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Mr William Talman

William Talman, architect and collector, was one of the most influential designers of the late-17th century. There is little known about his early life between his birth in Wiltshire (1650) and his appointment as Comptroller of the King's Works in 1689. He held that post until he was replaced by Sir John Vanbrugh in 1702, and the death of William III. The same year that he entered the King's Works, Talman was made deputy of the Royal Gardens with George London and proceeded to work on both the interior of Hampton Court Palace, as well as its gardens. Around this time Talman married his wife Hannah, with whom he had three sons and a daughter.

William Talman built a reputation as one of the most prominant architects of the late-17th century. This was the result of a series of commissions that included additions to Burghley House, Lincolnshire, the grand south front of Chatsworth, Derbyshire, as well as the house's associated landscape features such as the Temple of Flora. Whilst Talman has been attributed with up to 30 houses, it is still difficult to assess quite how much influence he had. He built plain Renaissance style houses such as Holywell House, St Albans, as well as those in the Roman Baroque such as the inner Courtyard facade at Drayton House, Northamptonshire. Talman's stylistic diversity therefore creates problems when associating the architect with his work. There is little doubt however, that Talman was interested in designed landscapes and gardens, and his appointment in tandem with George London at the Royal Gardens confirms this.

Contemporary evidence suggests that Talman was an argumentative and arrogant man. Sir John Vanbrugh for example, once wrote that a number of Talman's patrons had suffered from his vexation. Indeed, it was noted that he openly criticised Sir Christopher Wren when work collapsed at Hampton Court Palace. Famously, he was overlooked as designer due to his exorbitant overcharging at the Third Earl of Carlisle's Castle Howard, North Yorkshire.

Talman died on the 22nd November 1719 in Felmingham where he was later buried.


Smith, P (2004) ‘Talman, William (bap. 1650, d. 1719)’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press: Oxford)

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