George Wightwick

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George Wightwick
Born26 August 1802
Flintshire, Wales
Died9 July 1872
BuildingsRoyal Cornwall Polytechnic Society, Falmouth

George Wightwick (26 August 1802 – 9 July 1872) was a British architect based in Plymouth, and possibly the first architectural journalist.[1][2]

In addition to his architectural practice, he developed his skills and the market for architectural journalism. His views of church design disagreed with those of churchmen with power to commission new churches and this work dropped off after he published his ideas in Weale's Quarterly papers on Architecture in 1844/5. He married twice but had no children and died at Portishead on 9 July 1872.

Life and work[edit]

Early years[edit]

Wightwick was born in Alyn Bank, near Mold, Flintshire, Wales and trained in London under Edward Lapidge.[3] Following a year of travel and study in Italy, he published Select Views of Roman Antiquities (1828) .


In the late 1820s, Wightwick moved to Plymouth,[4] and worked with John Foulston,[5] succeeding to Foulston's practice after six months. From then until 1852, when he retired to Bristol, he completed many public and domestic buildings, mostly in Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall.

Wightwick, who was a member of The Plymouth Institution (now The Plymouth Athenaeum),[6] was well known in Plymouth as an architect and as an amateur actor and comedian.[4][7]

He completed designs by Foulston for Bodmin County Lunatic Asylum[8][9][10] and designed the Plymouth Mechanics' Institute,[11] Athenaeum Terrace, the Esplanade, the Devon and Cornwall Female Orphan Asylum[4][12] and the Post Office at Devonport.

In Devon, he designed Calverleigh Court, and Watermouth Castle, near Ilfracombe.[13]

Work in Cornwall[edit]

Among the buildings that he designed in Cornwall were country houses at Luxtowe in Liskeard and Trevarno,[14][15] near Helston, Penquite at Golant and alterations to Tregrehan House at St. Blazey.

In The Buildings of England: Cornwall,[16] Nikolaus Pevsner identifies as Wightwick's work St. Michael and All Angels, Bude (1835),[17] St. Mary's at Portreath (1841) (which he calls "rather depressing")[18] Probus Vicarage (1839),[19] St. Luke's, Tideford (1845),[20] and Tregrehan House near St. Blazey ("Late Georgian ... of granite, seven bays, with lower projecting wings and a one-storeyed colonnade of piers of Ionic columns across five bays of the front"),[21] and St. John's, Treslothan (1841).[22][23]

View of the RCPS building designed by George Wightwick

Raymond L. Brett [24] has identified Wightwick as the architect of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society building in Falmouth.[25]


The ODNB articles relate how Wightwick used his social networking skills to develop his practice. An example of this is his relationship with the Fox family of Falmouth, as described by siblings Barclay and Caroline, who both kept journals which were published in the 1970s.[26] Barclay Fox notes the brilliant lecture that Wightwick gave at the Polytechnic: "The Romance of Architecture" (entry: 3 October 1838); their companionship at the meeting of the British Association in Plymouth (entry: 29 July 1841); and his visit to the new Bodmin Lunatic Asylum with Wightwick (the architect) (entry: 23 August 1841). Caroline Fox describes Wightwick's witty tabletalk, when he dined at Penjerrick, the Fox family home (entries: 6 April 1839 and 25 October 1839); her attendance at a lecture he gave (entry: 18 January 1849); and news that he would move to Clifton (entry: 27 June 1851). Through this long period, Wightwick kept contact with this family of "opinion-formers" and powerful social networkers.


His first work was Select Views of Roman Antiquities (1828). After his retirement from architectural practice, he continued his writing about architecture, both in the Bristol papers and the national professional press.

Books by "George Wightwick, Architect" held by the British Library (British Library Integrated catalogue search 11 June 2006)

  • Nettleton’s Guide to Plymouth ... and to the neighbouring country, etc. (1836).
  • Hints to Young Architects: comprising advice to those who are destined to follow the profession (1846, with new editions in 1847, 1860, 1875 and 1880).[27]
  • The Palace of Architecture: a romance of art and history' [With plates.] (1840).[28]
  • Richard the First, a romantik play in five acts [in verse, with occasional scenes in prose] (1848).
  • Henry the Second: a tragedy in five acts [in verse] (1851).


