The next building which Inigo Jones designed was the Banqueting House of Whitehall Palace, in Whitehall, Westminster (1619-22). Banqueting House, in the same position, was burnt down in 1619, the King immediately set about replacing it with a more magnificent building and this, now the only surviving part of the palace, remains Jones’s most celebrated building. Within its basically Italian tradition, it displays much originality.
The construction of the building began in 1619 and was completed in three years by 1622, and the estimated cost of the construction came to be £15,500. The Banqueting House, Whitehall was the first building to be completed in neo-classical style in the history of English architecture. The Banqueting House is now a Grade I listed building. The building has a Palladian-style architecture.
The original Banqueting House got destroyed in a fire in 1619, in the same year the construction began. The roof is mostly flat and the roofline consists of railing supported by balusters. The building has a total of three floors: the ground floor features a warren of cellars and store rooms. The Banqueting House construction was mainly overseen by the mason Nicholas Stone.
In 1638, Inigo Jones again drew the designs for a new and enormously vast palace at the Whitehall Palace. The design incorporated the Banqueting House as a single unit which encloses a total of seven courtyards. This design was influenced by the Palladian style architecture. However, the design was never incorporated due to the lack of funds and resources, and the plans were dropped for any change or refurbishment of the palace.
Approaching the Banqueting House from Whitehall, the main facade is in fact, the side of the hall within, for the entrance at the north end was never properly finished as James I intended to extend the range with further replacements of the old Whitehall Palace. The Whitehall frontage and the one on the other side are of great richness and elegance, with the huge hall itself rising above a low ground floor.
Both inside and outside, the main hall is expressed in two levels, to allow for the balcony which runs around the interior. Jones used the Ionic order for the lower columns and pilasters, and the Corinthian for those above. The rather inadequate entrance and staircase were added by James Wyatt, and all the external stonework was conscientiously restored by Soane in 1829. Inigo Jones used the same architecture style in Queen’s House.
Inside, the ground floor was originally a sort of grotto in which the King held parties it has now been remodelled as a simple vaulted area for occasional exhibitions. The great room above was for receptions, ceremonies, banquets and masques. The cool splendour of this hall is a reminder that the aim of Renaissance architecture was harmony, not the excitement of any strong emotion. The hall is a double cube room and originally had the plan of a Basilica without aisles, with a great apse at the far end now most unfortunately removed. The hall-room length is twice its equal width and height.
The vast blank floor cries out for the tables which are for some reason kept elsewhere when the room is not in use, but the lofty space above is brought to life by the jutting balcony and the rich ceiling. Rubens’ joyous paintings were an after-thought, for which one is grateful. From the far end of the room there is a moment of real excitement, for, looking back, the full majesty of the Ionic portico over the entrance door is apparent. This is the only work which can give an idea of the splendour of the famous Corinthian portico which Jones built for St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Architecture in southern European countries went through a slow evolution, while with Inigo Jones it arrived suddenly for the English architecture. The English architecture was transformed by the Jones through his work in Queen’s House and the Banqueting House, Whitehall Palace.
The Banqueting House architectural design became very famous and the other architects began to recreate the style with a bit of competence. Today, the Banqueting Hall can be used as a venue space and is also open for tours.