Early in the 17th century an English architect named Inigo Jones studied in Italy. He learned the rules and proportions for Classical buildings which had been worked out by an Italian architect named Palladio. When he returned home he designed the first true Italian Renaissance buildings to appear in England, the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall, London, and the Queen's House at Greenwich: We can still see both of them.
Palladian buildings, as those built in this style are sometimes called, are simple and dignified. They are rectangular, with no gables and no projections or wings. The main lines of Gothic buildings, with their steep gables, pointed windows, pinnacles and spires, are vertical, leading the eye upward, but those of Palladian buildings are horizontal. The general effect is serene and restful.
The windows, unlike those of late Gothic and Elizabethan times, are small in proportion to the wall space, and they are arranged at regular intervals. Each window is set in a stone frame which we call an architrave, and sometimes there is a pediment, either round- or triangular-headed, above each one. Sometimes pilasters are placed between the windows along the face of the building.
Columns are correct in their proportions and support horizontal lintels, as those of Ancient Greece did, or semi-circular arches, like those of Ancient Rome, but never pointed arches. Sometimes there are colonnades in front of an upper floor, as there is on the Queen's House, Greenwich. The main rooms in such houses are on the first floor. The hall is no longer a living-room but is simply the space into which the front door opens and from which a splendid staircase rises to the lofty, handsome rooms above.
The lower part of the outside walls of such mansions as these are built up of large stone blocks with a rough surface separated from each other by deep grooves. This makes the base of the building look firm and substantial. We say a wall like this is `rusticated'. At the top of the building a parapet usually hides the roof or any sign of the chimneys.
Inigo Jones and his followers had a great deal of influence on the architecture of their time. Soon all new buildings were designed by architects who had studied Italian Renaissance architecture and who adapted its rules to the needs of English people.
In later 17th-century houses the roofs are not always hidden behind a parapet. Sometimes they are more steeply pitched and extend far out over the walls to form wide eaves. Such roofs are 'hipped'-that means they slope up to the ridge from all four sides instead of having gables. `Dormer' windows, which seem to grow out of the roof, are inserted to light the top-story rooms.
Inigo Jones decorated the walls of the main rooms in his great houses with panelling made of moulded plaster and touched up with gold. He had pictures painted on the ceilings. But in most 17th-century houses the walls were still panelled in wood, but the' panels were much larger than those in Tudor and Elizabethan houses.
After the Great Fire of London in 1666, when old St. Paul's Cathedral was destroyed, the great architect, Sir Christopher Wren, rebuilt it in the Renaissance style, with a colonnade and pediment at the western end and a great dome over the crossing. He also rebuilt many of the city churches. He made them simple, spacious, light and dignified. With the Renaissance features he combined another that was purely Gothic-the tower and spire.
In this and other ways Wren gave the Italian Renaissance style a national British character. In the houses, colleges and public buildings which he designed he used British materials such as red brick, tiles and slates, wrought iron and Portland stone, and combined them to make something quite distinctive.
Buildings designed by Wren are the later part of Hampton Court Palace; Greenwich Hospital, Marlborough House and parts of Kensington Palace in London: and Abingdon, Guildford and Windsor Town Halls. Groombridge Place, Kent; Honnington Hall, Warwickshire : Belton House, Grantham; Wren House, Chichester, are all private houses which may possibly have been designed by him.
In these and houses like them you will see that the architects sometimes used a new kind of window. It is in two parts, each of which can be pushed up or down separately. We call it a sash window, and such windows gradually took the place of casement windows altogether.
In late 17th-century houses, even quite small ones, the front doors are always made to look very elegant. They often have canopies over them supported on brackets. Sometimes the canopies are flat, or in the form of a pediment, but sometimes they are deep and rounded, like a shell.