Tag Archive | Pulteney Bridge

Georgian Era Artisans: Robert Adam

Robert Adam: His Story

Anyone who follows this blog is probably aware that Robert Adam is my favorite interior designer. I love the elegance, color, and classical design of his ceiling designs most of all. Every year when I visit the UK, I include stately manors featuring his work—and am ever so glad that there are so many of them still around to admire.

The second son of a prominent Scots architect himself—William Adam—Robert grew up with the advantages of money and an expectation that he would follow in his father’s footsteps. As a second son, however, that meant working under his older brother John, which he did for eight years before striking out on his own. Eventually, he was joined by his younger brother James. The youngest brother, William, served both enterprises with his building materials business.

Coming of age at a time when enthusiasm for the traditional Grand Tour was rekindled, Robert (who did not finish his studies at Edinburgh University due to illness) set out for Europe with the Honorable Charles Hope, younger brother of the Earl of Hopetoun. In Florence, the French antiquarian Charles-Louis Clerisseau agreed to instruct him in watercolor and draftsmanship. Rome, where he and Hope separated, was to be Adam’s base for the next three years, where he continued to study under Clerisseau and associated with other British artists and potential patrons, including James Wyatt and Adam’s lifelong rival, William Chambers, whom he identified as a “formidable foe.”

In Rome, Adam was careful not to jeopardize his gentleman’s status by identifying himself as an architect, which would preclude his participation in aristocratic circles. He was acutely aware that as important as it was to developi his artistic skills, it was equally important to develop relationships with the sort of people who might wish to take advantage of them in future endeavors. A “gentleman architect” was a bit of an oxymoron at the time, but Adam was one eventually who managed to achieve it.

Adam devoted himself to making detailed studies of both ancient and Renaissance buildings, particularly the decoration of the Roman vaults known as grotte, which led to the development of a type of ornamentation called “grotesque.” (Which seems an odd designation to me, since his designs are anything but grotesque. But I don’t speak the language of architecture.)

Adam was to achieve “a delicacy of detail…” which was new to England—and indeed to the world, for it was a delicacy by Roman and not Rococo means. The grottesque, painted and stucco decoration in Roman buildings, were his model.

Professor Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-1983)

Adam’s use of colour… was not, as is too often and disastrously thought, a gay “picking-out” of decorative motifs, but a subtle and gentle modification of the traditional white finish which Adam found too glaring in practice. Even the richest schemes are carefully built up from this principle.

Sir John Summerson (1904-1992)

James Adam, by Antonio Zucchi

At this time, Adam met Robert Wood, whose illustrated account of the Ruins of Palmyra became a useful sourcebook for architects and designers, and Adam was to eventually draw more from Wood than from his first-hand studies. Adam meant to write his own  such book on the baths of Diocletian and Caracalla, but the theorist of the family turned out to be his younger brother James. Robert was more of a doer.

Robert Adam’s criticism was directed against

the slavish imitators of Vitruvius and Palladio in his own century, who reduced the architectural heritage of the ancient world to a set of rigid rules to be dogmatically applied. Adam’s demand, which he believed to be soundly based on the realities of ancient practice, was that the architect should assert the flexibility and freedom proper to a creative artist: ‘The great masters of antiquity were not so rigidly scrupulous. They varied the proportions of the general spirit of their compositions required, clearly perceiving that however necessary these rules may be to form the taste and correct the licentiousness of the scholar, they cramp the genius and circumscribe the ideas of the master.’

This was heresy to eighteenth-century traditionalist architects, but Adam believed that the goal of architecture was not dependent on a set of rigid rules, but the achievement of a fluency and freedom of expression, that in his case meant the “ability to balance simplicity with enrichment.”

“Movement,” a fundamental principle of his work and a recurring motif in his projects, was defined by him with this analogy “…rising and falling, advancing and receding… with convexity and concavity… have the same effect in architecture, that hill and dale, fore-ground and distance, swelling and sinking have in landscape.” Architecture, like landscape, should “aspire to an agreeable and diversified contour, that groups and contrasts like a picture.”

