Holkham Hall: An Architectural 'Whodunnit'
|Published in:||Architectural History, 2015, v. 58|
Horace Walpole had to put his oar in. ‘How the designs of that house [Holkham], which I have seen an hundred times in Kent's original drawings, came to be published under another name, and without the slightest mention of the real architect, is beyond my comprehension'. Indeed,The Plans, Elevations, and Sections, of Holkham in Norfolk, The Seat of the Late Earl of Leicesterhad been published by Matthew Brettingham senior (1699–1769) ten years earlier (1761) without any mention of William Kent (c. 1685–1748). But Walpole's well-publicised remark completely turned the scales, establishing Kent as the creator and architect of this intriguing work (built 1734-64), which is seen by many as thebeau idéalof Anglo-Palladian architecture (Fig. 1).
An alternative view of Holkham's genesis has seen the patron, Thomas Coke, later Earl of Leicester, as the driving force in the creation of the house and its setting — a view confirmed by a great number of drawings and letters discovered since the 1980s. But a ‘reassessment', recently published in this journal, has now cast doubt on such a conclusion and has attempted to re-establish Kent as Holkham's architect.
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