Jones, John Webb and Lord Burlington.

Inigo Jones

Inigo Jones was born at Smithfield in London in 1573 where as a youth he engaged in painting and joinery. Architecturally it was a period of transition and adventure. The homely work of Henry VIII’s time had given place to the extravagant buildings of Elizabeth’s time, they in turn being superseded by the more sober Jacobean buildings. As a young man, Jones entered the service of the Manners household, the family of Lord Roos and the Earl of Rutland, becoming their picture maker.

In 1598 he accompanied one of the Manners family on a tour of Europe, the greater part of which was spent at Venice. The choice of Venice probably explains why Jones was so little influenced by the Baroque of Domenico Fontana (1543-1607) and Carlo Maderno (c.1556-1629), the leading Roman architects of this time. What he experienced was the Venice of Jacopo Sansovino (1486-1570), Michele Sanmicheli (c.1487-1559) and Andrea Palladio. In 1603 he traveled to Denmark where he entered the service of King Christian IV. The following year he returned to England to work for King Christian’s sister, Anne of Denmark, who was Queen to James I. He worked with the poet and playwright Benjamin Jonson (1572-1637) staging masques for the royal court and this was the beginning of a career that would last 36 years. Masques were a form of festive courtly entertainment that flourished in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Europe involving music and dancing, singing and acting, within an elaborate stage design.

Jones produced unexecuted architectural designs for the New Exchange on the Strand for Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury (1563-1612) for whom he and Jonson had previously devised masque entertainments and also for the replacement of a medieval crossing tower at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Jones’ work was noticed by the court of James I and in 1610 he was appointed Surveyor of Works to Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales. Following the Prince’s untimely death two years later, Jones and Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel (1586-1646) travelled to Italy on a further Grand Tour. Among the books Jones brought with him was his copy of Palladio’s I Quattro libri dell’architecttura 1601 edition, which he annotated with observations he made during his travels.

These trips transformed his understanding of architecture and returning to England in late 1614, Jones had completed his self-education as a classical architect. He was appointed in 1615 as Surveyor of the King’s Works, a role he undertook for the following 27 years until the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642.

The best known of Jones’ Palladian designs are the Banqueting House, Whitehall (1622), and the Queen’s House, Greenwich (commenced in 1616, but not completed until 1638). The two storey façade of the Banqueting House, a single large hall for royal entertainments and masques, is vertically divided by Ionic engaged columns and pilasters on the ground floor and Corinthian engaged columns and pilasters on the first floor. The central portion of the façade is gently accentuated by the engaged columns that protrude further from the wall than the pilasters. Ramsey (1924) attributes Jones’ study of the Palazzo del Consiglio and the Palazzo Valmarano during his tours as contributing to Jones’ Banqueting House masterpiece in Whitehall while feeling also that this building owes something to the work of Sanmicheli. He also refers to Jones as strong-tempered, little able to broke interference from others, full of confidence and somewhat irascible. He was to quarrel later in life with Benjamin Jonson, his masque collaborator, with them becoming inveterate enemies.

The Queen’s House is a two storey structure, with a ground floor of rusticated blocks surmounted by smooth-walled piano nobile. It was considered revolutionary and was heralded as the first Classical English Renaissance building. It had a square plan with symmetrical façades and no gables or other projections and included a first floor loggia composed in the Ionic order on the south elevation. Its principal rooms were on the first floor and enjoyed high ceilings and windows. The device of raising the house up one floor became a popular method of giving a sense of importance to buildings that it lasted up until the end of the nineteenth century. The Queen’s House is now part of the National Maritime Museum and Greenwich Observatory campus.

At the behest of Charles I, Jones produced a scheme in 1638 for a monumental Renaissance palace at Whitehall. The proposal covered an area of practically 30 acres with numerous two and three storey building ranges enclosing seven large squares and followed the Palladian principles that Jones practiced. However Charles I was unable to fund the proposal due to financial and political pressures.

Earlier in his life, in 1620, Jones as Surveyor of the King’s Works travelled to Stonehenge at the request of Charles’ father, James I, in response to a request to ‘produce out of mine own practice in architecture and experience in antiquities abroad, what possibly I could discover concerning this of Stonehenge’. During his visit Jones developed his opinions on the structure concluding, incorrectly, that it was a classical temple and presumably informed James I of his findings, but Jones himself never published the notes on his study of Stonehenge.

