John Webb (architect)
|Died||24 October 1672
Butleigh Court, Butleigh, Somerset
He was born in Little Britain, Smithfield London and at died in Butleigh in Somerset. He had a close association with fellow architect and theatre designer Inigo Jones for whom he worked as an assistant from 1628. Jones and Webb's jointly designed Wilton House (near Salisbury, Wiltshire) with its distinctive Single and Double Cube rooms.
At the beginning of the English Civil War, Inigo Jones left London to attend the King at Oxford. He was later in Basing House and captured at the end of the siege. Webb stayed in London, having been appointed Deputy Surveyor by Inigo Jones. He acted as a spy for Charles I, probably out of zeal rather than by appointment, and sent the plans of London's Lines of Communication (new fortifications) together with the number and location of the newly mounted guns.
Upon Jones' death in 1652, Webb inherited a substantial fortune as well as a library of drawings and designs, many of which dated back to Jones' influential travels to Italy.
In 1654 Webb designed the first classical portico on an English country house, at The Vyne in Hampshire. In the Corinthian style, this portico stamps this older house as Palladian, 50 years before the birth of Lord Burlington.
In the early 1660s Charles II commissioned Webb to rebuild Greenwich Palace in a more contemporary Baroque style. His plan was for three ranges around a courtyard, open on the north side towards the Thames. The buildings were to be aligned with Inigo Jones' Queen's House, which stands a little way further south from the river, just short of the current northern boundary of Greenwich Park. The old buildings were demolished, but only one block of Webb's design was built. Constructed between 1664 and 1669, it was never occupied by the royal family, and was later incorporated into Christopher Wren's designs for Greenwich Hospital, where it forms the eastern part of the King Charles Block. Webb also designed the enlargement of the Queen's House in 1662.
Webb was an amateur scholar who collaborated with Inigo Jones and Walter Charleton to produce a book about Stonehenge. Ten years later, he published his own Vindication of Stone-henge Restored. In 1669 he brought out An historical essay endeavoring a probability that the language of the Empire of China is the primitive language, the first treatise on the Chinese language in any European language. Having never visited China or mastered the language, he based his essay on the travelogues of the Jesuit missionaries.
Gallery of architectural works
- "Webb, John (1611-1672)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- The National Trust's history of The Vyne