M. I. Batten, 'The Architecture of Dr. Robert Hooke F.R.S.', Walpole Society (London) 25, 97 - 103 (1936 - 37)


Selected extracts from Hooke's Diaries:

1679  June 20th. Lord Conways man about house. June 24th. Lord Conways Designe. June 25th, At Lord Conways. Mr. Holbert etc. July 5th. Spake with Lord Conway, shewd Designe. He gave me 10 G [gold guineas]. October 31st. Letter from Lord Conway by Mackginnys. November 
20th. Sent letter to Lord Conway.1 1 See below
1680  March 31st, Lord Conway at rny lodging. June 14th. Letter from Lord Conway. ­Saturday, June 19th. Set out for Oxford with Mr. Davys at 5 in the morn. June 20th, Mr. Davys sick of his Ague. Dind with Pit. Visited Dr. Wallis, Mr. Barnard, Mr. Piggot etc. Mr. Piggot at my lodging. Lay 
there Sunday night. June 21st.  Saw theater.2 Dined with Pigot. Visited by Wood, paid 10 sh. Rode with Davys to Chipping Norton. June 22nd.  2 Presumably the Sheldonian Theatre by Wren
Davys seasd with ague at Morton hin marsh. 3 June 23rd To Lord Conways. He was gon to Lord Brooks and Lord Digby. Roughly acosted by George Kempson. June 24th, Vjewd the country round. Holbert returnd. June 25th. Lord Conway returnd at night. I changd Lodging into the best Roome, Mr. Popham with him and Dr. Johnson from Warwick…. Holbert a Carpenter but a Pap. June 26th. Viewd module sbewd many faults, made a great many alterations, put the 2 great stairs into one and viewd the situation and ground round about. Dined and Supd with my Lord and Mrs. Popham. Davys sick of Ague. June 27th. With my Lord and Mrs. Popham and Mrs. Kemson to church. June 28th, Spent most of time in considering all matters. June 29th.Prepard for Returne. Davys his Ague very gently. My Lord gave me 30 [gold] Guinnys. June 30th, Took leave of my Lord. Distributed 25 sh in the house. Took horse at 10 in the morning, baited at Morton hin mosse. 3 Lay very scurvily at Iselip. July 1st. Took horse at 4, arrived at Beckonsfield by 10. Dined there and arrived at London and Gresham Colledge by 6. Davys seased with his  3 Moreton-in-Marsh
Ague. I was not in the least weary. Went with Society to Jonathans 4 stayd with tbem till 10 at night. Slept well. July 3rd. Wrote letter to Lord Conway. Contrived his house. July 5th. Contrived house for Lord Conway. July 7th. Lord Conways man here. Michell returnd Draught of Portalls for Lord Conway. July 8th. Wrote letter and sent Draughts to Lord Conway. July 9th. Received Letter from Lord Conway. July 20th.  4 Jonathan's coffee-house.
Wrote and sent letter and Designe of 3 floors to Lord Conway.5 August  5 See below
17th. Wrote to Lord Conway for Leonard.6 6 See below

In the Record Office among the Conway Papers are three letters from Hooke to 

Lord Conway,7 all mentioned in the Diary, besides other correspondence in which the house is mentioned.8 Dugdale notes that Ragley is in the possession of the first 7 S.P.Dom.Car.II, 412, no.67; 414 nos.31 and 67

Viscount Conway. The  third Viscount and first Earl decided to rebuild. As far as we know Hooke only paid one visit to the house, though he may have returned after the Diary ceases, but it was a frequent custom in those days for an architect to send plans and  advice to be carried out by the local builder. Hooke's letters about Ragley are the most detailed examples of this that have been discovered.

