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John Vanbrugh facts for kids

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Sir John Vanbrugh
John Vanbrugh.jpg
Godfrey Kneller's Kit-cat portrait, held in the National Portrait Gallery (United Kingdom)
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Personal information
Name Sir John Vanbrugh
Birth date (1664-01-24)24 January 1664
Birth place London, England
Date of death 26 March 1726(1726-03-26) (aged 62)
Place of death Westminster, England
Buildings Blenheim Palace
Castle Howard
Seaton Delaval Hall
Grimsthorpe Castle
Stowe House
Kings Weston House

Sir John Vanbrugh (24 January 1664 (baptised) – 26 March 1726) was an English architect and dramatist, perhaps best known as the designer of Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard. He wrote two Restoration comedies, which have become enduring stage favourites but originally had much controversy. He was knighted in 1714.

Vanbrugh was a radical throughout his life. As a young man and a committed Whig, he was part of the scheme to overthrow James II, put William III on the throne and protect English parliamentary democracy, and he was imprisoned by the French as a political prisoner.


Blue plaque to Sir John Vanbrugh - - 1145174
Blue plaque to Sir John Vanbrugh

As an architect (or surveyor, as the term then was) Vanbrugh is thought to have had no formal training. To what extent Vanbrugh's exposure to contemporary French architecture during years of imprisonment in France affected him is hard to gauge, in April 1691 he was transferred to Château de Vincennes in the months he spent as a prisoner there he would have got to know the architect Louis Le Vau's grand classical work (1656–61) in the château well. On his release from prison (he was at the Bastille by then) on 22 November 1692 he spent a short time in Paris, there he would have seen much recent architecture.

His inexperience was compensated for by his eye for perspective and detail. During his almost thirty years as a practising architect, Vanbrugh designed and worked on numerous buildings.

Vanbrugh's chosen style was the baroque, which had been spreading across Europe during the 17th century. Vanbrugh transformed European baroque's metamorphosis into an almost understated version that became known as English baroque. Four of Vanbrugh's designs act as milestones for this process:

  1. Castle Howard, commissioned in 1699
  2. Blenheim Palace, commissioned in 1704
  3. Kings Weston House , begun in 1712
  4. Seaton Delaval Hall, begun in 1718

Marriage and death

Vanbrugh Castle
Vanbrugh Castle

In 1719, at St Lawrence Church, York, Vanbrugh married Henrietta Maria Yarburgh of Heslington Hall, York. This was by all accounts a happy marriage, which produced two sons.

Vanbrugh died "of an asthma" on 26 March 1726, in the modest town house designed by him in 1703 out of the ruins of Whitehall Palace. His married life, however, was mostly spent at Greenwich in the house on Maze Hill now known as Vanbrugh Castle, a miniature Scottish tower house designed by Vanbrugh in the earliest stages of his career. A Grade I listed building, and formerly a RAF Boys' School, it is today divided into private apartments.

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