13 JANUARY 1996, Page 34

A new model Jones

Edward Chaney

CHELTENHAM BETRAYED by Timothy Mowl Redcliffe Press, f7.95, pp. 95 ARCHITECTURE WITHOUT KINGS: THE RISE OF PURITAN CLASSICISM UNDER CROMWELL by Timothy Mowl and Brian Earnshaw Manchester University Press, £45, £1 5.99, pp. 256 Whatever the state of scholarly publishing in general, British architectural history flourished in 1995. Partly because this robustly fascinating subject is not monopolised by the university system (and is therefore less susceptible to those aca- demic fashions which threaten to destroy the rest of the humanities), not only the quantity but quality of what has been published has been impressively high. John Schofield's Medieval London Houses, Malcolm Airs' Tudor and Jacobean Country Houses, Giles Worsley's Classical Architec- ture in Britain, John Harris's Palladian Revival and Jules Lubbock's Tyranny of Taste all presented important new interpre- tative surveys.

Meanwhile, our knowledge of the 1600- 1840 period has for a third time been sub- stantially enlarged by the latest edition of Sir Howard Colvin's classic Biographical Dictionary of British Architiects; Lucy Gent has edited a major collection of essays on a wide variety of visual topics in the 1550- 1660 period under the title Albion's Classi- cism. The latter is a slightly surprising title, given the reluctance of some of her con- tributors to engage with chauvinist Classi- cism at all. Gender and subjectivist critical theory occasionally threaten sanity in this collection but never overwhelm. Finally, after almost two decades of painstaking primary research, John Peacock has pro- duced his superb magnum opus: The Stage Designs of Inigo Jones: The European Con- text (Cambridge University Press).

Also published in 1995 was Timothy Mowl's very effective indictment of what has happened since the war to one of our most beautiful towns. Though there are some who think that English Heritage has too much power to protect historic build- ings Cheltenham Betrayed demonstrates that it has been given too little too late. Those who comprise the unholy alliance between philistines and trendies, united in unconvincing concern lest England become a mere Heritage Centre, should take a stroll through this Regency spa town now devasted by car-parks and concrete blocks of unbelievable banality.

Dr Mowl's swaggering prose style (he has been called the Paddy Ashdown of Archi- tectural History) and his confident range of reference are ideally suited to the quasi- political purpose of Cheltenham Betrayed, which concludes with some constructive suggestions (mine is that its second edition should include an index). Mowl is so ener- getic that whilst surveying Cheltenham, he has managed to co-author another, much longer book of loftier historical pretension. Architecture without Kings: The Rise of Puri- tan Classicism under Cromwell is the third book he has done in collaboration with Brian Earnshaw. The blurb informs us that: The last unexplored frontier in English archi- tectual history is that enigmatic time between 1642 and 1660 . . . [when] a new capitalist puritan classicism emerged under the influ- ence of its key practitioner, Inigo Jones . . . Mowl and Earnshaw challenge established views . . . and dismiss the myth of Isaac de Caux .

Most of the books mentioned above deal with the extaordinary phenomenon of Inigo Jones, but given its title — and the thesis implicit in its subtitle — Architecture with- out Kings is somewhat surprising in the extent to which this greatest Surveyor of the King's Works features. On 22 July 1650, after years of poor health and failing sight, the 77-year-old Jones signed his last will and testament. The friend of Catholic historian Edmund Bolton, fellow traveller in Italy with Catholic priests Tobie Matthew and George Gage, co-creator of court masques with Catholic Ben Jonson, collaborator of countless Catholic musicians, favoured protégé of Catholic Lords Rutland and Arundel, the Marquis of Winchester and the Duke of Lennox, as well as of both Catholic Queens of Eng- land, Anne of Denmark and Henrietta Maria, JP, MP and Surveyor until sacked as a Royalist and 'delinquent', Jones stated in his will that he was 'in perfect health of mind, but weake in body'. In 1626 his doc- tor had diagonsed chronic nephritis. In 1636 he needed new spectacles to inspect A marvellous invention. It means you can let them wander about without the fear that they're going to get lost.' newly arrived pictures for the King. In 1646, after the sequestration of his estate, he explained to Parliamentary Commis- sioners that 'his age and weaknesse of body [had] not permitted him to goe much abroad in this tyme.' He died in 1652, `through grief according to his pupil Webb, 'for the fatal calamity of his dread master', a year before Cromwell made him- self Lord Protector. His last securely docu- mented work as an architect was for Henrietta Maria at Wimbledon House. This was in 1641 before he left London for Beverley where he loaned the bankrupt King £500 to fight the Puritan rebels.

The Marxist Professor Christopher Hill once wrote a book about Milton which so thoroughly remodelled the great poet as a pub-frequenting man-of-the-people, 'in permanent dialogue with the plebeian radi- cal thinkers of the English Revolution' (one whose journey to Italy was of minimal consequence), that he emerged as an unrecognisable hybrid best described as `Hillton'.