From the Diary we see that Lord Conway began his new house in 1679, but when he died in 1683 it was still unfinished. He assigned to his trustees the task of completing the house 'by as much annually as they thought fit'. Probably they spent

8 S.P.Dom.Car.II, 395, no.139; 413 nos. 38 and 84; 414 nos. 78 and 135. S.P. Ireland, Car. II, 333, no.145; 338, no.181.
little on it and it was left to later generations to complete the decorations. 9 Many alterations have been made since the end of the seventeenth cen­tury both to the interior and exterior, the latter including a portico added by James Wyatt. Though the decorations are almost entirely of later dates than Hooke's time the fundamental structure still exists and enough remains of the original building to show that it was very distinguished. The pavilion plan, used by Hooke for Ragley and still existing, was more common in France than in England. The undercroft, which is fully raised above ground, contains some fine rooms in which the great bolection mouldings, characteristic of the end of the seventeenth century, still remain This undercroft, with the entrance under the main steps, is similar in conception to that at Houghton built by Kent. In the centre of the fine piano nobile is the hall of approximately the same 9 Horace Walpole writing immediately after a visit to Ragley in July 1751 states that it is 'but just covered in, after so many years. They have begun to inhabit the naked walls of the upper storey. The great one is unfloored and unceiled'. See Letter of Horace Walpole,  ed. Mrs Paget Toynbee, 1903 - 5, vol. iii, p.66.
dimensions as those mentioned in Hooke's letter to Conway. 10 But either his scheme for pillars standing free was not adopted or else it was altered at a later date, for the present hall has pilasters. The late Mr. Avray Tipping 11 says of Ragley 'this Charles II scheme is a fully developed precursor of such great Georgian houses as Houghton and Rokeby, Wentworth Woodhouse and Kirtlington'. Mr. Tipping suggests that the illustration of Ragley circa 1697 – 9 by Kip is incorrect in showing the roof, surmising that Conway would have adopted the newer method of hiding the roof as much as possible behind a balustrade similar to that now existing. Rut it is more probable that Kip was correct, for in every known building of Hooke’s be favours the French roof; and it may even be said that the roof at Ragley as shown by Kip is typical of Hooke. Wyatt may have been responsible for the present roof.  It should be added that Mr. Tipping was unaware of Hooke's connection with the house. 10 Horace Walpole (op. cit.) writes: 'The hall is magnificent, sixty by forty, and thirty-eight high....The other apartments are very lofty, and in quantity, though I had suspected that this leviathan hall must have devoured half the other chambers.'

11 Country Life, March 22nd 1924, vol. lv, p.445.

Illustrations and References.

Nouveau Theatre de la Grande Bretagne, engraved by Kip, 1697-9.

H. Avray Tipping, Country Life, March 22nd and 29th, 1924, vol. lv, pp. 433-45 and 476 - 82.



Joiners: Davies, Avis. Carpenter.  Holbert.



Letters in the Public Record Office from Hooke to Lord Conway


My Lord,
            I had sooner returned my humble acknowledgements for the Honour of yr Ldps Letter had not an important occassion hindered me from giving yr Ldp a positive Answer to yr honrs kind Invitation; which now necessitates my stay here. I had also sent yr Ldp several designes for the stairs before the Great House, but that they doe none of them please me. The Ascent indeed is too long and too high to be wthout doors, which has caused me to consider afresh the whole Designe, and to vary the module itself; whereby (considering it is the first and most considerable ornament of the whole front) I have cast them to be under the court of the house it self, somewt of the nature of the Great Stalls at Somerset House, next the Garden though much otherwise Contrived, The Portico then in wch they are Lyes open to the (First)/(Great) Court into wch the Landing is immediate out of the Coach, and thereby the stairs always lye dry and clean, and it serves as a vestibule where footmen and meaner attendants may walk wthout Incumbring the great Hall. At the head of these Stairs of Stone the passage opens into the Great Hall which I make four score Foot square which leads to he Great Parlor straight forwards. I conceive the Designe to be very magnificent (so say noe more of it) And that wch will abundantly Answer yr Ldps Intentions in all particulars. Nor will the expence exceed what your Ldp hath already Resolved upon. I hope the Great affairs of he Approaching Part will necessitate your Ldps. Prescence here in Town, before the foundations are begun to he Layd, that so I may have the Honr of Discoursung this Desigrie with yr Ldp before final Resolutions be made past Recalling. This I mention not any ways to Lessen the Value of that module your Ldp now bath, nor any ways to Hinder the progress of he work itself as now designed. But that I conceive it will be much better for the work to begin the founda­tions somewhat later in the spring when the fear of frost is perfectly off, before which time I doubt not to be able (God willing) to be there to see everything put into a good order for the beginning and compleating thereof. I was very much troubled that I heard not of your Ldp being in town the last time, till the night before yr Ldp Left it for that I lost the opportunity of Acquainting yr Ldp wth it. But yet I hope there may be time enough for that affair after ye 22nd of January, when yr Ldp designes to be in London. In the meantime some draughts Ready for yr Ldps perusall shall be made by

