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John James (c 1673- 15 May 1746) was an architect particularly associated with Twickenham in west London, where he rebuilt St. Mary's Church and built the house for Hon. James Johnson, Secretary for Scotland, later Orleans House (demolished). Howard Colvin's assessment of him was that of "a competent architect, but he lacked inventive fancy, and his buildings are for the most part plain and unadventurous in design" (Colvin 1995).

The son of a Hampshire parson, also named John James, he attended the Holy Ghost School, Basingstoke, of which his father was headmaster. He was then apprenticed in 1690 to Matthew Banckes, Master Carpenter to the Crown 1683-1706, whose niece he married, and lived for a while at Hampton Court Palace. He was employed at Greenwich, where in 1718 he became joint Clerk of the Works with Hawksmoor, whom he succeeded as Surveyor to the Fabric of Westminster Abbey, where he completed Hawksmoor's west towers. In the interim he was appointed master carpenter at St. Paul's Cathedral, where he assisted Sir Christopher Wren and succeeded him in 1723 as Surveyor to the Fabric.[1] He was Master of the Carpenters' Company in 1734.

His only commission for a design from the Commissioners for the Building of Fifty New Churches under the Act of 1711 was St George's, Hanover Square. He collaborated with Hawksmoor on the design of St John Horsleydown in Southwark and St Luke Old Street. James also designed St. Mary's Church, Rotherhithe in 1714-1715 and St Lawrence, Whitchurch near Edgware around the same time.

He was the professional on site for the construction of East India House, Leadenhall Street, London, to designs by the merchant and amateur architect Theodore Jacobsen, 1726-29.[2]

Among several buildings in and around Twickenham, John James designed St. Mary's Church after it collapsed in 1713 (with the exception of its surviving west tower). Slightly further afield, he was responsible for recasing the tower of St Alfege's Church in Greenwich, Kent (now London) after it became unsafe (the tower was the only remaining part of an older church, the rest having also collapsed and been replaced by a new church designed (c.1714) by Nicholas Hawksmoor).

Also in south-east London, James designed Wricklemarsh, "a pioneer Palladian mansion" (Colvin) and in fact his only Palladian-style structure, for Sir Gregory Page in 1723[3].

The house he designed for himself around 1725 - Warbrook in Eversley, Hampshire - is one of the few surviving houses built by an eighteenth century architect for his own use. He may also have designed Hursley House, Hursley, Hampshire, for (later, Sir) William Heathcote and Barnsley House in Gloucestershire is now usually attributed to him, c. 1720.

He published a pamphlet (1736) in the pamphlet war over the design of Westminster Bridge, for which he had submitted a design, which, though not accepted by the Commissioners, was accounted "clearly and well described" [4]. Competent in Latin, French and Italian, he translated Andrea Pozzo's treatise on perspective as Rules and Examples of Perspective, proper for Painters and Architects (1707, 2nd edition c. 1725) and from the French of Claude Perrault, A Treatise of the Five Orders of Columns in Architecture (1708), and from the French of Dezallier d'Argenville, The Theory and Practice of Gardening (1712, 2nd edition 1728, 3rd edition 1743. Thus John James can be seen as one of the intermediaries who made Baroque Continental practice in architecture, decorative painting and formal garden planning available to English patrons and craftsmen.


  1. ^ His altar was removed in 1886 (Colvin).
  2. ^ Mildred Archer, "The East India Company and British art", Apollo (November 1965:401-09.
  3. ^ Wricklemarsh was demolished in 1787, depriving it of a deserved reputation as one of the Palladian incunabula; the site now forms part of the Cator Estate at Blackheath, London. The portico and other materials were re-used at Beckenham Place, Kent, and four marble chimneypieces were removed to the First Lord's house, Whitehall (Colvin)
  4. ^ Commissioners' minutes, quoted by Colvin


  • Howard Colvin, 1995 (3rd ed.). A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1660-1840. (Yale University Press): "John James"


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