Upon the completion of his Grand Tour, Adam decided to set up his independent practice in London, rather than following the family business in Edinburgh, which was a much less risky proposition. The family wealth was useful in helping him set up a house with six servants in fashionable St. James Place, and later purchase a house in Lower Grosvenor Street. His sisters managed his household and his brothers James and William came along to assist in his endeavors.

Networking was second nature to Adam. He joined the recently established Royal Society of the Arts, but by virtue of birth he already belonged to an informal institution far more powerful than any official association—the club of London Scots. The unofficial head of this ‘tartan mafia’ was John Stuart, third Earl of Bute and tutor to the future king George III. Adam inveigled an introduction…, and, although the initial contact with Bute was brusque almost to the point of insult, he was to gain commissions from him in both town and country. But by the time he did so Adam was already on course to be England’s most fashionable architect.

The Saloon at Kedleston Hall

 

Tea House Bridge, Audley End

Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, was Adam’s first major commission. Adam created the south front and also designed the much of the interior, furniture, and grounds. Although his was somewhat of a partial role—some rooms having been done by others—his work includes the library, saloon, ante-room, dressing room, state bedroom, and dining room. Very few changes have been made in the design, so Kedleston remains a significant example of his work.

Osterley Park

At Syon House, in 1761, the first Duke of Northumberland challenged him “to create a palace of Graeco-Roman splendour.” Adam was only too eager to accept the challenge, submitting, as he often did, an overly-ambitious plan that had to be modified. The result, however, included a “sequence of rooms of contrasting geometrical shapes, each originating in a classical prototype.” Lord Norwich claimed that “this spectacular sequence of rooms is enough to earn its creator a lasting place in the Halls of Fame and makes Syon one of the showplaces not just of London but of all England.

That same year, Adam was commissioned to decorate Osterley Park in Middlesex, owned by the Child banking dynasty. Among his repertoire of projects in the coming years was Ugbrooke, Devon; a gatehouse for Kimbolton Castle, in Cambridgeshire; Bowood, in Wiltshire; Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill at Twickenham; Newby Hall, North Yorkshire; Harewood House, in Yorkshire; Nostell Priory, in Yorkshire; Audley End, in Essex; Saltram, in Devon; Landsdowne House, Kenwood, Chandos House, Home House, Portland Place, Derby House, Home House, Northumberland House, all in London. When Northumberland House was destroyed to make way for Northumberland Avenue, the duke had Adam’s glass drawing-room packed up and stored; it is partially restored in the British Galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Music Room at Home House

The Adelphi Project, which would turn out to be a major failure that brought his business to the brink of bankruptcy, was conceived to be a “riverside terrace of residences of imperial grandeur… positioned above an arcade of warehouses.” Thinking that they would be besieged by eager tenants, the Adams brothers sank their own money and political power (Robert was an MP for Kinross-shire at the time) into getting this project up and running. Unfortunately, errors in calculations for the positioning of the wharf, as well as other problems, proved disastrous, and the brothers had to sell the property for a pittance, as well as their own private collections of antiquities.

Adam’s obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine was unequivocal in its judgement—’Mr. Adam produced a total change in the architecture of this country.’ ‘Architecture’ in that context must be understood as an all-embracing term. The papers Adam bequeathed to posterity include designs for organ-cases, sedan-chairs, coach-panels, candlesticks, door-handles, salt-cellars—and over five hundred different fireplaces.

Fireplace, Strawberry Hill

“… the chief merit of the Adam variation of the classical style was its recognition of the ancillary trades and crafts. It had, moreover, the attraction of being economical while retaining the appearance of being costly.”

Sir Albert Richardson (1880-1964)

Robert Adam is buried at Westminster Abbey.

