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William Halfpenny

(1705—1755) architect and writer on architecture


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(d. 1755). English architect and carpenter (alias Michael Hoare), he is known as the author of several successful pattern-books for domestic buildings, among the first of which was Practical Architecture (c. 1724), a cheap, clear guide to the Orders and various architectural elements drawing on Campbell's Vitruvius Britannicus (1715). He disseminated Gothick and Chinoiserie designs in his Rural Architecture in the Gothic Taste, Chinese and Gothic Architecture properly ornamented (both 1752 and both with his son, John Halfpenny), and Rural Architecture in the Chinese Taste (1752–5, parts of which were by John). With these, Improvements in Architecture and Carpentry (1754), The Art of Sound Building (1725), and other publications, he and Langley dominated the pattern-book market of the time. In his A New and Compleat System of Architecture (1749–59) there are indications he may have known the Irish Palladian architect Pearce, and indeed he seems to have been involved in designing in Ireland, notably a horse-barracks at Hillsborough, Co. Down (1732), and Waterford (1739—where he surveyed the cathedral and made drawings for a new Classical building which was not realized). In spite of his debt to Campbell, Halfpenny was never a polished Palladian, and his work drew on Baroque elements. His publications clearly had a profound effect on the appearance of many cathedral-and market-towns throughout England, while his Twelve Beautiful Designs for Farm Houses (1750) and other publications showed he was capable of designing for the countryside as well (he designed a Chinese bridge at Croome Court, Worcs. (c. 1752)). From c. 1730 he settled in Bristol (whence he probably travelled to Ireland), and designed several buildings there (including the Redland Chapel (c. 1740–3)), although none is particularly distinguished. He or his son may have been responsible for the charming Gothick orangery at Frampton-on-Severn, Glos. (c. 1750). At least twelve of his publications were known in the American colonies before 1776, so his work was influential in the USA too.

From A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Architecture.


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