BA Art History and History

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
The English Baroque: Architecture and Society 1660-1730

Course unit fact file
Unit code AHCP30012
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course provides an overview of classical architecture in England in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.  The seventy-year span from the Restoration to the end of the reign of George I witnessed an extraordinary burst of creativity and innovation by both architects and patrons.  In works such as St Paul's cathedral, the London churches of Nicholas Hawksmoor, the university buildings of Oxford and Cambridge, and the great houses of Chatsworth, Blenheim, and Castle Howard, we see a dual attempt to recreate the glories of ancient architecture, while articulating contemporary political and aristocratic identity in built form.  The results —which can still be visited and appreciated today— also show us how English designers and patrons responded to the greatest works of Renaissance and Baroque architecture, including St Peter's basilica and the palace of Versailles.  The unit explores how English architecture developed a distinct national identity within a European context.


This course aims

  • To provide an overview of classical architecture in England in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries
  • To explore in detail the genesis and construction of major architectural projects of the period
  • To contextualise these projects in terms of ecclesiastical and political culture, humanist learning, and aristocratic identity
  • To explore how English architecture developed in relation to significant works of the European Renaissance and Baroque 


1. Context: The medieval present; the gothic, the mason versus the architect

2. Forebears: The Renaissance in England; Inigo Jones and John Webb

3. Wren: The Sheldonian Theatre; the London Churches; St Pauls

4. Royal Commissions: Windsor, Hampton Court, Chelsea, Greenwich

5. A Polite Art: Literary culture, Archaeology, Mathematics, the Royal Society

6. Hawksmoor: the London Churches; the Clarendon Building and All Souls, Oxford

7. The Country House: Chatsworth, Blenheim, Castle Howard

8. Aristocratic Gardens and Designed Landscapes

9. Gibbs: St Mary le Strand, Cambridge and Oxford

10. The Palladian Reaction: Campbell, Vitruvius Britannicus, and Lord Burlington

11. Review 

Teaching and learning methods

This course combines lectures, group presentations, seminar discussion, workshop activities, and on-site fieldtrips.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this module, students will be able:

  • To account for the landmark works of Inigo Jones, Christopher Wren, Nicholas Hawksmoor, John Vanbrugh and others
  • To describe the immediate historical and cultural contexts in which architectural designs emerged.
  • To discuss seventeenth-century discourses on architecture and their wider cultural significance.
  • To analyse architectural design through examination of preparatory drawing and built fabric
  • The recount debates within architectural history over the meanings of stylistic associations in seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century England.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this module, students will be able:

  • To marshal appropriate evidence, frame arguments, write persuasively
  • To complete a research-intensive essay
  • To attend closely to visual and written evidence
  • To communicate ideas in a logical and engaging manner

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Produce detailed visual analyses
  • Carry out supervised research
  • Produce a professionally presented and coherently argued essay
  • Give a presentation using PowerPoint on a set topic in class

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • To apply personal initiative to individual and collaborative tasks
  • Manage time effectively in order to complete assignments;
  • Use PowerPoint in order to present work professionally
  • To improve study skills and understanding in response to feedback

Employability skills

This course unit will enable students to gain and improve a number of skills including: - Time management and being able to work to deadlines - Participating in discussion - Presenting an argument to an audience and being able to field questions - Presenting written material in a professional format - Working, with guidance, on research including finding suitable material for assessments and being able to assess this material - Reflection on discussions and assignments enabling future improvement

Assessment methods

Assessment taskFormative or SummativeLengthWeighting within unit (if relevant)
EssaySummative2000 words50%
ExamSummative2 hours/2000 words50%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback on Essay and Exam


Oral feedback on essay plan



Recommended reading

  • Kerry Downes, Hawksmoor, London, 1979
  • Vaughan Hart, Nicholas Hawksmoor: Rebuilding Ancient Wonders, New Haven, 2002
  • Frank McCormick, Sir John Vanbrugh: the Playwright as Architect, University Park, 1991
  • E. F. Sekler, Wren and His Place in European Architecture, London, 1956
  • Charles Saumarez Smith, The Building of Castle Howard, London, 1990
  • John Summerson, Architecture in Britain 1530-1830, New Haven, 1993
  • John Summerson, Inigo Jones, New Haven, 2000
  • Giles Worsley, Classical Architecture in Britain: the Heroic Age, New Haven, 1995

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Anthony Gerbino Unit coordinator

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