Inigo Jones (1573-1652) English architect and designer

England's first major architect and designer introduced into his country the classical architecture of the late Italian Renaissance.

Inigo Jones was born in London on July 15, 1573, the son of a Smithfield clothmaker. Sometime between 1600 and 1603, he is known to have visited Italy (possibly sponsored by the earl of Rutland), principally staying in Venice, but also attending theatre events at the Medici court in Florence. There he was greatly influenced by the architecture of the Romans, especially as adapted by the Italian architect Andrea Palladio, afther whom the style Palladian was named.

King Christian IV of Denmark induced him to leave Italy and accept an appointment at the Danish Court. Buildings are named both in Italy and Denmark as having been designed by Jones, but seemingly without proof.

A long association with the English court as a theatrical designer and an architect began in 1605 under British King James I and continued through the reign of Charles I. Jones designed fantastic settings and costumes for dozens of the elaborate court entertainments called masques, some of which he even wrote himself. At royal request, Jones also wrote a book entitled Stone-Heng Restored (sic) in which he reaches the astonishing conclusion that Stonehenge was the remains of a Roman Temple of the Tuscan order.

In 1615 Jones took the post of Surveyor General of royal buildings and began to design royal houses. A major work was the austere Queen's House in Greenwich, London (1617). His masterpiece 'though was the Banqueting House (1619-22) in Whitehall, London, a setting for formal banquets and court masques, and it was based on the design of a Roman basilica. The building was for many years the home of the Imperial War Museum, but now it has been restored to its original purpose as a venue for state occasions.

Jones introduced town planning to London in 1630, designing and constructing Covent Garden, including St. Paul's Church and its square. The restoration of St. Paul's Cathedral (1634-42) was another of his major projects, which had great influence on Sir Christopher Wren, who reconstructed the cathedral after the Great Fire of 1666.

At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, Jones was forced to flee London because of his associations with the Royalists. He then built other houses in the country. Especially regarded as outstanding was his advisory work on Wilton House, near Salisbury, which was built from 1649 to 1653, although this is now believed to be the work of his pupil and nephew James Webb.

Jones's later days were filled with adversity, and he died worn out with grief and disappointment in London on June 21, 1652. He was buried in the chancel of St. Benet's in Paul's Wharf.