The Stone Hall, Houghton Hall, Norfolk
Architects: Colin Campbell and James Gibbs (1721-1731)
Photograph: A. E. Henson (1920)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection
Houghton Hall (1721-31) is one of the most important houses of its time. It is also one of the most intriguing. Colen Campbell claimed in Vitruvius Britannicus that Houghton was his design, and he published plans for the house. However, these were a more ‘correct’ Palladian version of what was actually built. The main architect appears to have been James Gibbs (1682-1754), the designer of the Radcliffe Camera, who had trained in Rome. Campbell, it appears adapted Gibbs design: here the Baroque and Palladian combine to splendid effect.
The largest room of the house is the entrance hall, shown here in this photograph. A forty foot cube, Campbell supplied the room with a full complement of external architectural details: stone walls, pedimented doorcases, sculptural reliefs, deep galleries, niches and false windows. The sculptural effect is magnificent, but odd for an interior. Essentially the outside has been brought in, and the upholstered furniture looks slightly ill at ease.
This interior is peculiarly English. Rather than being based on Palladio, this form was really invented by Inigo Jones (1576-1652), who to the eighteenth-century Palladians was as much to be imitated as the Italian architect. This room was directly inspired by the hall at the Queen’s House, Greenwich, designed by Jones in the 1630s. Later Georgian architects would reconsider the merits of this approach, notably Robert Adam (1728-92).