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Paine [Payne], Jameslocked

(bap. 1717?, d. 1789)
  • Peter Leach

James Paine (bap. 1717?, d. 1789)

by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1764 [The Paines: James Paine (bap. 1717?, d. 1789) [seated] and James Paine (1745-1829)]

Paine [Payne], James (bap. 1717?, d. 1789), architect, can probably be identified with the infant of that name baptized on 9 October 1717 at Andover, Hampshire, the youngest in the family of three sons and two daughters of John Paine (d. 1727), carpenter, of Andover, and his wife, Jane Head (bap. 1684). The date is compatible with the statement in his obituary of November 1789 that he died 'in his 73rd year' (GM, 1153), and the location with his remark in a letter to Sir William Chambers that, on his journeys to Wardour Castle in Wiltshire, he passed through the town where he was born. However, little is known of Paine's early life. In the preface to the first volume of his collected designs he stated that 'he began the study of architecture in the early part of his life, under the tuition of a man of genius … the late Mr. Thomas Jersey' (Paine, 1.i); but Jersey (d. 1751) is an obscure figure, a builder or surveyor who is known only as having later acted as clerk of works for the building of the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford. More significantly, Paine appears to have studied in London at the St Martin's Lane Academy, an institution founded by William Hogarth in 1735 to enable artists to practise life drawing—and Paine was later said to have attained considerable skill in drawing the human figure. Here he would have come into contact with a number of the period's most innovative designers, and more particularly with the architect Isaac Ware, who was in charge of the academy a few years later, in 1739. He then appears to have become known to the circle of the third earl of Burlington, an introduction which was presumably due to Ware, and to have started on his career from this point. His first professional task, which he received at the age of nineteen, was to supervise the erection of Nostell Priory, Yorkshire (c.1737–1750), a large country house designed by Colonel James Moyser, a friend and follower of Lord Burlington.


While Paine was still engaged on this project, and living in the nearby town of Pontefract, he was commissioned to design a prominent public building in the area, the Mansion House at Doncaster, Yorkshire (1745–8); from these beginnings he developed during the 1750s a large country-house practice in the north and north midlands, which he appears to have extended from Yorkshire to the north-east by taking over the north-country practice of Daniel Garrett, another associate of Lord Burlington, who died in 1753. His patrons in the region included the first duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle, Northumberland (c.1754–1768), Lord Burlington's son-in-law the fourth duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth, Derbyshire (1756–66), the ninth duke of Norfolk at Worksop Manor, Nottinghamshire (c.1758–1767), and the fourth earl of Scarbrough at Sandbeck Park, Yorkshire (c.1763–1768). As early as 1746, however, he returned to live in London, and his practice was never wholly confined to the north. From the mid-1750s onwards he also established a significant presence in London, beginning with a large town house in Whitehall, for Sir Matthew Featherstonhaugh (1754–8). From the end of the decade, following his contact with the duke of Norfolk, he received further major commissions from Roman Catholic patrons, notably at the ninth Lord Petre's Thorndon Hall, Essex (1764–70), and the eighth Lord Arundell's Wardour Castle, Wiltshire (1770–76). In the final phase of his career during the 1770s and 1780s he erected a number of bridges in the Thames valley, the finest being that over the Thames at Richmond, Surrey (1774–7). It was this extensive and varied output which prompted Thomas Hardwick's well-known observation of 1825, that Paine and Sir Robert Taylor 'nearly divided the practice of the profession between them, for they had few competitors till Mr. Robert Adam entered the lists' (Chambers, xlviii–xlix). Hardwick's comment does also raise the question of the extent to which Robert Adam's rise to fame in the 1760s had an adverse impact on Paine's career; and it was in the north that the effect was most marked, with Adam supplanting him at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, early in the decade and at Alnwick Castle in 1768. But the atrophying of his northern practice was compensated for by developments elsewhere and Paine's personal prosperity appears to have been on the increase throughout this period; by the later 1770s he was able to move towards an affluent semi-retirement and the life of a country gentleman.

Alongside his private practice Paine also pursued a career in the office of works; but this aspect of his professional life can hardly be regarded as having been a success, as promotion to a senior position, commensurate with his standing in the profession, proved elusive. His first appointment, in January 1745, was as clerk of the works at the Queen's House at Greenwich—a post he is said to have owed to the patronage of a former surveyor-general, the Hon. Richard Arundell, another close associate of Lord Burlington. In December 1746 he was promoted to the clerkship at the Royal Mews at Charing Cross, but in August 1750 he exchanged posts with Kenton Couse for the almost sinecure clerkship at Newmarket and in March 1758 he also became clerk of the works at Richmond New Park Lodge. At that time, however, he had hopes, with the support of Richard Arundell, of succeeding Thomas Ripley as comptroller of the works, but the post went to the older and longer-established Henry Flitcroft; and an even more serious disappointment came two years later, when, in spite of the support of the earl of Northumberland and Sir Rowland Winn of Nostell, he failed to secure one of the two newly created posts of architect to the works. It was only in December 1780 that he was belatedly appointed to one of these positions, and in a final stroke of irony the posts were abolished two years later under Burke's reform of the civil service.