Bookcase designed by Adam and built by Thomas Chippendale

My Pinterest Pages

Robert Adam

Osterley Park

Syon Park

Kenwood House

Harewood House

 

Note:

Quotes are from Robert Adam, by Richard Tames, 2004, Shire Publications.

 

 

Drawing of the drawing-room at Derby House, 1777

 

Gatehouse at Kimbolton Castle

Pulteney Bridge, Bath

Records Office, Edinburgh, 1775

Bath: a guide for readers of The Third MacPherson Sister

BTP_BathCityCentreMap_V2

Bath Abbey

Five things to know about Bath Abbey*

  • Three different churches have occupied the site of today’s Abbey since 757 AD. First, an Anglo-Saxon monastery which was pulled down by the Norman conquerors of England; then a massive Norman cathedral which was begun about 1090 but lay in ruins by late 15th century; and finally, the present Abbey Church as we now know it.
  • The first King of all England, King Edgar was crowned on this site in 973 (as shown above). The service set the precedent for the coronation of all future Kings and Queens of England including Elizabeth II.
  • The first sight most visitors have of Bath Abbey is the West front, with its unique ladders of Angels. The story behind this is that the Bishop of Bath, Oliver King, is said to have had a dream of angels ascending and descending into heaven which inspired the design and which also inspired him to build a new Abbey church – the last great medieval cathedral to have been built in England.
  • After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 by order of King Henry VIII, the Abbey lay in ruins for more than 70 years. It wasn’t until 1616, that much of the building we see today was repaired and in use as a parish church and over two hundred years later, in the 1830s, that local architect George Manners added new pinnacles and flying buttresses to the exterior and inside, built a new organ on a screen over the crossing, more galleries over the choir and installed extra seating.
  • The Abbey as we know it is the work of Sir George Gilbert Scott, who from 1864 to 1874, completely transformed the inside of the Abbey to conform with his vision of Victorian Gothic architecture. His most significant contribution must surely be the replacement of the ancient wooden ceiling over the nave with the spectacular stone fan vaulting we see today.

*http://www.bathabbey.org/history

Photo by Barbara S. Andrews

Photo by Barbara S. Andrews

The Pump Room

Situated next to main street entrance to the Roman Baths, visitors can sample the waters from the warm spring which fills the Roman Baths. The building also houses a restaurant, where it is popular to sample the afternoon tea.

pumproomsign

Photo by Barbara S. Andrews

The Roman Baths

The house is a well-preserved Roman site for public bathing. The Roman Baths themselves are below the modern street level. There are four main features: the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House and the Museum holding finds from Roman Bath. The buildings above street level date from the 19th century.

Photo by Barbara S. Andrews

Photo by Barbara S. Andrews

The Pulteney Bridge

The bridge features two ranges of shops designed in the Palladian style c. 1770, between them forming a narrow street over the bridge. The street and buildings sit above three segmental arches of equal span.

The shops on the north side have cantilevered rear extensions. Consequently the northern external façade of the bridge is asymmetrical, much altered and of no architectural merit, whereas the southern external side clearly shows the hand of Robert Adam.

Shops on the Pulteney Bridge  By Erebus555 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Shops on the Pulteney Bridge
By Erebus555 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sydney Gardens (formerly Bath Vauxhall Gardens)

The Sydney Gardens are the only remaining 18th century pleasure gardens in England.

The gardens were constructed in the 1790s opening in 1795 as a commercial pleasure grounds, following the development of Bathwick by Sir William Pulteney, 5th Baronet across the River Avon from the city centre. The original plans were by Thomas Baldwin and completed by Charles Harcourt Masters who included a maze or labyrinth, grotto, sham castle and an artificial rural scene with moving figures powered by a clockwork mechanism. The gardens were illuminated by over 15,000 “variegated lamps”. Around 1810 the Kennet and Avon Canal was built through the gardens.

