(b ?Umberslade, Warwicks, 1668; d London, 22/May 23, 1743).
English architect. He was the son of a Warwickshire country gentleman and was an accomplished amateur who did not depend on architectural practice for his living. He did not hold any architectural posts under the Crown but his appointment as Groom Porter to Queen Anne in 1705 gave him the lucrative responsibility for the licensing of gaming as well as providing him with the connections at court that enabled him to build up a substantial domestic practice.
The nature of Archer’s training is unknown, but it is clear that a period of European travel in 1691–5 instilled in him a taste for the continental Baroque that was to set his designs apart from those of his most important English contemporaries. Although his itinerary is not known, his presence is recorded in Padua in 1691, and it might be presumed on the evidence of his subsequent works that he visited Rome; it is likely that his passage to Italy took him through Austria. In the absence of solid documentation for a large number of buildings, Archer’s first-hand experience of the work of the architects of the mature Roman Baroque has led critics to attribute to him several works simply because they employ motifs beloved of Gianlorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini: the giant order, lugged architraves, broken and inverted pediments and curved surfaces. While these features are all present in Archer’s work, they were equally readily available to non-travelling Englishmen through the medium of Domenico de Rossi’s ...