James William Wild

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
James William Wild
James William Wild.jpg
Wild at the start of the Lepsius expedition in Egypt, 1842. Drawing by J.J. Frey.
Born (1814-03-09)9 March 1814
Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England
Died 7 November 1892(1892-11-07) (aged 78)
Sir John Soane's Museum, London
Nationality United Kingdom
Occupation Architect

James William Wild (9 March 1814 – 7 November 1892) was a British architect. Initially working in the Gothic style, he later employed round-arched forms. He spent several years in Egypt. He acted as decorative architect to the Great Exhibition of 1851, and designed the Grimsby Dock Tower completed in 1852.[1] He worked on designs for the South Kensington Museum, and was curator of the Sir John Soane's Museum from 1878 to his death in 1892.

Early life and career[edit]

Wild was born in Lincoln,[2] the son of the watercolourist Charles Wild.

Wild was articled to the architect George Basevi from 1830. After his apprenticeship, he concentrated on Gothic design, and was entrusted with the design of a country church. He was subsequently engaged on many other church projects, and six churches had been built to his design before 1840.

Christ Church, Streatham[edit]

Christ Church, Streatham (1841)

Commissioned to build a new church at Streatham on a limited budget[3] – construction was intended to cost around £4,000 although the expenditure eventually rose to around £6,000[4] – Wild abandoned the medieval English styles which he had used for his earlier churches, for a design in a spare, round-arched style, based on an eclectic range of sources from around the Mediterranean.[5] A contemporary reviewer wrote "It has been called Moorish, Byzantine, Arabian, &c, but we incline to think that it may more justly claim the title of 'Italian' than that Palladian modification which has so long monopolized that title in England."[4] Wild is not known to have travelled abroad by this time, but he would have had the advice of his friends Owen Jones (who married Wild's sister Isabella shortly after) and Joseph and Ignatius Bonomi who had, and been able to draw on recently published sources, including Jones' study of the Alhambra, a building from which some details at Streatham seem directly imitated.[3] The church was built of brick, with, unusually for the date, some brick polychrome decoration, although sparingly used.[3] It has a tall slim Italian-style campanile, with a small pyramidal spire.[4]

Wild showed the design for Christ Church at the Royal Academy in 1840, along with another for a church at Paddington (which was never built), in a Lombardic style, with western tower and a central cupola.[6]

In July 1841 Wild built a temporary pavilion seating 2,850 at Liverpool for the "Grand Dinner of the Royal Agricultural Society".[7]


He assisted Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius with his work in Egypt from 1842 [2] In 1845 he produced plans for the Anglican church of St Mark in Alexandria, taking over the project from Anthony Salvin. His design combined features from early Christian and Islamic styles. It was completed – without its planned campanile – in 1854.[8]

South Kensington[edit]

Wild returned to Britain in 1848.[2] From 1851 he was "retained as an expert on Arabian art" to advise the newly established museum of the Department of Practical Art at Marlborough House, which later moved to South Kensington and eventually became the Victoria and Albert Museum. The following year he designed a water tower at Grimsby, a side-project of the Museum's director, Henry Cole.[9]

The next fourteen years of Wild's career remain obscure, his only recorded design work being a stained-glass window for the South Kensington Museum's Oriental Court, the interiors of which were designed by Owen Jones.[9] In 1867, following the death of Francis Fowke, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Scott was appointed to oversee the development of the 1851 Exhibition Commissioners' estate in South Kensington, which included the museum, and Wild emerged as his principal architectural assistant. His exact contribution to the scheme is not clear, although he is known to have designed the museum's Cast Court, and seems to have had sole responsibility under Scott for the Eastern and Western Galleries, and for the museum's branch at Bethnal Green,[9] where he designed a new brick structure to be constructed around prefabricated elements previously erected at South Kensington.[10] The works at South Kensington employed a hybrid round-arched style, often referred to by the German term rundbogenstil.[9]

In the 1870s Wild designed the chancery buildings of the British legation at Tehran. His supervising assistant there, Caspar Purdon Clarke was one of the South Kensington architectural staff, who had previously, in 1872 gone out to Alexandria to supervise the mural decorations at Wild's church.[9]

Later life[edit]

Wild was curator of the Sir John Soane's Museum in London from 1878 to his death in 1892. He made substantial changes to the galleries at the rear of the Soane Museum to improve daylighting, but many of these have now been reversed, as more recent restorations have tried to bring the museum closer to its appearance in Soane's day.

His extensive manuscripts, including drawings from his travels are now housed in the Griffith Institute of the University of Oxford.[2]


  • All Saints, Botley, Eastleigh, Hampshire. (1836).[5]
  • St James, West End, Hampshire (begun 1836).[11] Demolished and replaced 1890.[12]
  • St. John, Moulsham, Chelmsford, Essex (plans approved between 1835 and 1838 )[13][14]
  • Holy Trinity, Blackheath Hill, Greenwich (1839; a design was exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1838; demolished).[5]
  • Holy Trinity, Coates, Cambridgeshire (1839).[5]
  • St Lawrence, Southampton (1839–42; demolished 1923; design exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1839).
  • St Paul, Stapler's Road, Barton, Newport, Isle of Wight (first stone laid 1840).[5]
  • Christ Church, Streatham (1841).
  • Tent at Liverpool (1841; temporary structure).
  • St Mark's Anglican church, Alexandria, Egypt.[5]
  • St Martin in the Fields Northern District Schools, Long Acre, London (1849–50; demolished).[5]
  • Grimsby Dock Tower (1851–2).[5]
  • Various works at South Kensington, including the Cast Court, and East and West Galleries of the South Kensington Museum and the interior planning and structure of the Science Schools (later the Henry Cole Wing), including the north staircase.[5]
  • Bethnal Green Museum (now the Museum of Childhood).[5]
  • British Legation, Tehran.[5]
  • Arab Studio, at his own house, 18 Aberdeen Place, Maida Hill.[5]

The church of St Mary and St Cuthbert at Barton, Yorkshire, sometimes attributed to Wild, is by Joseph Bonomi.[5]


  1. ^ Brodie, Antonia (2001). Directory of British Architects 1834–1914. p.989
  2. ^ a b c d "Griffith Institute Archive Description of material". Griffith Institute Archive. 
  3. ^ a b c Jackson, Neil (2000). "Christ Church, Streatham, and the Rise of Constructional Polychromy". Architectural History 43: 219–52. doi:10.2307/1568695. 
  4. ^ a b c "Christ Church, Streatham, Surrey". The Christian Guardian: 196. 1842. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Alan Baxter and Associates. "Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood Conservation Report". 
  6. ^ "Royal Academy". Gentleman's Magaine: 68. July 1840. 
  7. ^ "The Liverpool Pavilion". The Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal: 3–4. 1842. 
  8. ^ Crinson, Mark (1996). Empire Building: Orientalism and Victorian Architecture. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-13940-3. 
  9. ^ a b c d e F. H. W. Sheppard (General Editor) (1975). "'South Kensington' and the Science and Art Department". Survey of London: volume 38: South Kensington Museums Area. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  10. ^ Stephen Bayley (10 December 2006). "Much more than a doll's house". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  11. ^ "Hampshire". The British Magazine, and Monthly Register of Religious and Ecclesiastical Information IX: 705. 1836. 
  12. ^ "A Brief History of West End". West End Local History Society. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  13. ^ "CHELMSFORD, St. John, Moulsham". 
  14. ^ Bettley, James; Nikolaus, Pevsner (2007). Essex. Buildings of England. Yale University Press. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-300-11614-4. 
  • Waterhouse, Paul (1900). Wild, James William. In the Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 61.

External links[edit]