Sydney Gardens  By Plumbum64 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sydney Gardens
By Plumbum64 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The Sydney Hotel

The Sydney Hotel was built within the gardens. The original design for the hotel, prepared by Thomas Baldwin in 1794, was a two-storey building which would serve the pleasure gardens. After Baldwin was bankrupted his design for the hotel was not implemented. Instead a three-storey building was designed by Charles Harcourt Masters. The foundation stone was laid in 1796 and the building was ready by 1799. Visitors entered the gardens through the Hotel. Projecting from the rear of the building at first floor level was a conservatory and a semi-circular Orchestra with a wide covered loggia below. Two semi-circular rows of supper boxes projected from the sides of the building. The gardens were used daily for promenades and public breakfasts which were attended by Jane Austen among others. At public breakfasts tea, coffee, rolls and Sally Lunn buns were served at about midday, followed by dancing. There were generally three evening galas each summer, usually on the birthdays of George III and the Prince of Wales, and in July to coincide with the Bath races. During these galas the gardens were lit with thousands of lamps and the guests took supper accompanied by music and fireworks. Breakfasts, coffee-drinking, newspaper-reading and card-playing took place in the ground floor of the Hotel and dancing in a ballroom on the first floor. All the rooms could be hired for private parties and meetings.

The Assembly Rooms

The Assembly Rooms formed the hub of fashionable Georgian society in the city, the venue being described as “the most noble and elegant of any in the kingdom” They were originally known as the Upper Rooms as there was also a lower assembly room in the city, which closed soon after the Upper Rooms opened. They served the newly built fashionable area which included The Circus, Queen Square and the Royal Crescent.

People would gather in the rooms in the evening for balls and other public functions, or simply to play cards. Mothers and chaperones bringing their daughters to Bath for the social season, hoping to marry them off to a suitable husband, would take their charge to such events where, very quickly, one might meet all the eligible men currently in the City.

Photo by Barbara S. Andrews

Photo by Barbara S. Andrews

The Theatre Royal

The present main entrance to the Theatre Royal, in Sawclose, was built in 1720 by Thomas Greenway, and was Beau Nash’s first house. The exterior of the building, with arches, pilasters, garlands and ornaments, which is visible from Beauford Square, was designed by George Dance the Younger and erected by John Palmer.

The theatre itself was erected in 1805, replacing the Old Orchard Street Theatre which was also called the Theatre Royal, which is now a Freemason’s Hall.

The theatre is said to be haunted by The Grey Lady, who was an actress centuries ago. She has been seen watching productions in the Grey Lady Box, and she leaves the distinctive scent of Jasmine. She has been seen and scented in recent years.

Theatre Royal, Bath   By MichaelMaggs (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Theatre Royal, Bath
By MichaelMaggs (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Text from Wikipedia.

About The Third MacPherson Sister (part of the Sweet Summer Kisses anthology)

TheThirdMacPhersonSister2inchAfter a disastrous fourth Season in London, Rebecca and her mother take refuge in Bath to determine their next course of action. Rebecca has always known she’ll never be able to measure up to her older sisters, the “Golden Twins,” who were the reigning queens of the ton in their day, but surely there is a gentleman somewhere capable of appreciating her finer qualities.

Miles Framingham, Duke of Aylesbury, finds himself in need a wife… although he doesn’t really want one. Burdened with the responsibilities of a dukedom from a young age, what he really yearns for is freedom. Marriage to the right woman, though, might not be such an onerous task.

When the hapless Rebecca finds herself pushed into the lap of this eminently eligible duke in the nave of Bath Abbey, a match between them seems ordained by the heavens… except for the little matter of his past history with her sisters.

SweetSummerKisses2med

Bluestockings and wallflowers seek happily-ever-afters. Only handsome, respectable and deeply romantic persons need apply. Dukes and marquesses will be given special consideration. Apply within.  

This anthology contains nine fun, heart-tugging, and wholesomely romantic Regency novellas that are as sigh-worthy as they are sweet, brought to you by USA Today and national bestselling, award-winning authors.

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