Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wild, James William

WILD, JAMES WILLIAM (1814–1892), architect, son of Charles Wild [q. v.], was born on 9 March 1814. In 1830 he was articled to George Basevi [q. v.], under whom he turned his attention to Gothic studies, and at the conclusion of his pupilage was entrusted by his master with the designing and building of a country church. Independent practice rapidly followed, and before 1840 Wild had built six churches, including Coates church, Whittlesea; St. Laurence at Southampton, and Barton. The first and last are of Norman type, St. Laurence is early English. At Christ Church, Streatham, he subsequently attempted a Byzantine manner used also by him in St. Mark's Church, Alexandria, and in St. Martin's schools, Endell Street, London. He relied on the simple decoration and wide brick-wall spaces appropriate to this style to secure a characteristic building at the low figure (4l. a sitting) to which his employers restricted him. As an artist he keenly regretted their desire to subordinate propriety to cost, especially as exhibited in the restriction of colour decoration and the demand for galleries.

In 1842 Wild joined the expedition which the king of Prussia sent out under Dr. Lepsius to Egypt. From that date until 1848 he was continually abroad, travelling and sketching in Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Spain. He is said to have been the discoverer of the method upon which the great pyramid was constructed.

Returning in 1848, he resumed practice with the above-mentioned church at Alexandria and schools at Endell Street, building at the same time the water tower at Great Grimsby, also in the Byzantine style. In 1851 he was appointed decorative architect to the Great Exhibition, and in 1853 was retained by the South Kensington Museum as an expert on Arabian art. During this employment he designed and carried out the Bethnal Green Museum, the architectural courts at South Kensington, the British legation at Teheran, and the eastern and western galleries of the Horticultural Gardens. The Bethnal Green Museum is without the forecourt and campanile intended by the architect. He designed but did not see executed the consular buildings at Alexandria (Royal Academy, 1870), and the proposed exhibition buildings on the site of the Imperial Institute. In 1878 Wild was appointed curator of the Soane Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields, which post he held till his death in that building on 7 Nov. 1892. Enlargements of the museum had been carried out under his directions and from his designs.

[Builder, 1892, lxiii. 384; R.I.B.A. Journal, 1893, ix. 275; Times, 11 Nov. 1892.]

P. W.