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Henry Flitcroft

Henry Flitcroft (1697—1769), the architect, was Comptroller of the Board of Works at the time when Joshua Kirby was appointed Clerk of the Works at Richmond and Kew. Flitcroft had risen by talent and luck from humble beginnings. His father was a labourer at Hampton Court and Flitcroft was apprenticed as a joiner. He got his lucky `break’ when he fell off a ladder in 1719 while working on Burlington House, and came to the attention of the Earl of Burlington, who noticed his drawing ability. With Burlington’s patronage, Flitcroft’s rise was swift. While working for Burlington as a draughtsman, he also gained a place at the Office of Works, being appointed Clerk of the Works at Whitehall, Westminster, and St James’s palaces in May 1726. Flitcroft remained at the Office of Works for the rest of his life, becoming Master Carpenter in 1746, Master Mason and Deputy Surveyor in 1748, and Comptroller in 1758. According to Colvin, during his years of service, he attended ‘at least 1100 Board meetings’ (89).

Alongside his government position with associated draughtsmanship and architectural work, Flitcroft built up a successful private practice, largely following in the Palladian style endorsed by Burlington and his circle. One of his first commissions, in 1725, was to prepare a set of plans for Montagu House, then lived in by John, 2nd Duke of Montagu. The house later became the first location of the British Museum and the plans are now held by the BM. Continue reading