Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cockerell, Charles Robert

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1319877Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 11 — Cockerell, Charles Robert1887Louis Alexander Fagan

COCKERELL, CHARLES ROBERT (1788–1863), architect, the son of Samuel Pepys Cockerell [q. v.], architect was born in London on 28 April 1788. He received his earliest education at a private school near the City Road. In 1802 he went to Westminster School, continuing there until his sixteenth or seventeenth year, and then entered his father's office, with whom he remained five years. In 1809 the rebuilding of Covent Garden Theatre devolved on Sir Robert Smirke, and in the completion of this work he was assisted by young Cockerell, who acted as confidential assistant. In May 1810 he commenced a course of professional studies by exploring Greece, Asia Minor, and Sicily. These travels produced later on important results, chiefly in respect to Grecian architecture and sculpture. He first sailed for Constantinople, leaving London with despatches entrusted to him by Mr. William R. Hamilton, F.R.S., then under-secretary for foreign affairs. Three months later he left for Athens, where he spent the winter in the company of several distinguished men, among whom was Lord Byron. In the month of April 1811, accompanied by Baron Haller von Hallerstein, architect to the king of Bavaria, Mr. Foster, architect, of Liverpool, Mr. Linckh of Würtemberg, and Baron Stackelberg of Esthonia, Cockerell proceeded to Ægina,, where the celebrated remains of the so-called temple of Jupiter Panhellenius were discovered. This discovery was followed by that of the reliefs forming the frieze of the temple of Apollo Epicurius near the ancient Phigaleia in Arcadia in 1812. These reliefs were purchased in 1813 by the English government for the sum of sixty thousand dollars, and they now form one of the chief ornaments of the British Museum. No sooner were the Ægina marbles found than information was sent to the British ambassador at the Porte, and also to the British government at home through Mr. Hamilton. Shortly afterwards Messrs. Gaily Knight and Fazakerly offered a sum of 2,000l. to the two German co-proprietors to relinquish their shares, engaging, together with the English proprietors, Messrs. Foster and Cockerell, to present the whole collection to the British Museum. These terms, however, were declined on the part of Baron Haller and Mr. Linckh, from a desire to secure the marbles for their own countrymen. Advertisements were accordingly inserted in the Gazette of every country in Europe, announcing the sale at Zante, and Mr. Gropius, Austrian consul there, was appointed to act as agent in the business. At the instance of Mr. Hamilton, H.M.S. Paulina was sent out, under Captain Perceval, with a most liberal offer for the immediate purchase. The engagement already entered into with the public made it impossible to accept the offer, but still, under the apprehension of a French attack, the proprietors removed the marbles to Malta. But no announcement was made in the 'Gazette' by the agent, Mr. Gropius. The English authorities despatched Mr. Taylor Combe to bid on their behalf. Meanwhile the sale took place at Zante, and the marbles were purchased without opposition by the crown prince of Bavaria. These antiquities are now at Munich. In 1811 Cockerell started for a tour through the country of the 'seven churches,' and cruised along the coasts of Ionia, Lycia, Cilicia, Karamania ,and southern shore of Asia Minor. It was in the spring of 1812 that he met at Adalia, and afterwards joined, Sir Francis Beaufort [q. v.], who commanded H.M.S. Frederiksteen. In his book entitled 'Karamania, or a Brief Description of the South Coast of Asia Minor,' &c., London, 1818, 8vo, p. 113, Beaufort tells us : ' We had the satisfaction of meeting here (Adalia) with Mr. Cockerell, who had been induced by our report to explore the antiquities of these desolate regions. He had hired a small Greek vessel at Athens, and crossing the Archipelago had already coasted part of Lycia. Those who have experienced the filth and other miseries of such a mode of conveyance, and who know the dangers that await an unprotected European among the tribes of uncivilised Mahommedans, can alone appreciate the ardour which could lead to such an enterprise. I succeeded in persuading him to remove to his majesty's ship.' Cockerell afterwards proceeded to Sicily. The principal scenes of his labours in this island were Syracuse and Girgenti. At Syracuse, according to his journals, he resided about three months, studying and measuring the ancient Greek fortifications ; and at Girgenti collecting materials for his restoration of the temple of Jupiter Olympius, commonly called the Temple of the Giants, and which ranks after that of Diana at Ephesus among the temples of ancient Greece. The results of his researches were afterwards published in the supplementary volume to the second edition of Stuart's Athens ' in 1830. In 1813, on returning to Greece, Cockerell visited the north of the Peloponnesus, Argos, Orchomenos, Sicyon, Corinth, and other places. In the same year he went to Candia, and towards the end of 1814 to Italy. During the following year he visited Naples and Pompeii, passing the winter of 1815-16 in Rome, where he formed a lasting friendship with the French painter Ingres, by whom there exists a masterly portrait of the young architect. The spring of 1816 he spent in Florence, and conceived the pedimental disposition of the Niobe group, of which he etched a plate, accompanied by some letterpress descriptions written in Italian, addressed to the 'Cav* Bartholdy,' and signed thus : 'C. R. Cockerell, archi* inglese, inventò e incise, 1816.' A copy of this scarce work is in the library of the British Museum, with the following manuscript title : 'Congettura del Signor Cockerell sopra la Famiglia di Niobe.' The autumn he passed in Lombardy and Parma, returning home in 1817. About this period he etched another plate, representing a view of Athens, &c. On arriving in London Cockerell commenced business on his own account in Savile Row, and his