Elizabethan architecture

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Architecture of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England (1558–1603), regarded as within the last phase of the Tudor period, but showing the influence of European Renaissance styles, though often somewhat provincial in treatment. Elizabethan England was relatively isolated from mainstream developments on the Continent, partly because of religious schism, but essentially because the Queen's legitimacy and rights to the Throne were not accepted by the major European RC powers. Architectural trends were therefore slow in arriving, and were mostly disseminated through publications. Initially, Renaissance motifs were largely treated as surface decoration. The first major building to incorporate reasonably accurate French Renaissance elements, old Somerset House, London, was not built until 1547–52, and was derived from work by Philibert de l'Orme and Jean Bullant. In 1550 John Shute was sent to Italy to study Antique and modern architecture, after which he published The First and Chief Groundes of Architecture (1563), derived from Serlio and Vignola, and the first book on the Classical Orders in English. Thereafter, several great prodigy-houses were built, including Burghley House, near Stamford, Lincs. (1550s–1580s), Longleat, Wilts. (1572–80), and Hardwick Hall, Derbys. (1590–6). Late-Gothic features, such as large mullioned and transomed windows, the E-shaped late-Tudor plan, elaborate upperworks such as arrays of tall chimneys, turrets, etc., and even the occasional spire, were mixed promiscuously with the Orders (often used as an assemblage or even as chimneys), much strapwork, grotesque ornament, and obelisks (upright and inverted, often with herms). Sources were often French, especially the school of Fontainebleau's Mannerism which had such a profound influence on North-European Renaissance and Mannerist designs, notably those of Dietterlin and de Vries: indeed, the so-called Ditterling ornament was often strongly represented. The Gate of Honour, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (1572–3), has an arch derived in form from late-Tudor examples, but set within a Classical ensemble of Roman Doric over which is an engaged temple-front flanked by obelisks, the whole crowned by a hexagonal superstructure with a domical vaulted top. It is clearly derived from Serlio, and from Flemish Renaissance designs: indeed its architect was Theodore de Have, or Haveus (fl. 1562–76), a Fleming or German from Cleve (Cleves), who settled in England in 1562. However, van Paesschen, who was involved in the design of Burghley House, Theobald's Palace (Herts.), Bach-y-Graig (Flint-shire), and the Royal Exchange (London) in the 1560s, has a claim to be regarded as the first architect to design buildings in England that were Italian rather than French in style.

Elizabethan architecture was often ebullient, notably in chimney-pieces, frontis-pieces, and funerary monuments (the last often with spectacular structural poly-chromy, i.e. the colour provided by the materials used in the construction e.g. Kelway monument (1580s), Church of Sts Peter and Paul, Exton, Rut., and the Cecil tomb (late C16), perhaps by Cornelius Cure (fl.c. 1574–c. 1609), in the Church of St Martin, Stamford, Lincs.). The essence of the Elizabethan style continued into Jacobean architecture, and there was a C19 revival.

Airs (1975, 1995);Cruickshank (ed.) (1996);Girouard (1966, 1983);Pevsner (ed.), Buildings of England (1951– );Summerson (ed.) (1993);D. Watkin (1986)


Subjects: Architecture.

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