This book is an attempt to provide a true visual record of John Nash's works in a form that clearly shows his great creative powers and range of talents. I have purposely included nearly all his known works -- good and bad -- and the result is therefore not a personal selection but a full and, I hope, faithful picture of his achievements. I have balanced this with a text in which I have tried to weigh up the merits and defects of each building.
The fact that Nash built in more styles and moods than any other architect before or since his time has made it difficult for me not to use almost every adjective -- both complimentary and derogatory -- to describe his works. So varied and of such diverse qualities are his buildings that at one time it almost seemed plausible to divide the book into such sections as 'Bizarre', 'Scholarly', 'Gloomy' and 'Inventive'. In 1808, for instance, he designed a ponderous Gothic castle in Co. Durham, a radiant Italianate villa in Surrey, and added a fantastic, pinnacled wing to an ancient house in Staffordshire. All three buildings are entirely different in style and mood and yet clearly by the same hand, heart and mind.
During the past hundred years or so Nash's world has fast been disappearing and strangely enough this has little to do with the architect's ever-censured methods of building. Although time has certainly indicated that most of the surviving London terraces require constant repair (and in some cases complete renovation), it is also the tough, stone-built castles that have come to grief. Many of these great Gothic mansions lie neglected and abandoned, open to the skies of England and Ireland, whilst others have been demolished. Vanished too, in the name of development, are the little villas, once charming landmarks on coast-line and river bank.
When I first started to prepare the material for this book I intended to use every existing photograph, drawing and engraving, but as my researches grew it become clear that the material available on Regent Street alone would fill a volume of this size. Some of the photographs were repetitive, some unsuitable for reproduction and others lacking in special interest. I have collated, however, much new and hitherto unknown material although faded photographs must in some cases serve as historical records of demolished buildings. I have included plans of buildings where the exteriors, as often happens, tempt us to see inside. The dates, unless otherwise stated, refer to the commencement of building. Works illustrated are described in numerical order in the text preceding each section of plates, with the exception of [1, 2 and 183] which are mentioned in the introduction. All numerals in square brackets refer to illustrations.
My main source of reference and inspiration has been Sir John Summerson biography John Nash: Architect to George IV On reading this absorbing adventure-story I became so . . .