Basic Biographical Details

Name: John Claudius Loudon
Designation: Architect
Born: 8 April 1783
Died: 14 December 1843
Bio Notes: John Claudius Loudon is best remembered as the author of the highly influential 'Encyclopaedia of Cottage, Farm and Villa Architecture' (1833). He was Scottish-born but left for London in 1803 and his limited architectural practice did not extend north of the border.

John Claudius Loudon was born in 1783, the eldest son of a farmer at Gogar, near Edinburgh. He was educated in Edinburgh and exhibited an early interest in gardening. He was apprenticed to a nurseryman and landscape gardener at Easter Dalry, Edinburgh.

Loudon moved to London in 1803 where he set up business as a landscape gardener. His clients included the Duchess of Brunswick for whom he worked at Brunswick House, Blackheath and Lord Mansfield who employed him at Scone to improve the grounds around the palace. The following year, 1804, he published his first book on plantations, landscape gardening and reclaiming land from rivers and the sea and also exhibited three drawings at the Royal Academy. For the rest of his life he combined practical landscape gardening with writing books. A list of his works is to be found below. He also conducted three periodicals. His huge written output sometimes involved Loudon in staying up all night working to meet deadlines.

In 1809 Loudon rented a farm at Great Tew in Oxfordshire where he taught pupils on agriculture and by 1812 had made a profit of £15,000. He then gave up the farm and went on a study tour of northern Europe, looking at farming methods and gardening. On his return he suffered financial embarrassments. His investment had failed and the publication of ‘Arboretum et Fruticetum Britannicium’ cost him a great deal. His health was poor and had been so since having rheumatic fever in 1806 with a resultant stiff leg and with the amputation of an arm in 1825. With the help of his wife Jane whom he had married in 1830, he continued to write and work as both botanist and landscape gardener.

Loudon believed in the picturesque style of landscape design and in this followed the ideas of Payne Knight and Uvedale Price. Initially he was critical of Repton but changed his mind and re-published all Repton’s writings in one volume where in the introduction he recognised the emergence of a new style of gardening which he called the ‘Gardenesque’ which combined the picturesque grouping of the past with the display of individual trees and shrubs for their botanical interest. In these ideas he laid the foundations for the Victorian garden. The arboretum embodied his ideas and the design of Derby was pioneering. Garden buildings were important in his designs and he absorbed the principles of architecture the result being the 1833 publication on villa, cottage and farm architecture and the Architectural Magazine. The purported purpose of these was to spread good taste in architecture and improve the appearance of buildings. These two publications were aimed at the middle classes and largely dealt with the siting, planning construction and decoration of villas while his other earlier publications were largely aimed at the upper classes. His theories were largely derived from Scottish rationalist philosophy as outlined in 1790 by the Rev Archibald Alison in his ‘Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste’.

Loudon rejected the use of the orders in favour of fitness for purpose and appropriate expression of function. Architectural vocabulary (Gothic or classical) had to be chosen because it actually or symbolically expressed the building’s function. Unlike the Pugins however he was happy for the forms of his buildings to be eclectic. His writings were very important in the formation of Victorian architectural taste, particularly because they were addressed to the middle classes.

Loudon did design some buildings, some of which were in Scotland, though his principal work was in Wales, Garth, near Welshpool, Montgomeryshire. He also made alterations to Hope End, near Ledbury, Herefordshire, designed 3 and 5 Porchester Terrace, London, one part of which he himself occupied and designed a monument to his parents in Pinner Churchyard, Middlesex.

Loudon was repsonsoible for important improvements in the design of glasshouses by inventing a narrow cast-iron glazing bar which resulted in some elegant designs for hothouse such as that at the Palm House at Bicton Park, Devon.

Loudon died in December 1843.

‘Observations on the Formation and Management of Useful and Ornamental Plantations, on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening and on Gaining and Embanking Land from Rivers or the Sea’. (1804)
‘Treatise on forming , improving and managing Country Residences’ 2v. (1806)
‘Observations on laying out Farms in the Scotch Style, adapted to England, and Hints on the Formation of Gardens and Pleasure Grounds’ (1812)
'Curvilinear Process of the Roofing of Hothouses (1818)
‘Encyclopaedia of Gardening’ (1822)
‘Encyclopaedia of Agriculture’ (1825)
‘Encyclopaedia of Plants’ (1829)
‘Encyclopaedia of Cottage, Farm and Villa Architecture and Furniture’ (1833) (2nd edition by Mrs Loudon published 1846)
‘The Suburban Gardener and Villa Companion’ (1836)
‘Arboretum et Fruticetum Britannicium’ (1838) (8v)
‘On the Laying Out, Planting and Management of Cemeteries’ (1843)
‘The Magazine of Natural History’ (1829-36)
‘The Architectural Magazine’ (1834-38) (5v)

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 2ScotlandPrivate17831803 
Item 2 of 2London, EnglandPrivate/business1803  

Employment and Training

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 1Edward Buckton LambEarly 1830s * Draughtsman 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 3c. 1803Scone PalaceScone PerthshireScotlandLandscaping around Palace
Item 2 of 31804HouseBalliad PerthshireScotlandExhibited a design for a house
Item 3 of 31806BarnbarrochWhauphill WigtownshireScotlandAlterations to exterior


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 6Colvin, H M1995A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-18403rd editionNew Haven and London: Yale University Press 
Item 2 of 6Fricker, L1974John Claudius Loudon: the Plane Truth In 'Furor Hortensis: essays on the history of English landscape in memory of H F Clark', ed. Peter 
Item 3 of 6Grove Dictionary of Art Grove Dictionary of Art   
Item 4 of 6Loudon, Jane1844A Sort Account of the Life and Writings of John Claudius Loudon In 'Self Instruction for Young Gardeners' 
Item 5 of 6Macdougall, Elizabeth (ed.)1980John Claudius Loudon and the Early 19th century in Great Britain Washington: Dumbarton Oaks 
Item 6 of 6New DNB New Dictionary of National Biography