Alexander, Daniel Asher (DNB00)


ALEXANDER, DANIEL ASHER (1768–1846), architect, was born in London and educated at St. Paul's School. In 1782 he became a student at the Royal Academy, where after two months' study he gained a silver medal. He found ample employment as soon as he was out of his articles. He had special constructive genius, which is evidenced by many of his works. One of the earliest of these was the widening, at Rochester, of the bridge over the Medway. He accomplished a most difficult task in forming the two middle arches of that bridge into one. In 1796 he was made survevor to the London Dock Company, and until 1831 all the buildings in the docks were from his designs. He was surveyor also to the Trinity House, and in that capacity built lighthouses at Harwich, Lundy Island, and other places. The Dartmoor prisons and the old county prison at Maidstone were from his designs. He attained great eminence in his profession, and had many pupils. Several writers insist upon the great constructive skill of Alexander's, work, and upon those qualities of sound sense and sure knowledge which gained for him his high place amongst the architects of the century. A writer in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (August 1846) says, ‘a characteristic fitness of purpose was prominent in every building, whether a principal or a subordinate one, and in his hands the architecture, whatever it was, was ever made to grow out of and to form an inherent necessity of the structure. . . . He ever distinguished between the sense of an original architectural feature and the nonsense of a false adaptation of it.’

He was publicly complimented by Sir John Soane from the chair of the Royal Academy for the finely conservative spirit he had shown in repairing two works of Inigo Jones—the Naval Asylum at Greenwich, and Coleshill House, Berks. He died at Exeter on 2 March 1846, and was ‘buried at Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight’ in a church ‘the tower of which he had raised at his own expense the better to mark the channel at that part.’

His eldest son Daniel practised as an architect, but in 1820 gave up that profession for the church, and died vicar of Bickleigh, in Devonshire, in 1843.

[Gent. Mag. Aug. 1846; Dictionary of Architectural Publication Society, 1853.]

E. R.