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British Architects and Craftsmen: A Timeless Design History

In 1945, Sacheverell Sitwell published a book that would become a timeless classic in the design world. “British Architects and Craftsmen: Taste, Design and Style 1600 to 1830” explores the history of British architecture and craftsmanship through 200 illustrations from photographs, prints, and drawings.

Despite being over 75 years old, the book is still hugely relevant today. It provides insight into British design history and how it has influenced the country’s architecture, art, and craftsmanship over the centuries. It is also a fascinating read for anyone interested in how taste, design, and style have evolved over time.

“This is a book for lovers of architecture and craftsmanship, and for the general public, during the war and after it; a book with a future. but with reference to our golden past. It may claim to be exceptional in its scope in In the first place, the British several ways. Architects and Craftsmen are related here, as never before to our knowledge, to the general European background and tradition. Wren. Vanbrugh, Kent — to name three instances — take their places as figures in the European Renaissance. Then again, the inclusion of craftsmen — of clockmakers and silversmiths, of bookbinding’s and tapestries — is something never before attempted upon this comprehensive scale. Mr. Sitwell is well versed enough in the later architecture of Italy and Spain, of Austria and Bavaria, to paint the complete picture; and perhaps what emerges most conspicuously from his text, and from the 200 illustrations in colour, monochrome and line, taken from drawings, engravings and photographs, is the leading role that Britain played. These illustrations have been chosen to cover examples both big and small. St. Paul’s and Blenheim appear side by side with such minor delights of architecture as an old shop front at Bridport or the charming “Dodo” house at Chichester.
The State Barge of Frederick. Prince of Wales is illustrated, and so is the “bull-necked” half-crown of George Ill. In the space of two hundred pages portraits are given of Inigo Jones, Wren, Vanbrugh, Kent, Adam, Wyatt, and other great figures: but the reader as well may accompany Mr. Sitwell upon a tour of Georgian Dublin, to an old shop in Spitalfields, to the Assembly Room at Shrewsbury, to Hardwick Hall,’ to the City Churches, to an old almshouse, or to the village of Great Tew.
There is a comprehensive index, and the footnotes are both amusing and informing. Books of this scope and nature, we believe, are not produced every year — least Of all in the sixth year of World War No. 2.”


In the preface of the book, Sitwell writes that it was “a pleasure to attempt some appreciation of British architects and craftsmen” during a time when “the brilliant achievements of our forefathers are more than ever an inspiration to us.” He goes on to say that the book is not meant to be an “exhaustive work of reference,” but rather “a series of specific studies grouped together in such a way as to tell their story in some order and with what continuity I could muster.

Sacheverell Sitwell’s 1945 survey of British architects and craftsmen provides a vivid insight into the lives, tastes and styles from 1600 – 1830. He traces not only Sir Christopher Wren (the architect) or William Kent but also such diverse figures as clockmakers, silversmiths bookbinder weavers in tapestry who made up this era’s talented workforce.

The first section of the book covers the period from 1600 to 1715. It looks at different aspects of British architecture and how they evolved during this time. For example, Sitwell discusses how Inigo Jones introduced Italian Renaissance ideas to Britain in the early 1600s, which had a significant impact on architecture and design. He also covers topics such as Palladianism, Wren’s influence on Georgian architecture, and Gothic Revival.

The second section looks at the period from 1715 to 1800. Once again, Sitwell covers a wide range of topics including neoclassicism, transitional styles between Georgian and Regency architecture, Scots Baronial style, and Egyptian Revival.

The third and final section looks at the period from 1800 to 1830. Sitwell discusses various styles such as Regency Classicism, Romanticism, Tudor Revivalism, as well as Gothic Revivalism (which was once again popular during this time).

If you are interested in design history or simply want to learn more about British architecture, this is the perfect book for you.

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