John Thomas Micklethwaite

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John Thomas Micklethwaite (3 May 1843 – 28 October 1906) was an English architect and archaeologist. He had a long association with Westminster Abbey, and was noted for his criticisms of the current practices of church restoration.[1]


He was born at Rishworth House, Bond Street, Wakefield, Yorkshire (which stood on the site of what is now County Hall, Wakefield) to James Micklethwaite of Hopton, Mirfield, a worsted spinner and colliery owner, and his wife, Sarah Eliza Stanway of Manchester. He grew up in the Micklethwaite family’s ancestral home at Hopton Hall and was educated in Tadcaster and Wakefield. After moving to London where he attended King’s College, he was apprenticed, in 1862, to George Gilbert Scott, commencing independent practice in London in 1869.[1]

By 1876 Micklethwaite had entered partnership with Somers Clarke, his lifelong friend and fellow pupil of Scott. His work as an architect consisted mainly of small-scale ecclesiastical commissions. He also designed furnishings for many churches, and throughout his career devoted himself to archaeological studies and wrote widely about church archaeology, architecture, sculpture and ornament.[1]

He was greatly concerned with issues of preservation and restoration of ancient buildings, especially churches. In 1881 he wrote a paper On The Treatment Of Ancient Architectural Remains in which he argued that the "restoration" practices of the last generation had been "...more destructive than the axe of the Puritan, or the century and a half of churchwardenism which came after it" (p. 353). He dismissed the idea that a church belongs to a particular period, arguing that all churches have long histories, and each generation has left its mark. He was particularly critical of restorations where the new work could not be distinguished from the old, leading to a complete loss of the historical significance of the building. When repairing Winchelsea Church in Sussex, some stonework had to be replaced. The new stones were dated, to avoid confusing future generations.[2]

St Mary Magdalene, East Ham

In 1891, Micklethwaite prepared a report on St Mary Magdalene's Church, East Ham. This church, largely of the 12th-Century, was in poor repair and threatened with demolition. The report showed that the church could be repaired, and it was, between 1891-6.[3][4]

He was one of the founders of the Alcuin Club, the Henry Bradshaw Society, and the St. Paul's Ecclesiological Society. He was a member of the Art Workers' Guild to which he was elected Master in 1893,[5] and took a leading part in the affairs of the Archaeological Institute and of the Society of Antiquaries.

Ground Plan and Longitudinal Section of Westminster Abbey, drawn in 1893

Micklethwaite had a long association with Westminster Abbey, and published a number of articles describing various parts of the Abbey complex. Following the first of these, in 1870, he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. From 1898 until his death in 1906, aged 63, Micklethwaite served as Surveyor of the Fabric of the Abbey, where he is buried in the West Cloister. The Dean wrote: "Yesterday (October 31, 1906) we laid in the cloisters an eager, reverent, skilful worker. John Thomas Micklethwaite studied this Abbey during the main part of his life. He gave his whole heart to this place, and jealously guarded every fragment that could tell of its long history",[1]

Notable works[edit]

St Hilda's Church, Cross Green, Leeds


  1. ^ a b c d Niven, W. (1907). "The Late John Thomas Micklethwaite, F.S.A". Archaeological Journal. 64: 58–62. doi:10.1080/00665983.1907.10853063.
  2. ^ Kirkman, Samuel M. (1908). "Winchelsea Church, Sussex". The Antiquary. 44: 292–294.
  3. ^ Powell, W. R., ed. (1973). "East Ham: Churches". A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6. London. pp. 25–31. Retrieved 15 July 2021.
  4. ^ Cherry, Bridget; O'Brien, Charles; Pevsner, Nikolaus (2005). The Buildings of England: London 5: East. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. p. 269. ISBN 978030010701-2.
  5. ^ British Sculpture 1850-1914: Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Sculpture and Medals Sponsored by the Victorian Society, 30th September-30th October 1968. 1968. p. 29.
  6. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus; Ratcliffe, Enid (1967). The Buildings of England: Yorkshire the West Riding. Harmondsworth: Penguin. p. 324. ISBN 0140710175.
  7. ^ "St. Leonard's Home page". Archived from the original on 4 July 2021. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  8. ^ Denby, Elaine (1998). Grand Hotels: Reality & Illusion; An Architectural and Social History. Reaktion Books. p. 183. ISBN 978-1861891211.
  9. ^ Bettley, James; Pevsner, Nikolaus (2015). The Buildings of England: Suffolk: East. Yale University Press. pp. 446–449. ISBN 978-0-300-19654-2.
  10. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus (1968). The Buildings of England: Bedfordshire. Harmondsworth: Penguin. p. 116.
  11. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus; Harris, John; Antran, Nicholas (1995). The Buildings of England: Lincolnshire (2 ed.). London: Penguin. p. 566. ISBN 0140710272.
  12. ^ Sherwood, Jennifer; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1974). The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire. Harmondsworth: Penguin. p. 228.
  13. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus; Radcliffe, Enid (1965). The Buildings of England: Essex (2 ed.). London: Penguin. p. 91. ISBN 0140710116.
  14. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus (1958). The Buildings of England: Shropshire. Harmondsworth: Penguin. p. 191.
  15. ^ Jenkins, Simon (1999). England's Thousand Best Churches. London: Penguin. pp. 577–578. ISBN 0140297952.

Selected publications[edit]


Wikisource This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Micklethwaite, John Thomas". Dictionary of National Biography (2nd supplement). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1912.

External links[edit]