Essential Architecture-  London

Banqueting House


Inigo Jones


Whitehall, directly across from the Horse Guards, telephone: 930-4179.


1619 to 1622


Palladian, Late English Renaissance




In Tudor and Early Stuart English architecture a banqueting house is a separate building reached through pleasure gardens from the main residence, whose use is purely for entertaining. It may be raised, for additional air or a vista, and it may be richly decorated, but it contains no bedrooms or kitchens. Its contemporary Italian equivalent was a casina.

The Banqueting House at Whitehall, the grandest and most familiar survival of the genre, is a famous London building that was formerly part of the Palace of Whitehall. It was designed by Inigo Jones in 1619 and completed in 1622 with assistance from John Webb. It is located close to the Houses of Parliament. In 1649 King Charles I of England was executed on a scaffold in front of the building.

Inside the building there is a single two-story double-cube room which is decorated with paintings by Sir Peter Paul Rubens that were commissioned by Charles I in 1635 to fill the panelling of the ceiling. The Banqueting House introduced a refined Italianate Renaissance style that was unparalleled in Jacobean England, where Renaissance motives were still filtered through the engravings of Flemish Mannerist designers. The roof is all but flat and the roofline is a balustrade. On the street facade all the elements of two orders of engaged columns, Corinthian over Ionic, above a high rusticated basement, are locked together in a harmonious whole.

The Banqueting House was planned as part of a grand new Palace of Whitehall, but the tensions that eventually led to the Civil War intervened. Later, in the fires that destroyed the old Whitehall Palace; the isolated position of the Banqueting Hall preserved it from the flames.

In 1685 the Banqueting House became the first building in England to use crown glass in its windows.