Lost and hidden villas

Wanstead House

Design for Wanstead house, Wanstead, London

Colen Campbell. Vitruvius Britannicus (London, 1725), Vol. III, p. 39-40
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collection


Colen Campbell produced three designs for Wanstead House, Essex. The second of these was used in construction; it was similar to Wanstead House III, shown here, although it did not include the end pavilions.

This third design, which was never built, found fame in published form in volume three of Campbell's book 'Vitruvius Britannicus'.

Wanstead House was too vast to be considered a villa, as was the third design for it. Nevertheless, the composition shown in the third design for a central block with a projecting six columned portico, flanked by two lower wings and end towers is an enlarged adaptation of some of Palladio's villas.

Some of the detailing also appears to echo villa design, most significantly the Venetian windows used in the two end towers, a motif Campbell was to use at Houghton Hall.

All three Wanstead House designs proved influential in the development of the country house, acting as a source for Prior Park in Bath, and Wentworth Woodhouse in North Yorkshire.

Innovative features at Wanstead House when built included

  • the horizontal divisions of the façade, following the tradition of Inigo Jones
  • the temple-like projecting portico with pitched roof behind continuing across the depth of the house, the first of its kind in England
  • the use of the Corinthian order internally at a size almost the same as that on the portico, and arranged to correspond to the external columns

Wanstead House was the first English house to adopt such characteristic Roman – and Palladian – features.

Unfortunately this grand house was demolished in 1824, and so Wanstead can be considered to be both a "hidden" and "lost" villa.