Neoclassical and Greek Revival architecture (1714-1837)

The cold lines of Classicism return

Many 18th century architects cared little for the Baroque, and during the Georgian era a restrained, simple Neoclassicism reigned in a brief Neo-Palladian era.

At the same time, and even more distilled vision of Classical theory was being practiced by Greek Revival architects such as James "Athenian" Stuart, who wrote a book on antiquities after a trip to Greece, and the somewhat less strict John Soane.

Identifiable features of Neoclassical architecture in Britain 

  • Mathematical proportion, symmetry, Classical orders. These Classical ideals first rediscovered during Renaissance are the hallmark of every Classically-styled era.
  • Crescents and Circuses. The Georgians were famous for these seamless curving rows of identical stone townhouses with tall windows, each one simple yet elegant inside. Just visit Bath and you'll see what I mean.
  • Open double-arm staircases. A favorite of the Neo-Palladians.

Best examples of Neoclassical architecture in England

  • Bath. Much of the city of Bath was made over in the 18th century, most famously by the father and son team of John Woods Sr. and Jr. They were responsible, among others, for the Royal Crescent (where you can also visit one house's interior, and even lodge in another), the The Circus, Gay Street, and Queen's Square. (The rival spa town of Buxton has a copycat Crescent by John Carr.)
  • Houghton Hall and Holkham Hall, north of Norwich. Two fine, pure Palladian country mansions designed by Colen Campbell and William Kent, respectively.
  • James "Athenian" Stuart's Garden Buildings. The most textbook of Greek Revivalists did his best work in small outbuilding on the grounds of large estates, including Hagley Hall just east of Birmingham and Shugborough Hall southeast of Stafford. Less of a trek is his Chapel in Greenwich Hospital.
  • John Soane's London sights. The greatest Greek Revival Soane sight is his own idiosyncratic house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, now a museum dedicated to the architect. Of Soane's most famous commission, the Bank of England in Bartholomew Lane, only the façade survived a 20th century restructuring. To see one of his greatest innovations, slough south of town to the Dulwich Picture Gallery; his pioneering use of skylights in this purpose-designed structure influenced museum design from then on.
  • British Museum, London. Not the most important example of Greek Revival, but one just about every visitor to England is bound to see.