Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Micklethwaite, John Thomas

MICKLETHWAITE, JOHN THOMAS (1843–1906), architect, born at Riskworth House, Wakefield, Yorkshire, on 3 May 1843, was son of James Micklethwaite of Hopton, Mirfield, worsted spinner and colliery owner, by his wife Sarah Eliza Stanway of Manchester.

After education at Tadcaster and Wakefield, and subsequently at King's College, London, which afterwards granted him an hon. fellowship, he became a pupil in 1862 of (Sir) George Gilbert Scott [q. v.]. and formed a lifelong friendship with a fellow pupil, Mr. Somers Clarke. He began independent practice in 1860 and was in constant collaboration with Mr. Somers Clarke, who definitely became his partner in 1876 and remained in that capacity till his retirement from active work in 1892.

An earnest churchman and a master of historic ritual. Micklethwaite brought sympathy and knowledge to bear on his work as a designer. His productions, thought not strikingly original, were invariably scholarly and correct. The individual responsibilities of Micklethwaite and his partner are not always easy to distinguish. Of their joint works the church of St. John, Gainsborough, the churches of All Saints, Brixham, and St. Paul's, Wimbledon Park, as well as the enlargement of the parish church at Brighton, were all designed and begun by Mr. Somers Clarke, and were completed by Micklethwaite after 1892. At Brighton church Micklethwaite modified his colleague's design, and at All Saints' church, Haydon Lane, Wimbledon, Micklethwaite, besides completing Mr. Somers Clarke's plans, designed the screens and furniture. The church at Stretton was designed by Mr. Clarke but was carried out by Micklethwaite after 1892.

Among the works which were distinctly or exclusively Micklethwaite's are: St. Hilda's church, Leeds; St. Bartholomew's, Barking Road, East Ham (1902); St. Peter's, Bocking; Widford church; the rebuilding (tower excepted) of All Saints', Morton, near Gainsborough (1891–3); the House of Mercy, Horbury; St. Saviour's, Luton, and St. Matthias', Cambridge. Micklethwaite's ecclesiological skill was often in demand for the completion or furnishing of chancels and the like, for example at St. John's, Wakefield. The screens and rood of St. Mary Magdalene's, Munster Square, London, are of his design. He was often engaged in restoration, as at Kirkstall Abbey, the churches of Oundle, Thomhaugh, Inglesham, Orford, Winchelsea, West Mailing, Lydney North, and All Saints, Great Sturton. The York county council appointed him, with Mr. W. H. Brierley, to restore Clifford's Tower at York, and in 1900 he was made architect to St. George's Chapel, Windsor. At Ranworth, Norfolk, he repaired the celebrated screen, and at St. Andrew's, Cherry Hinton, he restored the chancel.

Of his less frequent domestic and secular work there are examples in the addition to Stapleford Park, and the Technical Schools at Wimbledon.

Micklethwaite's critical knowledge of Westminster Abbey and his affection for the fabric were rewarded in 1898 by his appointment as surveyor to the dean and chapter, on the death of John Loughborough Pearson [q. v.]. The works of renewal on the south transept and west front were carried out during his period of office in collaboration with Mr. W. D. Caroe, F.S.A. As custodian of the Abbey he aimed primarily and essentially at conservation. With the possible exception of the decoration on the west side of the Confessor's shrine carried out at the time of the coronation of King Edward VII (when he also designed some of the vestments for the ceremonial), he made few if any attempts at conjectural renovation.

Throughout his career Micklethwaite devoted himself to archæological inquiry and writing as well as to architectural work. In 1870, when he wrote a paper on the Chapel of St. Erasmusin Westminster Abbey, he was elected F.S.A. He served for many years on the executive committee of the Antiquaries' Society, was several times a member of council, and became a vice-president in 1902. A series of articles begun in 'The Sacristy' as early as 1870 were collected in 1874 as 'Modern Parish Churches, their Plan, Design and Furniture.' Among his more important monographs were two essays on Saxon churches and two on Westminster Abbey, all in the 'Archæological Journal,' one on the sculptures of Henry VII' s Chapel in 'Archæologia,' and a treatise on the Cistercian plan in the 'Yorkshire Archæological Journal.' He was one of the founders of the Alcuin Club, the Henry Bradshaw Society, and the St. Paul's Ecclesiological Society. His tract on the 'Ornaments of the Rubric' was the first publication of the Alcuin Club in 1897, and reached a third edition. He was a member, and in 1893 master, of the Art Workers' Guild, and took a leading part in the affairs of the Archæological Institute. In 1874 he issued, in conjunction with Mr. Somers Clarke, a pamphlet, 'What shall be done with St. Paul's?' in reference to the internal alterations then in progress.

After some years of failing health, he died, unmarried, on 28 Oct. 1906, at his residence, 27 St. George's Square, London, S.W., and was accorded the honour of burial in the west cloister, Westminster Abbey.

[Athenæum, 10 Nov. 1906, p. 589, article by Prof. Lethaby; Builder, vol. xci. 1906, p. 516; obituary notice by the president. See. Antiq. Proceedings, 23 April 1907; Index Proc. Soc. Antiq., second ser., i.-xx. 267 (list of Micklethwaite's contributions); information from Mr. Somers Clarke.]

P. W.