Mowl and Earnshaw may have been influenced by Wilton, for they pronounce Paradise Lost to be 'the real key to popular taste' of the period. They dispargage Jones's 'childish' masques, done for 'an inept royal despotism' and are so enthusi- astic about post-Regicidal England (`pros- perous . . . under a revolutionary new order') that, like Milton, they must be mys- tified that the people rejected this paradise to restore the monarchy.

Mowl and Earnshaw seem unenthusastic about royals of any period, even our own soft-core variety. They blame the abandon- ment of the traditional attribution to Jones of the south front of Wilton (in favour of Isaac de Caux) and of Coleshill (in favour of Roger Pratt) on prejudice against the idea of Jones working for the Parliamentar- ian Lord Pembroke and Sir George Pratt. This prejudice has its roots in

a sugary reverence for the monarchy [which] has infected most architectural historians who must, by the nature of their trade, keep on good terms with the surviving aristocracy and the wealthy establishment that own great houses.

Whatever their own credo, Mowl and Earnshaw have managed to create a New Model Jones. This has inevitably necessi- tated creativity where Jones's realtionships are concerned. He has, for example, acquired a new (undocumented) patron in the person of the future regicide, Sir John Danvers. We are told that the similarly treacherous 4th Earl of Pembroke, 'a great Italophile', was Inigo's friend for 30 years'. If this had been a slip for the 14th Earl of Arundel (who is scarcely mentioned and then confused with his son), a substantiat- ing footnote could have been supplied. Arundel hired Jones as his cicerone on his second journey to Italy; he cited him as his `most approved good friend' in a draft will soon after his return, and was still corre- sponding with him when he died in Padua 30 years later 'in the bosom of the Supreme Catholic Church'.

Ironically, if Jones and Roger Pratt ever met, as Mowl and Earnshaw claim they did, they would have done so thanks to this Paduan connection rather than any Puritan one. Friendship between Jones and Pem- broke, however, remains an undocumented fantasy intended to support the assertion that Jones drew the mediocre elevations for Wilton in the 1630s and then, after the fire of 1647, leapt from his sick bed to `pour out enchanting designs' for its new doors and ceilings. None of the latter are, as stated, 'signed by Jones'; a few are anno- tated by him and his pupil John Webb, but both style and the nature of Webb's marginalia suggest that Webb, rather than the aged master himself, actually drew them.

Although our authors concede that Jones was captured during Cromwell's 1645 sack of Royalist and Catholic Basing House (stripped of his fine clothes and carried away in a blanket), they speculate that Sir Gilbert Pickering of Cobthorne in Northamptonshire (`this epitome of those Minimalist designs that Inigo Jones had produced in the late 1630s') arranged a safe passage for the architect. Though pure speculation, 'The Pickering connection could also explain why Jones was allowed to take up an honoured residence in ex- royal Somerset House', where, we are told, he lived 'as a Puritan among the Puritan elite and resumed his architectural career'. It is asserted that 'Jones not only went on designing after the Civil War, but he also evolved'. On the basis of his 'Late Presen- tation Drawings' (a phrase derived from the otherwise dismissed Gordon Higgott's careful study of Jones as a draughtsman), Mowl and Eamshaw present him as the founding father of 'Puritan Minimalism': 'a minimalist astylar classicism for subjects of "Puritan" inclination.' Unfortunately for their argument (though at one point they Concede that Jones's Catholic Chapel at St James's is also minimalist), 'the prototype for this eminently simple style' is a Serlio- inspired drawing that probably never left Jones's office and was done in 1638 for Arundel's Padua-educated son, an ardent Royalist who came to blows with Pembroke in Parliament and whose own son became a Cardinal.

Though most academics now tend to `problematise' even the most self-evident historical material, here one would have welcomed further analysis of the use (or non-use) of the classical orders and the relative availability of the architect to supervise a more (or less) complex and Costly building. In 1634, Jones, over- burdened with Royal projects, recommend- ed that his chief mason, Nicholas Stone, should build the new Goldsmiths' Hall. The advantage of the astylar elevation agreed upon, lay not merely in its cheap- ness but in the ease with which Stone could direct its construction. (John Newman's fascinating article on this building, which foreigners admired as one of the most beautiful in London, is not cited in this book). But the ultimate revelation of a larger perspective would have been the real source of the 'Puritan Minimalism' perfect- ed at Coleshill in the decade following the death of Inigo Jones. This style had little to do with post-Reformation religion or even politics, for it was based on the residences of long-dead Catholic grandees, those aus- tere Italian palaces so much admired by Jones and Pratt during their pre- Cromwellian Grand Tours.