Page images
PDF
EPUB

Brayley and Britton's Public Edifices of London, 8vo. 1825–28; this work also contains an account with illustrations by him of the staircase in Ashburnham House, Westminster, the reputed design of Inigo Jones. In 1824 he published a plate showing a comparative view of the four principal modern churches in Europe by means of transverse sections to one scale. In 1825 he edited an edition, in two volumes, of Sir William Chambers's admirable Treatise on the Decorative Part of Civil Architecture, adding an original Examination of the Elements of Beauty in Grecian Architecture, and an Investigation of its origin, Progress, and Perfection ; in 1826, he published the first translation in England of the entire Treatise on Architecture of Vitruvius; and likewise The Rudiments of Architecture, Practical and Theoretical, of which other editions appeared in 1835 and 1839. In 1829 appeared the Ordinary to N. H. Nicolas, a Roll of Arms.

In 1833 Mr. Gwilt was elected a member of the Royal Astronomical Society, and to the study of this branch of science he later in life further devoted himself, when retired from the profession. The pamphlet entitled Observations on the Communication of Mr. Wilkins relative to the National Gallery, was printed in the same year. In 1835 appeared a Treatise on the Art of Music from his pen, in the Encyclopædia Metropolitana ; also Rudiments of the Anglo-Saxon Tongue, 8vo.; in 1837, Elements of Architectural Criticism, for the Use of Students, Amateurs, and Reviewers, with an Appendic in 1839; and in 1838 a pamphlet (in conjunction with his son John Sebastian) relative to A National Gallery on the Site of Trafalgar Square. In 1842 he supplied the articles relating to Architecture and to Music, in Brande’s Dictionary of Science, Literature, and Art; and in the same year was published the principal work of his life, the Encyclopædia of Architecture, Historical Theoretical, and Practical, to which in 1845 he added an appendix on Gothic Architecture. In 1848 he edited a new edition of Peter Nicholson's Principles of Architecture ; this, with the exception of a few papers which appeared subsequently in some of the periodicals, was his last printed work.

-

Besides the design for London Bridge, already mentioned, Mr. Gwilt's professional works consisted of the church at Lee, near Blackheath, lately pulled down; 1819, the land approaches to Southwark Bridge; 1813, Markree Castle, near Sligo, in Ireland, for E. J. Cooper, Esq.; and St. Thomas's Church at Charlton, in Kent; together with numerous other buildings of no important interest, excepting the design for laying out for building purposes the estate of Sir T. M. Wilson at Hampstead : the viaduct there is the only portion of it yet executed. Until about 1815 Mr. Gwilt held the appointment of Surveyor to the Commissioners of Sewers for the limits extending from East Moulsey, in the county of Surrey, to the river Ravensbourne in Kent, for a period of forty-seven years, having succeeded his father, who held the appointment previously for the space of thirty years. He was also Architect to the Imperial Fire Assurance Company; to the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers; as well as to the Worshipful Company of Grocers, the interior of whose IIall he entirely rearranged in 1828, and added the

front towards Princes Street, by the Bank of England, and rebuilt the house of the clerks.

Mr. Gwilt was frequently consulted by the Office of Woods and Forests, and on many occasions gave important evidence before Committees, both of the House of Lords and of the House of Commons, more especially in regard to the Metropolitan Building Act 1855, which he, in conjunction with Mr. Penrose, projected, but was overruled as to many of the clauses. He was a thorough disciple and an ardent admirer of that great Italian architect Palladio; he ever considered the Italian style of architecture as best suited to the climate of this country, and was fearless in expressing his opinions on subjects of art. He made frequent trips to France, Belgium, and Germany, embellishing the remarks which he made in his journal with exquisite penand-ink sketches of the objects chiefly interesting him during the journeys.

For many years of his life, being an accomplished musician himself, and on intimate terms with many of the leading professors, Mr. Gwilt was in the habit of holding at his house fortnightly musical soirées, at which were played Mozart's quartetts, Haydn's septetts, and other classical music, his own instrument at these parties being the tenor. At the coronation of the Queen, owing to his musical knowledge, he was selected to act as signal officer to the choir.

After a long, honourable, and arduous career of upwards of fifty years, Mr. Gwilt retired from the active pursuit of his profession, residing, for a few years preceding his death, at South Hill, Henley-on-Thames, at which place he closed his useful life on the 14th September, 1863, in the eightieth year of his age. John Sebastian Gwilt furnished a memoir of his father to the Royal Institute of British Architects, from whose Transactions, as well as from the article in the Dictionary of the Architectural Publication Society, and the detailed account of Mr. Gwilt's labours in the Builder for 1863, page 701, this biographical account has been compiled.

The numerous publications named in the foregoing memoir will not here need any criticism, most of them should be read by the architectural student, especially the Rudiments, and the Elements of Criticism, with its Appendix; the publication of the last-named work was occasioned by the violent attacks which the previous treatise received from reviews. Others of his minor writings have been criticised by Mr. Gwilt himself in the “ Preface" to this work. The translation of Vitruvius's Architecture is a valuable addition to the library, as such an edition of the whole treatise had not previously been published in England; portions only having been attempted by Newton and by Wilkins. The want of such a Body" of information as the Encyclopædia of Architecture had long been felt by the profession, as it was found that other “Encyclopædias" did not meet the special requirements.

