Of Adam and Chambers's contemporaries it was Sir Robert Taylor (1714-88) who showed the most ingenuity with his house plans. He broke away from the grouping of rooms in relationship to each other - anteroom, bedroom, cabinet and closet - and provided living-rooms on the first floor and bedrooms on the upper floor. These were often octagonal or oval. He also lit his dramatic cantilevered staircases from the top, as at Chute Lodge, Wiltshire (1768), and Danson Hill, Bexleyheath, Kent (1762-7). The top lighting at Sharpham House, Devon (c. 1770), is in the form of a 'huge oval cylinder with the dome springing directly from the walls' while the stairs and landings are cantilevered without any support from below. The arrangement at Sharpham allowed 'for a hall opening into an atrium and the atrium into the staircase, with no intervening wall panelling and oak panelling walls or doors'- something new in English architecture.
This concern to site the staircase at the centre of things and to place the main rooms round it applied to the work of James Wyatt (1746-1813). All his skill was lavished on the house interior: C. F. Cockerell wrote to Joseph Farington in 1798 that 'the finishing and decorations of Wyatt are generally beautiful, but his outside designs are blocks of stone'. There was also a move to give the hall a major space. At Heveningham Hall, Suffolk (where Wyatt replaced Sir Robert Taylor after the shell of the building was finished), the hall rises to the height of two storeys, and is comparable to Adam's fine Classical hall at Syon House. It was, in the words of Francois de la Rochefoucauld, who noted it in his A Frenchman in England (1784), extremely dignified and magnificent wall panelling and oak panelling ' and he thought the dining-room had perfect proportions' and decoration more elegant than he had ever seen. Wyatt had an extensive practice and was full of ideas but would often lose his first ardour in the execution of schemes. Many clients grumbled at his dilatory and unbusinesslike ways, and his career has always been tangled with the large and complex family from which he sprang.'
James Wyatt's nephew, Jeffry Wyatt (1766-1840), stated a determination 'to distinguish himself from the numerous branches of his family of the same profession' and thus took the surname of Wyatville when he was knighted by George IV (although he doubtless also wanted to highlight this mark of royal favour). Of almost 150 major commissions executed by Sir Jeffry, most of them were started in the first twenty years of the nineteenth century. He specialized in medieval and Elizabethan styles, carrying out many wall panelling and oak panelling alterations to great houses, such as Longleat and Wollaton. His career was, however, directed towards his main commission of remodelling Windsor Castle. He started work there in 1824 and was employed until his death. He was especially competent at introducing modern comforts to his house plans - central heating, efficient water supplies, conservatories, orangeries and sculpture galleries, as at Chatsworth, Derbyshire.
In terms of house plan the last of the innovative architects I shall briefly deal with is Sir John Soane (1783-1837). One of the most distinguished of Henry Holland's pupils, Soane trained in the Royal Academy Schools. Through the intervention of Sir William Chambers, he received the 'King George III Travelling Scholarship' in 1778, and spent two years studying in Italy. On his return, in 1780, he tried to build up a modest country-house building practice and, being skilful in integrating Gothic and Greek elements, he created at least fifteen fine houses before 1800. His office grew large, and over Soane's lifetime some thirty pupils worked in it, twelve hours a day, for an average of five years."
Soane showed great care in relating the plan of a house to a site and had a fondness for creating complex internal arrangements of a highly idiosyncratic nature: shallow domes, consoles on their sides and columns with strange unordered capitals. He also introduced light through lanterns and clerestories and was constantly 'controlling' the light and shade by an ingenious and extensive use of segmental arches. This is seen to great advantage in the drawing-room at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire (an early work of c. 1791). Soane developed Classical forms suitable to the architecture of his day without rigorously following Vitruvian or Palladian wall panelling and oak panelling precepts. He was an ardent user of wooden models'' to demonstrate his plans and to enable discussion with his patrons on, for example, the best ways of lighting staircases and reception rooms to avoid dark corridors and corners.
