John Nash

Portrait of John Nash

John Nash was a British architect of the Georgian and Regency eras. He was born in Lambeth, London on 18th January 1752 and died on 13th May 1835 in East Cowes, Isle of Wight aged 83.

Major Works

East Cowes Castle, Isle of Wight (1802)
Blaise Hamlet near Bristol (1811)
Regent’s Canal (1820)
Theatre Royal, Haymarket (1821)
The Royal Pavilion, Brighton (1822)
All Souls Church, Langham Place, London (1824)
Marble Arch and Carlton House Terrace (1827)
Buckingham Palace, London (1830)
Regent Street area (1832)
(NOTE: All completion dates)

Biography Timeline

John Nash was born 18th January 1752 in Lambeth London. His father, also called John Nash, was a millwright. The family lived in Southwark, London during his childhood.

1766: He begins his training as an architect with Sir Robert Taylor which lasts until 1775 or 1776.  

1772: Death of his father. 

1775: He marries his first wife Jane Elizabeth Kerr, daughter of a surgeon on 28th April 1775, at the church of St Mary Newington and they set up home in Royal Row, Lambeth, London.

1776: His first son john is born on 9th June.

1777: He establishes his own architectural practice as well maintaining a partnership with the timber merchant Richard Heaviside.

1778: A son, Hugh, is born on 28th April however in June Nash finds out that both the children are not his. He sends Jane off to Aberavon in Wales to live with his cousin, Ann Morgan, where she has a relationship with a local man Charles Charles. Later at the Consistory Court of the Bishop of London it is claimed that she faked both pregnancies and then passed babies she had acquired off as her own. Nash himself receives an inheritance of £1,000 from his Uncle Thomas which he invests building 15-17 Bloomsbury Square and 66-71 Great Russell Street in London.

1779: Jane returns to London in June but continues to spend money extravagantly so she is sent to another cousin, Thomas Edwards of Neath, Wales where she gives birth to a child in December and states that Charles Charles is the father. 

1781: He sues for separation on the grounds of adultery.

1782: The case is tried at Hereford and Charles is found guilty. He is unable to pay the fine and subsequently dies in prison.

1783: His new properties now complete fail to find tenants and he is declared bankrupt on 30th September. He owes large debts to people including Robert Adam and his brothers.

1784: He leaves London and goes to live in Carmarthen, Wales where his mother now lives. He works with Samuel Simon Saxon as building contractors and suppliers of building materials. 

1787: The Nash’s divorce is finally granted on 26th January. 

1789: His first major work in Wales is completion of the prison at Carmarthen, established by the penal reformer John Howard. Work is finished there in 1792. Nash also surveys the west front of St David’s Cathedral which is leaning precariously. He begins demolishing the upper part of the façade and rebuilds it with two flying buttresses which is completed in 1791.

1790: He meets Sir Uvedale Price of Downtown Castle, Herefordshire, whose theories about the Picturesque style will later influence Nash’s view of town planning.

1791: He begins work on the prison at Cardigan (completed 1796).

1792: He meets Humphry Repton, the garden designer, at Stoke Edith in Herefordshire and the two form a partnership. As his architectural practice is beginning to grow he has to take on draughtsmen and the first is Augustus Charles Pugin (Father of Augustus Welby Pugin). In Hereford he meets Richard Payne Knight, also a devotee of the picturesque style. Nash gets the commission to build Hereford Gaol after the death of the original architect William Blackburn (completed 1796).

1794: He advises on the paving, lighting and water supply in Abergavenny and designs a building for the local market.

1795: He designs Castle House in Aberystwyth in the Picturesque style and Corsham Court in Wiltshire. John Adey Repton, son of Humphry, becomes another of his draughtsmen.

1796: He is now spending most of his time working in London.

1797: He moves to live full time in London at 28 Dover Street in a building he designed himself.

1798: He purchases 30 acres of land at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight where he plans a summer residence for himself, a castle in the gothic style. (completed 1802). He marries Mary Anne Bradley on 17th December at St George’s Hanover Square, London.

1800: The partnership with Repton is dissolved as Nash is accused of exploiting it to his own advantage. He draws up designs for Luscombe Castle in Devon (completed 1804).

1802: He designs the Italianate Renaissance-style villa Cronkhill.

1805: He designs Sandridge Park.