name first appeared as an exhibitor at the Royal Academy in 1818. In the following year he was appointed surveyor of St. Paul's Cathedral, and was associated with his father in the surveyorship of the India House, having his office at 8 Old Burlington Street. In the same year he exhibited his 'Idea of a Restoration of the Capitol and Forum of Rome,' which was the companion design to the 'Restoration of Athens,' both familiar from the published engravings. In 1820 he sent to the Royal Academy (No. 888) 'Restoration of the East Front and Pediment of the Parthenon,' &c., and in 1821 replaced the ball and cross of St. Paul's with a new one. Between 1822 and 1824 he was engaged upon several works, among which should be mentioned a chapel at Bowood for Lord Lansdowne, and the Bristol Literary and Philosophical Institution, a view of which building was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1821. This work was rendered difficult both aesthetically and practically by the extreme declivity of Park Street, in which it was erected. During the summer of 1825 he completed the Hanover Chapel in Regent Street it is noted for the picturesque effect of its portico the first stone being laid on 6 June 1823. In June 1828 Cockerell married Anna Maria, second daughter of John Rennie [q. v.], the engineer of Waterloo Bridge, &c. In the following year (1829) he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, and undertook the construction of a wing of the Cambridge University Library, the Westminster Fire Office in King Street, Covent Garden, and St. David's College at Llanepeter (Lampeter), Cardiganshire, the latter a Gothic design. About this time he exhibited ' Sections of the National Monument of Scotland,' of which the western portico is now to be seen on the Calton Hill, Edinburgh. In 1830 the trustees of the British Museum requested Cockerell to execute a drawing of the restoration of the western pediment of the temple of Athene Parthenos at Athens, and in 1832 he erected in the Strand the office of the Westminster Insurance Company. In 1833, when Sir John Soane resigned all his appointments, Cockerell was nominated architect of the Bank of England and carried out various changes and alterations which were required in that building, especially on the south side of the Garden Court in Threadneedle Street. In 1836 he became a full academician, and in conjunction with Mr. (afterwards Sir William) Tite completed (1837–9) the London and Westminster Bank in Lothbury. Two years later (1838) he published and exhibited at the Royal Academy a 'Tribute to the memory of Sir Christopher Wren,' with the motto 'Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice.' This had the form of a large engraving containing the whole of Wren's works, drawn on one scale, and served as a companion print to 'The Professor's Dream,' representing the principal buildings of ancient and modern times. In 1840, on the death of William Wilkins, R.A., Cockerell was called upon to fill the chair of professor of architecture in the Royal Academy, which post he held till 1857, delivering in the course of his duty an important series of lectures. He now resided at North End, Hampstead. On the death of George Basevi, the architect [q. v.], in 1845, the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge, begun in 1837, was placed in Cockerell's hands for completion, and many of the interior finishings are from his design. This museum was completed by Edward Middleton Barry [q. v.] in 1874. He also built (1841–2) the so-called 'Taylor Buildings' at Oxford, the erection of which in the midst of the Gothic revival prevented its receiving the amount of admiration which it deserved. Though laying itself open to some criticisms, the beauty and entire originality of the structure will some day gain it a place among the finest monuments of English nineteenth-century art. Cockerell likewise designed and carried out the building of several country mansions, and competed for the erection of the Houses of Parliament, the National Gallery, the London University, the Royal Exchange, and the Carlton and Reform Clubs. In 1845 he was presented with the honorary degree of D.C.L. by the university of Oxford. The death of Harvey Lonsdale Elmes in 1847 led Cockerell to complete St. George's Hall for the corporation of Liverpool. This work occupied him four or five years. The sculpture of the tympanum of this building was designed by Cockerell and executed by Nichol. In 1857 he completed the offices of the Liverpool and London and Globe Insurance Company in Liverpool. His last contribution to the Royal Academy was in 1858, 'Study for the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, &c.' (see Classical Journal, 1847). As president of the Royal Institute of Architects in 1860–1 he was the first to have the honour of receiving her majesty's gold medal. He was chevalier of the Legion of Honour, one of the eight foreign associates of the Academie des Beaux-Arts de France, member of the Academy of St. Luke, Rome, member of the Royal Academies of Bavaria, Belgium, and Denmark, besides the academies of Geneva and Genoa, the Archaeological Society of Athens, and the American Institute of Architecture. He died at his residence, 13 Chester Terrace, Regent's Park, on 17 Sept. 1863, and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral on the 24th following, by the side of Rennie and near Sir Christopher Wren. A short time before his death Cockerell volunteered to have his name placed on the list of retired academicians. His portrait appears in the 'Illustrated London News' of 3 Oct. 1863, p. 341, and his effigy is appropriately placed on the Albert Memorial, Hyde Park, between Pugin and Barry; another portrait is in the rooms of the Institute of Architects. In all his buildings, so varied in their style and character, there is so much originality of design that they have established his reputation as an architect of the highest order. His lectures, essays, and contributions to the literature of sculpture and architecture are numerous. Most of them are to be found in the 'Transactions of the Archaeological Institute,' of which association he was an active member.

