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Northern Gothic: James Wyatt’s work for the Bishop of Durham

Lindfield, Peter (2019) Northern Gothic: James Wyatt’s work for the Bishop of Durham. The British Art Journal: the research journal of British art studies, 20 (3). ISSN 1467-2006 (In Press)

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Abstract

James Wyatt is known for his sometimes destructive interventions into, and modifications of, medieval ecclesiastical architecture; the overwhelmingly negative reception of such ‘improvements’ to medieval edifices has cast a shadow over his work on such buildings and the broad remodelling of domestic structures in the Gothic style. This essay explores Wyatt’s architectural work for the Bishop of Durham, and seeks to offer a fresh consideration of his domestic architecture in County Durham that has, hitherto, been given insufficient scholarly attention. In particular, Wyatt’s often sympathetically antiquarian Gothic proposals are highlighted—they are something quite opposite to what his nineteenth-century moniker as ‘Wyatt the Destroyer’ suggests. In evaluating Wyatt’s proposals for Bishop’s Palace at Bishop Auckland in particular, it is shown how the uniquely Georgian Gothic pattern-book by Batty Langley—then as now infamous and widely derided—Ancient Architecture: Restored and Improved (1741–42), had significant sway over the house and its estate during the mid-eighteenth century, but also that Wyatt’s work and proposals for the Palace in the 1790s moved the house largely away from such design-based recreations of Gothic forms to something far more inspired by an antiquarian understanding of medieval architecture.

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