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Loudon, John Claudius

Source:
The Oxford Dictionary of Architecture
Author(s):

James Stevens Curl,

Susan Wilson

Loudon, John Claudius (1783–1843) Scots agriculturist, encyclopedist, landscape-gardener, horticulturist, 

expert on cemeteries, architect, influential critic, he settled (1803) in London and began a career of frenetic literary activity. His Observations on the Formation and Management of Useful and Ornamental Plantations, on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening … etc. (1804) was followed by A Short Treatise on Several Improvements Recently Made in Hothouses (1805), and A Treatise on Forming, Improving, and Managing Country Residences (1806—in which he revealed a passionate interest in architecture). About that time he began to do architectural work: on the death of his father he designed a Neo-Classical monument in Pinner churchyard, Mddx. (1809), a vertical mass with two battered sides from which a sarcophagus projects, as advanced as any architectural scheme could be for its date, primitive, severe, and stripped.

He invented (1811) an iron glazing-bar that made curved glazing possible and erected various prototype hot-houses incorporating his structural and other practical ideas: Remarks on the Construction of Hothouses (1817), Sketches of Curvilinear Hothouses, and A Comparative View of the Common and Curvilinear Modes of Roofing Hothouses followed (1818). The principles that Loudon developed became the basis of famous works by Paxton at Chatsworth (and ultimately at the 1851 Great Exhibition), of Lanyon and Richard Turner at Belfast, and of Turner and Burton at Kew (1845–8): they were applied to countless conservatories and exhibition-buildings throughout C19 Europe and America.

Work then began on the enormous and immediately successful Encylopaedia of Gardening (1822), which enabled Loudon to design and build the ‘double detached villa’ for himself at 3 and 5 Porchester Terrace, London (1823–4), an advanced and convenient building of Italianate Classical appearance: he also established (1826) The Gardener’s Magazine, which had a profound effect on taste and expertise. He proposed (1829) a green belt half-a-mile broad around London, urged the formation of national schools for compulsory education, and advocated the beneficial use of sewage for agricultural purposes: as if these activities were not enough, he published (1830) the first part of Illustrations of Landscape-Gardening and Garden Architecture, laid out the Botanic Gardens in Birmingham, and married the remarkable Jane Webb (1807–58), author of a futuristic novel (1827) about C21 England bedevilled by universal air-travel, world-wide instant communication systems, intolerable burdens of taxation, and endemic inflation. John and Jane Loudon worked together on the Encylopaedia of Cottage, Farm, and Villa Architecture (1833): with its numerous illustrations (many by E.B.Lamb) it played an important part in the formation of Victorian suburban architectural taste as well as recording much that has proved ephemeral. The Loudons also published (1834–8) The Architectural Magazine, the first British periodical solely devoted to architecture. As a landscape-architect Loudon was influenced by Payne Knight, Repton, and Uvedale Price, and himself advocated the Gardenesque style in which the Picturesque was combined with the display of trees and plants chosen for their botanical, scientific, and horticultural qualities. More than anyone he established the character of the Victorian garden, public park, and arboretum, and his design for the Derby Arboretum (1839–41) was a good example of his style.

His On the Laying Out, Planting, and Managing of Cemeteries; and on the Improvement of Churchyards (1843) is the most exhaustive book ever written on the subject, and includes detailed ideas for landscaping cemeteries that were very widely followed. Loudon’s idea of the cemetery as a landscape-garden/arboretum, with all plants labelled, was part of his concept of mass-education and improvement of society. He produced designs for three cemeteries: Histon Road, Cambridge, Bath Abbey, and Old Southampton (all 1842–3).

Bibliography

J.Curl (2002a, 2004,); J.Curl (ed.) (2001); Jervis (1984); Loudon (1834, 1835, 1838, 1981); Jane Loudon (ed.) (1846); MacDougall (1980); Simo (1988) J.T (1996)