In his Plans, Elevations and Sections of Buildings erected in the Counties of Norfolk, Suffolk ... (1788), dedicated to George III, Soane stated that the main object of his plans was to 'unite convenience and comfort in the interior distributions, and simplicity and uniformity in the exterior ..."` With a fortune left to him in 1788 by his wife's uncle, George Wyatt, Soane need have done little more thereafter but dream visions - of triumphal bridges and Piranesian spaces. Instead, he designed or altered almost a hundred country houses, solve sixty London and other town-houses and near thirty public buildings. To most of them he brought what he later called 'the poetry of architecture', an elusive effect created by an original touch with composition. Using the Vanbrughian advance and recession of planes and ingenious lighting, Soane invested his interiors with fascinating spatial complexities. This was intellnd ectually ahead of all the competition and, as G. Wightwick put it: 'If any one shall ask - in what style is such, or such, of his buildings? - the answer would be, It is ... Soanean."
At this stage of a short narrative it is obvious that my normal chapterby-chapter consideration of wall panelling and oak panelling a'floors' is less necessary. They were of wood, marble, stone or scagliola (as in the Syon ante-room), with little variation from what had gone before. In addition, Isaac Ware, commenting in his A Complete Body of Architecture (The wall panelling and oak panelling 1756) on the decline in the use of inlay, noted that it was the custom to cover a room entirely with carpet, and nearcontemporary inventories confirm this." I have therefore given the space over to a short discussion of the uses to which various rooms were put, as their occupants, scattered informally through them, escaped from the restrictions represented by the mute starched poses of many a resplendent 'conversation-piece' canvas.
In the description in their Works in Architecture (1773-8) of the principal floor of Syon House, Middlesex, the Adam brothers chose to enter minutely into the description of its plan because they imagined it was: 'one of those branches of our art, which has not hitherto been treated of with any accuracy, or studied with any care; though of all others the most essential, both to the splendor and convenience of life.'
The hall was devised as a spacious wall panelling and oak panelling apartment, intended as the room of access, where servants in livery attended. It was finished with stucco, 'as halls always are', and was given a noble effect by recesses at each end and by the siting of classical statues. The ante-rooms to each side were for the attendance of servants out of livery, and also for tradesmen. Next to the ante-rooms were the public and private eating rooms, the public one finished with stucco and adorned with niches, marble statues and a great circular recess at each end. The private one also had its recesses and stucco finishing, which did not allow cooking smells to linger, as they would on fabrics, and was equipped with backstairs for the use of servants. Next to the great 'eating room' was a splendid withdrawing-room for the ladies, or salle de compagnie, 'as it is called by the French'. This had a coved and painted ceiling. The room was so situated that it prevented the noise of the men remaining in the eating room from being troublesome to the ladies when they had retired to the adjacent gallery. The gallery had a small closet at each end, one for china and the other for miniatures, and there was access by stairs to the ranges of apartments on both sides. These private apartments consisted of a bedchamber for the Duchess of Northumberland, an ante-room for attendance by her maids, her toilet or dressing-room, her powdering-room, water-closet and outer ante-room, with backstairs leading to wardrobes and the maid's bedroom. On the other side was a dressing-room for the duke, a powdering-room, writing-room, water-closet and stairs for His Grace's wall panelling and oak panelling #valet de chambre and for access to his wardrobes.
Syon was a house devised internally for the reception of a large number of people. This was also true of the Scarsdales' great Derbyshire house of Kedleston Hall. Dr Johnson found the large hall 'too massy', but a sequence of ten rooms was given over to reception, entertainment, hospitality and rest. When Mrs Fanny Boscawen, wife of Admiral Edward Boscawen, visited Holkham Hall, Norfolk, in 1774 she found 'all the rooms in the house are every day and all day open, not one uninhabited chamber or closet shut up'.' In 1786 the state apartments at Audley End, Essex, were similar to those at Syon, being described as comprising 'a bed-chamber, two dressingrooms, two powdering closets, an ante-chamber and servants' room. The wall panelled and oak panelled bedchamber, gentleman's dressing rooms and ante-chamber are hung with grey water tabby, ornamented with crimson and gold ...'
Inventories are invaluable for indicating the purpose of rooms, in addition to their exact contents at a given date. That of 1770 for Chiswick House, Middlesex,'- still seems to represent the contents of the house in the 1750s when the 3rd Earl of Burlington and his wife lived there. Apart from the grand well-furnished rooms, which one would expect, there was a nursery, a steward's and a housekeeper's room, a still room, butler's pantry, linen room, laundry and wash-house, maids' and coachman's rooms, a garden room, servants' hall, larder, scullery and porter's lodge.