Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/James, John (d.1746)

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1398663Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 29 — James, John (d.1746)1892Bertha Porter

JAMES, JOHN (d. 1746), architect, ‘of Greenwich,’ was son of Thomas and Eleanor James [q. v.] One John James, master of the Holy Ghost School at Basingstoke, Hampshire (29 July 1673), and vicar of Basingstoke (1697–1717) and rector of Stratfield Turgis from 1717 till his death on 20 Feb. 1732–3, had a son, also John James, who has been identified with the architect, apparently in error. In 1705 the latter succeeded Nicholas Hawksmoor [q. v.] as clerk of the works at Greenwich Hospital. He held the post till his death, and thus worked under Wren, Vanbrugh, Campbell, and Ripley. He became master-carpenter at St. Paul's Cathedral on 30 April 1711 (Frauds and Abuses of St. Paul's, pp. 7, 8, 22), and in 1716 assistant surveyor. At the time of his death he appears to have been surveyor. On 6 Jan. 1716, on the resignation of James Gibbs [q. v.], he was chosen surveyor of the fifty new London churches, in conjunction with Hawksmoor. From 22 Jan. 1725 he was surveyor of Westminster Abbey. He was master of the Carpenters' Company in 1734. He is said to have succeeded Hawksmoor as principal surveyor of his majesty's works in April 1736.

The Manor-house opposite the church at Twickenham (afterwards called Orleans House) was rebuilt from his designs for the Hon. James Johnston in 1710, after the model of country seats in Lombardy (Vitruvius Britannicus, 1717, vol. i. plate lxxvii.) The octagon room was afterwards added by Gibbs. The body of the parish church at Twickenham having fallen down on the night of 9 April 1713 was rebuilt from his designs and completed in 1715. It is classic in style, and as a specimen of brickwork irreproachable. He designed the church of St. George, Hanover Square, the first stone of which was laid on 20 June 1712 and the building completed in 1724 (cf. in Malcolm, Lond. Rediv. iv. 231, 233; plates in Clarke, Archi. Eccles. Lond. xlvi., and Malton, London and Westminster, xcii.) He directed some alterations to the chapel of Caius College, Cambridge, between Lady day 1718 and Michaelmas 1726. In 1721 he designed Sir Gregory Page's house on Blackheath, which is said to have been copied, with some alterations, from that at Houghton, and was demolished in 1789 (cf. Campbell, Vitruvius Brit. ed. Woolfe and Gandon, 1767, vol. iv., plates lviii. to lxiv.; Watts, Seats, plate xlvii.; east view engraved by Morris, 1786). The first additions to the old East India House, Leadenhall Street, were built under his direction in 1726 (cf. Malcolm, Lond. Rediv. i. 82–5; plate in Walford, London, v. 61), and he superintended the rebuilding of Bishopsgate Gate between 1731 and 1735, and of the belfry story of the tower of St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, in 1735 (Daily Journal, 25 Feb. 1735). He added the new steeple to St. Alphage Church, Greenwich, in 1730. The design of the church (built in 1711) is frequently attributed to James, but is more probably by Hawksmoor (cf. plate by Kip, 1714).

After the death of Tenison, archbishop of Canterbury (4 Dec. 1715), a survey of the archiepiscopal residences was made by James, under the direction of Dickenson, and demands for dilapidations were made by Archbishop Wake. Tenison's executors contested the demand as exorbitant. A war of pamphlets followed in 1716 and 1717, James defending himself in ‘The Survey and Demand for Dilapidations … justified, against the Cavils and Misrepresentations contained in some Letters lately published by Mr. Archdeacon [Edward] Tenison [the archbishop's nephew],’ 1717 (see letter from E. Tenison, 27 Oct. 1717, in Strype, Correspondence, Cambr. Univ. Libr. MS. 2508). The matter was finally settled by arbitration. The Duke of Chandos is said to have employed James, as well as Gibbs and Sheppard, in designing his mansion, Canons, near Edgware, Middlesex, but Gibbs was chiefly responsible (cf. Builder, 1864, p. 41, Beauties of England and Wales, vol. x. pt. iv. p. 635).

