Loudon, John Claudius

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Loudon, John Claudius (1783–1843). Scots agriculturist, encyclopedist, landscape-gardener, horticulturist, editor of journals, expert on cemeteries, architect, and influential critic. He settled in London in 1803 and began a career of frenetic literary activity. His first book, Observations on the Formation and Management of Useful and Ornamental Plantations, on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening … etc. came out in 1804, followed by A Short Treatise on Several Improvements Recently Made in Hothouses (1805), and A Treatise on Forming, Improving, and Managing Country Residences (1806), in which he revealed a passionate interest in architecture. About that time he began to do architectural work. On the death of his father he designed a Neo-Classical monument in Pinner church-yard, Middlesex (1809), a vertical mass with two battered sides from which a sarcophagus projects, as advanced as any architectural scheme could be for its date, primitive, severe, and stripped.

In 1811 he invented an iron glazing-bar that made curved glazing possible and erected various prototype hot-houses incorporating his structural and other practical ideas. In 1817 he published Remarks on the Construction of Hothouses and in 1818 Sketches of Curvilinear Hothouses and A Comparative View of the Common and Curvilinear Modes of Roofing Hothouses. The principles that Loudon developed became the basis of the more famous works by Paxton at Chatsworth (and ultimately at the Great Exhibition of 1851), of Lanyon and Turner at Belfast, and Turner and Burton at Kew, and were applied to countless conservatories and exhibition-buildings throughout C19 Europe and America.

Work then began on the enormous and immediately successful Encylopaedia of Gardening (1822), which enabled Loudon to design and build the ‘double detached villa’ for himself at 3 and 5 Porchester Terrace, London (1823–4), an advanced and convenient building of Italianate Classical appearance. In 1826 he established The Gardener's Magazine, which had a profound effect on taste and expertise. In 1829 he proposed a Green Belt half-a-mile broad around London, the formation of national schools for compulsory education, and the beneficial use of sewage for agricultural purposes. In 1830 he brought out the first part of Illustrations of Landscape-Gardening and Garden Architecture, laid out the Botanic Gardens in Birmingham, and married the remarkable Jane Webb (1807–58), author of a futuristic novel (1827) about an England in C21 bedev-illed by universal air-travel, world-wideinstant communication systems, intolerable burdens of taxation, and endemic inflation. John and Jane Loudon worked together on the Encylopaedia of Cottage, Farm, and Villa Architecture (1833). With its numerous illustrations (many by E. B. Lamb) it played an important part in the formation of Victorian suburban architectural taste as well as recording much that has proved ephemeral. From 1834 to 1838 the Loudons published The Architectural Magazine, the first British periodical solely devoted to architecture. As a landscape architect Loudon was influenced by Payne Knight, Repton, and Uvedale Price, and himself advocated Picturesque compositions. He invented the ‘Gardenesque’ style in which the Picturesque was combined with the display of trees and plants chosen for their botanical, scientific, and horticultural qualities. More than anyone he established the character of the Victorian garden, public park, and arboretum, and his design for the Derby Arboretum (1839–41) was a good example of his style.

His On the Laying Out, Planting, and Managing of Cemeteries; and on the Improvement of Churchyards (1843) is the most exhaustive book ever written on the subject, and includes detailed ideas for the landscaping of cemeteries that were very widely followed. Loudon's idea of the cemetery as a landscaped garden and arboretum, with all plants labelled, was part of his concept of mass-education and improvement of society. He produced designs for three cemeteries: Histon Road, Cambridge, the Bath Abbey Cemetery, and Southampton Cemetery (all 1842–3).


J. Curl (2000a, 2002c);
J. Curl (ed.) (2001);
Jervis (1984);
Loudon (1834, 1981);
MacDougall (1980);
Simo (1988)
Jane Turner (1996)