Bath - Queen Square
18th century

Click photos to enlarge
Notes in italics from North Somerset and Bristol by Nikolaus Pevsner  (1958)
Yale University Press, New Haven and London

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Queen Square was begun in 1729 and completed in 1736 ( John Wood's first major work) ... The great innovation of Queen square ... is to treat a whole side of a square as one palatial composition. This Wood did on the N, S, and E sides of Queen Square. 

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For the W side he chose another equally monumental treatment: two broad corner houses and a porticoed front of a third (Dr Oliver's) set a good way back. ... This fine composition was ruined when in 1830 the space between the two angle houses was filled in. The new building is neo-Grecian, by Pinch, and has giant fluted columns, whereas Wood's giant columns are always unfluted.
Wood's two houses on the W side are broad rather than high, of seven bays and two and a half storeys with a rusticated ground floor. The ground-floor window frames are of the Gibbs type ...

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The N side of Queen square is the grandest. And with its twenty-three bays, its attached giant Corinthian columns on rusticated ground floor for the middle five bays, and its identical columns without pediment for the three angle bays it is indeed one of the grandest Palladian compositions in England designed before 1730. The centre house, No. 24, is double-fronted. 

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The S side (first two pictures) is much less palatial. The middle pediment is no more than three bays wide, and the only other accent is the setting of the ground-floor windows in blank arches in the outer three and the middle nine bays. ... The E side (last two pictures), carried out first, is least composed, and the doorways are treated individually; especially elaborate designs at Nos. 2 and 3.

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In the centre of the square a tall obelisk set up in 1738 by Beau Nash. The trees are, of course, are picturesque addition. There was some greenery in the square, it seems; but it was kept low.

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Gay Street leading north out of Queen Square and uphill to the Circus. The work of John Wood the Elder and continued unnoticeably by the younger Wood. Still by the elder Wood is the corner house, No. 41, built by the great architect for himself in 1740. Architects have a way of designing for themselves at a higher pitch than for clients. Wood's house, unless one wishes to discount it as a piece of advertising, is an object lesson in the divergences between an architect's desires and his executed work. Wood's severe Palladianism disappears here, and a heavy but gay Baroque takes its place. The walls, it is true, are quite plain, but at the corner is a semicircular slightly recessed bow-window designed emphatically to break the staid uniformity of the newly built streets. Ground-floor windows with heavy Gibbs surrounds, first floor with pairs of even more heavily intermittently blocked pairs of Ionic columns, plain attic storey. ...
Fourth picture shows No. 25 Gay Street, one of Jane Austen's Houses in Bath. She lived here in 1805.
Last picture shows Gay Street looking from the Circus back down to Queen Square.

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Finally Wood Street deserves a parting glance (leading off SE corner of Queen Square), because it allows one ... to assess the difference between c.1730 and c.1780 at Bath. Northumberland Buildings on the S side is by Baldwin, 1778, a very fine broad and tall Adamish composition of twenty-one bays with three-bay pediments and a frieze along above the first floor windows. Paterae above the frieze.


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