James Paine

English architect, Nostell

James Paine - English architect

James Paine's work over 30 years at Nostell established his position in the architectural field. The State Rooms still show exquisite examples of his Rococo plasterwork, much of which would have been crafted by hand onsite at the Yorkshire treasure house.

The State Dining Room at Nostell, West Yorkshire

The start of a successful career

James Paine was apparently just 19 when he began his first professional job overseeing the building of Nostell. He began by following a design by (or commissioned through) Yorkshire gentleman-architect Colonel James Moyser, but soon brought his own influence to a project that would employ him on and off for almost 30 years. Over this period Paine developed a national reputation, working on the design of numerous private houses and public projects such as the Mansion House in Doncaster.

Palladian masterpieces

His talent was finding practical ways of adapting the ancient Mediterranean-inspired architectural style of Palladianism to cope with the realities of a northern climate. These included features which can be seen at Nostell, such as top-lit central staircases to let in light and side wings to contain essential services such as the kitchens. He also helped soften the interiors with attractive decoration and his most celebrated legacy at Nostell is the elaborate rococo interiors that can still be seen in several rooms.

Look up in the State Bedroom to see an ornate plasterwork scene on the ceiling by James Paine
Plasterwork ceiling at Nostell, West Yorkshire
Look up in the State Bedroom to see an ornate plasterwork scene on the ceiling by James Paine

The end of an era

The scale and cost of the work at Nostell meant progress was slow and the interior of the house was far from finished when the 4th baronet died in 1765.  By this time Paine’s style was becoming regarded as unfashionable in some quarters and the ambitious 5th baronet quickly replaced him with the rising architectural star Robert Adam.