In 1755–6 Paine made a tour of Italy, visiting Rome and apparently the Veneto, but the visit does not seem to have played a very significant part in his artistic development. In the preface to his Plans, Elevations and Sections of Noblemen and Gentlemen's Houses (1767) he criticized the fashion for foreign travel among architects and the age's developing obsession with archaeological precedent, emphasizing the importance of practical convenience rather than the pursuit of 'inconsistent antiquated modes' and dismissing the architecture of the Greeks as 'despicable ruins' (Paine, 1.ii). He nevertheless valued highly the 'new and striking' in architecture, but his own considerable originality was achieved almost entirely within the framework of English Palladianism. He was a pioneer of the compact, centrally planned Palladian villa as a country-house form, in particular exploiting the practical and visual potential of the central top-lit staircase and the practical advantages of the ‘villa with wings’. At the same time he developed a lively and individual elevational style, based on the 'staccato' isolation of architectural components found in the work of Lord Burlington and William Kent. For a number of his villas he adopted a hallmark formula in which coupled pilasters at the angles were combined with a subsidiary cornice linking the heads of the piano nobile windows, while early experiments with interlocking pediments on the model of Palladio's Venetian church façades were succeeded by striking tripartite compositions derived from Kent's triple-pedimented wings at Holkham Hall, Norfolk. His distinctive repertory of smaller-scale details—mainly derived from a single source, Kent's Designs of Inigo Jones of 1727—included empty niches, splayed window surrounds, open pediments, and vestigial cornice-strips. These characteristics are or were to be found in a sequence of works including Heath House, near Wakefield, Yorkshire (1744–5)—his first independent commission as an architect—Kirkstall Grange, Yorkshire (1752), Serlby Hall, Nottinghamshire (1754–73; remodelled 1812), Belford Hall (c.1755–1756), and Gosforth Hall (1755–64; altered 1880 onwards), Northumberland, Stockeld Park, Yorkshire (1758–63), Bywell Hall, Northumberland (c.1760), and Hare Hall, Romford, Essex (1768–70).

Paine's greater houses of a more traditional non-villa type were by contrast relatively few in number, the principal examples being the uncompleted Worksop Manor (1761–7; demolished 1843), where he combined a palatially expanded version of the main block of Holkham Hall with a central 'Egyptian hall' on the model of Lord Burlington's at the York assembly rooms; and Sandbeck Park, Yorkshire (c.1763–1768), and Thorndon Hall, Essex (1764–70), which are both variants on Colen Campbell's Houghton Hall, Norfolk. In two designs, however—his proposals for Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire (1759), and Wardour Castle, Wiltshire (1770–76)—he used the Palladian villa form for a house of the largest size, the logical consequence of the progressive development of the villa idea. At Kedleston, as one of several different architects involved in the project, his part in the finished building was not extensive, but Wardour represents the real climax of his career, the juxtaposition of its great circular staircase hall and the quadrant form of the wings suggesting a creative revision of Palladio's unexecuted circular-salooned villa design for the Trissino brothers in the light of the practical requirements of English country-house design. His individual manner was also displayed in some of his urban buildings, notably the Middlesex Hospital, London (1755–78; dem. 1925), his second major public building, and his redevelopment of Salisbury Street, off the Strand, London (1765–73; dem. c.1923), a speculative venture where in the riverward frontage he ingeniously combined a tripartite grouping with the quadrant form. On a small number of occasions he appears to have absorbed influences from beyond his normal range of sources, notably at the Gibside Chapel, co. Durham (1760–66), his only free-standing ecclesiastical structure, and in the staircase at Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire (c.1770). The former appears to represent a fusion of Palladio's Pantheon-inspired Tempietto at Masèr and the Greek-cross-in-square form used by Christopher Wren in a number of the City churches; while the latter, with its free-standing columns carrying isolated blocks of entablature, is reminiscent of the interior of James Gibbs's church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London.

Paine also made a contribution to mid-eighteenth-century Gothic. His most substantial projects in this manner were reconstructions and modernizations of actual medieval buildings, at Raby Castle, co. Durham (c.1753–1760; altered c.1870), and Alnwick Castle, Northumberland (c.1754–1768; reconstructed 1854–8), where practical convenience rather than either antiquarian scholarship or an appreciation of the style's pictorial or emotive qualities was evidently the prime consideration; but even so some of his details appear to be the fruit of a close observation of authentic Gothic design. For his interior decoration Paine adopted in his early years the rococo style which had been pioneered in England in circles close to the St Martin's Lane Academy; but he combined such enrichment with elements of Palladian detail, and in his chimneypieces in particular (a speciality of his, for which from the 1760s he maintained his own craftsmen and workshop) he endowed conventional Palladian formulae with a new lightness and delicacy. Examples of this manner are at Nostell Priory, the Doncaster Mansion House, Wadworth Hall, Yorkshire (c.1749–1750), and Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk (1751–6). Later, however, conceding only that 'Palmyra and Baalbec' were 'valuable for the ornaments' (Paine, 1.i–ii), he devised a variant on the type of neo-classical decoration popularized by Robert Adam, examples of which are in the ballroom at Sandbeck Park and the Temple of Diana at Weston Park, Staffordshire (c.1770). He also favoured the Kentian combination of plasterwork and decorative painting, the most notable instance being the saloon at Brocket Hall (1771–3).