1806: Nash is a supporter of the Whig political party and a friend of Charles James Fox. Through him he is noticed by the Prince Regent, (later King George the Fourth). He is appointed Architect to the Surveyor General of Woods, Forests, Parks, and Chases.

1807: He draws up plans for the re-building of Hawarden Castle in Wales using gothic battlements and towers although it is modified when the work is finally built. Work begins at Ravensworth Castle in County Durham.

1808: He designs Caerhays Castle in Cornwall (completed 1810) and Southborough Place, Surrey and Monachty near Aberaeron, Wales.

1809: His first major commission from the Prince are for designs for Regent Street, London and the surrounding area. As there are so many buildings proposed he leaves some of the later designs to James Pennethorne and Decimus Burton.

1810: He designs Blaise Hamlet near Bristol. Nine asymmetrical cottages are built around the village green. (the project is completed in 1811).

1812: He becomes a director of the Regent’s Canal Company and draws up plans to form a canal link from west London to the River Thames in the east. He leaves much of the work to assistants such as James Morgan, (the first phase is completed in 1816 and the final link in 1820).

1813: He is appointed an official architect to the Office of Works alongside Robert Smirke and Sir John Soane.

1814: He designs the The Rotunda in Woolwich and St. James’s Park, London (completed 1827).

1815: Decimus Burton begins work at the office. Nash advises on work to the structure of Jesus College, Oxford for which he asks for no fee but for a portrait to be painted of himself by Sir Thomas Lawrence, to hang in the college. The Prince Regent asks Nash to develop his marine Pavilion in Brighton.

1816: Other royal commissions include the design the King’s Opera House (now Her Majesty’s Theatre). James Burton, father of Decimus, agrees to personally finance Nash’s construction projects at Regent’s Park which the Government refuses to do.

1817: Burton purchases leases of the proposed terraces around, and villas within Regent’s Park and the leases of five of the largest blocks on Regent Street. Burton has his own mansion, The Holme, built by the park to designs by Decimus and Nash agrees to promote his career.

1818: He designs Shanbally Castle in County Tipperary, Ireland. The Parliamentary Commissioners on the building of new churches ask him to advise them and he draws up designs for ten churches. In the end only two are built. All Souls Church, Langham Place (begun 1822 and completed 1824) and St Mary’s Haggerston (begun 1825 and completed 1827). The Prince Regent agrees on Nash’s Master Plan for the Regent Street area and work commences (finally being completed in 1832).

1819: He moves to his final home at 14 Regent Street.

1820: A scandal erupts as a cartoon circulates of a half-dressed King George the Fourth embracing Nash’s wife with the speech bubble “I have great pleasure in visiting this part of my dominions”. It is not known whether these rumours were actually true or put about by Nash’s competitors.

1821: He redesigns the Theatre Royal, Haymarket in the neoclassical style.

1822: He completes his work on the Marine Pavilion in Brighton (now known as the Royal Pavilion). The exterior nods towards Mughal architecture from India and the interiors are in a Chinese Style both of which appealed to the King. His assistants Frederick Crace and Augustus Charles Pugin are largely responsible for the interior decoration. Hanover Terrace and Sussex Place in London are completed.

1824: Park Square is completed.

1825: He redesigns the Royal Mews and then Buckingham House (which became Buckingham Palace completed 1830).

1826: He designs the United Services Club in Pall Mall (now the Institute of Directors).

1827: He designs Marble Arch and Carlton House Terrace.

1830: King George the Fourth dies and it effectively puts an end to Nash’s extravagant career. In particular the Treasury are shocked at the costs of Buckingham Palace, which had risen over the years, and never give him any more contracts or the usual knighthood.

1832: His appointment as official architect to the Office or Works is finally terminated and he retires to the Isle of Wight to live in his home, East Cowes Castle.

1835: On 28th March he is described as “very poorly and faint”. On 1st May John Wittet Lyon, Nash’s, solicitor is summoned to East Cowes to finalise the will and by the 6th he is described as “very ill indeed all day”.

John Nash died at his home, East Cowes Castle, on 13th May 1835. His funeral took place at St James’s Church, East Cowes, Isle of Wight on 20th May and he was buried in the churchyard. (His widow sought to clear his debts by selling the contents of the castle including three paintings by J.M.W. Turner).

Further Information

List of buildings by Nash.