Nicholas Hawksmoor

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Nicholas Hawksmoor (probably 1661 - 25 March 1736) was a British architect born in Nottinghamshire, probably in East Drayton[1].

His career formed the brilliant middle link in Britain's trio of great baroque architects. Hawksmoor was characterised by Howard Colvin as "more assured in his command of the classical vocabulary than the untrained Vanbrugh, more imaginative in his vision than the intellectual Wren." From about 1684 to about 1700 Hawksmoor worked with his teacher, Christopher Wren, on projects including Chelsea Hospital, St. Paul's Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace and Greenwich Hospital. Thanks to Wren's influence as Surveyor-General, the modest and diffident Hawksmoor was named Clerk of the Works at Kensington Palace (1689) and Deputy Surveyor of Works at Greenwich (1705). In 1718, when Wren was superseded by the new, amateur Surveyor, William Benson, Hawksmoor was deprived of his double post to provide places for Benson's brother, a bitter blow. "Poor Hawksmoor," wrote Vanbrugh in 1721. "What a Barbarous Age... What wou'd Monsr. Colbert in France have given for such a man?"

He then worked for a time with Sir John Vanbrugh, helping him build Blenheim Palace for John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, where he took charge after Vanbrugh's final break with the demanding Duchess of Marlborough, and Castle Howard for Charles Howard, later the 3rd Earl of Carlisle. There is no doubt that Hawksmoor brought to the brilliant amateur the professional grounding he had received from Wren, and in Colvin's words, "enabled Vanbrugh's heroic designs to be translated into actuality."

In 1702, Hawksmoor designed the baroque country house of Easton Neston in Northamptonshire for Sir William Fermor. This is the only country house for which he was the sole architect, though he extensively remodelled Ockham House for the Lord Chief Justice King (now mostly destroyed). Perhaps fortunately, Easton Neston was not completed as he intended, for the symmetrical unexecuted flanking wings and entrance colonnade were very much in the style of John Vanbrugh; whereas the house as it stands is pure innovative Hawksmoor at his finest.

In 1713 Hawksmoor was commissioned to complete King's College, Cambridge[2], the scheme consisted of a Fellows' Building along King's Parade, and opposite the Chapel a monumental range of buildings containing the Great Hall, kitchens and to the south of that the library and Provost's Lodge. Wooden models and plans of the scheme survive, but it proved too expensive and Hawksmoor produced a second scaled down design. But the college that had invested heavily in the South Sea Company lost their money when the 'bubble' burst in 1720. The result was that Hawksmoor's scheme would never be executed, the college was finished later in the 18th century by James Gibbs and early in the 19th century by William Wilkins.

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