Sir William Chambers (1)

I spent the day at a conference to commemorate the birth of Sir William Chambers on 23 February 1723, to which so much less attention has been paid than to the death of Christopher Wren a couple of weeks later. Chambers has always been somehow hard to accommodate to conventional English taste: so international – knowledgeable about architecture in Paris, Rome and Canton. It’s still not clear how he arrived in the circle of Prince Frederick and then became architect to Princess Augusta and tutor to the Prince of Wales. Was it his knowledge of the most up-to-date methods of teaching ? His intellectual self-confidence ?

Chambers was key to the foundation of the Royal Academy, but then was slightly pushed sideways to be Treasurer – prominent, not least because he had the ear of the King, but probably not clubbable. Maybe the pedestrianisation of the Strand will help an appreciation of the sophisticated classicism of Somerset House, now much easier to see again:-


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