Remembering Inigo Jones – Stuart England’s Pioneering Architect

15th July 2015
Happy Birthday Inigo Jones! Born on this day in 1573, he was one of England’s earliest classical architects - instrumental in bringing the elegant classical styles of the Italian Renaissance to Britain during the early reign of the Stuarts. He was also a pioneer in the field of interior design. And if all that wasn't enough, he also worked in the entertainment business - organising court masques (drama and music) during the reigns of Kings James I and Charles I.

A snapshot

composite of photos of buildings, interiors, exteriors designed by Inigo Jones
A snapshot combined look at some of Inigo Jones's achievements.
The pictures in this composite shown abve are, from top left to right:

    Mr Jones himself by Van Dyck.
    An exterior view of the Banqueting House in Whitehall.
    The Tulip Stair in the Banqueting House.
    And a landscape view of the Queen’s House at Greenwich.

Inspired by Palladio

Inigo Jones was inspired by the work of the Italian architect and writer Andrea Palladio who was, in turn influenced by classical architecture from the ancient world, notably Greece and Rome. Jones travelled to Italy on two occasions to study first-hand the changes that were taking place.
Most nobable works of Inigo Jones

His first major work was a residence at Greenwich for Queen Anne, wife of James I. This was constructed between 1616 and 1635. And when the old Banqueting House at Whitehall was destroyed by fire in 1619, he was comissioned to design and build a replacement. It became one of his greatest achievements, and includes still a vast ceiling painting by Rubens. He added a great portico to the west end of St Paul’s Cathedral – sadly lost in the great fire of 1666. And he designed what was in effect the first Square of London for the Earl of Bedford at Covent Garden.
interior of great classical hall - the Banqueting House, London
The magnificent interior of the Banqueting House, Whitehall, London.
The 'new' Chapel of Lincoln's Inn was designed by Inigo Jones, and the foundation stone laid by the poet John Donne in 1620. (Donne was a preacher there at the time, and latter became Dean of St Pauls Cathedral.

Royal Surveyor

At the height of his powers, Jones was appointed surveyor to the king (Charles I). But with the onset of the Civil War (1642–1651) and the king's imprisonment, the position inevitably came to an end. He fell foul of Oliver Cromwell's new and austere regime. And his property was confiscated for a time, though eventually restored.

It would surely have been an exceptional sadness to him when, in 1649, King Charles was publicly beheaded outside the Banqueting house itself. The very building Jones had created for him.

Inigo Jones developing London

Jones added features to already existing landmarks in London at a time of great transition. See the painting below by Balthazar Nebot. Though made a century later, it shows clearly the new classical look that was taking shape in the capital. Covent Garden was no longer simply a market, it had become an Italian 'piazza.' And it was set to become one of the most frequented areas of commerce and social interaction during the Georgian era.
Covent Garden piazza and market in 1737, looking west by Balthazar Nebot.


Jones was, above all, a trail-blazer. He really did change the way England looked. Or at least he began the process of change. It helped take England from the sometimes sprawling timber-frame and brick of the Medieval/Tudor period to classical buildings of stone and marble, buildings of impeccable proportion and symmetry. It has been said that his architecture was so revolutionary that quite some time would pass before his ideas were fully accepted and appreciated. But the wonderful classic Georgian architecture of subsequent generations embraced his ideas thoroughly.

He died in the Summer of 1652. So he never witnessed the Restoration of the monarchy in England eight years later in 1660. But his reputation and legacy was already assured. One of those splendid people from history who succeeded in leaving the world a better place than when he found it.
Authored by Robert Stephen Parry

You might also like

London's Victoria Embankment - a story of progress
thumbnail image of Tudor queen with ruff
John Dee and the Invention of the Telescope
thumbnail image of Tudor scholar, pensive
The places where Queen Victoria lived - a tour.
thumbnail image of Queen Victoria looking over shoulder slightly, head turned
Artist Allan Ramsay - Jacobite or Royalist
thumbnail image of Tudor scholar, pensive