John Carr – Georgian Architect

John Carr

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York resident and regular contributor. Fascinated by this historic city and always keen to promote local, independent businesses. The man taking the photographs and tweeting from @Jorvik

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John Carr, a renowned prolific Georgian architect and the only provincial member of the London Architects’ Club, has stamped his name on many of the finest buildings in York, among them Fairfax House (1755-62) and Castlegate House (1762-63) – standing opposite each other in Castlegate. Carr was not the designer of Fairfax House, though he did create its interior.

John Carr, born at Horbury near Wakefield in 1723, was the first child of nine to Rose Lascelles and Robert Carr. His father was a mason-architect and quarry owner; John entered the family business, and learnt draughtsmanship and practical construction skills while working at Bretton Hall and Chevet Park, skills which came into their own when he began his architectural career around 1748, following his father into the post of joint county surveyor for the then West Riding of Yorkshire.

Taking up the same post for Yorkshire’s North Riding a few years later, Carr acquired several of the county’s magistrates as patrons while working in York.  This established his name and he became known as the leading architect and designer in the North of England. Much of his work was in the Palladian style following which he was influenced by Robert Adam and he then pioneered the Gothic Revival.

As bridgemaster for both the West and North Riding he was required to survey a huge number of bridges. He designed, extended and altered many country houses as well as a number of public buildings, many of which are in Yorkshire. His work in York included the Bishop’s Palace, Micklegate House (1753), The Pikeing Well-House, New Walk (1752–56), Knavesmire Racecourse Grandstand (1755–56), now demolished, Bootham Park Hospital (1774-77) and the Assize Courts (1773-77). He twice surveyed and repaired York Minster.

Elsewhere in Yorkshire his works included Ripley Castle, Harewood House (1759-71), Castle Howard, Constable Burton Hall, a House of Correction, Wakefield (1766), Northallerton Prison, Doncaster Racecourse Grandstand, plus a new bridge over the River Aire at Ferrybridge (1803). Carr also left his mark in Cumbria with Holker Hall, Derbyshire with The Crescent, Buxton (1781) plus work on Chatsworth House, and Nottinghamshire with Newark Town Hall as well as many other sites in Cheshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire and Berkshire. His largest work, the Hospital de Santo Antonio in Oporto, Portugal, was only partly finished.

Due to the soundness of his constructions most of his buildings survive today.

He was popular among the Whigs of the day. Carr became one of York’s wealthiest citizens and took up civic duties as a magistrate and the Office of Lord Mayor in 1770 and 1785. On retirement he moved from his Skeldergate house to Askham Hall, on the estate he purchased at Askham Richard, near York, where he died in 1807. Carr is buried in the crypt of St Peter’s Church, Horbury – now a Grade I listed building – the church which he designed, built and paid for in 1793, at a cost of £8,000, as a gift to the people of Horbury.

John Carr and his wife Sarah remained childless.

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