Lost and hidden villas

Wilton House

Wilton House, Wilton, seat of Thomas Earl of Pembroke: elevation of the garden front with plans of the first and second story

RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collection
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collection


The south facing Classical façade of Wilton House became the model for many of the great houses of the eighteenth century. The design of the house as it stands today is the work of several architects, all of them influenced in some way by Palladio.

The central ornate Venetian window, classical detailing including window surrounds and end towers can be attributed to Isaac de Caus who, with the advice of Inigo Jones, had completed an earlier remodelling of the façadein 1636.

The tower on the east side was built to hide the old house behind it; another was built to the west to complete the symmetrical design.

John Webb’s design

The south front which can be seen today is that of John Webb, as illustrated in this plate from Colen Campbell's book 'Vitruvius Britannicus'.

By the time the house was severely damaged by fire in 1647 or 1648, de Caus had died and Jones was too elderly to attend to the work himself, so he passed it on to Webb.

Webb recreated the façade with a few alterations, most notably raising the end pavilions and giving them pediments, rather than the pyramidal roofs that de Caus had designed.

He used a more Italianate model than de Caus, looking at examples of tower pavilions in both Scamozzi’s and Palladio’s work, notably the Villa Pisani and the Villa Emo in Fanzolo, which has arcades that end in tower-dovecots.

Webb’s interiors were also to be influential, particularly the “Cube Room” and the “Double Cube Room.” Although the execution of the rooms’ decoration was predominantly French, the basic idea of their proportions comes from Palladio.

Find out more about Palladian interiors.