John Summerson, in his 1966 publication Inigo Jones, noted Jones’ adherence to Palladian philosophy. The architectural historian acknowledged that behind Jones the architect there is always Jones the philosopher. The ancient orders were to be controlled by the module. Larger elements in buildings are to be thought out on the basis of squares and cubes and their simplest rational sub-division. Hence the cubic hall at Greenwich and the double cubes at Whitehall.


Inigo Jones, The Designs of Inigo Jones Consisting of Plans and Elevations for Publick and Private Buildings. Published by William Kent with some additional designs (London, 1727), 2 vols. in 1, vol. 1, plate 68 (Cube room designed by William Kent).

Jones’ introduction of the ancient classicism of Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) to England was to have an influence for generations. Prior to this masons had a relatively free hand, within the broad scope of the design, to put their own interpretation on the construction details. Jones had to persuade his builders and masons to abandon their traditional way of working and adopt his ideas, working to the Palladian rules to which he had designed. The Handbook of Architectural Styles (London, 1878) cites Jones as the only English architect of this period who preserved the classical Renaissance style in its purity, and free from numerous extraneous innovations.

Ramsey (1924) refers to Jones as holding a unique position among English architects referring to him as one of those outstanding figures that mark a definite change in the civilization of a country. He believes that Jones’ buildings were not merely Italian transcripts, but were as English as the stone from which they are built. He adds that, were it not for Charles I’s financial and political troubles, there might have been a Royal Palace in Whitehall which would have rivalled the Louvre and the Escorial.

As a perceived Royalist, Jones was taken prisoner at the end of the two-year siege of Basing House in Hampshire in 1645 at which Oliver Cromwell commanded the artillery. Jones’ estate was seized by the Parliamentarians, but a year later most of it was restored. Inigo Jones died in 1652, twenty four years before Edward Worth was born in 1676.


Inigo Jones, The Designs of Inigo Jones Consisting of Plans and Elevations for Publick and Private Buildings. Published by William Kent with some additional designs (London, 1727), 2 vols. in 1, vol. 2, plate 6 (House design attributed by Kent to Inigo Jones).

John Webb

John Webb was born in 1611, probably to a family of the lower gentry, and was educated at Merchant Taylors’ School in the City of London. He was 38 years younger than Jones. It is not known how they crossed paths, but Webb first came to the Surveyor General’s attention as a 17 year old schoolboy in 1628 and was taken on to the staff as an apprentice. Thus his architectural education began.

Margaret Whinney in her article ‘Some Church Designs by John Webb’ (1943) concluded that Webb would have been tasked with studies, sketches and transcribing drawings during his apprenticeship – Serlio’s, Palladio’s and Scamozzi’s designs in Jones’ books as well as Palladio’s original drawings in Jones’ possession. This apprenticeship probably lasted over a period of seven years. After that time he would have progressed to preparing the drawings for Jones’ architectural schemes. The earliest such drawings of Webb’s were two plans and an elevation for Jones’ design for the theatre of the Barber Surgeons Hall in 1636.

Webb remained Jones’ pupil, assistant and unofficial deputy for close on quarter of a century without enjoying any recognised position. Ramsey (1924) cites a brief reference to Webb as a clerk to his Majesty’s Surveyor of Works in 1638. Ramsey sees Webb as having been consistently underestimated. He concludes this is largely because Webb was always content to remain in the shadow of his great master.

The link between Jones and Webb, however, was more than just a work connection. They became related through marriage. Ramsey (1924) explains – “Webb tells us that he was at the start taken to live with Jones’ family. Jones was not married and probably one of his spinster sisters kept house for him and was glad to look after the young apprentice, who was treated as a member of the family. The adopted relationship was made more real when Webb married Anne Jones, who may have been a niece or at very least a cousin of his employer. It is even possible that Anne was a natural child of the surveyor, because in the Somerset Visitation of 1672, made while Webb was yet alive, she is described as “the daughter and heir of Inigo Jones”. Anne’s place in Inigo’s affections was evidently a close one. She was left more money than any of the other legatees of his will, and each of her five children by Webb was handsomely provided with £1,000. Webb himself was made Jones’ principal executor”.

Among Jones’ papers Webb found the 32 year old notes on the visits to Stonehenge undertaken in 1620. Webb published a work based on these notes in 1655, three years after Jones’ death. The treatise, The Most notable Antiquity of Great Britain, vulgarly called Stonehenge, compiled from Jones’ notes, set out to prove that Stonehenge was a Roman temple citing Vitruvius (open to the sky) and Alberti (circular shape) and possibly dedicated to the Roman god Caelus (Uranus in the Greek). The publication sparked much debate among scholars. Ramsey doubts if Jones himself was convinced of his conclusions and cites the fact that he successfully avoided publication of them during James I’s lifetime. There is also reference to Inigo Jones’ work on the provenance of Stonehenge in another publication in Worth’s Library, L’antiquité expliquée, et representée en figures (Paris, 1719) by Bernard de Montfaucon, an illustrative plate from which is shown below.