In 1729 he joined his brother Thomas, a type-founder (1685–1738), William Fenner, a stationer, and James Ged in their unlucky attempt to work William Ged's system of block-printing or stereotyping [see Ged, William]. James appears to have been ‘taken into partnership as having money’ (cf. Mores, Narrative of Block Printing, p. 37), and being ‘universally acquainted with the nobility and dignified clergy.’ The losses of the enterprise fell heavily on him in 1738, when its failure was complete. He died at Greenwich, after a lingering illness, on Thursday, 15 May 1746. His wife Mary survived him. Only one child is mentioned in the will (made 8 Oct. 1744, proved 30 May 1746), a son, who had died before 1744, leaving a widow.

James published: 1. ‘Rules and Examples of Perspective, proper for Painters and Architects,’ from the Italian of Andrea Pozzo (Rome, 1693), with plates by John Sturt, 1707. 2. ‘A Treatise of the Five Orders of Columns in Architecture,’ from the French of Claude Perrault, with plates by Sturt, 1708. 3. ‘The Theory and Practice of Gardening, wherein is handled all that relates to Fine Gardens,’ from the French of J. B. Alexandre Le Blond (Paris, 1709), with plates by Vandergucht and others, 1712; 2nd edition, from a later French edition, ‘with very large additions and a new treatise of flowers and orange-trees,’ 1728. 4. ‘A Short Review of the several Pamphlets and Schemes that have been offered to the Publick in relation to the Building of a Bridge at Westminster,’ 1736. To James's work Batty Langley [q. v.], who was here somewhat severely handled, published a reply in 1737. James drew the ‘North-west Prospect of Westminster Abbey, with the Spire as designed by Sir Christopher Wren,’ which was engraved by Fourdrinier, and by Toms for Maitland's ‘London’ (1736, p. 686).

A brother, George James (1683–1735), was printer to the city of London, a common councilman, and a man of cultivation. A nephew, John (d. 1772), son of his brother Thomas, carried on his father's type-foundry in St. Bartholomew's, and is described as ‘the last of the old English letter-founders.’

[Authorities quoted in the text; Nichols's Anecdotes of Mr. Bowyer, p. 609; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, i. 305–6; Timperley's Encyclopædia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote, pp. 598, 655; Dict. of Architecture (Architectural Publication Society); Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Walpole's Anecdotes, ed. Wornum, p. 696; Cooke and Maule's Greenwich Hospital, p. 142; Chronological Diary of Hist. Reg. 1716 p. 111, 1725 p. 7; Gent. Mag. 1733 p. 102, 1735 p. 560, 1736 p. 28, 1746 p. 273, 1781 p. 622; Longman's Hist. of the Three Cathedrals, p. 87; Ironside's Twickenham, in Bibl. Topogr. Brit. vol. x. No. 6, pp. 7, 10; Cobbett's Memorials of Twickenham, pp. 21, 213; Lysons's Environs, iii. 579, iv. 329; Willis and Clark's Architectural Hist. of Cambridge, i. 195–6, iii. 44, 53 sq.; Woodward's Hampshire, iii. 230; Maitland's London, 1756, pp. 23, 1003; Gough's Brit. Topogr. i. 480; Jupp's Carpenters' Company, ed. Pocock, p. 628; London Evening Post, 15–24 May; Grub Street Journal, 18 July 1734, 6 Feb. and 6 March 1735, and 8 April 1736; Nichols's Biog. Memoirs of William Ged, pp. 5, 6, 13, 14, 19, 21, 23; Mores's Dissertation, pp. 50–76; B. Langley's London Prices, p. 246; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Cat. of King's Prints and Drawings; Cat. of Drawings, &c., in R.I.B.A. Library.]

B. P.