Thomas Archer

Thomas Archer (1668–1743) was an English Baroque architect, whose work is somewhat overshadowed by that of his contemporaries Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor. His buildings are important as the only ones by an English Baroque architect to show evidence of study of contemporary continental, namely Italian, architecture.[1]

Thomas Archer
Died(1743-05-22)22 May 1743
his house Whitehall
BuildingsSt. Paul's, Deptford

St John's, Smith Square
St Philip's Cathedral
North Front & Cascade Chatsworth House
Heythrop Park

Garden pavilion Wrest Park


Archer spent his youth at Umberslade Hall in Tanworth-in-Arden in Warwickshire, the youngest son of Thomas Archer, a country gentleman, Parliamentary Colonel and Member of Parliament, and Ann Leigh, daughter of the London haberdasher, Richard Leigh.[2] The exact date of Archer's birth is unknown, but can be inferred from the two documentary sources that mention his age. One is an entry in the Oxford University register recording his matriculation at Trinity College on 12 June 1686, aged 17; the other, his epitaph, survives in the parish church of Hale, Hampshire. If these records are accurate, he must have been born between 12 June 1668 and 22 May 1669. Thomas is the only one of the Archer children not to have his birth recorded in the Tamworth-in-Arden parish register, which suggests he may have been born elsewhere.[3] He attended Trinity College, Oxford, from which he matriculated on 12 June 1686.[4] After leaving university, he went on a Grand Tour, spending four years abroad and was influenced by the work of Bernini and Borromini.


Among Archer's churches was St John Evangelist, Westminster, suggestive of Hawksmoor's baroque influence. Its four towers were originally built to stabilise subsidence. Historians believed that was more likely than following Sir John Vanbrgh's style. Built in 1750, St Paul's, Deptford, sweeping semi-circular porticos were not copied for a century until Smirke's magnificent church at St Mary's, Bryanston Square that dominated the street. At St Philip's, Birmingham, now Birmingham Cathedral there was a strong sense of the Italianate Lombardic influences of High Baroque style of churches: ornate, high ceilings, with cupola and dome. External to St Philips is the roof balustrade quite unusual in English church architecture.[5] St John's and St Paul's were both built for the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches. John Summerson said these two buildings "represent the most advanced Baroque style ever attempted in England". According to the minutes of the Commissioners, Archer also "improved" Hawksmoor's designs for St Alfege's at Greenwich, although the nature of the improvements, or whether they were implemented, is unknown.[6]

At Hale, Hampshire, he remodelled St Mary's Church, which also contains his memorial, carved by Sir Henry Cheere to Archer's own design.[7][a]

Secular worksEdit

Archer's secular works included Roehampton House in Surrey, Welford Park in Berkshire, and the Cascade House and the west front and broadly bowed pilastered north front at Chatsworth House. In 1709–11 Archer designed a Baroque garden pavilion for Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Kent at Wrest Park, Silsoe, Bedfordshire. After 1712 Archer designed Hurstbourne Priors in Hampshire for John Wallop (later Earl of Portsmouth).

He was a founding governor of the Foundling Hospital in London in 1739, but was not involved in the construction of the resulting building, completed c. 1750. The architect for that project was Theodore Jacobsen.

Documented worksEdit

Attributed worksEdit



  1. ^ Brian L. Harris seems to disagree with this assessment. He believes in Guide to Churches and Cathedrals the carving was done by Peter Schiemaker (1692-1786)


  1. ^ Oxford illustrated encyclopedia. Judge, Harry George., Toyne, Anthony. Oxford [England]: Oxford University Press. 1985–1993. p. 21. ISBN 0-19-869129-7. OCLC 11814265.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ The Little London Directory of 1677: the oldest printed list of the merchants and bankers of London. Edited by John Camden Hotton, 1863. A reprint of A Collection of the Names of Merchants living in and about the City of London, 11 October 1677, under licence from Roger L'Estrange. Richard Leigh and his wife Mary had six children, of which Ann was the eldest. The family lived in the parish of St. Helen's Bishopgate. Ann married Thomas Archer, the architect's father in 1649 in the parish of St. Peter-le-Poor.
  3. ^ Joseph Foster, Alumni Oxonienses: The Members of the University of Oxford, 1500–1714 (Oxford: James Parker & Co., 189 1). Marcus Whiffen, Thomas Archer, vol. 3 (London: Art and Technics, 1950). Marcus Whiffen, Thomas Archer, architect of the English baroque, [New ed.] ed. (Los Angeles: Hennessey & Ingalls, 1973).
  4. ^ page 10, Thomas Archer Architect of the English Baroque, Marcus Whiffen, 1973, Art and Technics
  5. ^ G.Cobb, The Old Churches of London (1942), p.96
  6. ^ Downes, Kerry (1987) [first published 1970]. Hawksmoor. World of Art. London: Thames and Hudson. pp. 110–11. Downes suggests the use of the giant order of pilasters around the church may have been Archer's idea.
  7. ^ "The Puzzle of St Mary's Church – Hale". Judith Leigh.

Further readingEdit

  • Andor Gomme, ‘Archer, Thomas (1668/9–1743)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, September 2004; online edn, January 2008) [1], accessed 8 November 2008.
  • Whiffen, Marcus:Thomas Archer: Architect of the English Baroque,
  • Hennessey & Ingalls, Santa Monica 1973, ISBN 0-912158-23-9

External linksEdit

Court offices
Preceded by
William Rowley
Groom Porter
Succeeded by