August 18: Stiff

2016/08/18 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1766 Stiff Leadbetter died.

Born around 1705, Leadbetter was a highly successful builder/architect, particularly in Hampshire, Buckinghamshire and London, in the two decades before he died.  He would probably be more famous if it wasn’t for the more stellar architects (like Robert Adam and James Stuart) in whose orbits he sometimes traveled, and who admittedly outshone him.  Still, Leadbetter is notable for fine late-Georgian buildings like Newton Park in Somerset and the Radcliffe Infirmary at Oxford.  He was also one of the earliest to jump on the Gothwagon (check out the great paneling in the room above–even the ceiling!–, just seven years after Strawberry Hill).  Leadbetter was also as a significant representative of the most common kind of building designer of the time, a carpenter who could design and build.  His was one of the last generations who were not hung up by those distinctions of profession/vocation, and it is the bias of those who cannot get beyond stringent definitions of professionalism that have accounted, in part, for him and his brethren from being sidelined in favor of studies on The Great Artists.  Everybody knows that the Muse loves a Great Artist, but she doesn’t like professional prejudice overshadowing skilled designers just because they knew how to hold a chisel, either.  Especially when they have a name as excellent as Stiff Leadbetter.

Image: Gothic Room at Pomfret Castle, 1756 (from this source)

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