  1. ^ ODNB article by Rosamund Reid "Wightwick, George (1802-1872)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Accessed 19 June 2006
  2. ^ The surname "Wightwick" is pronounced "/Whit-ick".
  3. ^ "Opening Address of the President". Papers Read at the Royal Institute of British Architects. 1873. p. 11.
  4. ^ a b c Mosely, Brian (18 February 2011). "George Wightwick (1802-1872)". The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History. Plymouth, UK. Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  5. ^ Moseley, Brian (3 December 2011). "John Foulston (1772-1842)". The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History. Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  6. ^ "Historic People". Plymouth Athenaeum. Archived from the original on 6 November 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  7. ^ Applause South West article and texts on G. Wightwick (includes portrait). Accessed 16 Oct 2007
  8. ^ Bodmin workhouse, later St Lawrence's Hospital (Illustration) (Peter Higginbotham's Workhouse website - accessed 16 Oct 2007) Archived 29 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Middlesex University index of County Asylums. Accessed 16 Oct 2007 Archived 27 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ "History of St Lawrence's Hospital, after its closure. Accessed 29 November 2007". Archived from the original on 28 August 2008.
  11. ^ Mosely, Brian (18 January 2011). "Mechanics' Institutes". The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History. Plymouth, UK. sec. Plymouth Mechanics' Institute. Archived from the original on 21 June 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  12. ^ Mosely, Brian (20 February 2011). "Orphanages - Picture - building destroyed in the Blitz". The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History. Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  13. ^ The Courtney Library in the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro has an index card referring to "Architectural work of George Wightwick in Plymouth and the County of Devon" in Transactions of the Devonshire Society (1996) Volume 128, pp 121-138
  14. ^ Trevarno House website
  15. ^ Trevarno House website - historical snippets page. Accessed 16 Oct 2007 Archived 26 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ Buildings of England: Cornwall by Nikolaus Pevsner, 2nd edition revised by Enid Radcliffe; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970 ISBN 0-300-09589-9 (cited as "Pevsner: Cornwall")
  17. ^ Pevsner:Cornwall p. 47 see webpage on St. Michael's church. Accessed 16 Oct 2007 Archived 17 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ Pevsner:Cornwall Page 145 (demolished) see Webpage on St Mary, Portreath - includes picture of building, now demolished. Accessed 16 Oct 2007 Archived 2 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ Pevsner:Cornwall p. 147
  20. ^ Pevsner:Cornwall p. 219: see St. Germans webpage on St Luke's Parish church. Accessed 16 Oct 2007
  21. ^ Pevsner:Cornwall p. 224 see Tregrehan House garden webpage. Accessed 16 Oct 2007 Archived 26 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ Pevsner:Cornwall p. 228 see Caerkrief webpage on St. Johns, Trelothan. Accessed 16 Oct 2007
  23. ^ Extract from the West Briton, 5 August 1842 at the time of the consecration of Treslothan Church.
  24. ^ Barclay Fox's journal; edited by Raymond L. Brett; London : Bell and Hyman, 1979 ISBN 0-7135-1865-0 and Totowa, N.J. : Rowman & Littlefield ISBN 0-8476-6187-3. Note to p. 105.
  25. ^ see also: "Architectural work of George Wightwick in the County of Cornwall" by Rosamund Reid in Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall (ISSN 0968-5936) Series II, Volume 3, Part 2, pp 74-91 (1999)
  26. ^ Barclay's journal cited above, The journals of Caroline Fox, 1835–1871: a selection, ed. Wendy Monk ; London, Paul Elek, (1972) ISBN 0-236-15447-8
  27. ^ The second American edition (1851) is available online at Internet Archive.
  28. ^ Palace of Architecture, reviewed in The Gentleman's Magazine, 1840 pp.627 - 630. on GoogleBooks