Page images
PDF
EPUB

PROGRESS OF THE WORKS.

305

rarely had an opportunity of coming down to Hampton Court. She managed, however, to do so now and then, to see how things were getting on, and to report on the progress of the works to her husband. On these occasions, she by no means contented herself with a mere perfunctory and unintelligent inspection : on the contrary, we are assured in Wren's “Parentalia” that “the Queen pleased herself from time to time in examining and surveying the drawings, con

[graphic][merged small]

trivances, and the whole progress of the present building, and in giving thereon her own judgment, which was exquisite; for there were few arts or sciences in which her Majesty had not only an elegant taste, but a knowledge much superior to any of her sex in that, or, it may be, any former age.”

But the absence of the King, and the great expenses consequent on the war, made it very difficult to extract the requisite funds for carrying on the works, from a reluctant and deplenished Treasury. Mary, who was very anxious that the

new apartments should be got into a forward state against the King's return, and who had probably received letters from him exhorting her to press them on, writes to him on the subject on June 24th (O.S.), 1690 : “As for the buildings, I fear there will be many obstacles, for I spoke to Sir J. Lowther this very day, and hear so much use for money, and find so little, that I cannot tell whether that of Hampton Court will not be the worst for it, especially since the French are in the Channel, and at present between Portland and us, from whence the stone must come.”

Three weeks after, on the 12th of July, 1690, she came down to the palace to see how the works were progressing, arriving so early in the morning as to be able to see what she wanted, and get back to Whitehall by midday. On the night of the same day she wrote, while in bed at eleven o'clock, to tell the King that things were still going on very slowly, “want of money and Portland stone being the hindrances, and indeed, in a time when there are such pressing necessities, I am almost ashamed to speak about it, and yet it is become so just a debt that it ought to be paid.” But though the debt amounted to £ 54,484, it remained unliquidated for nearly ten years—a state of things that seems to have been chronic in those days, as far as the works at Hampton Court were concerned.

As to the Portland stone, it was required for the frameworks of the windows, the string-courses and other stone ornaments in the new building; and we may observe that through the want of it, the window-dressings of the top storey, on the inner side of the east range of Wren's quadrangle, were put in with Bath stone. This stone, however, decayed so much in comparison with the rest of the stonework, that a few years ago it had to be restored, and was replaced in Portland stone—the deficiency which Queen Mary bewailed being thus at last made good, two hundred years later.

The buildings were, by the beginning of 1691, sufficiently advanced to enable William and Mary to judge what the general appearance of the new edifice would be. As we have already indicated, its form is a massive and imposing, rather than a beautiful block, in the debased pseudo-classic style of the later Italian Renaissance, with windows, square, round, and oblong, arranged uniformly on horizontal lines.

GENERAL ASPECT OF THE NEW BUILDING. 307

The material used in its construction is red brick for the surface of the walls, relieved with Portland stone in the windows, doorways, coigns, string-courses, balustrades and other ornamental details, to harmonize with the older parts of the palace. But the red brick, which invests the gables, parapets, bay windows, turrets, and chimneys of the old irregularly built Tudor structure with so charmingly picturesque an air, produces, when employed in these large uniform

[graphic][merged small]

rectangular elevations, an impression of pretentious meanness rather than splendour or beauty. This, however, is due, not merely to the architectural style of Wren's palace, but also, in a great measure, to the difference in colour of the brickwork, which in the older building, besides being of a deeper and richer prevailing tone, varies, in different bricks, from light pinks to deep crimsons and purples, so that in a few square feet of wall

sometimes find a dozen or more different shades, while every brick in the new building is of an exactly similar tint of glaring scarlet, still remaining as raw and untoned as ever after the lapse of exactly two centuries of time. Of this only a visit to Hampton Court can convey an adequate idea. But of the stiffness of outline and the sameness of architectural feature in the new palace, the reader can form some conception from the annexed facsimile of an engraving of the East Front.

space we may

The main idea of Wren's design here, as also in the South Front and within the quadrangle, was evidently borrowed from some of the palaces he had seen during his travels in Italy and France; and in regard to this façade to the east, he and his royal master, who supervised the works throughout, intending it to be the principal front of the new building -facing as it does the Great Fountain Garden and the canal and avenues of the House Park—resolved that it should be decorated with more lavishness than the rest of the new structure. On this account the compartment in the centre, which includes five out of the twenty-one bays, is all faced with stone, very richly ornamented and carved. On the ground floor, the entrance gates, occupying the three central bays, and leading from the cloisters of the new quadrangle into the garden, are flanked by four rectangular stone piers supporting a stone plinth, on which stand four fluted columns of the Corinthian order. These columns themselves flank the three middle windows of the first floor, and sustain a large triangular pediment, finely sculptured in basrelief. On each side are two pilasters of the same order supporting a continuation of the entablature.

The windows of the first or principal floor are those of the royal apartments, the three middle ones being the Queen's Drawing Room; the round windows above them light the entresol, or, to use the preferable old English word, the half-storey, which, in the case of the loftier State Rooms, is included in their height; and the square windows of the top storey are those of the apartments assigned to various officials and attendants about the Court. The height of this, as well as of the South Front, is 60 feet 2 inches.

The general architectural effect of this façade has been well criticised by Dallaway, the editor of Walpole's “ Anecdotes" : “ The innumerable mezzanine circular windows, placed under a range of others exactly square, a pediment beneath the balustrade obscuring others in part, and the

[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors]

THE SOUTH FRONT OF WILLIAM III.'s NEW PALACE, SHOWING PART OF THE PRIVY GARDENS.

(From an Engraving by Sutton Nicholls in 1695.)

« PreviousContinue »