Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Langley, Batty

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529575Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 32 — Langley, Batty1892Bertha Porter

LANGLEY, BATTY (1696–1751), architectural writer, son of Daniel and Elizabeth Langley, was born at Twickenham in Middlesex, and baptised at the parish church there on 14 Sept. 1696 (par. reg. at Twickenham). His father was a gardener in the neighbourhood, and he seems first to have occupied himself as a landscape gardener (see Langley, Practical Geometry, p. 35). He resided first at Twickenham, removed to Parliament Stairs, Westminster, about 1736, and to Meard's Court, Dean Street, Soho, with his brother Thomas about 1740. His taste in architectural design has been much censured, but he did some good work in the mechanical branches of his art. His strange attempt to remodel Gothic architecture has made 'Batty Langley's Gothic' almost a by-word. He established a school or academy of architectural drawing, in which he was assisted by his brother Thomas, an engraver. Elmes (Lectures, 390) states that all his pupils were carpenters, and gives him credit for having trained many useful workmen. He had a large surveying connection, and was a valuer of timber (advertisement in Langley, London Prices, 1748). He also supplied pumps, and acted as builder in the execution of some of his designs.

In 1735 he published a design for the proposed Mansion House in London, which was engraved by himself. Malcolm (Lond. Rediv. iv. 172) quotes from the 'St. James's Evening Post' the description of 'a curious grotesque temple, in a taste entirely new,' erected by Langley in Parliament Stairs, for Nathaniel Blackerby, son-in-law of Nicholas Hawksmoor [q. v.] the architect. Langley died at his house in Soho on 3 March 1751, aged 55. A quarto mezzotint portrait of him by J. Carwithan, who acted as engraver to several of his works, was published in 1741.

His numerous publications include:

  1. 'An Accurate Account of Newgate … together with a faithful account of the Impositions of Bailiffs … by B. L. of Twickenham,' 1724.
  2. 'Practical Geometry applied to … Building, Surveying, Gardening, and Mensuration,' London, 1726, 1728, 1729.
  3. 'The Builder's Chest Book, or a Compleat Key to the Five Orders of Columns in Architecture,' London, 1727 (in dialogue form).
  4. 'New Principles of Gardening. … With Experimental Directions for raising the several kinds of Fruit Trees, Forest Trees, Ever-greens, and Flowering Shrubs,' &c., London, 1728. Langley denounced the practice of mutilating the natural shapes of trees.
  5. 'A Sure Method of Improving Estates by Plantations of Oak, Elm, Ash, Beech, &c.,' London, 1728; republished in 1741 as 'The Landed Gentleman's Useful Companion.'
  6. 'A Sure Guide to Builders, or the Principles and Practice of Architecture Geometrically Demonstrated,' London, 1729.
  7. 'Pomons, or the Fruit Garden Illustrated,' London, 1729. Many of the plates were drawn by himself.
  8. 'The Young Builder's Rudiments,' London, 1730, 1736.
  9. 'Ancient Masonry, both in the theory and Practice,' London, 1734 or 1735, 1736. This elaborate work contains short descriptions of the 466 plates, with examples from Alberti, Palladio, C. Wren, Inigo Jones, and others. Plates cccix. and cccx. in vol. ii. illustrate an 'English order' composed by Langley.
  10. 'A Design for the Bridge at New Palace Yard, Westminster,' London, 1736.
  11. 'A Reply to Mr. John James's Review of the several Pamphlets and Schemes … for the Building of a Bridge at Westminster,' London, 1737.
  12. 'The Builders Compleat Assistant,' 2nd edit. London, (1738?); a 4th edit, appeared after 1788.
  13. 'The City and Country Builder's and Workman's Treasury of Designs,' London, 1740 (fourteen plates were added in 1741), 1750, and again in 1756.
  14. 'The Builder's Jewel, or the Youth's Instructor and Workman's Remembrancer,' London, 1741, 1757; 11th edit. 1735, 1787, 1808.
  15. 'Ancient Architecture, restored and improved, by a great variety of Grand and Useful Designs' (1st part), London, plates dated 1741. The whole work, with a dissertation 'On the Ancient Buildings in this Kingdom,' and entitled 'Gothic Architecture,' 1747. Some examples of these 'Gothic orders of my own invention' were actually erected by Langley in London. The original drawings for the work are preserved in Sir John Soane's Museum.
  16. 'The Measurer's Jewell,' London, 1742.
  17. 'The Present State of Westminster Bridge,' London, 1743.
  18. 'Plan of Windsor Castle,' London, 1743.
  19. 'The Builder's Director, or Bench-Mate,' London, 1746, 1751, 1767.
  20. 'A Survey of Westminster Bridge, as 'tis now Sinking into Ruin,' London, 1748.
  21. 'The Workman's Golden Rule for Drawing and Working the Five Orders in Architecture,' London 1757.

Thomas Langley (fl. 1745), engraver of antiquities, &c., brother of the above, was born at Twickenham in March 1702, and for some years of his life resided at Salisbury. He engraved 'A Plan of St. Thomas's Church in the City of New Sarum,' north-west and south-east views of the church drawn by John Lyons, 1745, and 'The Sacrifice of Matthews to Jupiter,' drawn by Lyons, 1752. He both drew and engraved many of the plates for his brother's books, and taught architectural drawing to his pupils.

[Langley's works as above; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Dict. of Architecture; Civil Engineer for 1847, p. 270; Elmes's Lectures on Architecture, p. 390; Walpole's Anecdotes (Dallaway and Wornum), p. 770; Lysons's Environs, iii. 594; Gent. Mag. 1742 p. 608, 1751 p. 139; London Daily Advertiser and Literary Gazette, 6 March 1751; Bromley's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, p. 300; Cat. of Prints and Drawings in King's Library, Brit. Mus.; Gough's Brit. Topog. i. 635, ii. 364, 378; Dodd's Memorials of Engravers, Addit. MS. 33402; London Cat. of Books, 1700–1811; Lowndes's Bibl. Man.; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Cat. of Library of Trin. Coll. Dublin; Cat. of Library in Sir John Soane's Museum; Cat. of Library of R.I.B.A.; Univ. Cat. of Books on Art; Cat. of Bodleian Library.]

B. P.