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Basic Biographical Details

Name: William Eden Nesfield
Designation: Architect
Born: 2 April 1835
Died: 25 March 1888
Bio Notes: William Eden Nesfield was born in Bath on 2 April 1835, the eldest son of the garden designer Major William Andrews Newfield and his wife Emma Mills. He was educated at Eton and after a few months with the architect-author James Kellaway Colling learning to draw, he was articled in 1851 to William Burn with whom his father had collaborated on a number of projects. There he worked with Richard Norman Shaw who was a few years older. In 1853 he transferred his articles to Anthony Salvin, his uncle by marriage and remained with him until 1856. In 1857-58 he undertook a major study tour, mainly of France but extending as far afield as Athens, with James Smollet Donaldson, the son of Professor Thomas Levington Donaldson, and at some point spent time with Violet-le-Duc. On his return he set up practice at Bedford Row in 1859. His earliest commissions were mainly garden and estate buildings for his father's clients which enabled him to take time off to revisit France and Italy to complete his great folio 'Specimens of Medieval Architecture' published in 1862 and complementing Shaw's 'Architectural Sketches from the Continent' published four years earlier.

In 1861 Nesfield was commissioned to build a new wing at Combe Abbey Warwickshire for Lord Craven. This reflected his continental studies as did Cloverly, begun 1865, but after he began sharing an office with Shaw at 30 Argyle Street in 1863 his work took on an 'Old English' character of Kent-Sussex origin, related in some degree to the work of George Devey who was fifteen years older, but with a bolder use of half-timbered features and the introduction of Anglo-Japanese elements derived from his important collection of Japanese, Chinese and Persian objets d'art. From 1866 onwards he began to experiment with late Stuart or 'Queen Anne' architecture, generally purer in form then the work of John James Stevenson, a development which reached spectacular maturity in his reconstruction of Kinmel in 1871-74.

From 1866 Shaw and Nesfield were in formal partnership but as they consulted rather than collaborated on projects, the partnership was allowed to lapse in 1869. They reverted to sharing an office, an arrangement which lasted until they were required to vacate Argyle Street in 1876. Nesfield then moved office to Margaret Street.

After the move to Margaret Street and his separation from Shaw, Nesfield's health declined from a combination of overwork and heavy smoking. He became prone to depression, particularly after the deaths of his brother Markham in 1874 and his father and Salvin uncle, both in 1881. He retired to Brighton where he made a late marriage to a daughter of the architect John Sebastian Gwilt.

Nesfield spent his last years as a painter, dying in Brighton on 25 March 1888.

Nesfield had little business in Scotland but through George Washington Browne, one of his ablest assistants, his work had a considerable impact on Rowand Anderson's and John More Dick Peddie's practices and his influence spread widely through their pupils.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 3Bedford Row, London, EnglandBusiness1859  
Item 2 of 330, Argyle Street, London, EnglandBusiness1863  
Item 3 of 3Margaret Street, London, EnglandBusinessAfter 1876  

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 3William Burn1851 Apprentice 
Item 2 of 3Anthony Salvin18531856Apprentice 
Item 3 of 3Nesfield & Shaw18661869Partner 

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 2Robert Morhamc. 1862c. 1866Assistant 
Item 2 of 2George Washington BrowneAfter 18771879Assistant(?) 

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 2c. 1875Lochluichart Lodge  Ross and CromartyScotlandScheme for adding top floor to centre block and baronialising tower
Item 2 of 21878Newbattle AbbeyNewbattle MidlothianScotlandLibrary interiors - not executed


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 7Aslet, Clive1978The country houses of W E Nesfield Articles from Country Life 
Item 2 of 7Cresswell, H B1897William Eden Nesfield 1835-88: an impression and a contrastv2Architectural Review, p23-32 
Item 3 of 7Girouard, Mark1977Sweetness and Light: The Queen Anne Movement   
Item 4 of 7Hebb, J1903William Eden Nesfield RIBA Jounral, pp396-400 
Item 5 of 7Newfield, W E1989Letters of W E Nesfield J F W Bullock (ed) Facsimile edition 
Item 6 of 7Saint, A1976Richard Norman Shaw   
Item 7 of 7Service, Alastair1975Edwardian Architecture and its Origins  Article by John McKena Brydon in Architectural Review, reprinted here

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 4Builder31 March 1888  Obituary
Item 2 of 4Builder7 April 1888  Obituary
Item 3 of 4Builder14 April 1888  Obituary
Item 4 of 4Building News30 March 1888  Obituary


© All rights reserved.  National Portrait Gallery, London 

© All rights reserved. National Portrait Gallery, London