Poynter, Ambrose (DNB00)

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POYNTER, AMBROSE (1796–1886), architect, born in London on 16 May 1796, was second son of Ambrose Lyon Poynter by Thomasine Anne Peck. The family was of Huguenot origin, his father's great-great-grandfather, Thomas Pointier of St. Quentin in France, having settled in England in 1685 after the revocation of the edict of Nantes. Poynter commenced his professional career as an architect in the office of John Nash [q. v.], working there about five years (1814–1818). From 1819 to 1821 he travelled in Italy, Sicily, and the Ionian Islands; he had studied watercolour painting under Thomas Shotter Boys [q. v.], and the sketches made by him during these travels are of great merit. He attended Keats's funeral at Rome on 26 Feb. 1821. On returning home Poynter set up for himself as an architect at 1 Poet's Corner, Westminster, but afterwards (about 1846) built for himself a house and offices in Park Street, now Queen Anne's Gate. One of his earliest works was an observatory at Cambridge for his friend William Hopkins (1793–1866) [q. v.], the mathematical ‘coach.’ In 1832 he resided for some time in Paris, where he was associated with Richard Parkes Bonington [q. v.], Baron Denon, Boucher-Desnoyers the engraver, and others. He subsequently built at Cambridge the church of St. Paul in the Hills Road, and in 1835 was an unsuccessful though highly commended competitor for the building of the Fitzwilliam Museum. Poynter was one of the foundation members of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1834, one of the first members of their council, acted as their secretary in 1840, 1841, and 1844, read various papers at their meetings, including a valuable descriptive analysis of the arabesques in the ‘Loggie’ of the Vatican (3 Feb. 1840), and in 1842 was the author of an anonymous essay ‘On the Introduction of Iron in the Construction of Buildings,’ to which the silver medal of the institute was awarded. Poynter had considerable practice as an architect until the loss of his eyesight, which commenced about 1860, and caused his retirement from his profession at the height of his career. In London he designed the hospital and chapel of St. Katharine in the Regent's Park (1827), Christ Church, Westminster (1841), and the French Protestant Church in Bloomsbury Street. In the provinces, among other works, he was the architect of Pynes House, Devonshire (for Sir Stafford Northcote), Hodsock, near Worksop, Nottinghamshire (for Mrs. Chambers), Castle Melgwyn, South Wales, and restored or added to numerous buildings, including Warwick Castle and Crewe Hall, though in both these cases Poynter's work has since been destroyed by fire. As architect to the National Provincial Bank of England, he designed buildings for it in several towns. Poynter was frequently employed on arbitration cases, and held the office of official referee to the board of works.

Poynter took an important part in the establishment of government schools of design, and was the first inspector for the provinces appointed in connection with the school of design then at Somerset House. He was one of the committee of management appointed in 1848 to supervise the district schools of design, and in 1850 was appointed inspector of them. He was one of the first to urge the importance of making drawing a compulsory subject in national and elementary schools. He was an original member of the Arundel Society, the Graphic Society, and the Archæological Institute, and contributed several papers to the proceedings of the last. A student of heraldry, he made drawings to illustrate Sandford's ‘Genealogical History of England.’ He collaborated with Charles Knight (1791–1873) [q. v.] in his attempts to produce good and cheap pictorial literature, contributing illustrations to Knight's ‘Shakespeare’ and ‘Pictorial History of England,’ and the articles on literature, science, and art to the latter work.

Poynter died at Dover on 20 Nov. 1886. He married, first, in 1832 at the chapel of the British embassy, Paris, Emma, daughter of the Rev. E. Forster, by Lavinia, daughter and only child of Thomas Banks, R.A. [q. v.] By her he had one son, Sir Edward John Poynter, president of the Royal Academy, and three daughters, of whom Clara, wife of Mr. Robert Courtenay Bell, attained distinction as a translator from foreign languages. Poynter married, secondly, Louisa Noble, daughter of General Robert Bell, by whom he left a daughter.

[Proceedings of the Royal Institute of British Architects, 1887, pp. 113, 137; private information.]

L. C.