Bernard de Montfaucon, L’antiquité expliquée, et représentée en figures (Paris, 1719), 5 vols. in 10, Suppl. vol. 5, plate 66 (Stonehenge).

For quite some time it was frequently Webb’s work which was mistaken for Jones’. The story of the Whitehall Palace drawings that feature prominently in Vol. 1 of The Designs of Inigo Jones Consisting of Plans and Elevations for Publick and Private Buildings. Published by William Kent with some additional designs (London, 1727), are a case in point. When first published at Lord Burlington’s instigation the drawings were ascribed to Inigo Jones; Webb’s co-existence was scarcely acknowledged. Kent in the first paragraph of his Advertisement (Preface) states that the selected plates were drawn by Jones and Mr. Webb. All of the Palace drawings, however, are ascribed to Inigo Jones.

Architectural research from the beginning of the twentieth century has included the study of the master’s and the disciple’s handwritings – Jones’ handwriting was large, sprawling and untidy; Webb’s small, tidy and neat – and led to scholars eventually attributing the early palace plans to Jones and the later ones to Webb. The early drawings for the Whitehall Palace involved the demolition of Jones’ masterpiece, the already built Banqueting House. Ramsey argues that nobody but its creator would countenance its demolition. Webb in his schemes sought to preserve it and Charles II pronounced it to be sacrosanct.

When the English Civil War broke out in 1642 between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists, Inigo Jones, as the King’s Surveyor, left London, a Parliamentarian stronghold. Webb remained to “complete the surveyor’s duties”. Inigo Jones died ten years later, a year after the war ended.

According to Ramsey, Webb acted as a spy for the Royalists in London. He sent information on the parliamentary forces to the Royalist headquarters at Oxford including on the London fortifications, the numbers of men and guns. He served the royalist leaders in London by carrying letters to and from the King, including on one occasion smuggling royal jewellery to Yorkshire, where the King was then stationed. Following the restoration of Charles II in 1660, Webb believed he had a chance of appointment to the surveyor-generalship. His petition to the King however was unsuccessful. Ramsey postulates that while, for years he was the right hand of Jones as the Surveyor General, had he succeeded to the position he would have been more recognised by history.

Webb died in 1674 at the family home at Butleigh Court in Somerset. (When the building was demolished about 1850, Inigo Jones’ pocket book was found in the walls. Its current whereabouts are unknown.) Webb left in his will his “library and books and all prints and cuts and drawings of architecture” to his son William and “my will and charge is that he shall keep them entire without selling or embezzling any of them”. However, within ten years, William’s widow had sold them to Mr. John Oliver, surveyor to the City of London. The portfolio contained drawings by Inigo Jones as well as Webb. The papers included a number of Palladio’s drawings that Jones had acquired in Italy. Both Jones and Webb were dead when William Kent published the two volumes comprising some of these drawings at the request of Lord Burlington in 1727.

Lord Burlington

Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington and 4th Earl of Cork (1694-1753), was born in Yorkshire to an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family. Often known as ‘the architect Earl’, he was unusual in having an architectural education. He was a member of both the British House of Lords and the Irish House of Lords, but took little interest in politics. Burlington undertook three Grand Tours from 1714 to 1719 where he studied the classic tradition. He carried a copy of Andrea Palladio’s book I quattro libri dell’architettura with him during his travels in Veneto in 1719. In addition to Roman ruins, a further source of his inspiration consisted of drawings he collected, some by Palladio himself, which had belonged to Inigo Jones.

At some point during these three tours, Burlington met William Kent and the two men became lifelong friends. Kent was born in East Riding in Yorkshire. At about the age of 15 he was apprenticed to a coach painter in Hull and at 24 he travelled with a number of companions to Italy in 1709. They visited Pisa, Lucca, and Florence and later travelled to Rome. There, Kent studied painting and supported himself through the gifts of local patrons and the commissions earned sourcing and buying paintings and sculpture for English patrons on the Grand Tour. Burlington invited Kent to return to London in 1719 to paint the ceiling compositions for the former’s new house in Piccadilly, Burlington House. The Scottish architect, Colen Campbell (1676-1729), undertook the design while Kent painted the ceiling compositions on a number of the principal rooms. On the strength of the commission he received commissions for other significant houses, culminating in commissions from King George I for the walls and ceilings at Kensington Palace in 1721, an undertaking that spanned over a six year period.


