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Basic Biographical Details

Name: William Burges
Designation: Architect
Born: 2 December 1827
Died: 20 April 1881
Bio Notes: William Burges was born in London on 2 December 1827, the eldest son of Alfred Burges, civil engineer and partner in the harbour and bridge building practice of Walker & Burges. From his earliest youth Burges was very short-sighted. He was educated at King's College School, London from 1839, his contemporaries there included Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Michael Rossetti. In 1893 he entered King's College proper to study construction but after a year he left to become an articled pupil of Edward Blore working on Buckingham Palace, Lambeth Palace and Glasgow Cathedral. When Blore retired in 1849 Burges moved to the office of Matthew Digby Wyatt, working on the Great Exhibtion of 1851 and assisting with two related boioks 'Metal work and its Artistic Design' and 'The Industrial Arts of the Nineteenth Century', published in 1852 and 1853-54 respectively. But before these had appeared Burges had left in 1851 to become assistant to Henry Clutton, an older colleague in Blore's office. At Clutton's he was employed mainly on ecclesiastical and country house work, and assisted with his 'Remarks with illustrations on the Domestic Architecture of France' (1853). This Burges was particularly well equipped to do, having travelled intensively in France since 1849. Burges visited Italy in 1854, primarily for its decorative arts and together Clutton and Burges competed successfully for the new cathedral at Lille in 1855.

In May 1856 the partnership with Clutton ended in disagreement and Burges commenced independent practice at 15 Buckingham Street, Strand. Again he was successful at once, winning the competition for the Crimea memorial Church in 1856-57. As a result of a disagreement with the Committee, this remained on paper but his visit to Constantinople to lay the foundation stone was the origin of the Saracenic element in his work, and was followed by still more extensive travel in search of inspiration to Sicily, Spain and the Holy Land. Although he never went there the Islamic architecture of Cairo was a source of inspiration, as was Japanese art which he first saw at the International Exhibition of 1862.

In 1859 Burges designed the Anglican cathedral at Brisbane which remained on paper like the Crimea church, but in that same year he received his first country house commission, alterations and additions to Gayhurst. He was admitted FRIBA on 21 May 1860 and in that same year he carried out restoration work at Waltham Abbey. In 1863 he successfully competed for St Finbar's Cathedral, Cork, the design of which was later to influence his competition submission for St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh.

In 1864 (David Prout in the 'Dictionary of art') or 1865 (Crook in 'William Burges and the High Victorian Dream') Burges was introduced to John Patrick, 3rd Marquess of Bute, his father having been engineer for the Marquess's harbours at Cardiff. For Bute Burges reconstructed Cardiff Castle, rebuilt Castel Coch, designed the Cardiff house of his agent, James McConnachie, fitted up the original chapel at Mount Stuart and built the Roman Catholic Church at Cumnock, together with innumerable artefacts, to become a close family friend as well as architect, and travelled with him in Spain in 1874.

In 1880 Burges's health deteriorated, at least partly as a result of his bachelor lifestyle of smoking both tobacco and opium. A long ride in a dog-cart at Cardiff on 28 March 1881 brought about a chill which in turn led to him becoming semi-paralysed. He died at Tower House, Kensington, on 20 April 1881 and was buried at Norwood Cemetery in the tomb he had designed for his mother. His drawings were taken over by Richard Popplewell Pullan who had married his sister Mary and had his won practice, but the Butes found Pullan 'rather a brute' and he did not succeed in retaining the Butes as clients.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 2Tower House, Kensington, London, EnglandBusiness 1891 
Item 2 of 215, Buckingham Stree, Strand, London, EnglandBusinessMay 1856  

Employment and Training

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 7(Sir) Thomas Manly Deane  Apprentice 
Item 2 of 7Axel Herman HaigAfter 1857Before 1880Assistant 
Item 3 of 7(Sir) William EmersonAfter 1861Before 1864Apprentice 
Item 4 of 7John George GibbinsLate 18661867Draughtsman 
Item 5 of 7William Frame18681881Assistant 
Item 6 of 7Walter John Nash Millard18741875Assistant 
Item 7 of 7Edward John Dodgshunc. 18741875Assistant 


RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 5(Sir) Robert Rowand Anderson1 June 1874for Fellowship; lapsed 1889
Item 2 of 5(Sir) Robert William Edis17 November 1862for Associateship
Item 3 of 5(Sir) William Emerson12 February 1866for Associateship
Item 4 of 5William Leiper7 November 1881for Fellowship
Item 5 of 5Charles John Phipps12 February 1866for Fellowship

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 101868Cardiff Castle  CardiffWalesExtensive remodelling
Item 2 of 101869All Saints Episcopal Church  EdinburghScotlandHigh Altar erected replacing simpler one by Rowand Anderson. (Burges's altar later replaced by Charles Kempe's). The Burges altar was modelled by Thomas Nicholls and coloured by Charles Campbell of Harland & Fisher.
Item 3 of 101870All Saints Episcopal Church  EdinburghScotlandReredos
Item 4 of 101871Rothesay CastleRothesayButeButeScotlandScheme fo rebuilding
Item 5 of 101873Mount StuartRothesay (near)ButeButeScotlandSmall room in North wing reconstructed as chapel oratory. Also detailed survey work for restoration. Paintings by Harland & Fisher Dec 1972-August 1873.
Item 6 of 101873Mount StuartRothesay (near)ButeButeScotlandDining room at Mount Stuart - burnt December 1877. Carver Thomas Nicholls and painting Campbell Smith & Co.
Item 7 of 101873St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral  EdinburghScotlandCompetition design
Item 8 of 101874St John's Episcopal Church, Dean Ramsay's monument  EdinburghScotlandProposed statue by John Steel under a canopy by Burges
Item 9 of 101876Old Place of Mochrum  WigtownshireScotlandMay have advised Richard Park
Item 10 of 101878St John's RC ChurchCumnock AyrshireScotlandOriginal building


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 8Burges, William1870Architectural Drawings 1883-1887   
Item 2 of 8Crook, J Mordaunt (ed) The Strange Genius of William Burges, 'Art Architect' 1827-1881   
Item 3 of 8DNB Dictionary of National Biography   
Item 4 of 8Grove Dictionary of Art Grove Dictionary of Art   
Item 5 of 8Handley-Read, C1963William Burges Vferriday, P (ed) Victorian Architecture 
Item 6 of 8Pullan, Richard Popplewell1885The Designs of william Burges   
Item 7 of 8Pullan, Richard Popplewell (ed.) The Architectural Designs of William Birges   
Item 8 of 8Taylor, Nicholas and Symondson, Anthony Burges and Morris at Bingley Architectural Review (no date given in NMRS) 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 3British Architect29 April 1881   
Item 2 of 3RIBA Transactionsbetween 1881 and 1882  p17-30
Item 3 of 3RIBA Transactions1993 or 1994  Article by George Aitchison

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 4J M CrookAbstract of diaries  
Item 2 of 4Mount StuartBute Archives MSS
Item 3 of 4RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Drawings Collection Drawings and notebooks
Item 4 of 4Victoria & Albert MuseumPrints & drawings collection Drawings and estimate book


© All rights reserved.  National Portrait Gallery, London 

© All rights reserved. National Portrait Gallery, London