John Wood the Elder

Architect - Georgian Bath 1704 - 1754

John Wood the Elder

Architect - Georgian Bath 1704 - 1754

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    As an Author John Wood the Elder published several books during his lifetime including 'An essay towards a description of Bath'. In this he writes about the history of Bath and his scheme for the improvement of the city. The book is largely forgotten about now as it contains more folklore than historical account.

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    John Wood the Elder is most famous for his town planning schemes and the building legacy he has left behind. He was so influential and the buildings that he and his son designed and built are enjoyed by millions of visitors each year.

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    As an Antiquarian he studied, mapped and surveyed Stonehenge in 1740, publishing it in his book 'Choir Gaure'. In 1740 he also surveyed the Stanton Drew stone circles.



Queen Square

Bath 1728-1736

Queen Square was John Wood the Elders first speculative development in Bath. His vision was to improve the lodging in Bath that the early 1700's was found wanting!

Bath at this time was becoming the place to spend the season, so his scheme was to not only provide lodging but also a square where the visitors could parade and be seen. Seven townhouses make up the palatial North façade.

He himself lived in a townhouse in the South part of the square and was able to look out at the square and the palatial North façade.

The Circus

Bath 1754-1768

John Wood the Elder died 3 months after laying the foundation stone of The Circus. The building was finished under the supervision of his son John Wood the Younger.

The Kings Circus as it was originally known was built northwards from Queen Square and is divided into 3 equal segments.

It features columns from the three classical orders: Greek Doric, Roman and Corinthian. The frieze that runs around the circus above the lower Doric column is decorated with 525 individual emblems, including serpents, nautical symbols, devices representing the arts and sciences, and masonic symbols. The top parapet is adorned with stone acorn finials.

The Royal Crescent

Bath 1767-1775

The Royal Crescent is probably the most spectacular row of houses in the world and tourists visit them each day.

They were actually designed and built by John Wood the Younger, but you can clearly see his fathers guidance in the overall design of the crescent of houses.

It features 114 Ionic Columns with the central house having a pair of Ionic Columns on either side. Like with the rest of the buildings of this period only the front of the building was designed and the individual builder's were free to design the interior however they wished so long as the front aspect remained true to the architect's design.



John Wood the Elder

baptized Aug. 26, 1704, Bath, — died May 23, 1754, Bath

John Wood the Elder was the English architect and town planner who designed and transformed the city of Bath. The first records we have of him are when he is in London helping to build the Cavendish-Harley housing estate just north of Oxford Street. He also carried out work in Bramham Park near Leeds and it is whilst he was here that he worked on his scheme for the development of Bath.

In early 1700s Bath was the place to visit for the season to take the waters and John Wood the Elder was disgusted by the medieval lodgings that were available to the people at the time.

He designed the Hospital of St John (1727), North and South Parades (1728), Queen Square (1735), Prior Park (1735–48), the Royal Mineral Water Hospital (1738). He died in May 1754 three months after laying the foundation store for The Circus, which was completed by his son John Wood the Younger in 1764. John Wood the Younger carried on his fathers work and designed the Royal Crescent (1767–75)

John Wood the Elder also carried out work outside of Bath including the Bristol Exchange (1740–43) and Liverpool Exchange (1748–55).

He wrote many books in his life and these include An Essay Towards a Description of the City of Bath (1742–43; 2nd ed. 1749), Description of the Exchange at Bristol (1745) The Origin of Building; or, The Plagiarism of the Heathens Detected (1741) and his study of Stonehenge Choir Gaure (1740).

He is buried in Swainswick just outside Bath.



View John Wood the Elder 1704-1754 in a larger map


This Map shows the Buildings and places of importance of John Wood the Elder 1704-1754 and his son John Wood the Younger.