Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Papworth, Wyatt Angelicus Van Sandau

PAPWORTH, WYATT ANGELICUS VAN SANDAU (1822–1894), architect and antiquary, born in London on 23 Jan. 1822, was younger son of John Buonarroti Papworth [q. v.] He received his professional education in his father's office, and was for a few years engaged in the office of the commissioners of sewers for Westminster. After a short service in the office of Sir John Rennie, he, in June 1866, accepted the appointment of assistant or joint surveyor, with Mr. Allason, to the Alliance Assurance Company; on Mr. Allason's retirement he became sole surveyor to this corporation; and in 1887, on attaining the age of sixty-five, retired on a pension. Besides the ordinary duties of his office, which comprised very numerous rebuildings and restorations under his direction, he designed and erected for the company a branch office at Ipswich in Suffolk, and published notes on fire risks.

His father being a member of the Cloth-Workers' Company of the city of London, Papworth in due course became a liveryman of that company; and being elected to the court, he in 1879–81 served the offices of junior and senior warden, attaining the position of master of the company in 1889. During his year of office he represented the company at the opening of two new technical schools at Bingley and Dewsbury. On each occasion he delivered an address on the importance of drawing and design in connection with technical instruction and the textile industries. Papworth was always deeply interested in technical education. He was a governor of the City and Guilds of London Institute, and represented his company on the governing body of the northern (Islington) polytechnic.

He early developed a literary taste, and in 1849 he was awarded the silver medal of the Institute of British Architects for an essay on ‘The Peculiar Characteristics of the Palladian School of Architecture’ (cf. Journal of the Institute, vol. i. 3rd ser. p. 631).

Papworth's historical investigations covered a variety of topics associated with his profession. In one series of inquiries he sought to define the periods when fir, deal, and house-painting were introduced into England (Trans. Royal Inst. Brit. Architects, vol. viii. 1857), and to determine the extent of the use of chestnut-timber in old buildings (ib. 14 June 1858). He conducted laborious researches respecting the architects of mediæval buildings and the connection of freemasons therewith, although he was not himself a member of the craft (see his papers in the publications of the Lodge Quatuor Coronati, No. 2076, London, 1890 iii. 162–7, 1891 iv. 219, 244, 1892 v. 143, 1893 vi. 1888, 1894 vii. 52; cf. Findel, Hist. of Freemasonry, 8vo, London, 1866; Gould, Hist. of Freemasonry, 4to, London, 1882–7). He endeavoured to ascertain who were really the persons entitled to the credit of designing the buildings erected in England during the middle ages (cf. Trans. R.I.B.A. vol. x. 23 Jan. 1860, vol. xii. 2 Dec. 1861; and papers in Journ. R.I.B.A.: ‘William of Wykeham, Mediæval Masons, &c.,’ 1867, iii. 310–385; ‘Cambridge University,’ 1888, iv. 356–358, 369–77; ‘Fremasonry Ancient and Modern,’ 1890, vi. 156–9; ‘The Building of Blenheim,’ 1890, vi. 12, 14, 60, 80).

In 1848, when Papworth and his brother had accumulated valuable collections of notes on the history of architecture, he issued a circular letter, suggesting a ‘Society for the Promotion of Architectural Information intended for the Revival and Restoration, Investigation and Publication, of Knowledge in Architecture and the Arts connected therewith.’ The result was the formation of the Architectural Publication Society for the production of ‘Detached Essays and Illustrations,’ which might be subsequently incorporated in a ‘Cyclopædia of Architecture.’ Papworth prepared a list of 12,127 terms or headings ‘applicable to the subjects connected with the Art, proposed to be inserted in a Cyclopædia of Architecture.’ In 1852 the scheme of the cyclopædia was reduced to a ‘Dictionary of Explanation and Reference,’ which was commenced under the direction of a committee of leading architects. Wyatt Papworth was secretary and editor, and was assisted by his brother, John Woody Papworth [q. v.] The first part of this ‘Dictionary’ was published in May 1853, and the last part in April 1892, forming eight volumes folio of text, and three volumes of illustrations, and containing 18,456 articles against the 12,127 of the original list. The editorship and compilation of the ‘Dictionary’ were entirely in Papworth's hands; nearly all the lists and references in the text and most of the biographical and topographical articles were supplied by him, and to him is due the credit and honour of having not only conceived the idea, but carried it to a successful issue. This valuable and important work of professional reference was printed for subscribers only, and produced at a cost of nearly 10,000l.; it is now out of print.

Papworth revised and edited in 1867 Gwilt's ‘Encyclopædia of Architecture,’ first published in 1842. Papworth's edition included a vast amount of new information which was greatly increased in two further issues produced by him in 1876 and 1889 respectively. In the affairs of the Royal Institute of British Architects Papworth took much part. He was elected a fellow in 1860, and sat for many years on the council. His collections for the ‘History of the King's Artificers,’ ‘The Clerk of Works of the City of London,’ ‘The District Surveyors of London,’ &c., are deposited in the library.

In 1893, on the death of James Wyld, he was appointed curator of Sir John Soane's Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and devoted himself with great energy to the congenial duties of that post. He practically rewrote the ‘Catalogue,’ and produced a new and revised edition (the sixth) of the ‘General Description.’ He died at the Soane Museum on 19 Aug. 1894, and was buried in Highgate cemetery. He married in 1873, and left a widow, two sons, and a daughter.

Few men were closer students of the subjects connected with the history of his profession, possessed more special knowledge, or imparted it with truer modesty. He aided in the preparation of many memoirs of architects for this ‘Dictionary,’ and himself contributed articles to vols. xli.–xliii.

Besides the works above mentioned, he produced, in conjunction with his brother:

  1. ‘Specimens of Decoration in the Italian Style,’ 4to, London, 1844.
  2. ‘Museums, Libraries, and Picture Galleries,’ 8vo, London, 1853.
  3. ‘Notes on the Causes of Fires in Buildings, arising from Grates, Furnaces, Stoves, and Gas, and which is the safest of the various Methods of Warming Buildings,’ 12mo, London, 1853.
  4. ‘Notes on Spontaneous Combustion,’ 12mo, London, 1855.
  5. ‘Life and Works of J. B. Papworth, Architect to the King of Würtemburg,’ 8vo, London, 1879.
  6. ‘Memoirs of A. W. Morant,’ 8vo, London, 1881.
  7. ‘The Renaissance and Italian Styles of Architecture in Great Britain, their Introduction and Development shown by a Series of Dated Examples,’ 8vo, London, 1883.

Among the papers contributed to the ‘Transactions of the Royal Institute of British Architects,’ the following may be mentioned in addition to those already noticed: (1) ‘Memoir of the late Joseph Bonomi, Architect and A.R.A., with Description of some Drawings of his Design for Roseneath, erected for the Duke of Argyll,’ 1869, vol. xix.; (2) ‘Notes on the Architectural and Literary Works of the late Arthur Ashpitel, F.S.A.,’ 1869, vol. xix.; (3) ‘Fall of the Dome of the Koltovskoie Church, St. Petersburg,’ 1872, vol. xxii.; (4) ‘On the Fall of the Iron Dome of the Anthæum at Brighton,’ 1872, vol. xxii.; (5) ‘Professor Donaldson: his Connection with the Institute,’ 1 Feb. 1886; (6) ‘Notes on the Superintendents of English Buildings in the Middle Ages,’ new ser. 1887, iii. 185–234.

[Journal R.I.B.A. vol. i. 3rd ser. 1894, p. 618; personal knowledge.]

A. C.