Gwilt, Joseph (DNB00)

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GWILT, JOSEPH (1784–1863), architect and archæologist, son of George Gwilt the elder [q. v.], and younger brother of George Gwilt the younger [q. v.], was born at Southwark 11 Jan. 1784. He was educated at St. Paul's School, and in 1799 entered the office of his father. In 1801 he was a student in architecture of the Royal Academy, and gained a silver medal for the best drawing of the tower and steeple of the church of St. Dunstan's-in-the-East. He early engaged in active practice as an architect, and obtained varied employment, besides holding many professional offices. His best known works are: Lee Church, near Lewisham, now pulled down; the approaches to Southwark Bridge; Markree Castle, Sligo, his most important work in point of size; the church of St. Thomas, in the Byzantine style, at Charlton, near Woolwich; and extensive additions and alterations, including an elegant Italian doorway to the hall of the Grocers' Company to which he was surveyor. He was also architect to the Imperial Insurance Company and the Waxchandlers' Company, and, as surveyor to the county of Surrey from 1807 to 1846 in succession to his father, conspicuously advocated the large sewer as opposed to the pipe system of drainage.

Gwilt's tastes, however, led him chiefly to the literary and antiquarian side of his profession, and it is as a useful and voluminous writer on architectural subjects that his name is chiefly remembered. In 1811 he published a 'Treatise on the Equilibrium of Arches, in which the Theory is demonstrated upon familiar Mathematical Principles,' of which a second edition was published in 1826, and a third in 1839. In 1816 he visited Rome and the chief Italian cities for the purposes of study, and on his return in 1818 took up his abode at 20 Abingdon Street, Westminster, where he prepared the result of his travels for publication in the shape of his 'Notitia Architectonica Italiana, or Concise Notes of the Buildings and Architects of Italy, preceded by a short Essay on Civil Architecture, and an Introductory View of the Ancient Architecture of the Romans,' with tables and plates, 8vo, London, 1818. His next work was a pamphlet entitled Cursory Remarks on the Origin of Caryatides,' printed in 1821, but not published, and afterwards embodied in his introduction to Chambers's 'Civil Architecture,' and in his great work the 'Encyclopædia of Architecture.' In 1822 he first published his well-known work on the projection of shadows, of which the second edition appeared two years later, entitled 'Sciography, or Examples of Shadows, with Rules for their Projection, intended for the use of Architectural Draughtsmen and other Artists,' with plates &c. There was then no English work on the subject, and Gwilt's book, which was based on L'Eveillé's 'Etudes d'Ombre,' to which he acknowledges his obligations, was much appreciated and obtained a ready sale. On 4 March 1823 he read to the Architects and Antiquaries' Club of London an 'Historical, Descriptive, and Critical Account of the Catholic Church of St. Paul's, London,' a paper so much appreciated that it was printed, with some slight additions by Mr. Brayley, for the committee of the club. It was not, however, published, but was afterwards inserted in Britton and Pugin's 'Public Buildings of London.' To the same period of his studies belongs also the sheet engraving, published by him in the following year, giving by transverse sections to the same scale a comparative view of the four principal modern churches in Europe. In 1825 he commenced the publication in monthly parts of Sir William Chambers's 'Treatise on the Decorative part of Civil Architecture,' to which he added notes and illustrations, and an 'Examination of the Elements of Beauty in Grecian Architecture,' containing the first particulars of Parry's investigations in Egypt, with a reproduction of some of his sketches. Gwilt's next literary venture, a translation of Vitruvius, which appeared in 1826, is still the only complete translation of any merit. In the same year he also gave to the world his 'Rudiments of Architecture, Practical and Theoretical,' which suggested the plan and contained much of the material afterwards embodied in his 'Encyclopædia.' It is upon the latter work that his fame mainly rests, and it remains a book of much practical utility, and a standard work of reference even now. First published in 1842 under the title 'An Encyclopædia of Architecture, Historical, Theoretical, and Practical,' 8vo, it is, as its name implies, a complete body of architecture. It ran through three editions in rapid succession between 1851 and 1859, and was re-edited by Mr. Wyatt Papworth in 1876. It has done more than any other work to simplify the study of the art to the professional student, and render it accessible to all. Among Gwilt's minor works may be mentioned his 'Elements of Architectural Criticism for the Use of Students, Amateurs, and Reviewers,' first published in 1837, and reissued with an appendix in the following year. Its purpose was to counteract the influence of the German classic school of architects represented by such works as the Museum at Berlin and the Pinacothek at Munich. He also wrote articles on architecture and music for the 'Encyclopædia Metropolitana' and for Brande's 'Dictionary of Literature, Science, and Art;' 'Rudiments of the Anglo-Saxon Tongue,' published by Pickering in 1835; a pamphlet on the conduct of the corporation of London in reference to the designs (of which he had himself in 1822 prepared one) submitted to it for rebuilding London Bridge; and a pamphlet, privately printed in 1838, containing a design for the erection of a national gallery on the site of Trafalgar Square. His last literary work was a new edition of Nicholson's 'Principles of Architecture,' 1848. In 1815 he was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and in 1838 a member of the Royal Astronomical Society. He died on 14 Sept. 1863 at South Hill, Henley-on-Thames.

Gwilt married in 1808 Louisa, third daughter of Samuel Brandram, merchant, of London and Lee Grove, Kent; she died 17 April 1861. By her he had two daughters and four sons. Charles Perkins Gwilt (d. 1835), his eldest son, was sent to Westminster School in 1823, and matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1827 (B.A. 1831); he afterwards entered at the Middle Temple, but died on 22 Dec. 1835 (Welch, Queen's Scholars, pp. 491, 492, 499; Foster, Alumni Oxon. ii. 579). He devoted himself to heraldic and antiquarian pursuits, and prepared 'Notices relating to Thomas Smith of Campden, and to Henry Smith, sometime Alderman of London' (from whom he was descended), printed for private circulation in 1836 under the editorship of his father. An appendix of 'Evidences' upon the subject, collected by Joseph Gwilt, was previously printed in 1828. His second son, John Sebastian Gwilt (1811-1890), was educated at Westminster School, and became an architect. He assisted his father in the preparation of the 'Encyclopædia of Architecture,' for which he made all the drawings; he wrote in conjunction with his father 'A Project for a New National Gallery in Trafalgar Square,' printed in 1838, but never published. He died at Hambledon, Henley-on-Thames, 4 March 1890, aged 79 (Athenæum, 15 March 1890, p. 347).

[Gent. Mag. 1863, pt. ii. pp. 647-52; Memoir of Joseph Gwilt, by Sebastian Gwilt, read at the Institute of British Architects, 15 Feb. 1864; Builder, vol. xxi.; Gwilt's works.]

G. W. B.