10 Must Reads on the English Baroque Era

Fri, 08/26/2016 - 11:04am -- lwhite

     On August 31, John Tschirch returns for the second part of his four part lecture series “The Great English House”.  His second talk “Baroque Drama: Castle Howard” will focus on the country estate of the Earls of Carlisle designed by Sir John Vanbrugh in the culmination of the English Baroque style. Begun in 1699, construction would take a little more than a century finally being completed around 1811.


     The rise of the Baroque Style in England follows the Great London fire in 1666. With two-thirds of the city destroyed, noteworthy architects Christopher Wren, Nicholas Hawskmoore, and William Talman, begin their careers rebuilding numerous secular buildings, public buildings, and eventually designing brand new country houses. The Baroque Period also follows the Stuart Dynasty, coming to an end with the passing of Queen Ann in 1714, which is why it is often called Stuart Architecture.  The Stuart Period will also see the likes of Isaac Newton and John Milton as well as the founding of the Royal Society. To learn more about the times, the architectural style and architects, and the ruling family by checking out some of the books below!


The Polite Tourist: Four Centuries of Country House Visiting by Adrian Tinniswood

Country house visiting is one of Britain's favorite leisure activities. For more than five centuries, historic buildings have opened their doors, inviting the tourist to step inside. Elizabethans strolled around palaces, royal and private, like Hampton Court and Hardwick Hall, while Georgians appreciated the classical refinement of properties like Kedleston Hall and Osterley Park, admiring the treasures brought back from the Grand Tour. Adrian Tinniswood takes the reader on a grand tour around the historic houses of England, and discovers how, throughout the centuries, the idea of national heritage has developed.




 English Country House Interiors by Jeremy Musson

 In this splendid book, renowned historian Jeremy Musson explores the interiors and decoration of the great country houses of England, offering a brilliantly detailed presentation of the epitome of style in each  period of the country house, including the great Jacobean manor house, the Georgian mansion, and the Gothic Revival castle. For the first time, houses known worldwide for their exquisite architecture and  decoration--including Wilton, Chatsworth, and Castle Howard--are seen in unprecedented detail.


 From "Bessie of the Broad Apron", whose dowry founded the Howard fortunes in the 16th century, to the filming of "Brideshead Revisited" in the 20th, this book tells the story of the powerful family who have lived at  Castle Howard since it was built in 1702. By means of letters, diaries, visitors books, menus, accounts and many other first-hand reports, the author has captured the spirit of the castle and its shifting household. It  investigates the family's political and artistic achievements. In its heyday the estate was a great liberal center. This book is a social history which goes behind the scenes to describe the daily lives of the Earls of Carlisle  and their guests, and the events which occupied them.




 Sir Christopher Wren by Harold Hutchison

 Sir Christopher Wren PRS is one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history. He was accorded responsibility for rebuilding 52 churches in the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666, including his  masterpiece, St. Paul's Cathedral, on Ludgate Hill, completed in 1710. The principal creative responsibility for a number of the churches is now more commonly attributed to others in his office, especially Nicholas  Hawksmoor. Other notable buildings by Wren include the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and the south front of Hampton Court Palace. The Wren Building, the main building at the College of William and Mary, is  attributed to Wren. It is the oldest academic building in continuous use in the United States. Educated in Latin and Aristotelian physics at the University of Oxford, Wren was a notable anatomist, astronomer, geometer,  and mathematician-physicist, as well as an architect. He was a founder of the Royal Society (president 1680-82), and his scientific work was highly regarded by Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal.


 McCormick's study is the first to show the interrelation of Vanbrugh's seemingly disparate careers as architect and dramatist. Perhaps because his talent embraced two diverse disciplines, Sir John Vanbrugh has received  less critical attention that his achievements deserve. Vanbrugh wrote or adapted ten comedies (The Relapse and The Provoked Wife proving the most successful) and designed a host of country houses of which the best  known are Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard. In fact, no one built grander or more controversial country homes than Vanbrugh




 Hawksmoor by Kerry Downes

 Nicholas Hawksmoor was the architect of some of London's most prominent landmarks - St Mary Woolnoth in the City; St George's, Bloomsbury; Christchurch, Spitalfields; and part of Greenwich Hospital - and of other  notable English buildings, such as All Souls, Oxford, and the Mausoleum at Castle Howard. Yet he has been comparatively little studied and this title is by the acknowledged authority on his work. The illustrations  include photographs of all his surviving buildings, and drawings of those which remained projects or have been demolished, making this a useful introduction to the work of an inventive, highly individual architect.




 London Rising: The Men Who Made Modern London by Leo Hollis

 By the middle of the seventeenth century, London was on the verge of collapse. Its ancient infrastructure could no longer support its explosive growth; the English Civil War had torn society apart; and in 1665 the capital  was struck by a plague that claimed 100,000 lives. And then, the following year, the Great Fire destroyed huge swaths of the city. As Leo Hollis recounts in his stirring history of the period, modern London was born out  of this crucible. Hollis paints a vibrant portrait of one of the world’s greatest cities, and of a generation of men whose impact on London is unmatched. 




 The Royal Stuarts by Allan Massie

 Drawing on the accounts of historians past and present, novels, and plays, this is the complete story of the Stuart family, documenting their path from the salt marshes of Brittany to the thrones of Scotland and England  and eventually to exile. The Royal Stuarts brings to life figures like Mary, Queens of Scots, Charles I, and Bonnie Prince Charlie, uncovering a family of strong affections and fierce rivalries. Told with panache, Allan  Massie's The Royal Stuarts is the gripping true story of backstabbing, betrayal, and ambition gone awry.




 Going Dutch: How England Plundered Holland’s Glory by Lisa Jardine

 In Going Dutch, renowned writer Lisa Jardine tells the remarkable history of the relationship between England and Holland, two of Europe’s most important colonial powers at the dawn of the modern age. Jardine, the  author of The Awful End of Prince William the Silent, demonstrates that England’s rise did not come at the expense of the Dutch as is commonly thought, but was actually a “handing on” of the baton of cultural and  intellectual supremacy to a nation expanding in international power and influence.




 By Permission of Heaven: the True Story of the Great Fire of London by Adrian Tinniswood

 Tinniswood gives a dynamic recounting of the horror that gripped London in 1666 after a small baker's fire erupted and spread, destroying 13,200 homes, 93 churches, St. Paul's Cathedral, and every administrative  building in the capital. Looting, savage violence, panic, and chaos reigned, but what happened in the fire's wake was even more extraordinary.