Banqueting House - London, England
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Marine Biologist
N 51° 30.286 W 000° 07.585
30U E 699423 N 5709874
Quick Description: Although it has been modified a bit, the Banqueting House is the only integral building of the Whitehall Palace complex that is still standing. It is listed as one of the Great Buildings of the World.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 6/21/2012 7:18:48 PM
Waymark Code: WMEP51
Published By: Groundspeak Charter Member BruceS
Views: 5

Long Description:
"The Banqueting House, Whitehall, London, is the grandest and best known survivor of the architectural genre of banqueting house, and the only remaining component of the Palace of Whitehall. The building is important in the history of English architecture as the first building to be completed in the neo-classical style which was to transform English architecture.

Begun in 1619, and designed by Inigo Jones in a style influenced by Palladio, the Banqueting House was completed in 1622 at a cost of £15,618, 27 years before King Charles I of England was executed on a scaffold in front of it in January 1649.

The building was controversially re-faced in Portland stone in the 19th century, though the details of the original façade were faithfully preserved. Today, the Banqueting House is a national monument, open to the public and preserved as a Grade I listed building. It is cared for by an independent charity, Historic Royal Palaces, which receives no funding from the Government or the Crown.


The Palace of Whitehall was largely the creation of King Henry VIII, expanding an earlier mansion that had belonged to Cardinal Wolsey, originally known as York Place. The King was determined that his new palace should be the "biggest palace in Christendom", a place befitting his newly created status as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. All evidence of the disgraced Wolsey was eliminated and the building rechristened the Palace of Whitehall.

During Henry's reign, the palace had no designated banqueting house, the King preferring to banquet in a temporary structure purpose-built in the gardens. The first permanent banqueting house at Whitehall had a short life. It was built for James I but was destroyed by fire in January 1619, when workmen, clearing up after New Year's festivities, decided to incinerate the rubbish inside the building.

An immediate replacement was commissioned from the fashionable architect Inigo Jones. Jones had spent time in Italy studying the architecture evolving from the Renaissance and that of Palladio, and returned to England with what at the time were revolutionary ideas: to replace the complicated and confused style of the Jacobean English Renaissance with a simpler, classically inspired design. His new banqueting house at Whitehall was to be a prime example of this. Jones made no attempt to harmonise his design with the Tudor palace of which it was to be part.


The design of the Banqueting House is classical in concept. It introduced a refined Italianate Renaissance style that was unparalleled in the free and picturesque Jacobean architecture of England, where Renaissance motifs were still filtered through the engravings of Flemish Mannerist designers. The roof is all but flat and the roofline is a balustrade. On the street façade, all the elements of two orders of engaged columns, Corinthian over Ionic, above a high rusticated basement, are interlocked in a harmonious whole.

The building is on three floors. The ground floor, a warren of cellars and store rooms, is low; its small windows indicating by their size the lowly status and usage of the floor, above which is the double-height banqueting hall, which falsely appears from the outside as a first-floor piano nobile with a secondary floor above. The seven bays of windows divided by Ionic pilasters of the "first floor" are surmounted by alternating triangular and segmental pediments, while the windows of the "second floor" are unadorned casements. Immediately beneath the entablature, which projects to emphasize the central three bays, the capitals of the Corinthian pilasters are linked by swags in relief above which the entablature, crowned by a balustrade, is supported by dental corbel table. Under the upper frieze, festoons and masks suggest the feasting and revelry associated with the concept of a royal banqueting hall.

Much of the work on the Banqueting House was overseen by Nicholas Stone, a Devonshire mason who had trained in Holland. It has been said that until this time English sculpture resembled that described by the Duchess of Malfi: "the figure cut in alabaster kneels at my husband's tomb." Like Inigo Jones, Stone was well aware of Florentine art, and introduced to England a more delicate classical form of sculpture inspired by Michelangelo's Medici tombs. This is evident in his swags on the street façade of the Banqueting House, similar to that which adorns the plinth of his Francis Holles memorial. All of this was quite new to England.

In 1638, Jones drew the designs for a new and massive palace at Whitehall in which his banqueting house was to be incorporated as one wing enclosing a series of seven courtyards. However, Charles I, who commissioned the plans, never truly had the resources to execute them; his lack of funds and the tensions that eventually led to the Civil War intervened and the plans were permanently shelved.

The plans of the new palace reveal the ideas behind Jones' concept of Palladianism, which is not obvious from viewing the Banqueting House today as one entity. The plans show that it was intended to be one small flanking wing of one bay of a monumental façade.

Architecturally, the Banqueting House was always be to be at odds with its surroundings. In January 1698, the Tudor Palace was razed by fire; fire engines pumping water from the adjacent River Thames were unable to check the flames, which raged for seventeen hours, after which all that remained was the Banqueting House and the Whitehall and Holbein Gates.

Following the fire, Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor were asked to design a new palace, but nothing came of the scheme. It has been said that the widowed William III never cared for the area, but that had his wife Mary II been alive, with her appreciation of the historical significance of Whitehall, he would have insisted on the rebuilding."

-- Source

City, State or City, Country: London, England

Year Built: 1619-1622

Architect: Inigo Jones

Webpage from or other approved listing: [Web Link]

Other website with more information about building: [Web Link]

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