November 15th 1679 my Lord
your Ldps most humble and most obedient Servant

                             Robert Hooke


My Lord,
                      Since yr Lordp has honrd me wth the freedom of declaring my thoughts I presume further to acquaint yr Ldp that as to yr Ldps objections I was well aware of them and soe I hope I shall he the better inabled to answer them (though it maybe somewht more Difficult at this Distance) first then I am assured there will not be £100 difference in the charges at most between the way of the module and this propounded by me though I conceave the house will be £500 the better. The Hall in that way yr Lord­ship is sensible will at best be Dark at the uper or best end thereof. It will be open to the passages of Stairs Parlor etc. It will he covered by a half pace and It will have no prospect save at the Lower end. In this I send the uper end is next the light. lyes free from the trouble of passage, and maybe as Close or open as shall suit wth the present use. next the building in this is noe more than in the other …   and yet in the second story there are the same quantity of Roomes and more conveniently Disposed (which seems to he yr Ldps principal objecsion) fore there will be 8 great appartments all of convenient access without inteafearing viz 4 backwards towards the southwest and as many forwards towards the Northeast, for as 5 and 6 are drawing roomes to the four apartments backwards, soe 3 and 4 and as many as large and as good forwards. next My Lord, because I perceive yr Ldp is not pleased to have a vestibule For footmen, I have only Layd the middle third part of it (1) for a staircase allowing only what projects without the sides for an open portico and half pace to the stair in the middle of the ascent (half the ascent being wthout and half wthin the house) this is marked in the Draught of the first story wth 2,2,2. I have layd

one third of it 3 to inlarge the chappell making the Gallery thereof which is even wth the floor of the Hall. 4 is the chappell which is cleer from the ground to the top of the first story, the other third part 5 1 have joyned to the Stewards Room 6. And because yr Ldp likes a vestibule though not for footmen I have placed it in the very centre of the house 7 which is open to the top in an octagon, and sirves to lead into all parts of the house both in the first and second storeys, and will be of as great ornament and convenience as anything can be in the house. this at four of its sides Receives light from the Roof, behind some of the other sides ascend stairs into the Cupelo at the top, which stands on the upright of the 8 columns of ye vestibule and will be a very fair Room, the contrivance of wch I hope I shall have time enough to acquaint yr Ldp wth  hereafter. This vestibule takes off that great Length y Ldp objects against in the Hall soe that the Remaining part 8 is but 66 foot, which is somewt shorter than that Designed by yr Ldp. And for the breadth which  is 44 foot is 2/3 ds of the Length and soe is of a good proportion, yet because yr Ldp may think it too wide, because 4 foot more than the former, by a row of Corinthian pillers of timber which serve to support the Gallerys 35.35.35. in the 2nd story, I can reduce it to 33 feet in the cleer which is half the length and a good proportion also, between wch Pillers in the wall behind them I leave niches which may serve to Receive Statues, Busts, vases or the like, according to the most noble way of the antients & some of our better sort of modern buildings. In the east Pavilion is 9 the little parlor which is 20 foot wide and 30 foot long, to which in is a wthdrawing Room sufficiently large wth Prospect towards the front and towards London. This little parlor may be a withdrawing Room to the Hall at other times. In the North Pavilion is 11 the Library of. the same bigness wth the Little Parlor, and 12 a closet to study in and 13 a room to lock up Instruments manu­scripts Raritys etc, those last two roomes are to be only 12 foot high and soe over them will be two roomes convenient for a bedchamber & study for the Chaplaine or library keeper the like may be done over the dressing roomes of the Great Apart­ments backwards in this story and overall the Dressing Roomes of the apartments in the 2nd story which will be very convenient for Roomes for servants. The whole back part of the House in this story I alter little soe that yr Ldp will have besides a hall vestibule and staircase, a chappell and a Library too and convenient Roomes to it. And also a Stewards Room and Little Parlor wth their conveniences and 10 Great apartments, every of wch have free access to the great staircase, hall chappell Library Great parlor Little parlor entrance etc. without at all intermingling or running through one another, and yet in the 2nd story you may goe round the house through each of them. Each of these apartments are compleat having withdrawing room bed chamber closet, Dressing room, stool room, servants room arid back stairs  I lope this may suit wth yr Ldps Designe for I know not well when to leave out anything. however my Lord if yr Ldp shall yet think the hall or any other parts either too big or too little wthout altering anything of the Designe either forwards or backwards the middle part may he made shorter and narrower, or wider and longer as yr Ldp Shall best like, for the Difference or charge is little more than for floor and Roof; for the contrivance of the Garrets I shall have time enough to acquaint yr Ldp. But the Draught of the celler[?] story I have added. are appropriated to ye staircases.  8 is the tower part of the chappell. 19.20.21. are vaults about 4 foot Deeper than the present ground for. Ale, wine, and cider 13 is the great vault for small beer 90 foot long and 37 foot broard.  14 is the vaulted passage from end to end of the house. All the other Roomes may be assigned to wht yr Ldp pleaseth and may be vaulted or not as there shall be occassion. Yr Ldp I hope will by these Sketches understand the Designe of the whole in gerierall soe as thereby to sec wh is consonant or not wit yr Ldps Intentions. Door windows chimneys ornaments etc. are here omitted, being obvious enough, but when I shall have the Honour to know yr Ldps further pleasure concern­ing these either compleat Draughts of every part, or a small module of the whole shall be provided by

