NASH, John (1752-1835)
Plaque erected in 2013 by English Heritage at 66 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3BN, London Borough of Camden
Architecture and Building
JOHN NASH 1752-1835 Architect Designed this terrace and lived here
The architect John Nash designed a significant portion of Regency London, leaving a legacy to rival that of Sir Christopher Wren. His most famous works are Regent Street, Regent’s Park and, outside London, the Brighton Pavilion.
BLOOMSBURY AND BANKRUPTCY
Nash is commemorated with a blue plaque at 66 Bloomsbury Square, the end unit of a six-house terrace which he designed himself. Located on Great Russell Street, the terrace is his earliest known project to survive and was one of the first developments to be clad in stucco – a feature that later became a standard part of the London streetscape.
Nash’s time at Bloomsbury Square was overshadowed by emotional and financial turmoil. He moved there not long after separating from his wife, Jane, in June 1778. Although they reunited at number 66 for several months in 1779, Nash started divorce proceedings the following year. Among his complaints were that his wife had simulated pregnancies, imposed two children on him who were not his own and run up bills of nearly £300 on hats.
The Bloomsbury project failed financially and Nash was declared bankrupt in 1783.
Nash returned to London in 1797 following a period of ‘exile’ in Wales, during which he rebuilt his career and established himself as the leading exponent of the picturesque. He was able to apply his picturesque principles to an urban landscape on a grand scale when in 1811 he was commissioned to develop the Crown Estate of Marylebone Park.
The result, 15 years later, was Regent Street, Regent’s Park, the surrounding stuccoed Palladian terraces, and Park Village. Nash was also a leading promoter of the Regent’s Canal, the first section of which opened in 1816. Later, his improvements to London’s West End, completed in 1831, set the footprint for Trafalgar Square.
BRIGHTON PAVILION AND BUCKINGHAM PALACE
In 1815, on a personal commission from the Prince Regent, Nash started work on what became his best-known building, the Royal Pavilion at Brighton. Over eight years he transformed this former farmhouse into a Mughal-inspired fantasy of onion domes and minarets and built a new banqueting room, a corridor gallery and a suite of royal apartments. Extravagant inside and out, it defined the stylistic excesses of the Regency era.
His reconstruction work on Buckingham Palace wasn’t as successful. Nash was employed at the insistence of King George IV (the former Prince Regent), but the ambitious remodelling project was planned and executed in haste. Some of Nash’s new, single-storey wings had to be rebuilt, and he let the budget spiral to more than two and half times the original estimate. On the king’s death in 1830, Nash’s fortunes also declined and he died five years later on 13 May 1835, with Buckingham Palace still incomplete.