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Banqueting House


A key building in the history of art and architecture in Britain and revered as one of our most precious monuments. Notwithstanding later additions and a total renewal of the façade stonework in 1830 (faithfully reproducing the original design), it can be seen as one of Inigo Jones’s few complete and perfect works. It is not, strictly, a theatre but it was purpose-designed for regular theatrical fit-ups and its importance in theatrical history makes it impossible to omit.

It was built to replace Smythson’s Banqueting House of 1609, which had been destroyed by fire in 1619. Jones had been designing prosceniums, stage machines, etc for court masques by Jonson and others since the early years of the seventeenth century and the new building continued to be used for this purpose until 1635 when the masques moved to a wood building nearby. Jones’s design for the Banqueting House provided for the requirements of such entertainments in, for example, its avoidance of internal columns. His most sophisticated machines and single-point perspectives were devised for this noble room. In 1649 the Banqueting House had a window temporarily removed so that it could serve as the ante-room to the execution scaffold of Charles I. The interior has been magnificently restored. The Banqueting House has been well documented and many published works deal with its architectural, historical and theatrical significance.

Built / Converted
Dates of use
  • 1622 - 1635
Current state
Current use
Converted to other use (rooms for State occasions/exhibitions)
Whitehall, London, Westminster, SW1, England
Further details
Other names
Was for a time the United Services Museum
  • 1618 - 1622 Design/Construction:
    Inigo Jones
    - Architect
  • 1622 - 1635 Use:
  • 1634 Design/Construction:
    Sir Peter Paul Rubens
    - Consultant
    ceiling painting
  • 1699 Alteration: converted for use as Chapel Royal
    Sir Christopher Wren
    - Architect
  • 1798 Alteration: North bay set-back and staircase added
    James Wyatt
    - Architect
  • 1809 Alteration: second, lower gallery added for use as a military chapel
    James Wyatt
    - Architect
  • 1829 - 1837 Alteration: removal of Wyatt’s added gallery. Sir John Soane, roof renewed; redecorated; façade totally refaced in Portland stone in exact reproduction of Jones’ design
    Sir Robert Smirke
    - Architect
  • 1895 Alteration: building added at South end
    Aston Webb & Ingress Bell
    - Architect
  • 1907 Alteration: ceiling paintings removed, restored & refixed
    HM Office of Works
    - Architect
  • 1963 Alteration: (after removal of Royal United Services museum), walls re-rendered with acoustic plaster; secondary internal glazing installed; interior extensively restored
    Ministry of Public Building & Works
    - Architect
  • 1963 Design/Construction:
    John Charlton
    - Consultant
    Inspector of Ancient Monuments
  • Listing
    Also a scheduled Ancient Monument
Stage type
Building dimensions: -
Stage dimensions: Fit up
Proscenium width: Fit up
Height to grid: Fit up
Inside proscenium: -
Orchestra pit: -