Composite image of Inigo Jones, The Designs of Inigo Jones Consisting of Plans and Elevations for Publick and Private Buildings. Published by William Kent with some additional designs (London, 1727), 2 vols. in 1, vol. 2, plate 70 (Chiswick House designed by Burlington, side elevation and ground plan) and vol. 2, plate 71 (Chiswick House designed by Burlington, front elevation and first floor plan).

Burlington wanted to publish some of his drawing collection. He had purchased drawings by Palladio while on his grand tours; by Inigo Jones (John Webb) and had completed a number of well received designs himself, notably Chiswick House. Some of these had already been copied as early as 1720 by Henry Flitcroft (1697-1769), an assistant to Burlington, and were engraved by Henry Hulsbergh (d.1729) and others.

At Lord Burlington’s request in 1724, Kent commenced work on the publication of this material and with the addition of drawings by Burlington and Kent. The Designs of Inigo Jones Consisting of Plans and Elevations for Publick and Private Buildings. Published by William Kent with some additional designs, was published in May 1727 with a dedication to King George I. Ramsey (1924) believes that Burlington and Kent were intent on establishing a new standard of taste in England, promoting public works and in particular the building of a Royal Palace. Kent and Burlington devoted more than two-thirds of the plates in volume one to designs for a Palace at Whitehall, crediting them to Inigo Jones, although they were the work of Jones’ assistant, John Webb (Gotch, 1912; Whinney, 1946). The palace at Whitehall was never built, but Kent included a section and reflected ceiling plan of the constructed Banqueting House (plates 51 and 52). There are further plates on a triumphal arch at Temple Bar (ascribed to Inigo Jones), monumental gateways and piers, fireplaces, reflected ceiling plans (credited to Jones, Burlington and Kent). The last four plates are of Burlington’s design for Chiswick House.

Volume two includes designs for a number of houses, the majority attributed to Jones with some by Burlington; a design for Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire whose Manners family Jones originally worked for as a picture maker in his youth (plates 22-24); the designs for two palaces; Burlington’s design for the dormitory of Westminster School (which was being built when the book was published, completed 1730), a design that was selected over that proposed by Christopher Wren; school with alms houses by Burlington; Jones’ West portico for the Old St. Pauls Cathedral added to the building in the early-mid 1600’s and which was destroyed during the Great Fire in 1666. The final seven plates are of Andrea Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice.


Inigo Jones, The Designs of Inigo Jones Consisting of Plans and Elevations for Publick and Private Buildings. Published by William Kent with some additional designs (London, 1727), 2 vols. in 1, vol. 2, plate 59 (Front elevation of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, by Andrea Palladio).

Burlington succeeded in his project – by the early 1730’s, the Renaissance Palladian style had become the generally accepted manner for a British country house or public building.


Inigo Jones, The Designs of Inigo Jones Consisting of Plans and Elevations for Publick and Private Buildings. Published by William Kent with some additional designs (London, 1727), 2 vols. in 1, vol. 2, plate 60 (longitudinal section of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, by Andrea Palladio).


Harris, Eileen & Savage, Nicholas, British Architectural Books and Writers 1556-1785 (Cambridge, 1990), 247-252.

Middleton, Robin, The Mark J. Millard Architectural Collection. Volume II : British Books, Seventeenth through Nineteenth Centuries (Washington, 1998), 135-136.

Milne, James Lees, The Age of Inigo Jones (London, 1953).

Pevsner, Nikolaus, A History of Building Types (London, 1976).

Ramsey, Stanley C., Inigo Jones, (London, 1924).

Rosengarten, Albert & Standars, William Collett, A Handbook of Architectural Styles (London, 1878, Reprint 1987).

Sicca, Cinzia Maria, ‘Kent, William’ entry in Oxford Art Online.

Summerson, John, Inigo Jones (New Haven, 1966).

Tavenor, Robert & Peacock, John, ‘Jones, Inigo’ entry in Oxford Art Online.

Whinney, Margaret, ‘Some Church Designs by John Webb’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, VI (1943), 142-150.

Whinney, Margaret, ‘John Webb’s Drawings for Whitehall Palace’, The Volume of the Walpole Society, XXXII (1946), 45-107.

Text: Mr Tony Kelly (Trustee of the Edward Worth Library).