Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Burges, William

BURGES, WILLIAM (1827–1881), architect, was born on 2 Dec. 1837, and was the son of William Burges, civil engineer. He matriculated at University College, London, and attended lectures on engineering at King's College, London; but his decided taste for architecture led to his entering at the age of seventeen, the office of Edward Blore, the architect [q. v.], and in 1849 the office of Digby Wyatt. About this period a great impetus had been given to the study of medieval architecture, and to this subject Burges applied himself with the greatest enthusiasm. He visited Normandy, and subequently Belgium, Germany, France, and Italy, making numerous drawings and measurements of buildings, &c. In 1856 Burges gained the first award in the international competition for Lille Cathedral, and about this time the works of decoration at the Salisbury chapter-house were planned and carried out chiefly by him. In 1850 he designed the cathedral of Brisbane (Queensland), and rebuilt the east end of Waltham Abbey Church. In 1863 he prepared his designs for the cathedral at Cork, the most important ecclesiastical building which he ever carried out. Three years later he was employed by the Marquis of Bute on the restoration and, practically, the rebuilding of Cardiff Castle. About the year 1875 he began his restoration of Castle Coch, a medieval ruin near Cardiff. Burges was also engaged in the alteration and adornment of Worcester College Chapel, Oxford, and was the architect of the college of Hartford, Connecticut, of Ripon grammar school, of the Speech Room at Harrow School, and of other buildings. He prepared remarkable designs for the New Law Courts in the Strand, and for the decoration of St. Paul's Cathedral, which were not, however, officially accepted. Besides these works he designed a great quantity of jewellery, furniture, and other objects which were executed under his immediate superintendence. Burges had a strong preference for French gothic, and possessed a very considerable antiquarian Knowledge. The designs made by him for original buildings were characterised, as has been well remarked, 'by force and massiveness of general style and composition, combined with great pictnresqueness of detail.' Although he had not the extensive practice of several architects contemporary with him, his work was always distinguished by its originality, and bore the distinct impress of his own personal thought and taste.

Burges was a fellow of the Royal Institution of British Architects, and was elected a few months before his death an associate of the Royal Academy. He wrote several papers on architectural subjects, sud published in 1870 volume of his architectural drawings. His death took place at his house in Melbury Road, London, on 20 April 1881. He bequeathed to the British Museum a selection from his illuminated manuscripts and antiquities, the latter consisting principally of European and oriental armour.

[Transactions of the Roy. Inst. of Brit. Architects, 1881-2; Academy, 30 April 1881; Athenæum, 30 April 1881; British Architect, 29 April 1881; Builder, 30 April 1881, 10 May 1884, pp. 683, 684.]

W. W.