This article is an attempt to describe the design of the house which Richard Payne Knight built for himself at Downton on the Rock, near Ludlow, between 1772 and 1778 (Fig. 1), showing what the building might have meant to its designer. The house is in some ways familiar enough. Its place as an influential building is already established, it being the subject of a number of studies — the most important to this article being Nicholas Penny’s in The Arrogant Connoisseur — but the house is often misunderstood as a prophetic anticipation of nineteenth-century Mediaevalism. The following text is divided into three sections, examining the building stylistically, functionally and symbolically. The first shows why the reading of the house’s exterior as an exercise in Mediaevalism is unsatisfactory. The second examines the practical rationale for the irregular planning, which is the house’s most important innovation. And the third concludes by suggesting sources for the building’s imagery.
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