Edmund Beckett Grimthorpe - Encyclopedia

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EDMUND BECKETT GRIMTHORPE, 1ST Baron (1816-1905), son of Sir Edmund Beckett Denison, was born on the 12th of May 1816. He was educated at Doncaster and Eton, whence he proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge, and graduated thirtieth wrangler in 1838. He was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1841. Upon succeeding to the baronetcy in 1874 he dropped the name of Denison, which his father had assumed in 1816. From 1877 to 1900 he was chancellor and vicar-general of York, and he was raised to the peerage in 1886. He was made a Q.C. in 1854, and was for many years a leader of the Parliamentary Bar. He devoted himself to the study of astronomy, horology and architecture, more especially Gothic ecclesiastical architecture. As early as 1850 he had become a recognized authority on clocks, watches and bells, and in particular on the construction of turret clocks, for he had designed Dent's Great Exhibition clock, and his Rudimentary Treatise had gone through many editions. In 1851 he was called upon, in conjunction with the astronomer royal (Mr, afterwards Sir, G. B. Airy) and Mr Dent, to design a suitable clock for the new Houses of Parliament. The present tower clock, popularly known as "Big Ben," was constructed after Lord Grimthorpe's designs. In a number of burning questions during his time Lord Grimthorpe took a prominent part. It is, however, in connexion with the restoration of St Albans Abbey that he is most widely known. The St Albans Abbey Reparation Committee, which had been in existence since 1871, and for which Sir Gilbert Scott had carried out some admirable repairs, obtained a faculty from the Diocesan Court in 1877 to repair and restore the church and fit it for cathedral and parochial services. Very soon, however, the committee found itself unable to raise the necessary funds, and it was at this juncture that a new faculty was granted to Lord Grimthorpe (then Sir Edmund Beckett) to "restore, repair and refit" the abbey at his own expense. Lord Grimthorpe made it an express stipulation that the work should be done according to his own designs and under his own supervision. His public spirit in undertaking the task was undeniable, but his treatment of the roof, the new west front, and the windows inserted in the terminations of the transepts, excited a storm of adverse criticism, and was the subject of vigorous protests from the professional world of architecture. He died on the 29th of April 1905, being succeeded as 2nd baron by his nephew, E. W. Beckett (b. 1856), who had sat in parliament as conservative member for the Whitby division of Yorkshire from 1885.

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