Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Taylor, George Ledwell
TAYLOR, GEORGE LEDWELL (1788–1873), architect, was born on 31 March 1788, and was educated at Rawes's academy, Bromley. In 1804 his uncle, General George (afterwards first Lord) Harris [q. v.], introduced him to James Burton. This architect, being about to retire, transferred his pupil to Joseph Parkinson of Ely Place, then engaged in laying out the Portman estate. Taylor, while articled to Parkinson, superintended the building of Montagu and Bryanston Squares (1811) and the neighbouring streets. His fellow pupil was Edward Cresy (d. 1858), with whom he maintained an uninterrupted friendship for more than fifty years. In 1816 he took two journeys with Cresy, chiefly on foot, to study English architecture—the first in the south-western counties; the second, a tour of forty days, from York to Lincoln, Peterborough, Ely, &c. On 23 June 1817 he started with Cresy on a grand tour, at his mother's expense, which lasted two years. In 1817 they travelled through France, Switzerland, and Italy, spending the winter at Rome and Naples. On 1 May 1818 they left Naples for Bari and Corfu, and spent the summer in Greece, in company with John Sanders and William Purser. Their one discovery of importance was that of the remains of the famous Theban lion at Chaeronea on 3 June 1818 (Literary Gazette, 24 April 1824; G. L. Taylor, Autobiography, i. 109, 160). After a second winter spent at Rome Taylor returned to England on 12 May 1819. Of a journey of 7,200 miles, four thousand miles had been performed on foot. He now took an office with Cresy in Furnival's Inn. He lived at 52 Bedford Square, afterwards in Spring Gardens, till he built a house for himself at Lee, Kent. On 3 Feb. 1824 he was appointed surveyor of buildings to the naval department. In this capacity he superintended important works in the dockyards at Chatham, Woolwich, and Sheerness, and alterations in the Clarence victualling yard, Gosport. He built the Melville Hospital, Chatham (1827), and the Woolwich river wall (1831). He received some attention from William IV, and claims credit for inducing the king in 1830 to accept ‘Trafalgar Square’ instead of ‘King William the Fourth Square,’ the name originally proposed for the site. In 1837 a scheme for retrenchment at the admiralty involved Taylor's dismissal. He was obliged to take up general practice, and qualified as a district surveyor. In 1843–8 he laid out considerable portions of the bishop of London's estate, Westbourne Terrace (where he built a house for himself), Chester Place, and parts of Hyde Park Square and Gloucester Square. In 1849 he undertook the continuation of the North Kent railway from Stroud, through Chatham, and Canterbury to Dover, but the negotiation fell through, at a personal loss to Taylor of 3,000l. He seems after this to have abandoned active professional work for archæology. In 1856 he revisited Italy with his wife, and stayed at Rome from 20 Nov. 1857 to 22 March 1858, collecting materials for ‘The Stones of Etruria and Marbles of Antient Rome,’ which he published in 1859. He finally returned to England in 1868. During 1870–2, while residing at Broadstairs, he published a collection of sketches and descriptions of buildings which he had visited in his travels, under the misleading title ‘The Auto-Biography of an Octogenarian Architect,’ 2 vols. 4to. It is an incoherent compilation, in which biographical details are scanty. Taylor died at Broadstairs on 1 May 1873. On 8 June 1820 he married Bella Neufville, by whom he had eleven children.
In addition to the books mentioned above, he published several pamphlets on professional subjects, and, jointly with Edward Cresy:
- ‘The Architectural Antiquities of Rome,’ 2 vols. 1821–2; new edit. 1874.
- ‘Revived Architecture of Italy—Palaces of Genoa,’ 1822.
- ‘Architecture of the Middle Ages in Italy: Pisa,’ 1829.
[Taylor's Autobiography; Dict. of Architecture; Times, 7 May 1873.]