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Taylor, Sir Robert

Taylor, Sir Robert (1714–88). English architect, with Chambers and Paine one of the most gifted of his generation between Burl-ington's Palladianism and the meteoric rise of Robert Adam. After an apprentice-ship with the sculptor Henry Cheere (1703–81), Taylor travelled to Italy before establishing himself in that discipline in the 1740s, but began practising architecture in the 1750s with almost immediate success, thanks to a happy mixture of talent and extremely hard work. It was said that Taylor and Paine divided the practice of architecture between them until Adam ‘entered the lists’. He was Surveyor to the Bank of England from c.1764 and in 1769 became one of the two Architects of the Office of Works. As a designer of villas and country-houses his work was original and compact, the plans incorporating ellipses, octagons, and his favourite motif, the canted bay (he also favoured octagonal door-panels and window-lights). A good example of his work is Asgill House, Richmond, Surrey (1761–4—with bold eaves on shaped mutules and ingeniously shaped rooms inside), and Danson Hill (now House), Bexleyheath, Kent (c.1762–7—with interior completed by Chambers, virtually derelict for many years, but partly restored and re-opened 2005). At Purbrook House, Portsdown Hill, Hants. (1770—demolished), he designed the first revival of a Roman atrium in an English house, and so has a place in the history of Neo-Classicism. His finest country-houses were Heveningham Hall, Suffolk (1778–c.1780—com-pleted by James Wyatt, but severely damaged in the 1980s), Gorhambury, Herts. (1777–90—later altered), and Sharpham House, Devon (c.1770—with a large domed elliptical stairwell). His major works at the Bank of England had segmental arches and side-lit cupolas that clearly influenced Soane's later works there, but Taylor's contribution to the Bank was much altered by Soane and obliterated by Herbert Baker (in 1921–37), apart from the Court Room (1767–70), which was reconstructed. He designed the Stone Buildings, Lincoln's Inn, London (1775–7), and the Assembly-Rooms in the Old Exchange, Belfast, Northern Ireland (1776—later altered by Lanyon and Lynn when the building became a Bank). Among other works he designed Osney Bridge, Oxon. (1767), Maidenhead Bridge, Berks. (1772–7), and the Gothick spire of St Peter's Church, Wallingford, Berks. (1776–7). He made many designs for funerary monuments which survive, together with other material, in the Taylorian Institute, Oxford. The latter was established through Taylor's bequests to the University of Oxford. His pupils included S. P. Cockerell and John Nash.

Bibliography

Binney (1984);
Colvin (1995);
Country Life, cxlii/3670 (6 Jul. 1967), 17–21, cxlii/3671 (13 Jul. 1967), 78–82;
Gunnis (1968);
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004);
Jane Turner (1996)

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