‘I know no Body in this Town whom I could Employ capable of drawing fair designs of this Nature but one Person and he indeed has done them infinite Justice, his name is Castle…’

Edward Lovett Pearce,  ‘Note on designs for Houses of Parliament, Dublin, March 7, 1727-8, NLI D 20,209

The role of the draughtsman was crucial in any building project in eighteenth-century Britain and Ireland. When an architect had finished making concept drawings he would call in a draughtsman to prepare finished plans and elevations and perspective drawings for presentation to the client. These normally included shading to capture the effects of light across an elevation. Such presentation drawings were a highly effective tool to enable architect and client to visualise the design. At the Parliament House in Dublin Edward Lovett Pearce drew on the expertise of Richard Castle to create a set of ‘fair designs’ in order to sell his ambitious project to the building committee. Once building work commenced the draughtsman acted as an intermediary between architect, masons, and other craftsmen, providing accurate drawings of all architectural details.

Plan and section of the House of Commons, Dublin, Parliament House, Dublin, c.1728, Elton Hall Collection, E.2124:1-1992 © Victorian and Albert Museum, London.

Many architects, but not all, were skilled draughtsmen in their own right and provided these drawings themselves. Richard Castle, was praised as being ‘remarkably ready at drawing’ (Anthologia Hibernica, Oct. 1793). James Gibbs employed the services of the Dresden-born draughtsman John Borlach, who likewise was highly-skilled, and worked in the Gibbs office for many years. So valuable was his contribution to the architect’s practice that Gibbs bequeathed a large sum of money to Borlach.

A large scale working drawing by Richard Castle of the entablature at Carton House, Co. Kildare. Courtesy Irish Architectural Archive

The example above is a rare survival of a working drawing by Richard Castle, executed at almost full scale and shaded to properly convey the stone entablature for Carton House, Co. Kildare, in three dimensions. In some cases wooden models were made to give a more complete idea to craftsmen.

Design for a ceiling at Kildare (Leinster)House, Dublin by Richard Castle c.1745. Courtesy Irish Architectural Archive

Further reading

Howard Colvin and Maurice Craig, Architectural Drawings in the library of Elton Hall by Sir John Vanbrugh and Sir Edward Lovett Pearce, Oxford, 1964

Terry Friedman, James Gibbs, New Haven and London, 1984

Anthony Geraghty, The architectural drawings of Sir Christopher Wren at All Souls College, Oxford: a complete catalogue, London, 2007

Anthony Gerbino and Stephen Johnston, Compass and rule: architecture as mathematical practice in England, New Haven and London, 2009

Gordon Higgott, Wren Office Drawings at Saint Pauls


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