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April 2003


John Carr of York was commissioned by the 2nd Marquis of Rockingham and also the Fitzwilliams to design and build various buildings in and around Wentworth Woodhouse. Examples of his work at Wentworth include The Stable Block, the Rockingham Mausoleum, Rainsborough Lodge, The Needles Eye, Keppel’s Column, the re-designing of the North and South wings of Wentworth Woodhouse and the Grand Staircase leading to the Grand Saloon.

John Carr was born in 1723 and was the son of Robert Carr, a mason and quarry owner of Horbury near Wakefield in Yorkshire. He was educated in the village school, and after his education he assisted his father in the quarry and on buildings in the neighbourhood on which he was employed. In about 1750 he built Kirkby Hall to the designs of Lord Burlington and Roger Morris, and in July 1752, the Corporation of York voted £88.00. Should be paid to him for enclosing the Pikeing Well with an ornamental building. Of this sum £25.00 was to be returned by Carr as redemption money for the freedom of the City. In 1757, having completed the work he was duly admitted a Freeman of the City of York.

His career as a fashionable architect began in 1754, when his designs for the grandstand at Knavesmere were chosen in preference to those of James Paine. This work, which was much admired, brought him to the notice of the gentry who attended the York Racecourse. Within a few years, John Carr had become the best known architect in the North of England, the accredited representative there of the school of Lord Burlington and William Kent - though he also learnt to imitate the decorative style of Robert and James Adam, a style he saw and admired in their work at Harewood House. Although somewhat lacking in originality, Carr's work is invariably competent and scholarly, and exemplifies all that is best in Georgian provincial architecture.

He served as Lord Mayor of York in 1770 and again in 1785, for the remainder of the year after his death, in office, of his predecessor. In the same year he was appointed one of the magistrates for the West Riding, and in 1791 he was the only provincial architect to be invited to become a member of the London Architects Club. He rebuilt the church in his native village of Horbury in 1791 at his own expense, and purchased a house there which he re-named Carr Lodge.

He retired towards the end of his life to Askham Richard, a village near York, where he purchased a mansion and an estate. He was of a cheerful and convivial disposition, and retained his vivacity until the last, making long tours around the country to show his buildings to his great nieces. He died unmarried in 1807 leaving property worth between £150,000 and £200,000 to his nephews and nieces. He was buried in the church at Horbury, where there is a monument to his memory.

His portrait, by Sir William Beechy, presented by himself to the Corporation of York, hangs in the Mansion House at York. There is a bust of him, by Nollekens, in the Castle Museum at York. His copy of R Morris's Select Architecture (1755) in Sir John Soane's Museum contains sketches of his own, including the "Reverend Mr Masons House at Aston", near Rotherham, a screen for Mr Shores at Meersbrook House Heeley, near Sheffield. He was succeeded in his practice by Peter Atkinson who died in 1815, and who's grandson, J. B. Atkinson possessed some of his drawings at the time of his death in 1875. There is a long series of letters from John Carr to his friend Benjamin Hall, the steward at Wentworth House, among the Fitzwilliam Papers in the Sheffield Public Library.



Also listed among the works of John Carr are:

* Ravenfield Chapel near Rotherham.

* Aston Hall near Rotherham for the Earl of Holderness.

* Ravenfield Hall near Rotherham.

* Castle Howard.

* Surveyed the fabric and repaired the roof on Chesterfield Townhall.

* Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire.

* The new North and South wings of Wentworth Woodhouse.

* The Rockingham Mausoleum at Wentworth.

* The Stable Block at Wentworth Woodhouse.

* The Crescent at Buxton.

* The Townhall at Newark.

* The County Court House at York.


Additional Information

Our thanks to Mr. Richard Collier for providing the following additional information about John Carr:-

John Carr was married at Featherstone on the 31st. August 1746. His wife was Sarah, the daughter of Thos. Hinchliffe of Cold Heindley. It was said that he met her whilst working at Bretton Hall. They had no children, and his estate passed to his two nephews, William Carr of York, and John Carr, of Wakefield and Carr Lodge, Horbury

If anyone can provide any further details on the life of John Carr then please contact us with details.

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