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

1397061Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 27 — Hosking, William1891Bertha Porter

HOSKING, WILLIAM (1800–1861), architect and civil engineer, born at Buckfastleigh, Devonshire, on 26 Nov. 1800, was eldest son of John Hosking, at one time a woollen manufacturer in Devonshire. Owing to business losses the father accepted a government office in New South Wales, and with his wife, whose maiden name was Mann, and his three sons, William, Peter Mann, and John, went to the colony in 1809. In Sydney William was apprenticed to a general builder and surveyor, and for nearly four years he worked with his own hands ‘in actual constructions, which involved most of the handicrafts employed by the engineer and architect’ (Introductory Lecture at King's College, 1841, p. 9). In 1819 he returned with his parents to England, and in 1820 was articled for three years to W. Jenkins, architect, of Red Lion Square. He subsequently travelled for a year in Italy and Sicily, studying for his profession and making drawings. Of these he exhibited three, all executed in 1824, viz. at the Royal Academy in 1826, ‘View of the Temple of Juno Lucina, Agrigentum, Sicily,’ and in the Suffolk Street Gallery in 1826 and 1828 respectively, ‘View of the Temple of Concord, Agrigentum,’ and ‘Temple of Neptune at Pæstum.’ In Suffolk Street he also exhibited designs, chiefly of domestic buildings. On 14 Feb. 1830 he was elected F.S.A. In 1834 he was appointed engineer to the Birmingham, Bristol, and Thames Junction, afterwards called West London Railway, and designed for it, 1838–9, the arrangement at Wormwood Scrubbs by which the Paddington Canal was carried over the railway, and a public road over the canal. The structure was altered in 1860, but when first executed met with much notice. (For drawings and descriptions see Simm's Public Works of Great Britain, 1838, plates lxxiii. lxxiv. pp. 66, 67, 68; Jean Rondelet, Traité Théorique et Pratique de l'Art de Bâtir (supplement by G. Abel Blouet), 1847, plate xcvi. vol. i. p. 213; Förster, Allgemeine Bauzeitung, 1838, plate ccxi. p. 205; and Companion to the Almanac, 1840, p. 249). During 1843 Hosking was engaged in planning and taking levels for a projected branch railway (afterwards abandoned) between Colchester and Harwich. He was elected a fellow of the Institute of British Architects on 16 Jan. 1835, and was a member of council for the session 1842–3.

In January 1829 he delivered a course of six lectures on architecture at the Western Literary Institution in Leicester Square, in which he treated of the modern buildings of the metropolis in a judicious spirit (cf. Athenæum, 1829, p. 157). In 1840 he became professor of the ‘arts of construction, in connection with civil engineering and architecture,’ at King's College, London, a professorship which was altered the following year into the combined one of the ‘principles and practice of architecture’ and of ‘engineering constructions.’ This he held till his death. When the Metropolitan Building Act of 1844 was passed he was appointed senior official referee, and retained the post until the office was superseded by the act of 1855. In 1842, in conjunction with John Britton, he made drawings and drew up detailed reports for the restoration of St. Mary Redcliffe Church at Bristol. An abstract, with engraved plan and views of the church, was printed for the vestry in 1842, and on 5 Dec. 1842 he read a paper on the subject at the Institute of British Architects. An elevation of the west front of the church, with the tower and spire as proposed, drawn by J. Benson, was exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1843. Among many other works Hosking designed a residence for W. Redfern, esq., Campbellfield, New South Wales, in 1830; Trinity Chapel, Poplar, 1840 (elevation of the portico and section of the chapel were given in the ‘Companion to the Almanac,’ 1842, pp. 211, 212), to which he afterwards added a minister's residence; and the buildings in Abney Park cemetery, 1841. He died at his residence, 23 Woburn Square, on 2 Aug. 1861, in his sixty-first year. On 3 Sept. 1836 he married Elizabeth (born 8 Dec. 1809), second daughter of William Clowes the printer. By her he had ten children, eight of whom survived him. His widow lived till 17 Aug. 1877. Both were buried at Highgate cemetery.

