William Halfpenny

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William Halfpenny (before 1723–1755) was an English 18th-century architectural designer; in some of his publications he described himself as "architect and carpenter". He also wrote under the name of Michael Hoare.[1]

Life and architectural work[edit]

Little is known of his life. In 1723, he was paid for a design for Holy Trinity Church, Leeds which was never executed, and his book Practical Architecture (1724) was dedicated to Yorkshire landowner and Member of Parliament Sir Thomas Frankland. The Art of Sound Building (1725) was dedicated to the Parliamentary official Sir Andrew Fountaine, and in 1726 he submitted a design for a bridge across the River Thames at Fulham. Batty Langley mentions him in his book Ancient Masonry (1736) as "Mr William Halfpenny, alias Hoare, lately of Richmond in Surrey, carpenter."[1]

Halfpenny worked for a time in Ireland, in 1732 designing a horse barracks in Hillsborough, County Down, for Lord Hillsborough, and in 1737 Garrahunden House, later demolished, near Bagenalstown, County Carlow, for Sir Richard Butler. In 1739 he made designs for buildings in Waterford and Cork.[1]

The Coopers' Hall, Bristol

Most of Halfpenny's buildings, including several that may have been designed by him or his contemporaries, are or were located in and around Bristol, where he was probably based from about 1730 (his Perspective Made Easy, published in 1731, contains various views of the city).[1] The Coopers' Hall, King Street, built from his designs in 1743-4, is the most notable and the only surviving building in the area which can positively be identified as his work. The coopers relinquished it in 1785, and it was later used as assembly rooms, warehouses and a Baptist chapel. Since 1972, the ground floor has formed the main entrance to the Bristol Old Vic theatre, and the upper floors house various theatre facilities.[2]

Only one other work which can be positively identified as Halfpenny's and of which traces survive is a "Chinese" bridge built for Lord Deerhurst (later the sixth Earl of Coventry) at Croome Park, Worcestershire in 1747–48.[3] Archaeology students at the University of Worcester uncovered the substantial stone foundations of the bridge in summer 2009, and the National Trust intends to create a replica of the bridge, using Halfpenny's drawing, as part of a plan to recreate Capability Brown's original landscape.[4]

He died in debt in 1755.[1]

Buildings tentatively attributed to Halfpenny on stylistic grounds[edit]

Publications[edit]

His books deal almost entirely with domestic architecture, and especially with country houses in the neo-Gothic and Chinoiserie fashions which were so greatly in vogue in the middle of the 18th century. His most important publications, from the point of view of their effect upon taste, were:

  • New Designs for Chinese Temples, in four parts (1750–52)
  • Rural Architecture in the Chinese Taste (1750–1752). This book is believed to have introduced the word "gazebo" to the English language.
  • Rural Architecture in the Gothic Taste (1752)
  • Chinese and Gothic Architecture Properly Ornamented (1752)

These four books were produced in collaboration with his son John Halfpenny. New Designs for Chinese Temples is a volume of some significance in the history of furniture, since, having been published some years before the books of Thomas Chippendale and Sir William Chambers, it disproves the statement so often made that those designers introduced the Chinese taste into Britain. Halfpenny states distinctly that "the Chinese manner" had been "already introduced here with success."

Halfpenny's books were often the source for design details in 18th-century American houses as well, including Mount Clare in Baltimore County, Maryland, and the Chase-Lloyd House in Annapolis, Maryland.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Colvin, Howard (2008) [1954]. A Biographical Dictionary of English Architects 1660–1840 (4th ed.). New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-12508-5. 
  2. ^ Manser, José (1 December 1972). "Theatrical renaissance in Bristol". Design (288). 
  3. ^ Worcestershire by Alan Brooks and Nikolaus Pevsner, 2007, p.246
  4. ^ University of Worcester ISE update, summer 2009, p.6
  5. ^ British Listed Buildings entry
  6. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus (1958). North Somerset and Bristol. London: Penguin Books. p. 470. 
  7. ^ Images of England listing and photograph
  8. ^ British Listed Buildings entry
  9. ^ British Listed Buildings entry
  10. ^ British Listed Buildings entry
  11. ^ The Center for Palladian Studies in America, Inc., "Palladio and Patternbooks in Colonial America."

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.