The Banqueting House, Whitehall, London, is the grandest and well known survivor of the architectural genre of banqueting house, and the only remaining component of the Palace of Whitehall. The building is important in the history of English architecture as the first building to be completed in the neo-classical style which was to transform English architecture.
Begun in 1619, and designed by Inigo Jones in a style influenced by Palladio, the Banqueting House was completed in 1622 at a cost of £15,618, 27 years before King Charles I of England was executed on a scaffold in front of it in January 1649.
The building was controversially re-faced in Portland stone in the 19th century, though the details of the original front wall were faithfully preserved. Today, the Banqueting House is a national monument, open to the public and conserved as a Grade I listed building. It is cared for by an independent charity, Historic Royal Palaces, which receives no funding from the Government or the Crown.
The Palace of Whitehall was largely the creation of King Henry VIII, expanding an earlier mansion that had belonged to Cardinal Wolsey, originally known as York Place. The King was determined that his new palace should be the "biggest palace in Christendom", a place befitting his newly created status as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. All evidence of the disgraced Wolsey was eliminated and the building rechristened the Palace of Whitehall.
During Henry's control, the palace had no designated banqueting house, the King preferring to banquet in a temporary structure purpose-built in the gardens. The first everlasting banqueting house at Whitehall had a short life. It was built for James I but was damaged by fire in January 1619, when workmen, clearing up after New Year's festivities, decided to incinerate the rubbish inside the building.
An immediate replacement was commissioned from the stylish architect Inigo Jones. Jones had spent time in Italy studying the architecture growing from the Renaissance and that of Palladio, and returned to England with what at the time were revolutionary ideas: to replace the complicated and confused style of the Jacobean English Renaissance with a simpler, classically inspired design. His new banqueting house at Whitehall was to be a prime example of this. Jones made no attempt to harmonies his design with the Tudor palace of which it was to be part.