John Carr (architect) bigraphy, stories - British architect

John Carr (architect) : biography

1723 - 22 February 1807

John Carr (1723–1807) was a prolific English architect. Best known for Buxton Crescent and Harewood House, much of his work was in the Palladian style. In his day he was considered to be the leading architect in the north of England.


He was born in Horbury, near Wakefield, England, the eldest of nine children and the son of a master mason, under whom he trained. He started an independent career in 1748 and continued until shortly before his death. John Carr was Lord Mayor of York in 1770 and 1785. Towards the end of his life Carr purchased an estate at Askham Richard, near York, to which he retired. On 22 February 1807 he died at Askham Hall. He was buried in St Peter and St Leonard's Church, Horbury, which he had designed and paid for.


Carr decided to remain in Yorkshire rather than move to London because he calculated that there was ample patronage and the wealth to sustain it. No job was too small. His largest work, only partially finished, was the Hospital de Santo António in Oporto, Portugal. In order to maximise his income , he kept his staff to the minimum. His earliest assistant -was William Lindley (architect 1739-1818),H Colvin Yale Univ Press, p.654 who from 1774 developed an independent practice. He was followed by the elder Peter Atkinson (1735-1805)H Colvin Yale Univ Press p.76 and possibly his son Peter the younger (1780-1843). Carr's nephew William Carr also assisted his uncle in his latter years.These architectual assistants had 'boys' to help them in turn. Carr rarely delegated matters that others would regard as too trivial, and in consequence Carr had to travel immense distances mostly on horse back.see corresponance Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Sheffield Record Office However the frequency of such visits brought him into regular contact with his many clients to mutual advantage.Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments Sheffield Record Office Carr’s own favourite work was the Crescent at Buxton in Derbyshire, an early example of multifunctional architecture. As well as hotels and lodging houses, it contained Assembly Rooms, shops, a post office and a public promenade all under one roof.see Carr's portrait (above) by Beechey where the building is illustrated On a smaller scale, the same is true of his Newark Town Hall.

Other public buildings included hospitals (e.g., Lincoln and York), racecourse grandstands (e.g. York, Doncaster and Nottingham), (all now demolished), and prisons at Wakefield and Northallerton. He designed new churches as well as repairing old ones. The former were all privately financed, the latter were financed by the existing parishes. His single span roof construction allowed him to build the new churches without the traditional subdivision into nave and aisles.see plans in Wakefield County Record Office

He served as bridgemaster for both the North and West Ridings of Yorkshire, leaving a legacy of countless bridges the majority of which still stand today.The Industrial Architecture of Yorkshire by Jane Hatcher, p. 69, ISBN 0-85033-527-2 The more than 60 bridges built or altered by Carr still serve the backbone of North Yorskhire's road transport network.

His commissions for country houses included model villages and farms, stable blocks, a variety of gate lodges and gateways, garden temples and other ornamental buildings. Notable among them his works for the estates of Harewood and Wentworth Woodhouse.The relevant drawings are in the record offices of Leeds and Sheffield.

He took particular care with their planning and construction to maximise value for money for both the immediate patron and for the buildings future long-term maintenance. He used traditional materials and methods of construction where these had proved sound, but adopted new methods and materials where these could be shown to have an advantage. His training as a stonemason naturally lead him to build in that material. In particular he enjoyed using 'great' stones as at Tabley House. He liked well proportioned rooms which were satisfactory living spaces with or without decorative enrichment. In his view the latter could be provided later if money permitted. As a result most of his buildings were completed and because of the soundness of construction most survive.

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