John Loughborough Pearson

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John Loughborough Pearson
John Loughborough Pearson by Walter William Ouless.jpg
Born 5 July 1817
Brussels, Belgium
Died 11 December 1897
Nationality British
Occupation Architect
Awards Royal Gold Medal (1880)
Buildings Truro Cathedral
Projects St Margaret's, Westminster
Bristol Cathedral

John Loughborough Pearson RA (5 July 1817 – 11 December 1897) was a Gothic Revival architect renowned for his work on churches and cathedrals. Pearson revived and practised largely the art of vaulting, and acquired in it a proficiency unrivalled in his generation.

Early life and education[edit]

Pearson was born in Brussels, Belgium on 5 July 1817.[1] He was the son of William Pearson, etcher, of Durham, and was brought up there. At the age of fourteen he was articled to Ignatius Bonomi, architect, of Durham, whose clergy clientele helped stimulate Pearson's long association with religious architecture, particularly of the Gothic style.

He soon moved to London, where he became a pupil of Philip Hardwick (1792–1870), architect of the Euston Arch and Lincoln's Inn. Pearson lived in central London at 13 Mansfield Street (where a blue plaque commemorates him), and was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 1880.


From the erection of his first church at Ellerker, in Yorkshire, in 1843, to that of St Peter's, Vauxhall, in 1864, his buildings are geometrical in manner and exhibit a close adherence to precedent, but elegance of proportion and refinement of detail lift them out of the commonplace of mere imitation. Holy Trinity, Westminster (1848), and St Mary's, Dalton Holme (1858), are notable examples of this phase.

Pearson began his career drawing purely on English medieval prototypes, but increasingly incorporated ideas from abroad: Charles Locke Eastlake described Pearson's Christchurch at Appleton-le-Moors as "modelled on the earliest and severest type of French Gothic, with an admixture of details almost Byzantine in character."[2]

St Mary's Dalton Holme

St Peter's, Vauxhall (1864), was his first groined church, and the first of a series of buildings which brought Pearson to the forefront among his contemporaries. In these he applied the Early English style to modern needs and modern economy with unrivalled success. St. Augustine's, Kilburn (1871), St John's, Red Lion Square, London (1874), St Alban's, Conybere Street, Birmingham (1880), St Michael's, Croydon (1880), St John's, Norwood (1881), St Stephen's, Bournemouth (1889), and All Saints Church, Hove (1889), are characteristic examples of his mature work.

He was enlisted by Sir Tatton Sykes, 5th Baronet to develop the first of what now are known as "The Sykes churches" near Sledmere. Initially Pearson restored the churches at Garton, Kirkburn, and Bishop Wilton, along with a new one at Hilton.[3]

Pearson is best known for Truro Cathedral (1880), which has a special interest in its apt incorporation of the south aisle of the ancient church. Pearson's conservative spirit fitted him for the repair of ancient buildings, and among cathedrals and other historic buildings placed under his care were Lincoln, Chichester, Peterborough, Bristol and Exeter Cathedrals, St George's Chapel, Windsor, Westminster Hall, and Westminster Abbey, in the surveyorship of which he succeeded Sir George Gilbert Scott. He re-faced the north transept of Westminster Abbey, except for the porches (which are the work of Scott), and also designed the vigorous organ cases. In his handling of ancient buildings he was repeatedly opposed by the anti-restorers of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (as in the case of the west front of Peterborough Cathedral in 1896), but he generally proved the soundness of his judgment by his executed work. He also did restoration work on smaller churches, including St Edward's Church in Gloucestershire.

Pearson's practice was not confined to church building. Treberfydd (1850), Quar Wood (1858), Lechlade Manor, an Elizabethan house (1873), Westwood House, Sydenham, in the French Renaissance style (1880), the Astor estate offices (1892) upon the Victoria Embankment, London, the remodelling of the interiors of Cliveden House (1893) and No. 18 Carlton House Terrace (1894), with many parsonages, show his aptitude for domestic architecture. In general design he first aimed at form, embracing both proportion and contour; and his work may be recognized by accurate scholarship coupled with harmonious detail. Its keynotes are cautiousness and refinement rather than boldness.

He is buried in the nave of Westminster Abbey, where his grave is marked by the appropriate motto Sustinuit et abstinuit. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1874, becoming a full member in 1880. He was also a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and a fellow and member of the Council of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

In 1862 Pearson married Jemima Christian, a cousin of his friend Ewan Christian, a Manxman and architect to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Their son Frank Loughborough Pearson was born in 1864, but to Pearson's great sorrow Jemima died the following year of typhoid fever. Frank followed in his father's footsteps completing much of his work before embarking on his own original designs.

Notable buildings[edit]

Some of Pearson's other important works[edit]

St. Matthew's church, Landscove, South Devon


Bristol Cathedral West front 
Truro cathedral from the north-west 

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Pearson, John Loughborough". Encyclopædia Britannica. 21 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

  1. ^ "John Loughborough Pearson, R.A.". Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Eastlake, Charles Locke (1872). A History of the Gothic Revival. London: Longmans, Green & Co. pp. 303–4. 
  3. ^ Christopher Sykes The Big House.
  4. ^ Historic England. "Church of All Saints, North Ferriby (1347004)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Preston, Richard. "William Hinves and Alfred Bedborough: architects in nineteenth-century Southampton" (PDF). Southampton Local History Forum Journal. Southampton City Council. p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 January 2013. Retrieved 19 May 2012. 
  6. ^ "The Old Quarry Landscove". Domesday Reloaded. BBC. 1986. Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  7. ^ Historic England. "Church of St Matthew (1108532)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  8. ^ Historic England. "Church of the Holy Trinity, Wentworth (1192788)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  9. ^ Historic England. "Church of St. Margaret, Horsforth (1261804)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 

External links[edit]