1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Belcher, John

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BELCHER, JOHN (1841-1913), English architect, was the son of John Belcher, an architect of some position. He probably derived much of his artistic faculty from his family connexion with William Woollett, the 18th century engraver. Following his father's profession, his education included a couple of years in Germany. He further made a lengthy stay in Paris, studying and sketching modern French architecture, the result of which asserted itself in his first important commission — the Royal Insurance offices in Lombard Street — a French Renaissance building (since pulled down) in which he introduced much sculptured work from the hand of Thomas Thornycroft. Joining his father in the latter's practice John Belcher, Jun., received many commissions, principally, for the next 10 or 15 years, for business premises in the city and elsewhere. Amongst the earliest of these is the well-known block at the corner of Poultry and Queen Victoria Street, a building showing how strongly he was influenced at that period by the Gothic movement of which Street and Burges were the prominent exponents. After his father's retirement in 1875, Belcher associated himself at various times with a succession of partners — J. W. James, Beresford Pite and J. J. Joass. His most important work was that resulting from his partnership with the last, and it evidences a monumental strength and dignity of design to which his earlier achievements had been leading. His intense and always vividly expressed admiration for Norman Shaw was a great factor in his artistic evolution, but even a more powerful one was due to the preparation and study involved in his production of the important volumes on The Later Renaissance in England, in which he was associated with Mervyn Macartney as joint author. His Electra House, Finsbury, and Whiteley's vast store, Bayswater, are admirable examples of business premises based upon plans thoughtfully and practically conceived, and possessing a fine and dignified architectural treatment. Belcher was not responsible for many churches, but his Holy Trinity church, Kingsway (1909), is an interesting essay in the classic manner, and the Catholic Apostolic church in Maida Vale being on very similar lines, may compare with any of the Gothic town churches designed by Pearson. His domestic work — especially that at Stowell Park for the Earl of Eldon — had much grace and charm, and evidenced his sympathy, previously noted, with Norman Shaw's methods. Apart from his profession Belcher displayed considerable gifts as singer, composer and conductor. His talents received recognition in many directions and he was the holder of various distinctions in his own country and elsewhere. He was elected Royal Academician in 1909, and in 1907 received the gold medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, of which he had been president in the preceding year. Russia, Belgium, Germany, Spain and the United States elected him a member of their several architectural societies. He died in London Nov. 8 1913.

(C. H. To.)