This extraordinary and imaginative architect and designer focused his romantic, idealised designs on the past, and in doing so was able to translate such ancient images in to a Victorian Present.
His values stood by the restoration and revival of a utopian medieval England, challenging the weight of industrialisation and the neoclassical style. Burges’ practice is a traditional representation of the Gothic Revival period, shedding light on the Pre-Raphaelites, and falling directly in to the dominant, hand-crafted palms of the Arts and Crafts Movement.
Burges’ education is owed to King’s College London, and his teacher Edward Blore, whom he was articled to in 1844. His medieval spirit first surfaced in 1849, when he was based in the offices of Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt producing the drawings for Wyatt’s book Metalwork (1852).
1855-56 saw the recognition of Burges’ designs; one for Lille Cathedral, and the Crimea Memorial Church in Constantinople, needless to say, he won prizes for both, despite neither being carried out. In 1862 however, he was able to claim his ecclesiastical title due to the realisation of St Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork, aged 35.
Focusing predominantly on his success and executed designs, we are able to form a hearty list of notable commissions of churches, cathedrals, schools, and castles;
Cardiff Castle (1866-1928)
Castell Coch (1872-91)
Gayhurst House, Buckinghamshire (1858-65)
Knightshayes Court (1867-74)
The Church of Christ the Consoler (1870-76)
St Mary’s, Studley Royal, Yorkshire (1870-78)
Park House, Cardiff (1871-80).
In 1862, William Burges collaborated with William Slater and devised the Mediaeval Court for the International Exhibition, sharing a highly regarded knowledge of metalwork and mediaeval antiquities; this was done on behalf of the Ecclesiological Society.
Burges’ skills were not limited to architecture, as demonstrated in a series of lectures ‘Art Applied to Industry’ for the Society of Arts in 1864. This myriad of topics included glass, pottery, brass and iron, gold and silver, furniture, the weaver’s art, external architectural decoration, metalwork, sculpture, and jewelry.
Researched and written by Tony Geering & Kristy Campbell.