Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Webb, John (1611-1672)

WEBB or WEBBE, JOHN (1611–1672), architect, came of a Somerset family, but was born in London in 1611. He was educated from 1625 to 1628 at Merchant Taylors' school (Robinson, Register, i. 114), and was a pupil and executor, and a connection by birth and marriage, of Inigo Jones [q. v.] (Wood, Athenæ, iii. 806, iv. 753–4). His architectural works were largely in connection with or in continuation of those of his master. When Inigo Jones laid out Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, Webb designed (circ. 1640) the large brick house on the south side, and there exists among Jones's drawings at Worcester College, Oxford, a design by Webb of a house in the Strand for Philip Herbert, earl of Pembroke. In 1648 he rebuilt, possibly from designs by Jones, a portion of Wilton House, Wiltshire.

Soon after the Restoration Webb petitioned for the post of surveyor of works, pleading the intention of the late king, his training under Inigo Jones, his appointment as Jones's deputy till thrust out for loyalty in 1643, and his commission under the existing parliament to prepare the royal palaces for residence at a cost of 8,140l. He further urged that there were arrears of salary due to him, both on his own account and as executor to Jones, and proved his loyalty by recalling that he had sent to the king at Oxford designs of all the fortifications in London, with instructions how they might be carried (Dict. of Architecture).

Webb was granted a reversion of the office of surveyor after Sir John Denham (1615–1669) [q. v.] He acted as Denham's assistant in the building (1661–6) of a portion of Inigo Jones's design for Greenwich Palace, which was subsequently incorporated by Wren as the west side of the river front of his buildings. He is described in the order as ‘John Webb of Butleigh, co. Somerset,’ and was granted a salary of 200l. per annum, with 1l. 13s. 10d. a month for travelling (Life of I. Jones, 1848, pp. 34, 38, 48, in Shakespeare Soc.; Campbell, Vitruvius Britannicus, 1715, vol. i. plate 31, and vol. iii. plate 1).

With Sir John Denham he also carried out (gratuitously) certain repairs in 1663 at St. Paul's Cathedral (Malcolm, Londinium Redivivum, 1803, iii. 83), and designed Burlington House, Piccadilly (1664–6), for Richard Boyle, first earl of Burlington; it was remodelled in 1718–20.

Other works which Webb carried out in accordance with or extension of his master's designs were Amesbury, Wiltshire (1661), for Lord Carleton (Campbell, Vitruvius Britannicus, 1725, vol. iii. plate 7); Gunnersbury House, near Kew (1663), for Serjeant Maynard (ib. 1717, vol. i. plates 17, 18), to which we may possibly add Ashburnham House, Westminster, and Bedford House, Bloomsbury Square, though Jones's share in the latter and Webb's in the former need further proof.

To Webb are also attributed Horseheath Hall, Cambridgeshire (1665–9), destroyed in 1777; the portico and other works at the Vine, near Basingstoke; Lamport Hall, Northamptonshire (road front only); Ramsbury Manor, Wiltshire; and Ashdown Park, Berkshire.

In 1669, on Denham's death, the post of surveyor passed to Sir Christopher Wren, despite the fact that Webb held the reversion. He died on 24 Oct. 1672 at Butleigh, and was buried there. He married Anne Jones, a kinswoman of Inigo Jones, who left Webb some of his property. He edited ‘The most noble Antiquity called Stoneheng,’ by Inigo Jones (1655, fol.), and wrote ‘Vindication of Stoneheng Restored’ (1665, fol., 2nd edit. 1725). Webb designed the frontispiece of Walton's ‘Polyglot Bible’ 1657, fol.

[Dict. of Architecture; Aubrey's Natural Hist. of Wiltshire, 1847, p. 84; Cunningham's Life of Inigo Jones; Campbell's Vitruvius Britannicus; Walpole's Anecdotes; Blomfield's Hist. of the Renaissance in England; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists.]

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