Among these articles should especially be mentioned 'An Architectural Life of William of Wykeham' and the 'Sculpture of Lincoln Cathedral.' Cockerell's most marked characteristic as an artist was his catholicity. During his seven years' study abroad he gained an intimate knowledge of and sympathy with all the forms of art. To his unrivalled drawings of the human figure no less than of inanimate objects was due much of the fastidiousness of his taste. Cockerell laboured for many years in furtherance of the Artists' Benevolent Society, and laid the foundation of the Architects' Benevolent Society.

His works are: 1. 'Progetto di collocazione delle statue antiche esistenti nella Galleria di Firenze che rappresentano la favola di Niobe,' plate and text, large fol., Firenze, 1816. 2. 'Le Statue della Favola di Niobe dell' Imp. e R. Galleria di Firenze situate nella primitiva loro disposizione da C. R. C.,' plate, 8vo, Firenze, 1818. 3. 'On the Labyrinth of Crete and other Grecian Antiquities,' in 'Travels in various Countries of the East,' by Robert Walpole, ii. 402, 2 vols. 4to, 1820. 4. 'Antiquities of Athens and other places of Greece, Sicily,' &c., supplementary to the 'Antiquities of Athens,' by J. Stuart and N. Revett, illustrated by C. R. C., &c. 5 parts, fol., London, 1830 (German translation, fol., Leipzig and Darmstadt, 8vo, 1829, &c.) 6. 'The Temple of Jupiter Olympius at Agrigentum, &c.,' plates, fol., London, 1830. 6. 'Plan and Sections of the New (Bank of England) Dividend, Pay, and Warrant Offices, and Accountant's Drawing Office above; together with six allegorical subjects, forming the decoration of the lower offices,' 4 plates, oblong fol., London, 1835. 7. 'Ancient Sculptures in Lincoln Cathedral,' 12 plates, 8vo, London, 1848. 8. 'Observations on Style in Architecture,' sessional paper, London, 1849. 9. 'Iconography of the West Front of Wells Cathedral, with an Appendix on the Sculptures of other Mediaeval Churches in England,' 4to, Oxford and London, 1851. 10. 'Illustrations, Architectural and Pictorial, of the genius of M. A. Buonarroti, with descriptions of the plates by C. R. C., Canina, &c.,' fol., London, 1857. 11. 'The Temples of Jupiter Panhellenius at Ægina,, and of Apollo Epicurius at Bassee, near Phigaleia in Arcadia,' &c., fol., London, 1860. 12. 'Address delivered at the Royal Institute of British Architects,' sessional paper, London, 1860. 13. 'A Descriptive Account of the Sculptures of the West Front of Wells Cathedral, photographed for the Architectural Photographic Association,' 1862, and 4to, London, 1862.

[Some Account of the Professional Life and Character of the late Professor C. K. Cockerell, R.A., Fellow and late President R.I.B.A., by Sidney Smirke, R.A., Fellow, read at the Ordinary General Meeting of the Royal Institute of British Architects, November 16, 1863, with facsimiles and a volume of the British Museum Marbles; Builder, 1863, p. 683; Art Journal, 1863, p. 221; private information.]

L. F.