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Sir Rowland Cotton and the Ingo Jones Connection

Fascinating connection with a very famous architect.

Lady Cotton Monument by Inigo Jones

  • Commisioned by Sir Rowland Cotton

  • Not completed until 1635 (Sir Rowland died in 1634)

  • Made from Derbyshire Alabaster

  • Believed to have cost £2,000

  • Moved to it’s current location between 1864-65 during church renovations

A drawing in the collection of the Royal Insititute of British Architects has been identified as a design for the tombstone for Francis, the wife of Sir Rowland Cotton, who died in childbirth in 1606. The tomb, adapted to accomodate Sir Rowland himself some years later, survives at Sh Chad’s Church at Norton in Hales in Shropshire. Although it differs in detail from the drawing, the simiarities are so pronounced that there can be little doubt about the identification. The decoration includes several devices used by Inigo in his masque, another strong pointer to his having drawn it.

It is also possible that the architect was responsible for two memorials to Cotton’s ancestors at his family church, All Saint’s at Conington, near Peterborough. One is to the twelfth-century Prince Henry of Scotland and the other a joint commemoration of Thomas Cotton, who died in the early sixteenth century, and his wife Joan Paris. As David Howarth has pointed out, they are designed in the same strict proportions of height to breadth as Inigo’s monument to the wife of (the unrelated) Sir Rowland Cotton at Norton-in-Hales in Shropshire, and bear other similarities: for instance, all three feature an altar flanked by Corinthian columns. 1

Inigo Jones’s design for the tomb of Lady Cotton (no relation) at Norton in Hales, Shropshire, which dates to circa 1609, shows striking similarities with the Cotton-Paris and Prince Henry monuments, both as regards appearance and proportional relationships. Both the Jones sketch for Lady Cotton’s tomb and the tomb itself have come under further scrutiny in a recently published catalogue raisonne’ of Jones’s architectural drawings. 1

There it is demonstrated how carefully Jones sustained harmonic proportions: the sill of the sarcophagus in which Lady Cotton is interred relates in simple proportions of i: i and i :2 to other features of the design. But careful measurement of the total height of the Lady Cotton tomb in relation to its total width, and the same measurement taken on the Conington monuments, reveal that the proportion of height to breadth is the same in all three: that is to say i: if.

The case for an attribution of the Cotton-Paris and Prince Henry monuments to Inigo Jones rests in part on the congruity between the proportional relationships within each and the Norton in Hales design. But the architectural framework for the tomb of Lady Cotton is strikingly similar to the Cotton-Paris and Prince Henry monuments: each has an altar framed by Corinthian columns with an inscription suspended on the altar front, a heavy entablature above, with a coat of arms contained within a strap-work frame resting on the cornice.2

The Cotton-Paris Monument, All Saints, Conington c.16152

The Prince Henry Monument, All Saints, Conington c.16152

St Chad’s Church, Norton in Hales, Shropshire

The monument to Sir Rowland Cotton and his wife Francis is one of Inigo’s earliest known works, attributable to him through a drawing in the collection of the Royal Insititute of British Architects. That original design was for a tomb for Francis Cotton, who died in 1606, but it was later adapted by someone else to accomodate Sir Rowland as well.1

Inigo Jones: Design for the tomb of Lady Cotton, c1609 3

Inigo Jones (1573 – 1652)

Inigo Jones is often called the first English architect. Best known for his revolutionary buildings in London, most notably the Queen’s House, Greenwich (1616) and the Banqueting House, Whitehall (1619), he can be described as the father of English Palladianism.

Born in Smithfield, London in 1573, little is known of his early life except that he was the son of a Welsh cloth worker, and was christened at the church of St Bartholomew the Less. Yet despite this humble start, Jones was to go far.

Travel was key to Jones’s meteoric rise. On two separate occasions he travelled to Italy, undertaking an early version of the Grand Tour. These trips, between the years of 1598-1603 and 1613-1614, transformed his understanding of architecture.

In Italy, Jones was captivated by Roman ruins and the buildings of Andrea Palladio. Whilst there, he purchased a significant quantity of Palladio’s drawings, a collection that would prove to have an extraordinary influence on British architecture.

Prior to his second visit, Jones had established himself as the leading designer of elaborate court entertainments known as ‘masques’. On his return, Jones’s architectural career began in earnest: in 1614 he was appointed Surveyor to the Kings’ Works.

With both James I and Charles I Jones’s chief patrons, Palladianism gained a reputation as the royal style. This resulted in a series of brilliant, costly buildings. However, this close association also meant that Jones’s career was subject to the political upheavals of the day: the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, brought an end to his glittering career.

An architect of immense creativity, his greatest influence was Palladio. He examined Palladio’s buildings in detail, as well as his books and drawings. However, he also drew on the ideas of Bramante, Serlio, Scamozzi (whom he met in Venice, 1614), and the French designer Jean Barbet.

In 1652, Jones died, unmarried, in Somerset House, London, one of his finest buildings. He was succeeded by his assistant John Webb, who continued to champion his fledgling architectural style and later by John Denham then Christopher Wren. A monument was dedicated to him was destroyed in the great fire of London on 1666.

Source List

  1. Inigo – The troubled life of Inigo Jones, architect of the English Renaissance by Michael Leapman

  2. Sir Robert Cotton and the commemoration of famous men

  3. R.I.B.A Drawings Collection, Shelf L5/1

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