JOHN WOOD, the Elder, (1704 – 23 May 1754), was an English architect , working mainly in Bath .
In 1740 he surveyed
His notable work in Bath included: St John\'s Hospital , Queen Square
Prior Park , The Royal Mineral Water Hospital , the North and South
Parades and The Circus . Wood also designed important buildings
outside Bath, including the reconstruction of
* 1 Early life
* 2 Style and vision
* 2.1 Speculative Building
Wood was born in
During his teenage years and early twenties, Wood worked for Robert
Benson, the first
Baron Bingley at his estate,
STYLE AND VISION
Through reading, site visits and practical experience Wood developed
his unique ideas in order to create a master plan for his home town of
such ambition it is almost overwhelming. Through his continual
self-education, Wood refined his architectural beliefs and by his
mid-twenties had combined his passion for
Wood set out to restore Bath to what he believed was its former
ancient glory as one of the most important and significant cities in
Wood's grand plans for Bath were consistently hampered by the Corporation (council), churchmen, landowners and moneymen. Instead he approached Robert Gay , a barber surgeon from London, and the owner of the Barton Farm estate in the Manor of Walcot , outside the city walls. On these fields Wood established Bath’s architectural style, the basic principles of which were copied by all those architects who came after him. Wood created one of the greatest attractions in the world, recognised by UNESCO for embodying a number of outstanding universal values — including the deliberate creation of a beautiful and unified city.
At Queen Square , Wood introduced speculative building to Bath. This meant that whilst Wood leased the land from Robert Gay for £137 per annum, designed the frontages, and divided the ground into the individual building plots, he sub-let to other individual builders or masons. They had two years grace in which to get the walls up and the roof on, after which they had to pay a more substantial rent. As Bath was booming, most plots were reserved before the two years were up, providing the builder with the necessary income to complete the house. Ultimately this meant less work and risk for Wood; in addition he received £305 per annum in rents, leaving him a healthy profit of £168 – the equivalent today (in terms of average earnings) of £306,000.
Wood is known for designing many of the streets and buildings of Bath, such as St John\'s Hospital , (1727–28), Queen Square (1728–36), Prior Park (1734–41), The Royal Mineral Water Hospital (1738–42) the North (1740) and South Parades (1743–48), The Circus (1754–68), and other notable houses, many of which are Grade I listed buildings .
In 1716 the architect William Killigrew was commissioned to rebuild
the St John's Hospital, which had been founded around 1180, by Bishop
Reginald Fitz Jocelin
Ralph Allen\'s Town House was commissioned by Ralph Allen who commenced building it in or shortly after 1727. Opinion is divided as to whether John Wood the Elder designed the "Town House", however the ostentatious decoration is not a style he uses elsewhere in Bath. Wood, in his "Essay towards the future of Bath", says — while Mr.Allen was making the Addition to the North Part of his House in Lilliput Alley he new fronted and raised the old Building a full Story higher; it consists of a Basement Story sustaining a double Story under the Crowning; and this is surmounted by an Attick, which created a sixth Rate House, and a Sample for the greatest Magnificence that was ever proposed by me for our City Houses. North side, Queen Square
Queen Square was Wood's first speculative development. Wood lived in
a house on the square. Numbers 21–27 make up the north side. Which
was described by
Nikolaus Pevsner as "one of the finest Palladian
In 1742, Wood was commissioned to build a home for the mayor of Bath Ralph Allen , on a hill overlooking the city of Bath. This building is Grade I listed and has housed Prior Park College since 1830.
The building for the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases was designed by Wood and built with Bath Stone donated by Ralph Allen . It was later enlarged, firstly in 1793 by the addition of an attic storey and later in 1860 by a second building erected on the west side of the earlier edifice. It is a Grade II listed building . There is a fine pediment , in Bath stone, on 1860 building depicting the parable of the Good Samaritan .
North Parade was part of a wider scheme to build a Royal Forum, including South Parade , Pierrepont and Duke Streets , similar to Queen Square , which was never completed. Wood designed the facade , of Bath Stone, after which a variety of builders completed the work with different interiors and rear elevations.
Wood Street was built in 1778 an has been designated as a Grade I
listed building . The street was designed by
John Wood, the Elder
His final masterpiece was the Circus , built on Barton Fields
outside the old city walls of Bath, although he never lived to see his
plans put into effect as he died less than three months after the
first stone was laid. It was left to his son, John Wood, the Younger
to complete the scheme to his father's design. Wood's inspiration was
ARCHITECTURE OUTSIDE BATH
The Courtyard, The Exchange, Bristol (1741–43), this was roofed over in the 19th century
Wood also designed important buildings outside Bath, the
Wood's work on the rebuilding of
The Exchange in Bristol was built in 1741–43 by Wood, with carvings
Liverpool Town Hall
Buckland House is a large Georgian stately home and the manor house
of Buckland in
STONEHENGE AND STANTON DREW SURVEYS
Part of Wood's plan of
Wood also left us the most important plan of
In the same year Wood surveyed and mapped the Stanton Drew stone circles , noting the different stones used and suggesting the layout was based on the Pythagorean planetary system.
