William Wardell

William Wardell (1823 – 1899) architect and civil servant
Critics have varied in their assessment of William Wardell’s ability: William Bede Dalley referred to him as ‘the most thoroughly cultivated member of his profession’ and Alfred George Stephens acclaimed him as ‘by far the most eminent architect who has lived in Australia’.

William Wardell, architect and civil servant, was born at Poplar, London, and baptized on 3 March 1824 at All Saints Church of England, son of Thomas Wardell, baker, and his wife Mary. Educated as an engineer he served articles in London, then spent a short time at sea before practising in London.

His interest in Gothic Revival architecture was stimulated by his friends Augustus Pugin and (Cardinal) John Henry Newman, who encouraged him to become a Roman Catholic.

While employed on railway surveys in the early 1840s he studied near-by churches. In 1846-57 he designed some thirty Catholic churches, including the Redemptorist Church of Our Immaculate Lady of Victories on Clapham Common, and the vast Church of Saints Mary and Michael, Commercial Road, Whitechapel.

Ill health led Wardell to migrate and he reached Melbourne in September 1858 in the Swiftsure. He was responsible for the construction of all public buildings in Victoria; some, such as Government House, Melbourne (1872), are attributed to him. All drawings and plans were probably prepared to his specifications and submitted to him for approval.

Before entering the civil service, Wardell had contracted to design and supervise the construction of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, one of his greatest works; he prepared plans in 1858 for St John’s College, within the University of Sydney; he also designed St Mary’s Cathedral, Hobart Town.

He had prepared plans and specifications without fee for St John’s Church of England, Toorak. His private practice flourished in the 1860s as he designed Gothic Revival churches in Melbourne and its suburbs and St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney.

A fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (1849) and a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, London (1857), he was a member of the Australian Club; in 1883 he became a member of the Royal Society of New South Wales and was a founder of the New South Wales branch of the (Royal) Geographical Society of Australasia.

Critics have varied in their assessment of his ability: William Bede Dalley referred to him as ‘the most thoroughly cultivated member of his profession’ and Alfred George Stephens acclaimed him as ‘by far the most eminent architect who has lived in Australia’. In achievement he ranks with Edmund Blacket, Barnet and Reed, and was unsurpassed as a sensitive and scholarly interpreter of Gothic Revival: his cathedrals and churches, notable for purity of expression and richness of symbolism, rank among the greatest buildings constructed anywhere in that style.

Complete article : http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A060380b.htm

Image : St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, Melbourne
and further information : http://www.stpatrickscathedral.org.au/history/a-quest-for-perfection-william-wilkinson-wardell-and-st-patricks-cath-2.html

Information on St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, Sydney : https://atributetoaustralianchristians.wordpress.com/2010/10/23/john-hughes/

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