(1620 - 1685)

'The Ingenious Gentleman Architect'

Roger Pratt was born near Downham, Norfolk to a family of country gentleman. His father, Gregory Pratt, was a lawyer by profession, and brother to Francis Pratt, the owner of Ryston Hall.

Not much is known about Roger Pratt's early life, only that he matriculated at Magdalen College, Oxford on May 12th, 1637 and he entered the Inner Temple in 1639. His father died in 1640, leaving him with an inheritance and income, allowing him to leave for a six-year tour of the continent in 1643, conveniently missing out on the English Civil War. In January 1645 he matriculated at Padua, and it was also known that he was living with John Evelyn in Rome at about this time. His notebooks show that architecture was a major interest, and although he resumed his work at the Inner Temple in 1649, he had no desire to continue his legal studies.

His public architectural career begins at this point, and ends when he gains a knighthood and retires, only building for himself. He becomes one of the leading arbiters of architectural taste in Restoration England, introducing and establishing the astylar 'double-pile' house style, which became the norm during the reign of Queen Anne. The first house constructed in this style was Coleshill House, Berkshire, for his cousin Sir George Pratt (Begun post 1649, completed by 1662). Coleshill may be his first house design, but through it he communicates all his ideas about how houses for country gentry should be designed. It is an astonishing first example for an architect, and all the rest of his houses only elaborate on the pattern set. It is possible, though dubious, that Inigo Jones advised on the construction of this house, Pratt's line being that Jones only 'consulted about the ceilings'. Pratt was also a consultant on the rebuilding of St Paul's Cathedral and the redesign of the City of London after the Great Fire of 1666. His services to the Crown and City were rewarded in 1668 with a knighthood, with which he married Anne Monins, built himself a house at Ryston, and retired from architectural work, spending the rest of his life living as a country gentleman. He died on the 20 February 1685, and is buried in the churchyard of the parish church.

Pratt's career is odd in architectural terms because he only designed for friends, and even then a very limited number of buildings. His work contains the earliest and finest examples of Dutch-influenced English astylar classicism. This may sound rather dry, but Sir Roger Pratt was the first to introduce a standard pattern for country house design, a pattern which still carries through today.

Sir Roger Pratt's executed buildings:

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