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date: 23 October 2019

Papworth, John Buonarotti

A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture

James Stevens Curl,

Susan Wilson

Papworth, John Buonarotti (1775–1847) English architect/landscape architect/town-planner, 

he laid out the Montpellier (1825–30) and Lansdowne (1825–8) Estates, Cheltenham, Glos., and was one of the most prolific architects of his generation as well as a designer of a wide range of artefacts. The second son of John Papworth (1750–99), master-stuccoer, he worked in Plaw’s office for two years, exhibited at the RA from 1794, and promoted new ideas and technologies. By 1800 he had his own practice (largely domestic architecture), was able to take on pupils, and began to produce designs for publication. His drawing of a Tropheum to celebrate Wellington and Blücher’s victory at Waterloo (1815) caused him to be acclaimed as a second Michelangelo, and he modestly took ‘Buonarotti’ as his second name. He designed conservatories, entrance-gates, coach-houses, stables, and the Gothic summer-house at Claremont, Surrey (1816), for Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg (1795–1865—later (from 1831) King of the Belgians) and Princess Charlotte Augusta (1796–1817). The latter’s untimely death caused it to be adapted as her memorial. He prepared (1817–20) designs for the Park and Palace at Bad Cannstadt, near Stuttgart, for King Wilhelm I (r.1816–64): only part of the Park (in the English style) was realized, but Papworth was honoured with the title of ‘Architect to the King of Württemberg’. He designed (1819) the famous Egyptian-Revival gallery in P.F.Robinson’s Egyptian Halls, Piccadilly, London (1811–12—demolished), and for William Bullock (fl.c.1795–1826), builder and owner of the Egyptian Halls, he drew plans (1825–7) for a new town intended to be built by the River Ohio facing Cincinnati: named Hygeia, it never materialized. Papworth was responsible for many London shop-fronts and other buildings, and was a pioneer in the use of iron for construction purposes. His monument to Lieutenent-Colonel Sir Alexander Gordon (1786–1815) on the field at Waterloo, Belgium (1815), was an early example of a broken column used as a memorial. He directed the Government School of Design (1836–7), and was a founder (1834) of the Institute of British Architects.

He contributed frequently to Ackermann’s Repository of Arts (1809–28). Papers, entitled Architectural Hints (1813, 1814, 1816, and 1817), were republished as Rural Residences, consisting of a Series of Designs for Cottages, Small Villas, and other Ornamental Buildings (1818, 1832), and he published (1823) designs for garden-buildings as Hints on Ornamental Gardening. Rural Residences was far more influential than most commentators have suggested: it appears to have been a stimulant for designs by Schinkel and Persius, notably the Court Gardener’s House and Roman-Bath complex at Potsdam (1829–37) and the Gothic Hunting-Lodge at the park at Glienecke (1827–8). In fact, he helped to create the rational Greek style that was so ubiquitous in the period 1815–40, yet his importance has not received the recognition it deserves. Papworth helped (1818–19) William Henry Pyne (1769–1843) with the descriptions of Marlborough House, St James’s, and Kensington Palace, published as Royal Residences (1820), contributed to Britton and Pugin’s Public Buildings in London (1825–8), and edited the fourth edition of Chambers’s Treatise (1826), adding much new material; he also wrote Essay on the Causes of Dry Rot in Timber (1803). Many designs in Loudon’s Encyclopaedia (1833) appear to have originated with Papworth.

His elder son, John Woody Papworth (1820–70), was the author of Ordinary of British Armorials, and his younger son, Wyatt Angelicus van Sandau Papworth (1822–94), founded the Architectural Publication Society and edited its great Dictionary of Architecture (1852–92). His pupils included James Thomson and his brother, George (1781–1855—who practised in Ireland (he designed the famous cast-iron bridge (1822–7) over the Liffey in Dublin as well as churches for the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in Connacht)).


Co (2008); Graby (ed.) (1989); McHardy (ed.) (1977); ODNB (2004); J.B.Pa (1823, 1832); W.Pa (from 1852, 1879); Trans. RIBA, i (1835), 111–4