Edward James Willson
|Edward James Willson, F.S.A.|
|Occupation||Architect, Antiquary and Politician|
|Known for||Early mentor of The Rev. Frederick James Jobson, D.D.|
Edward James Willson, F.S.A., (1787–1854), was an English architect, antiquary and politician of Lincoln. He trained Frederick James Jobson as an architect before the Jobson embarked on a career in the ministry. Jobson praised his works and writings as contributing to the Gothic Revival, particularly in Lincolnshire.
Born at Lincoln on 21 June 1787, he was the eldest son of William Willson of Lincoln by his wife Clarissa, daughter of William Tenney. Robert William Willson was his younger brother. He was brought up a Roman Catholic, and, after education at the grammar school, began to learn business as a builder under his father. In a few years he abandoned building for the study of architecture, in which he obtained help from a local architect.
He was engaged by Archdeacon Henry Vincent Bayley in 1823 in the restoration of Messingham church, and superintended repairs or restorations at Haxey, Louth, West Rasen, Saundby, Staunton, and other churches in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. He designed St John the Evangelist's Catholic Church, Nottingham and other Roman Catholic chapels at Hainton, Louth, Melton Mowbray, Grantham, and elsewhere, some of which are early examples of the Gothic revival. In 1826 he designed the organ case for Lincoln Cathedral.
Between 1834 and 1845 he restored the keep, towers, and walls of Lincoln Castle, and had for more than twenty years charge of its fabric as county surveyor. The Pelham Column, 128 feet high, on a hill at Cabourn between Caistor and Grimsby, was designed by Willson for the Earl of Yarborough. He was honoured as a citizen in Lincoln, and became a city magistrate in 1834 and mayor in 1852.
Willson died at Lincoln on 8 September 1854. He was buried at Hainton. He married, in 1821, Mary, daughter of Thomas Mould. By her he had two surviving sons.
About 1818 acquaintance with John Britton and Augustus Charles Pugin started him on a career. For Britton's Architectural Antiquities (1807–26) he supplied accounts of Boston church, St. Peter's, Barton, and the minsters of Beverley and Lincoln. He was associated with the same author's Cathedral Antiquities (1814–35) and Picturesque Antiquities of English Cities (1830).
Willson was closely connected with the movement for the cultivation and nomenclature of Gothic architecture with which Thomas Rickman and others were associated. The Specimens of Gothic Architecture which Pugin began to publish in 1821 was influenced by Willson's suggestions, both in the delineation of mouldings and details (an advance on previous methods of recording architecture) and in the selection of the examples. Willson wrote the whole of the letterpress for these two volumes, and supplied a glossary of Gothic architecture, the first of its kind. For Pugin's Examples of Gothic Architecture (1828–31) he also wrote the text, including essays on Gothic Architecture and Modern Imitation.
He was also the author of pamphlets on local subjects, and collected material for the architectural history of his county and cathedral.
- Colvin (1995) p.1061
- F.J. Jobson, Chapel and School Architecture as Appropriate to the Buildings of Nonconformists Particularly to Those of the Wesleyan Methodists: With Practical Directions for the Erection of Chapels and School-Houses (London, 1850).
- Waterhouse, Paul (1885–1900). "Willson, Edward James". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Willson, Edward James". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.