THYNNE, Sir John
(b. ca. 1515, Church Stretton, d. 1580, Longleat)


English patron, amateur architect. One of an able group of administrators associated with the Protestant cause during the minority of Edward VI, Thynne rose from comparatively humble origins to become steward to Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset. In this role he was responsible for supervising Somerset's many building projects and seems to have been fired by the enthusiasm for Classical architecture that was shared by other members of the same political circle.

Thynne survived the fall and execution of Somerset to devote the rest of his life to a building programme for his country house at Longleat, Wiltshire, which occupied a continuous span of almost 35 years and embraced four major remodelings. Starting about 1547 with the adaptation of the fabric of a dissolved monastery, the final version of Longleat (1572-80) 'probably came as near as anything in England in the sixteenth century to a truly Renaissance house' (Girouard).

Thynne employed craftsmen of the highest calibre, including William Spicer (active 1555-1609), later Surveyor of the Royal Works, and Robert Smythson, but it is probable that he was personally responsible for the general concept of a classical house with four uniform façades decorated with superimposed orders. Its purity of design sets it apart from every other Elizabethan house and demonstrates the tenacity of the ideals briefly current in the mid-16th century.