                                                                         my Lord

                                             yr Lordsps most humble and most obedient Servt

                          R. A. Hooke.

  July ye 20 1680
Gresham College.


If yr Ldp can provide materialls of Brick and stone Against the Spring and have a good number of hands for working the Stone fit for Setting It will be much better for the work to begin in March when the fear of the frost is pretty well over and soe the mortar will be thoroughly dry befor next winter and the whole house may be coverd befor Michaelmas, for if this should prove a hard winter there would be a necessity in the spring to take down a great part 0f the walls that should now be built but especially the stone work. As I have found twice in the building of St Paules and in a staircase at Mountacue house and severall other places.


For the Right Honbe the Earl
of Conway
Ragley, in Warwickshire.

My Lord,

I never designed those draughts for any other use than to explain my meaning to yr Ldp which without them it would have been very difficult to have done intelligibly by words. That soe yr Ldp understanding the severall Designes might pitch upon the best, which being done I alway designed a farther explanation of all particulars by a

module and necessary draughts. My vocassions will not permitt my absence hence at this time. But if this would I humbly conceive it will be much better for Dispatch to send Leonard up with the old module and in a fortnight or thereabout he may Returne wth it back againe compleated and Rectified, when it will be very easy for Mr Holbert or anyels yore  Ldp shall imploy to proceed wth the whole work without much if any further Directon. Here I can be often wth him and he may save what help is needful for Expedition Soe that he will rid [?] more in a week here than in a month in the country. In the meantime Mr Holbert cannot well doe amiss if he pro­ceeds in carrying up the front and Rear Walls and all the cross-walls for these apart­ments which are little if at all altered but only in doorways and leave the crosse walls that are to he under the Hall and Staircase till Leonard Returne to be then carried

up, for as they will quickly be done, they having not much work, seo being best of all sheltered by the out walls they wilt best indure to he carryed up last of all. And in the mean time to hasten wth the front wall which will be most exposed to the frost that if possible it may be dry and well thatched before the cold weather come. My Lord when Leonard is come up yr Ldp may be assured noe time shall be lost in the Doing of it, at least he will want noe help nor materials Mr Davys having already upon my desire provided for him a very good workman and convenient place, nor shall he want any necessary Directions or overseeing that can be given him by

                                                                                My Lord

                                                          yr Ldps most humble and most obedient servt

                                                                                                         R. Hooke.

Gresham College
Aug  17, 1680

address to the Earl of Conway
at Ragley

Plan of Ragley, from a survey by
William Tasker, 1871.

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