Villa Rotonda and its influence

Mereworth

 

Design for Mereworth Castle, Kent: elevation of the entrance front, not as executed

Design for Mereworth Castle, Kent: elevation of the entrance front, not as executed Enlarge image

Design for Mereworth Castle, Kent: elevation of the entrance front, not as executed
Campbell, Colen (1676-1729)
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collection

Villa Rotonda (Villa Almerico Capra), Vicenza: plan, half elevation and half section

Design for Mereworth Castle, Kent: elevation of the entrance front, not as executed Enlarge image

Villa Rotonda (Villa Almerico Capra), Vicenza: plan, half elevation and half section
Andrea Palladio 
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collection

Mereworth in Kent was designed by Colen Campbell around 1722 – 1724. A close imitation of Palladio’s Villa Rotonda, it was built as a retreat for John Fane, later Earl of Westmorland.

A square building flanked by four porticos, surmounted by a dome, the overall symmetry and layout of the building, window arrangement and application of architectural ornament, including the use of the Ionic order, are true to Palladio’s design.

Aware that Mereworth might be considered a mere copy, Campbell set out how it differed from the Villa Rotonda in his Vitruvius Britannicus (volume III, 1725).

He notes his “intirely different” plan. Both are centralised, but Mereworth covers a larger surface area, includes a wider variety of room sizes and shapes, and adopts circular rather than triangular stairs around the central dome.

Campbell points out that his porticos are open at the sides, and that for exterior ornament he used Portland stone rather than brick with stucco and a wooden entablature.

The use of location is different too. Palladio’s porticos were conceived as loggias, or large balconies, to relax in and enjoy the surrounding scenery; Mereworth sits low in a river valley, subject to the changeable English climate. Set on the foundations of a former castle, it has a moat and is accessed by two bridges.

Despite these differences, the imitation is clear. In turn Mereworth became a source for other villas, including Foots Cray in Kent in the 18th century, and Julian Bicknell’s Henbury Rotonda of 1983.