On this day in 1573 – Inigo Jones was born

Inigo Jones was born on 15th July 1573 in Smithfield, London to Inigo Jones, a Welsh cloth worker. Little is known about his early life.

Jones is first credited for introducing the proscenium arch into English theatre along with the idea of movable scenery. Between 1605 and 1640 Jones staged over 500 performances mostly in collaboration with Ben Jonson. They would argue throughout their working relationship whether the stage or the words were the most important part of the theatre. Hundreds of drawings survive of Jones work as a draughtsman, which was an unknown concept at the time. Jones was also influenced by Italian design and not only learnt Italian but also visited the country.

In 1608 the first mention of structural work carried out by Jones is documented as a monument to Lady Cotton around the same time similar drawings appeared for the New Exchange in the Strand and the central tower of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

In 1609 Jones acted as an architectural consultant at Hatfield House and in 1610 he was appointed as Surveyor to the Prince of Wales, Henry Frederick. In this position he arranged a masque for the Prince and also contributed to alterations that were undertaken at St. James’ Palace, London.

On 27th April 1613 Jones was appointed to the position of Surveyor of the King’s Works and he travelled to Italy with the Earl of Arundel. It was here that Jones witnessed the architecture of Italy which would inspire his later work.

In 1615 Jones was appointed Surveyor-General of the King’s Works and Jones began building in London. In 1616 he began work on the Queen’s House, Greenwich for King James I’s wife but it was put on hold after his wife died in 1619, with only the foundations and the first storey built it would be a further 10 years before work would commence for King Charles I.

Banqueting HouseBetween 1619 and 1622 the Banqueting House in the Palace of Whitehall was built with the assistance of Jones assistant and nephew John Webb. It was designed in the style influenced by Palladio and cost £15,618.

In 1623 Jones would begin work on the Queen’s Chapel, St. James’ Palace in the style of the Pantheon of Rome. At the St Pauls Covent Gardensame time Jones was commissioned by the Earl of Bedford to build a residential square, which would later become known as the Covent Garden square.

Between 1634 and 1642 Jones worked on remodelling the dilapidated St. Paul’s Cathedral but his work was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Jones also had plans to redesign the Palace of Whitehall; however King Charles I’s financial difficulties and the outbreak of the civil war stopped this happening.

With the outbreak of civil war Jones found himself unemployed as the King’s houses were seized by the government. Jones retired to his home, Somerset House, and died on 21st June 1652. Unmarried Jones was buried next to his parents at St Benet Paul’s Wharf, a Welsh church within the city of London.

Inigo JonesInigo Jones

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