Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brettingham, Matthew

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BRETTINGHAM, MATTHEW, the elder (1699–1769), architect, was born at Norwich. He was a pupil of the better known William Kent, along with whom he was engaged in the erection of Holkham, the Earl of Leicester's seat in Norfolk. As a youth he travelled on the continent of Europe, and in 1723, 1725, 1728, and 1738 published 'Remarks on several Parts of Europe, viz. France, the Low Countries, Alsatia, Germany, Savoy, Tyrol, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain, collected upon the spot since the year 1723,' in 4 vols. fol. The works at Holkham were commenced in 1729 from the plans of Kent, upon whose death in 1748 they were carried on under the superintendence of Brettingham till their completion in 1764. In 1761 he published 'Plans, Elevations, and Sections of Holkham in Norfolk, the seat of the Earl of Leicester,' London, atlas fol., of which another edition was published a few years later by his nephew, Robert Furze Brettingham [q. v.] It is curious that in neither of these publications is the real authorship of the plans acknowledged, although the fact that Kent designed them is beyond dispute. It is impossible now to ascertain the share of credit for the completed work to which Brettingham is entitled. As the construction of the house extended over so long a period after Kent's death, Brettingham no doubt modified the latter's original designs; but the drawings published by him do not differ in any way from the prevailing heaviness and regularity of the then fashionable 'Vitruvian' style of which Kent was master, and suggest at best but successful imitation on the part of his follower. Brettingham's other known works were Norfolk House (now 21 St. James's Square), London, erected in 1742; Langley Park, Norfolk, in 1740-4; the north and east fronts of Charlton House, Wiltshire; and a house in Pall Mall, afterwards known as Cumberland House, and subsequently used as the ordnance office, erected in 1760-7 for the Duke of York, brother to George III. In 1748-50 he again visited Italy, and in the first of these years travelled for some time in company with the well-known architects, Hamilton, ' Athenian Stuart,' and Nicholas Revett. Brettingham does not appear to have been influenced by the investigations made by these architects into the architecture of Greece. He always confined himself to the heavy Palladian style in which he had been educated, and in which, while exhibiting no great novelty of conception, it must be admitted he displayed knowledge and skill equal to those of any architect of his time. He died at Norwich at the advanced age of seventy, and is buried in St. Augustine's Church there.

Brettingham, Matthew, the younger (1725-1803), architect, son of the preceding, worked also in Palladian style (Redgrave).

[Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, 1st ser. vol. iii. London, 1818-23; Stuart and Revett's Antiquities of Athens measured and delineated, vol. iv., London, 1816; Vitruvius Britannicus, vol. iv., plates 64-9 incl.; Lowndes's Bibl. Manual; Gwilt's Encyc. of Architecture, ed. Wyatt Papworth, London, 1867; Gould's Biogr. Sketches, London, 1834.]

G. W. B.