Godwin, George (DNB00)
GODWIN, GEORGE (1815–1888), architect, son of an architect at Brompton, was born there 28 Jan. 1815. At the age of thirteen he entered his father's office. He quickly developed a taste for literature and the scientific aspects of art. For some time he acted as joint-editor of a magazine called the ‘Literary Union.’ In 1835 Godwin obtained the first medal awarded by the Royal Institute of British Architects for his essay on ‘Concrete.’ This treatise was almost immediately translated into several languages, and it still remains a standard work on the subject. In 1836–7 Godwin took an active part in originating the Art Union of London, and for a long period was its hon. secretary. It was one of the great objects of his life to educate the public taste in matters of art. The Art Union obtained a charter, and its annual income soon reached many thousands of pounds. During the early days of railway enterprise Godwin issued ‘An Appeal to the Public on the Subject of Railways,’ 1837, in answer to conservative objections to their multiplication. In 1838 he published ‘The Churches of London,’ in two volumes, with illustrations from drawings by Mackenzie and Billings. Godwin now contributed papers to the meetings of the Institute of British Architects and other societies, and was one of the principal writers on the ‘Art Journal,’ the ‘Architectural Magazine,’ and the ‘Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal.’ The Society of Antiquaries printed his essay on ‘Masons' Marks’ in its ‘Archæologia,’ 1843. Among his more important writings may be cited ‘The Means employed for Raising Obelisks’ (having special reference to the elevation of the Luxor obelisk at Paris), ‘The Institution of Freemasonry,’ ‘The State of Architecture in the Provinces,’ ‘Present State of Cologne Cathedral,’ ‘Ancient Architectural Remains in Lower Normandy,’ and ‘Present State of the Art of Glass-painting in England and France.’ Godwin wrote a farce called ‘The Last Day,’ which was played at the Olympic Theatre in October 1840, and he subsequently wrote a number of dramas, which have not been published. With Lewis Pocock he edited the ‘Pilgrim's Progress’ in 1844, also supplying a memoir of Bunyan; and the same year he issued a volume entitled ‘Facts and Fancies.’
In 1844 Godwin became editor of the ‘Builder,’ a journal founded two years before by Joseph Aloysius Hansom [q. v.], and gave to the paper its recognised position. Godwin published in 1848 his ‘Buildings and Monuments, Modern and Mediæval,’ and in 1853 appeared his ‘History in Ruins,’ a series of letters intended as a popular outline of architectural history.
Godwin laboured zealously to improve the sanitary conditions of the dwellings of the poor in town and country. He thoroughly examined many of the dilapidated London houses. Prince Albert afterwards took an interest in the question, and in 1851 erected a model dwelling in Hyde Park. Under the title of ‘London Shadows’ Godwin published in 1854 a work embodying the results of an inquiry into the condition of the poor, undertaken in the preceding year. This was succeeded by ‘Town Swamps and Social Bridges.’ In ‘Another Blow for Life,’ a volume issued in 1864, he again called attention to sanitary and social defects.
Godwin took an active part in the work of the Royal Literary Fund, of which he was a treasurer, and in the Newspaper Press Fund. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries, and in 1881 he received the gold medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, of which he had been a vice-president. Godwin founded a scholarship in connection with the institute, known as the ‘Godwin Bursary,’ the holder of which was to study and report upon the architectural work and professional practice of other countries. He also supported the Hellenic Society, and assisted in the foundation of the new school at Athens to promote the study of Greek antiquities. He further took a keen interest in the contemporary stage, and his drawings were consulted by Charles Kean. He published a book on ‘The Desirability of obtaining a National Theatre,’ in which he advocated one national theatre for the metropolis, to be supported either by government subsidies or by private subscriptions.
Godwin was a successful architect. He was awarded a premium in 1847 for his selected design for the Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum. The chief works carried out under his sole responsibility were the following: the Brompton parochial national schools; Fulham Church tower (restored); St. Mary's Church, Ware (restored); St. Mary Redcliffe Bristol, (restored); St. Mary's Church, West Brompton; Redcliffe infant school and residence, Bristol; residence at Wall's Court, near Bristol; and buildings at Stanley Farm, near Bristol. In conjunction with his brother Henry he carried out the following works: Standon Church, near Ware (restored); ‘Rockhurst,’ West Hoathley, Sussex; ‘Elmdale,’ Clifton Downs, Bristol; Little Munden Church, Hertfordshire (restored); St. Jude's Church, Earl's Court; drinking fountain, Clifton Downs; and the Redcliffe Mansions, South Kensington.
In 1884 Godwin was appointed a member of the royal commission on the housing of the working classes, and laboured actively in this his latest public work. He died at his residence in Cromwell Place, South Kensington, 27 Jan. 1888. Godwin had been a noted collector of ancient chairs and relics formerly belonging to celebrated persons, which were sold after his death. A chair supposed to have been Shakespeare's was sold for 120 guineas. Other chairs had belonged to Mrs. Siddons, Mrs. Browning, the poet Gay, Anne Boleyn, Alexander Pope, Sir Walter Raleigh, Lord Byron, Landor, Napoleon Bonaparte, Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, George Cruikshank, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. As an editor Godwin was careful and exacting. He was an effective and fluent public speaker and an entertaining companion in private. He was a good narrator of stories, good-humouredly cynical.[Builder, 4 Feb. 1888; Times, 30 Jan. 1888; Daily News, 19 April 1888; Godwin's cited works.]