[ocr errors]

This work has now borne the test of a quarter of a century's use, during which time it has done good service; and more need scarcely now be said of

it than that it is of sufficient merit to have established, without the addition of the other learned writings by this esteemed architect, a reputation for its author as having mastered all the details of numerous branches of Literature and Science. This reputation was enhanced in the eyes of his contemporaries by the manner in which his selections from many of the best native and foreign professional works were placed intelligibly before the architectural. student, through the judgment with which Mr. Gwilt not only decided what was theoretically and practically useful in those works, but added to the labours of his predecessors a mass of information entirely due to the store of technical knowledge which he had carefully and laboriously acquired for himself

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

1. PROTECTION from the inclemency of the seasons was the mother of architecture. Of little account at its birth, it rose into light and life with the civilisation of mankind; and. proportionately as security, peace, and good order were established, it became, not less thau its sisters, painting and sculpture, one method of transmitting to posterity the degree of importance to which a nation had attained, and the moral value of that nation amongst the kingdoms of the earth. If the art, however, be considered strictly in respect of its actual utility, its principles are restricted within very narrow limits; for the mere art, or rather science, of construction, has no title to a place among the fine arts. Such is in various degrees to be found among people of savage and uncivilised habits ; and until it is brought into a system founded upon certain laws of proportion, and upon rules based on a refined analysis of what is suitable in the highest degree to the end proposed, it can pretend to no rank of a high class. It is only when a nation has arrived at a certain degree of opulence and luxury that architecture can be said to exist in it. Hence it is that architeeture, in its origin, took the varied forms which have impressed it with such singular differences in different countries; differences which, though modified as each country advanced in civilisation, were, in each, so stamped, that the type was permanent, being refined only in a higher degree in their most important examples.

2. The ages that have elapsed, and the distance by which we are separated from the nations among whom the art was first practised, deprive us of the means of examining the shades of difference resulting from climate, productions of the soil, the precise spots upon which the earliest societies of man were fixed, with their origin, number, mode of life, and social institutions; all of which influenced them in the selection of one forin in preference to another. We may, however, easily trace in the architecture of nations, the types of three distinct states of life, which are clearly discoverable at the present time; though in some cases the types may be thought doubtful.

B

Sect. II.

ORIGIN AND PROGRESS OF BUILDING.

RUINS OY PETRA,

3. The original classes into which mankind were divided were, we may safely assume, those of hunters, of shepherds, and of those occupied in agriculture; and the buildings for protection which each would require, must have been characterised by their several occupations. The hunter and fisher found all the accommodation they required in the clefts

and caverns of rocks; and the indolence which those states of life induced, made them insensible or indifferent to greater comfort than such naturally-formed habitations afforded. We are certain that thus lived such tribes. Jeremiah (chap. xlix. 16.), speaking of the judgment upon Edom, says, “ O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest the height of the hill ;” a text which of late has received ample illustration from travellers, and especially from the labours of Messrs. Leon de Laborde and Linant, in the splendid engravings of the ruins of Petra ( fig. 1.). To the shepherd, the inhabitant of the plains wandering from one spot to another, as pasture became inadequate to the support of his flocks, another species of dwelling was more appropriate; one which he could remove with him in his wanderings: this was the tent, the type of the architecture of China, whose people were, like all the Tartar races, nomades or scenites, that is, shepherds or dwellers in tents.

Where a

portion of the race fixed its abode for Fig. 1.

the purposes of agriculture, a very dif. ferent species of dwelling was necessary. Solidity was required as well for the personal comfort of the husbandman as for preserving, from one season to another, the fruits of the earth, upon which he and his family were to exist. Hence, doubtless, the hut, which most authors have assumed to be the type of Grecian architecture.

4. Authors, says the writer in the Encyc. Methodique, in their search after the origin of architecture, have generally confined their views to a single type, without considering the inodification which would be necessary for a mixture of two or more of the states of mankind; for it is evident that any two or three of them may co-exist, a point upon which more will be said in speaking of Egyptian architecture. Hence have arisen the most discordant and contradictory systems, formed without sufficient acquaintance with the customs of different people, their origin, and first state of existence.

5. The earliest habitations which were constructed after the dispersion of mankind from the plains of Sennaar (for there, certainly, as we shall hereafter see, even without the evidence of Scripture, was a great multitude gathered together), were, of course, proportioned to the means which the spot afforded, and to the nature of the climate to which they were to be adapted. Reeds, canes, the branches, bark, and leaves of trees, clay, and similar materials would be first used. The first houses of the Egyptians and of the people of Palestine were of reeds and canes interwoven. At the present day the same materials serve to form the houses of the Peruvians. According to Pliny (I. vii.), the first houses of the Greeks were only of clay; for it was a considerable time before that nation was acquainted with the process of hardening it into bricks. The Abyssinians still build with clay and reeds. Wood, however, offers such facilities of construction, that still, as of old, where it abounds, its adoption prevails. At first, the natural order seems to be that which Vitruvius describes in the first chapter of his second book. “ The first attempt,” says our author, “ was the mere erection of a few spars, united together with twigs, and covered with mud. Others built their walls of dried lumps of turf, connected these walls together by means of timbers laid across horizontally, and covered the erections with reeds and boughs, for the purpose of sheltering themselves from the inclemency of the seasons. Finding, however, that flat corerings of this sort would not effectually shelter them in the winter season, they made their roofs of two inclined planes, meeting each other in a ridge at the summit, the whole of which they covered with clay, and thus carried of the rain." The same author

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »