William Eden Nesfield - Encyclopedia

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WILLIAM EDEN NESFIELD (1835-1888), British architect, one of the leaders of the Gothic revival in England, was born in Bath on the 2nd of April 1835. His father, Major William Andrew Nesfield, a well-known landscape gardener, laid out Regent's Park and St James's Park, and remodelled Kew. Educated at Eton, Nesfield was articled first to Mr Burn, a classicist, and then to his uncle, Anthony Salvin, who took the Gothic side in the "battle of the styles." Nesfield travelled for study in France, Italy and Greece, afterwards publishing a volume, Sketches from France and Italy (London, 1862), which became one of the text-books of the Gothic revival. In 1859 Nesfield settled down in London. His first important commission was to build a new wing to Combe Abbey for Lord Craven. In 1862 began a nominal partnership with Norman Shaw, the fruits of which have been exaggerated; they shared rooms in Argyle Street for some years, but never collaborated. It was in Argyle Street that the principal work of Nesfield's life was conceivedCombe Abbey, Cloverly Hall and Kinmel Park. Here he showed a mastery of planning and construction, a conscientious regard for detail, an eye for the picturesque, an unfailing regard for dignity, which make his achievements landmarks in the history of his art. He built the lodge in Regent's Park (1864) and that in Kew Gardens (1866). Combe Abbey and Cloverly are somewhat "early French" in style, but as Nesfield developed he adopted a purely English manner, and presented his newer ideas in Loughton Hall and Kinmel Park. The gate lodge at Kinmel Park, Abergele, is entirely "English Renaissance"; Cloverly Hall (1864), planned when he was twenty-nine, with its great hall, fine approaches to the staircase, and the staircase itself, is already half English, and Eastlake, in his History of Gothic Revival, praises it on that very ground. The full development of the revived classic taste in Nesfield came with his addition to Kinmel Park - red brick, stone dressings, grey-green slated roofs - which elevated that originally unpretentious i 8th-century building into a small Renaissance palace. For contrast in style, harmonious as they are in artistic expression, Cloverly and Kinmel are the typical examples of the artist's style. Other works are Farnham Royal House near Slough, Lea Wood, Loughton Hall and Westcombe Park. His more notable urban works are the bank at Saffron Walden (1873), and the Rose and Crown Hotel; they stand next door to each other and exhibit another contrast, the former being medieval and the latter what is called "Queen Anne." Though he built no new important church, Nesfield rebuilt the Early Decorated St Mary's, Farnham Royal, near Slough, mainly on the old lines. He restored King's Walden church, Herts (1868), and Radwinter church, Essex (1871),(1871), and Cora church near Whitchurch, Salop; but no great public building came from him. Nesfield's career was a comparatively short one. On the 3rd of September 1885 he married Mary Annetta, eldest daughter of John Sebastian Guilt and granddaughter of Joseph Guilt, and he retired from practice some years before his death at Brighton on the 25th of March 1888. He left behind him a valuable series of sketches and measured drawings, most of which are now in the library of the Royal Institute of British Architects. (J. M. By.)

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