Basic Biographical Details

Name: William Wilkinson Wardell
Designation: Architect, Engineer
Born: 27 September 1823
Died: 19 November 1899
Bio Notes: William Wilkinson Wardell was born in Poplar, London on 27 September 1823, the son of Thomas Wardell and his wife Mary Elizabeth Dalton, bakers who became Master and Mistress of Poplar Workhouse in 1830. There is no record of his schooling. About 1837 he was indentured as a mariner, a career ended by yellow fever after only a few months. He was then articled as a civil engineer with the Commissioners for London Sewers and a Mr Morris, variously identified as one of the commissioners’ engineers and as Thomas Morris, principal assistant to William Railton, architect to the Church Commissioners. Subsequently, perhaps from 1842, Wardell was an assistant in the office of William F East who specialised in railway work. He was admitted ARIBA on 6 February 1843 at the early age of nineteen which suggests his nomination had influential support as neither Morris nor East was a Fellow of the RIBA at that time.

In that same year, 1843, Wardell commenced practice at 27 Bishopgate under the practice title of Wardell & Littlewood, the unidentified Littlewood perhaps being an older man with more experience of site management. He was immediately successful, gaining the commission for the Mechanics’ Institute at Richmond, Surrey as Italian Romanesque design exhibited at the Royal Academy in the following year.

Wardell became a Roman Catholic in June 1844, seemingly influenced by the Oxford Movement, the writings of the Catholic historian priest John Lingard and the publications of Pugin whom he may have first met a year earlier. Commissions from the Roman Catholic Church began in the following year, beginning with St Edmund’s on the Isle of Dogs, all markedly Puginian in character with the exception of St Mary’s Hampstead where retention of the classical church of 1816 determined the style.

On 5October 1847 Wardell married Lucy Anne Butler, the daughter of an Oxford wine merchant. In 1848 they leased The Green Hill in Hampstead where the academician marine painter Clarkson Stansfield was their immediate neighbour. He too was a Catholic convert. In Hampstead they established a wide circle of friends which included Dickens, Thackeray, Landseer, David Roberts, Augustus Egg and Charles Robert Cockerell. From at least early 1850 this wider cultural circle included the barrister MP James Hope-Scott and his wife Charlotte who were Catholic convert followers of John Henry Newman. In 1856 Hope Scott commissioned and largely financed the large church of Our Lady and St Andrew at Galashiels and the relatively small Immaculate Conception in Kelso, Wardell being the Hope Scotts’ guest at Abbotsford when on site visits.

Wardell did not see these churches through to completion. Although his church building practice had grown as a result of the failure of Pugin’s health in 1850, the year in which he was admitted FRIBA, Wardell and his family also began to suffer health problems and in March his third son Michael Thomas died. On medical advice the Wardells sailed for Melbourne in July, the practice being sold to Hadfield and Goldie. They arrived in Melbourne on 29 September, Wardell being immediately commissioned to redesign St Patrick’s Cathedral in that city, work commencing as early as December. In March 1859 he was appointed Chief Architect to the Public Works Department of Victoria with freedom to continue in private practice; and after he was admitted AICE that year he was promoted Inspector General in 1861. These appointments caused professional and sectarian resentment: he again became ill and was granted twelve months leave of absence in January 1870, sailing for London to visit old friends and see recent developments for himself. On his return he designed the Barryesque Italian Government House in 1871-75 – he did not share Pugin’s commitment to one style only – but continuing jealousies brought about a parliamentary board of inquiry in 1874 and he was no longer free to continue his private practice. His post as Inspector General was retrenched as part of a larger raft of cost cutting measures in January 1878.

In February 1878 Wardell made an exploratory visit to Sydney, New South Wales where he had already designed St John’s College (191859) and St Mary’s Cathedral (rebuilding, begun 1865) with a view to resuming private practice. He settled there permanently in May recruiting as his draughtsman George Denny, later to become his partner. There he had an extremely successful career mainly on warehouses and banks as architect to the English Scottish and Australasian Company and the New South Wales Banking Corporation.

He died in Sydney on 19 November 1899.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect, engineer:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 3London, EnglandBusinessBetween 1840 and 18491858 
Item 2 of 3Melbourne, AustraliaBusiness1858  
Item 3 of 3Sydney, AustraliaPrivate/business(?)19 November 1899 *  

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect, engineer (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 1Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin  ApprenticeRecent research seems to indicate he was not a pupil ofPugin

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect, engineer (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 1Edward Ingress BellAfter 1852Before 1860Assistant 


RIBA Proposals

This architect, engineer proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 2Francis Drummond Greville Stanley18 January 1886for Fellowship
Item 2 of 2Thomas Turnbull7 January 1884for Fellowship

Buildings and Designs

This architect, engineer 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 31856RC Church of Our Lady and St AndrewGalashiels SelkirkshireScotlandPartly built.
Item 2 of 31857RC Church of the Immaculate ConceptionKelso RoxburghshireScotland 
Item 3 of 3Mid 1850sAbbotsfordMelrose RoxburghshireScotlandChapel chimneypiece


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect, engineer:
Item 1 of 6British Architectural Library, RIBA2001Directory of British Architects 1834-1914   
Item 2 of 6de Jong, Ursula1983William Wilkinson Wardell   
Item 3 of 6DNB Dictionary of National Biography   
Item 4 of 6Evans, A G2010William Wilkinson Wardell: building with conviction UK Edition 2011 
Item 5 of 6Grove Dictionary of Art Grove Dictionary of Art   
Item 6 of 6Mace, Angela1938'British Architectural Library: architecture in manuscript' RIBA Journal 12 September 1938