Detail of some of the emblems used by Wood in The Circus
Many of the buildings he designed are littered with icons and symbols associated with Freemasonry , leading many people who have studied his work to believe that he was a member of the organisation, even though there is no documentary proof. Wood wrote extensively about sacred geometry, and argued that the myths of the supposed founder of Bath, King Bladud , were based on truth. He claimed that ancient British stone circles were the remains of once more elaborate buildings designed by Bladud.
It has been suggested that Wood (and his son, also John) were connected to Freemasonry either via one of their building partnerships and/or via symbolism in their architecture. In his Masonic lecture and article, Stephen Ben Cox tentatively suggests an image for this as the square (Queen's Square), the circle (The Circus) and the crescent (The Royal Crescent): standing for Earth, Sun and Moon, and following the masonic path of the sun in the Lodge from east (the Master chair) to south (the Junior Warden) and exiting in the west (the Senior Warden) as a symbol of man's spiritual progress in life from the rough to the smooth ashlar.
When viewed from the air, the Circus, along with Queens Square and the adjoining Gay Street , form a key shape, which is a masonic symbol similar to those that adorn many of Wood's buildings. Cox notes that there is no direct evidence of deliberate Masonic expression in the architecture (although there are plenty of carved signs and symbols which are important to Freemasonry). He goes on however to say that it is interesting to note that Queen Square is lower down the hill whilst The Circus overlooks it at the top of the hill, whilst to the west The Crescent faces out across the open space of the park sloping away from it.
BLADUD AND THE DRUIDS
In many of Woods writings, and particularly The Essay towards a
description of Bath, he describes
Bladud , a legendary king of the
Britons for whose existence there is no historical evidence, as the
founder of Bath. Wood repeats and embellishes earlier stories that
Bladud founded the city because while he was in Athens he contracted
leprosy , and when he returned home he was imprisoned as a result, but
escaped and went far off to go into hiding. He found employment as a
Swainswick , about two miles from the later site of Bath
, and noticed that his pigs would go into an alder-moor in cold
weather and return covered in black mud. He found that the mud was
warm, and that they did it to enjoy the heat. He also noticed that the
pigs which did this did not suffer from skin diseases as others did,
and on trying the mud bath himself found that he was cured of his
leprosy. He was then restored to his position as heir-apparent to his
father, and founded Bath so that others might also benefit as he had
done. Wood also writes about
Neo-Druidism which had been popularised
in the 17th and 18th centuries by writers such as
DEATH AND LEGACY
Wood died in Bath and was buried in the churchyard of St Mary\'s church , Swainswick . Many of his building projects were continued by his son John Wood, the Younger including; Royal Crescent , Bath Assembly Rooms and Buckland House . He also finished The Circus .
Following his death in Bath, and almost certainly within hours of it, a plaster death mask was taken off the face of Wood. This was a not uncommon practice where the deceased was famous. The death mask may have been made as a prelude to the intended making of a portrait bust that was never executed in his widow’s lifetime. Following the death of his widow in 1766, the death mask (doubtless amongst her possessions) was then employed to enable a bust of John Wood to be carved, appropriately from wood. It was completed in 1767 and the reverse of the bust bears an inscription of that date, the name of Wood and Wood’s age at death. 1767 marks the commencement by Wood’s son, John Wood the younger, of work on the Royal Crescent. The bust might have been carved by a specialist wood carver from the nearby commercial seaport of Bristol where ships’ figureheads would regularly have been carved, often from softwoods such as pine. The bust, in a private collection, records the features of the architect at his death, and is the only known bust portrait of the famous architect, and is one of only two portraits of him. The whereabouts of the face mask from which the bust is derived are not known and, presumably, the mask has not survived.
There is an off-campus dormitory complex belonging to the University of Bath named John Wood Complex, on Avon Street.
Bath is now a World Heritage Site , at least partly as a result of the Woods' architecture.
* ^ A B Pollard & Pevsner 2006 , p. 286.
* ^ Elliot 2004 , p. 56.
* ^ A B Mowl & Earnshaw, Tim & Brian (1988). John Wood: Architect
of Obsession. Bath: Millstream Books. p. 66. ISBN 094897513X .
* ^ Mowl & Earnshaw 1988 , pp. 13–14
* ^ "John Wood the Elder". Bath Museum. Bath Preservation Trust.
Archived from the original on 13 November 2007. Retrieved 23 July
* ^ A B C D Spence, Cathryn (2012). Water, History & Style: Bath
World Heritage Site. Stroud: The History Press. ISBN 9780752488141 .
* ^ A B Frost, Amy (2004). Obsession: John Wood and the Creation of
Georgian Bath. Bath: The Building of Bath Museum. ISBN 0951475711 .
* ^ Wood, John (1765). Essay Towards a Description of Bath. Bath:
* ^ Woodward, Christopher (2000). The Building of Bath. Bath: Bath
* ^ A B "St John\'s Hospital (including Chapel Court House)".