Other professional activities

For a number of years Paine was a leading member of the Society of Artists of Great Britain, showing many of his designs at the society's annual exhibitions between 1761 and 1772, as well as serving as a director from the same year and as its president in 1770–72; and during his presidency he designed its Exhibition Room in the Strand, London (1771–2; dem. 1815), a project which was undertaken on his initiative. The circumstances surrounding this undertaking, however, were controversial. In 1768 the society had split and the Royal Academy had been founded by the defecting group led by William Chambers, and the Exhibition Room quickly proved to be an ill-affordable luxury; at the end of his presidency, with the society still losing ground to the new body, Paine himself abandoned it. However, the story that the original schism was the result of rivalry between Paine and Chambers is without foundation, and although he was to exhibit at the Royal Academy only once, in 1783, Paine's relations with Chambers were always a model of professional propriety—as was his attitude to his principal successor in the north, John Carr of York. Paine was also one of the first English architects to take articled pupils on a regular basis, among whom were Christopher Ebdon, John Eveleigh, John Kendall, and Charles Middleton; while John Woolfe served as his assistant during the 1750s. In 1751 he published his Plans, elevations, sections and other ornaments of the mansion-house, belonging to the corporation of Doncaster and subsequently two volumes of his collected designs, Plans, Elevations and Sections of Noblemen and Gentlemen's Houses, the first in 1767 and the second in 1783, when a second edition of the first volume was also issued; but perhaps because of the unfashionable opinions which were trenchantly expressed in the preface of the 1767 volume, they were not in general directly influential among the architects of the following generation.

Residences, family, and death

On becoming based in London Paine lived at the Royal Mews and then from 1750 in Holles Street. In 1754 he remodelled a large house in St Martin's Lane as his residence, then in 1768 he moved into one of the new houses of the redeveloped Salisbury Street. In 1773 he bought the lease on a country estate, Sayes Court, near Chertsey, Surrey, where he is said to have made additions to the house 'in the Elizabethan style' (Papworth, 6.8) and to have formed a fine collection of architectural drawings. In his role of country gentleman he then became a justice of the peace for Middlesex in December 1776 and for Surrey in June 1777, and served as high sheriff of Surrey in 1785. He was married twice, first in March 1741 to Sarah Jennings, daughter and coheir of George Jennings of Pontefract, and second, by June 1748, to Charlotte Beaumont (1722–1766), youngest daughter of Richard Beaumont of Whitley Beaumont, near Huddersfield. With his first wife he had a son, the architect, sculptor, and topographical watercolourist James Paine (1745–1829), and with the second two daughters, the younger of whom married the painter Tilly Kettle. In 1789, 'finding the infirmities of age steal fast upon him, and a family occurrence of a singular nature preying upon his spirits' (GM, 1153), Paine retired to France, where he died a few months later in the autumn of that year. The nature of the 'family occurrence' is not recorded.


  • P. Leach, James Paine (1988)
  • E. Harris and N. Savage, British architectural books and writers, 1556–1785 (1990)
  • J. Paine, Plans, elevations, and sections of noblemen and gentlemen's houses, 2 vols. (1767–83)
  • GM, 1st ser., 59 (1789), 1153
  • M. Binney, ‘The villas of James Paine’, Country Life, 145 (1969), 406–10, 466–70, 522–6
  • W. Chambers, A treatise on the decorative part of civil architecture, ed. J. Gwilt (1825)
  • office of works minute books, TNA: PRO, Works 4/11
  • [W. Papworth], ed., The dictionary of architecture, 11 vols. (1853–92), vol. 6
  • parish register, Andover, 9 Oct 1717 [baptism]


  • BL, Add. MSS
  • Nostel Priory, Yorkshire, Nostel Priory MSS
  • RA, papers relating to Society of Artists
  • RA, corresp. with Ozias Humphry
  • Raby Castle, co. Durham, Raby Castle MSS
  • Sandbeck Park, Yorkshire, corresp. and accounts with Lord Scarbrough for alterations at Sandbeck Park, Lumley Castle, and Downing Street
  • W. Yorks. AS, Leeds, letters to Sir Roland Winn
  • Wilts. & Swindon HC, Arundell of Wardour MSS


  • J. Reynolds, double portrait, oils, 1764 (with his son, James), AM Oxf. [see illus.]
  • D. P. Pariset, engraving, 1769 (after P. Falconet)
  • D. P. Pariset, stipple, pubd 1795 (after P. Falconet, 1769), BM, NPG
  • C. Grignion, engraving (after F. Hayman), repro. in J. Paine, Plans, elevations, sections and other ornaments of the mansion house, belonging to the corporation of Doncaster (1751)

Wealth at Death

wealthy; £5000 each to daughters as marriage settlements; remainder in trust for son's children: will, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/1192, sig. 260

H. M. Colvin, , 3rd edn (1995)
National Archives of the United Kingdom, Public Record Office, London
Gentleman's Magazine