Alec Clifton-Taylor

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Alec Clifton-Taylor OBE (2 August 1907 – 1 April 1985) was an English architectural historian, writer and TV broadcaster.

Biography and works[edit]

Born Alec Clifton Taylor (no hyphen), the son of Stanley Edgar Taylor, corn-merchant, and Ethel Elizabeth Taylor (née Hills), in 1907 at Whitepost House, Overton Road in Sutton, Surrey, Clifton-Taylor was educated at Bishop's Stortford College and at the Queen's College, Oxford. He went on to the Courtauld Institute of Art. During World War II he served in the Admiralty.[1]

His best-known and most influential book is The Pattern of English Building (1962) (ISBN 0-571-14890-5), an examination of the architectural vernacular. It orders its subject according to the building materials and methods used in England. Two of his other books are studies of ecclesiastical architecture: The Cathedrals of England and English Parish Churches as Works of Art. Along with Nikolaus Pevsner (to whose Buildings of England series he was a contributor) and John Betjeman, Clifton-Taylor is considered one of the three most significant figures in the study of English churches.[2]

Clifton-Taylor gained his greatest public recognition late in life through his work for the BBC. After being introduced through Pevsner to BBC arts producer John Drummond, Clifton-Taylor presented the first episode, The Medieval World, of a television programme on British architecture through the ages called The Spirit of the Age, broadcast in Autumn 1975. [3] Clifton-Taylor went on to present three extremely popular series of 30- or 40-minute BBC programmes: Six English Towns (1978), Six More English Towns (1981), and Another Six English Towns (1984), in which he visited Chichester, Richmond, Tewkesbury, Stamford, Totnes, Ludlow, Warwick, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Saffron Walden, Lewes, Bradford on Avon, Beverley, Cirencester, Whitby, Bury St Edmunds, Devizes, Sandwich and Durham, discussing their history and architectural character in an accessible and courteous (if uncompromising) style.[citation needed] Each series was accompanied by its own book, and DVDs of the three series were released in 2016/7. A box set of the three series is due for release on November 5th 2018, entitled Six English Towns The Complete Collection and includes a discussion between John Julius Norwich and Alec Clifton Taylor called 'In Search of the Spirit of the age' shown before the BBC2 repeat of the series 'Spirit of the Age' in May 1976 and a commentary on each of the episodes; Chichester, Saffron Walden and Cirencester. Clifton-Taylor was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1982 for "services to the study of architecture".[4]

Clifton-Taylor believed that local materials had to be used for buildings to look 'right', and was therefore critical of much Victorian and subsequent architecture, erected after the railways had facilitated the transport of cheaper materials alien to a particular locale. He also regarded the Victorians as aesthetically poor restorers.[citation needed]

His other books are Buildings of Delight, English Brickwork (with Ronald Brunskill) and English Stone Building' (with A.S Ireson)'.

Personal life[edit]

He lived in Kensington, west London, for much of his life (15 Clareville Grove) and was president of the Kensington Society, an organisation devoted to preserving the borough's architecture and open spaces. The Alec Clifton-Taylor Memorial Garden is located behind St Mary Abbots Church in Kensington.[5]


  1. ^ Obituary, Daily Telegraph (London), 8 April 1985.
  2. ^ Jenkins, S. and Barker, P. England's Thousand Best Churches, Penguin, 2000, ISBN 978-0-14-029795-9
  3. ^>Obituary, Sir John Drummond, Daily Telegraph, 09-09-2006
  4. ^ Supplement to The London Gazette, Issue 49008, 11 June 1982, page 12. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  5. ^ St.Mary Abbotts and Alec Clifton Taylor Memorial Gardens, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, accessed 29-09-2008

External links[edit]