Hosking's most important publication was his work on bridges. First privately printed as ‘Preliminary Essay on Bridges,’ 1841, it was again privately printed in 1842 (twenty-five copies), with additional essays on the practice and architecture of bridges. In 1843 was published his ‘Theory, Practice, and Architecture of Bridges,’ the theory being supplied by J. Hann. Hosking claimed to have first suggested groining a bridge arch, or carrying a groining through the length of a series of arches. He recommended the placing of parapets upon a corbelled cornice, and showed that the thickness and extension of bays might be reduced without imperilling the structure's strength. He also published: 1. ‘Selection of Architectural and other Ornament’ (with J. Jenkins), 1827, the text in both French and English. 2. ‘Introductory Lecture delivered at King's College to the class of Civil Engineering and Architecture,’ 1841. 3. ‘Introductory Lecture delivered at King's College on the Principles and Practice of Architecture,’ 1842. The lecture was reported in the ‘Civil Engineer,’ 1842, p. 91, and reviewed after publication, p. 411. 4. ‘Guide to the Proper Regulation of Buildings in Towns,’ 1848; 2nd edit., entitled ‘Healthy Homes,’ 1849. 5. ‘Some Observations upon the recent Addition of a Reading-room to the British Museum,’ 1858. (In a folio pamphlet of thirty-four pages, accompanied by plans and elevations, the author set forth his claim to be considered the originator of the scheme to increase the accommodation of the British Museum by the erection of a circular building, a modified copy of the Pantheon in Rome, in the unoc cupied quadrangle. He submitted his drawings to the trustees of the Museum on 30 Nov. 1849, and an account of the scheme, with some discussion, appeared in the ‘Builder’ in 1850, pp. 295–6. When Panizzi's plan for the reading-room was adopted in 1854, Hosking regarded it as ‘an obvious plagiarism’ of his own suggestion and design, and the matter caused him bitter disappointment. Cf. ‘Illustrated London News,’ 1855, p. 403.).

Hosking wrote the articles on ‘Architecture’ and on ‘Building’ for the seventh edition of the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica.’ These were illustrated from drawings by Hosking and Jenkins, and reappeared in the eighth edition; that on ‘Architecture,’ with a supplement written in 1853, and articles on ‘Construction’ and ‘Drainage of Towns’ being added. Many of the plates were retained in the ninth edition to illustrate the rewritten articles. Hosking's articles were republished in a separate volume in 1832, 1846, 1860, and (revised by Ashpitel) in 1867. He was preparing an enlarged and improved edition of them at the time of his death. He communicated papers to the Society of Antiquaries (cf. Archæologia, xxiii. 85, 411); and to the Institute of British Architects (1842–3). Among drawings illustrating his papers preserved in the Institute library, is a suggested design for remodelling Westminster Bridge upon the existing piers, besides one for altering the parapets of London Bridge (see Weale, Bridges, pt. ii. pp. 237, 245, and pl. 39). In 1844 he read a paper at the Institution of Civil Engineers ‘On the Introduction of Constructions to retain the Sides of Deep Cuttings in Clays or other Uncertain Soils,’ printed in the ‘Minutes of Proceedings’ of the institution, and with woodcuts in the ‘Civil Engineer,’ 1845, p. 209.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Dict. of Architecture; Ashpitel's Treatise on Architecture, 1867, preface; Royal Academy Exhibition Cat. 1826; Society of British Artists' Catalogues; Builder, 17 Aug. 1861, p. 560; Cat. of Drawings, &c., in the Library of the Royal Institute of British Architects; Encyclopædia Britannica, 7th and 8th edits.; Weale's Theory, Practice, and Architecture of Bridges, pref. to vol. ii.; Engineer's Report to the Provisional Committee of the Harwich Railway Company; Charter and Bye-laws of the Institute of British Architects (afterwards R.I.B.A.); Minutes of Proceedings of Institution of Civil Engineers; British Almanac Companion, 1841, pp. 233, 237, 1842 p. 213, 1857 p. 243; Athenæum, 1829, p. 157; information from Ethelbert Hosking, esq., and from W. Benson, esq.]

B. P.