Brandon, John Raphael (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 06
Brandon, John Raphael

by George Wardlaw Burnet
Contains subarticle, his brother, Joshua Arthur Brandon (1802-1847).

BRANDON, JOHN RAPHAEL (1817–1877), architect, and joint author with his brother, Joshua Arthur Brandon, of several architectural works, received his early professional training from Mr. W. Parkinson, architect, to whom he was articled in 1836. Although fairly successful in private practice, which he carried on along with his brother at Beaufort Buildings, Strand, the brothers Brandon are best known as authors. They were both ardent students of Gothic architecture, and directed their studies entirely to English examples. The result of their labours is a series of three works ably illustrative of the purest specimens of Early English ecclesiastical architecture. The most important of these is their work on 'Parish Churches' (Lond. 1848), which consists of a series of perspective views of sixty-three churches selected from most of the counties of England, accompanied by plans of each drawn to a uniform scale and a short letterpress description. It was first published in parts between March 1846 and December 1847. The work is a faithful record of antiquities which few can visit for themselves. Their 'Analysis of Gothic Architecture' (London, 1847), which the authors say aims at being a practical rather than an historical work on English church architecture, consists of a collection of upwards of 700 examples of doors, windows, and other details of existing ecclesiastical architecture industriously compiled from actual measurements taken from little known parish churches throughout the country, with illustrative remarks on the various classes of items. The last of the series, and probably the most useful to the profession, is their 'Open Timber Roofs of the Middle Ages' (London, 1849), a collection of perspective and geometric and detail drawings of thirty-five of the best roofs found in different parish churches in eleven different English counties, with an introduction containing some useful hints and information as to the timber roofing of the middle ages. The drawings given show at a glance the form and principle of construction of each roof, and the letterpress proves how fully the authors appreciated the spirit of the mediæval builders. The work 'serves the one useful and necessary purpose of showing practically and constructively what the builders of the middle ages really did with the materials they had at hand, and how all those materials, whatever they were, were made to harmonise' (Builder, xxxv. 1051). Of Brandon's original professional labours the best known are the large church in Gordon Square, London, executed in conjunction with Mr. Ritchie for the members of the catholic apostolic church; the small church of St. Peter's in Great Windmill Street, close to the Haymarket; and a third in Knightsbridge, unfortunately not favourably situated for architectural display. In these he faithfully endeavoured to carry out the mediæval spirit and mode of work, and no doubt in the first case he has to a great extent succeeded. But he failed to become a successful architect. His temperament was over-sensitive, and he latterly fell into extreme mental dejection; on 8 Oct. 1877 he committed suicide by shooting himself in his chambers, 17 Clement's Inn. His wife and one child predeceased him.

Brandon, Joshua Arthur (1802-1847), architect and joint author with his brother, John Raphael Brandon, prosecuted his profession with zeal and ability, and had before his early death at the age of twenty-five attained what promised to become a considerable practice, particularly in church architecture, for which his studies along with his brother and the fame of their joint publications so well fitted him. The brothers were most intimately associated in their professional studies and labours, and their names cannot be separated.

[Builder, vol. v. 1847, xxxv. 1041 and 1051; Times, 12 Oct. 1877.]

G. W. B.