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‘His Majesty hath a desire to build [Whitehall] new again in a more uniform sort.’
Letter of Richard Daye (1638), cited in Whinney (1946), p. 46.
Worth’s copy 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) presents us with various elevations and plans for the Palace of Whitehall. Inigo Jones (1573-1652), had initially been commissioned by King James I to build a Banqueting Hall at Whitehall which was completed in 1622, but the plans here are far more extensive and were created for James I’s successor, Charles I. Unfortunately, due to Charles I’s financial difficulties, the c. 1638 plans were never realised. There is some confusion over who exactly was responsible for the designs of Whitehall included by Kent, for many were signed by Jones’ assistant, John Webb (1611-1672), who spent over twenty-five years drawing up plans for a new Palace of 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 7 (Front of the palace next the park).
Robin Middleton, in his 1998 entry on William Kent in the Mark. J. Millard Architectural Collection, points out that though Kent, in his “Advertisement”, stated that the designs were by both Jones and Webb, Kent over-emphasised Jones’ role – whereas Middleton himself suggests that Webb was actually responsible for the Whitehall designs. Jones’ biographer in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, John Newman, ascribes them to Jones, but not without a certain caveat: ‘The most elaborate of several schemes drawn by John Webb probably represents Jones’s design conceived about 1638.’ The complicating factor is that Webb was involved in a number of different schemes to rebuild Whitehall at different times and, as Newman in his entry on Webb in Oxford Art Online relates, there exists at least five different schemes in various collections. Margaret Whinney, in her magisterial 1946 study of Webb’s extant drawings for Whitehall pointed out that there were two distinct rebuilding schemes among the surviving manuscript and printed sources: one was massive, using a giant order; the other (published by Kent) was much smaller, ‘each storey being treated with a separate order.’ Webb’s signature may be found on both groups but that may simply imply his role as a draughtsman. Since Webb worked on plans for Whitehall over a twenty-five year period, his many drawings for a Palace at Whitehall ‘form the main link between the first and second halves of the century and bridge the gap, in style as well as in time, between the school of Inigo Jones and that of Wren.’ Whinney concludes that the smaller design was much earlier and that ‘there is nothing in the designs at variance with the known architectural interests of Jones’. As Thurley (1999) notes, this view is substantiated by a contemporary comment in 1658 to the effect that the citizens of Londonderry were asked to contribute money for rebuilding Whitehall ‘according to a model drawn by Inigo Jones’. This donation has subsequently been dated to c. 1638. It would appear then that the early schemes (i.e. those dating from c 1638), were indeed designed by Jones and that Webb in his reformulations of the early Restoration period began to significantly diverge from the original design by Inigo Jones.
Since Jones’ famous Banqueting Hall at Whitehall is still extant, having survived the 1698 fire which destroyed much of Whitehall, we can still trace the classical influences on his work. The earliest depiction of the Banqueting Hall was drawn as early as 1622 as a backdrop for one of Jones’ celebrated stage sets for a masque at the Jacobean court. As Vaughan notes (2010), we can see his rejection of the mannerist and early baroque excesses of contemporary Roman architecture. Instead, Jones advocated ‘a more sober style of all ’antica architecture’, which, as Vaughan reminds us, chimed with the social mores of the times.
Strong (1980) has suggested another influence: that of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. He points to the similarities between the c. 1638 drawings by Jones/Webb of the elevation of the river front of Whitehall and Juan Bautista Villalpando’s elevation of the Temple of Solomon in his De Postrema Ezechielis Prophetae Visione (Rome, 1605) and argues that the idea of the Temple of Solomon may have influenced the 1622 Banqueting Hall. The Solomonic ideal of Stuart kingship, so cultivated by James I, lay at the heart of plans for the rebuilding of Whitehall by his son, Charles I, who as Strong points out, wanted a building to rival Philip II’s El Escorial.
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 1 (plan of the palace).
Kent gives us the following information about this general plan of the palace. It consisted on seven Courts, A-G on this plan. These represented the following parts of Jones’ design:
A. The Grand Court, round which is a Terras of 30 Feet wide, and equal to the Height of the great Plinth of the Building.
B. A circular Persian Court, with an Arcade; round which are Office under the King’s Apartment.
C. A Square Court, with an Arcade; about this are the Office under the Apartments of the Royal Family.
D, E, Two Courts belonging to the Apartments and Offices of the Royal Family.
F, G, Two Courts which belong to the King’s Apartments and Offices.
H, The Great Hall, with Portico’s and Galleries, which includes two Stories.
I, I, Two circular Vestibules, with Doric Pillars.
K, An Open Vestibule, with Portico’s and Arches, the middle Part of which includes two Stories.
L, A Square Hall with Pillars of the Doric Order, leading to the King’s Apartments.
M, M, Two Square Vestibules with Pillars, between the circular Court and the Courts F, G.
N, N, Kitches, &c. belonging to the King.
O, O, Kitches, &c. for the Use of the Royal Family.
P, P, Vaults under the Chapel and Banquetting House.
Q, Q, &c. Arcades and Passages for the Communication of the several Apartments and Offices.
The rest of the Rooms, &c. of this Plan, are for the several proper Offices belonging to the Palace.
R, R, Are the Grand Entrances into the Palace.
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 56 (doors designed by Inigo Jones).
Anderson, Christy, Inigo Jones and the Classical Tradition (Cambridge,2007).
John Bold, ‘Webb, John (1611–1672)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008.
Harris, John, ‘A Prospect of Whitehall by Inigo Jones’, The Burlington Magazine, 109, no. 767 (1967), 54+87+89-90.
Hart, Vaughan, ‘Inigo Jones, ‘Vitruvius Britannicus’, Architectural History 53 (2010), 1-39.
Middleton, Robin, ‘William Kent in Dora Wiebenson, Claire Baines and Robin Middleton (eds.), The Mark. J. Millard Architectural Collection, Volume II, British Books Seventeenth through Nineteenth Centuries (National Gallery of Art, Washington; 1998).
Newman, John, ‘Jones, Inigo (1573–1652)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2010.
Newman, John, ‘Webb, John’ in Oxford Art Online 2007-2016.
Strong, Roy, Britannia Triumphans. Inigo Jones, Rubens and Whitehall Palace (London, 1980).
Thurley, Simon, Whitehall Palace. An Architectural History of the Royal Apartments, 1240-1698 (Yale University Press, 1999).
Whinney, Margaret, ‘John Webb’s Drawings for Whitehall Palace’ in Walpole Society XXXI (1946), 45-107.
Text: Elizabethanne Boran, Librarian of the Edward Worth Library.