Design for Burlington House, Piccadilly, London: front elevation
RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collection
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collection
Born in Yorkshire in 1694, Richard Boyle succeeded his father to become the Third Earl of Burlington in 1704.
Like many of his predecessors, as a young man Lord Burlington made several visits to the continent. Travelling extensively between 1714 and 1726, his Grand Tour included the cities of Paris, Rome and most significantly Venice. It was here, and in the surrounding Veneto region, that he became fired with enthusiasm for Palladio.
His contributions to British architecture were many, but arguably, his greatest legacy was as a collector of drawings by Palladio and Inigo Jones. Most of these are now treasured by the RIBA in the British Architectural Library.
Burlington used these drawings well. As a patron and mentor to architects such as William Kent, Colen Campbell and Henry Flitcroft, he gave them access to Palladio's drawings.
He commissioned a number of important buildings:
Although employing other architects, Burlington was extensively involved in the design of these buildings himself. It is difficult to quantify his contribution. In some projects he took control, such as the dormitory at Westminster School (1722-30). By this date, Burlington held the prime position in architecture: his design was preferred to an alternative scheme by Sir Christopher Wren.
Burlington died in 1753, his legacy clear in the wealth of eighteenth-century Neo-Palladian buildings across Britain, the result of his determined promotion of the ideas of Palladio and, to a lesser extent, those of Inigo Jones.
His legacy is also to be seen in the extensive collections of drawings by Palladio, now held in trust by the British Architectural Library and which can be seen by prior appointment at the RIBA Architecture Study Rooms.