John Summerson

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Sir John Newenham Summerson CH CBE (25 November 190410 November 1992) was one of the leading British architectural historians of the 20th century.


  • How and among whom this Palladian taste became formed it will be our business presently to inquire. The first point to note is that it had nothing to do with Wren, Vanbrugh, Hawksmoor, or Archer except in so far as, by excluding the works of these architects from salvation, it was better able to distinguish its own particular sort of grace. The second point to note is that, once formulated, the Palladian taste became the taste of the second generation of the Whig aristocracy, the sons of that Whiggery which dated its accession to power from 1688 and to which, in Anne’s time, artistic and intellectual leadership, once centred at the Court, had passed. This second Whig generation had strong beliefs and strong dislikes, conspicuous among the latter being the Stuart dynasty, the Roman Church, and most things foreign. In architectural terms that meant the Court taste of the previous half-century, the works of Sir Christopher Wren in particular and anything in the nature of Baroque.
    • Architecture in Britain, 1530–1830
  • Wanstead was a key building of its age. It looked back to Castle Howard, but by virtue of its purity of detail superseded that house as a model. In its designing there were three stages.
    • Architecture in Britain, 1530–1830
  • With the completion of Shepherd’s Grosvenor Square houses, about 1730, the development of urban design in London ceases, for a time, to be of much interest. The story, however, continues and reaches its climax in Bath where street design developed in a most important way for a matter of forty years.
    • Architecture in Britain, 1530–1830
  • The elder Wood lived only to see his Circus begun. He died in 1754, and it was completed by his son. In 1766 the younger Wood acquired, in partnership with another person, a piece of land westwards of the Circus and on this he built the Royal Crescent (1767–75). This great semi-elliptical block, comprising thirty houses, is of very special importance in the history of English architecture, for it introduced a type of urban composition which was employed over and over again, with innumerable variations, until well into the nineteenth century.
    • Architecture in Britain, 1530–1830
  • Street design up to the time of the Regency will be found to be loyal, in principle, to what had been developed in Bath. The two most important names in English planning during the period are those of Robert Adam and George Dance II, whose careers will be dealt with in the chapters which follow. Both of them recognized the principle of the monumentally treated block of ordinary houses, with centre and wings emphasized, as the proper solution of the urban street problem.
    • Architecture in Britain, 1530–1830

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