Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Bloxam, Matthew Holbeche

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BLOXAM, MATTHEW HOLBECHE (1805–1888), antiquary and writer on architecture, was born on 12 May 1805 at Rugby, where his father, the Rev. Richard Rouse Bloxam (who married Ann, sister of Sir Thomas Lawrence) was an assistant master. He was one of ten children, and brother to Andrew Bloxam [q. v.] and Dr. John Rouse Bloxam [q. v. Suppl.] In 1813 he entered Rugby school as a pupil in his father's house, and in 1821 was articled to George Harris, a solicitor in Rugby. It was during professional visits to the registers of country churches that Bloxam made the early observations which led to his subsequent knowledge of ecclesiastical architecture; and while still under articles he began collecting the notes which, in 1829, he published as the first edition of 'The Principles of Gothic Architecture elucidated by Question and Answer' (Leicester, 1829, 12mo). For its date this was a remarkable book, and it justly entitled its young author to rank among the authorities of the Gothic revival. It had certainly been preceded by the writings of Thomas Rickman [q. v.], a friend of the author, to whose kindred work he owed a certain debt, but it was several years ahead of the publications of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin [q. v.], and twenty years earlier than John Henry Parker's [q. v.] 'Introduction to the Study of Gothic Architecture,' which has been its principal rival in the hands of students. A second edition appeared in 1835, after which a rapid succession of issues gave evidence both of the value of the work and of the popular interest in the Gothic revival. The catechetical form of the first five editions was abandoned in the sixth (1844). Fresh issues were almost continuous to 1849, and when the tenth edition of 1859 was exhausted no less than seventeen thousand copies had been sold in England; a German translation, by E. Henktmann, was also issued at Leipzig in 1845. At the suggestion of Sir George Gilbert Scott [q. v.], Bloxam set himself to prepare an enlargement of his work, which, in his anxiety for completeness and accuracy, he withheld from publication till 1882, when it was issued in three volumes, containing additional chapters on vestments and on church arrangements, as well as a bibliography of previous editions. The illustrations of this book are good specimens of the wood-engraving of Thomas Orlando Sheldon Jewitt [q. v.] Bloxam's other published volumes were: 'A Glimpse at the Monumental Architecture and Sculpture of Great Britain,' London, 1834, 12mo; and 'Some Account of the Rectory and Rectors of Rugby,' 1876, 8vo. 'Fragmenta Sepulcralia,' an unfinished work, was privately printed in 1876, as was also, in 1888, a full catalogue of all his published works under the title 'A Fardel of Antiquarian Papers.' Two of his books were cited in evidence in the case of Churton v. Frewen (Law Rep. Equity Cases, 1866, vol. ii.)

Many of Bloxam's writings are to be found in the 'Archæologia' of the Society of Antiquaries, of which he became a fellow in 1863, in the 'Archæological Journal,' the 'Archæologia Cambrensis,' and in the 'Transactions' of such societies as the Warwickshire Field Club. Among them are important papers on 'Warwickshire during the Civil Wars,' 'Mediæval Sepulchral Antiquities of Northamptonshire,' 'Effigies and Monuments in Peterborough Cathedral,' and 'The Charnel-vault of Rothwell, Northamptonshire.' He wrote in all no less than 192 of such essays. He was one of the honorary vice-presidents of the Royal Archaeological Institute of Great Britain, and an officer or member of a great number of local antiquarian societies. In spite of his archaeological work Bloxam did not abandon the profession in which he had been trained, and did not resign until 1872, after forty years' service, his post as clerk to the magistrates for the Rugby division. He died on 24 April 1888, and was buried in the grounds of the Norman chapel of Brownsover.

To Rugby boys of many generations Bloxam was known as an enthusiastic Rugbeian. He compiled various notes on the history of the school, subsequently collected by the Rev. W. H. Payne-Smith in a posthumous volume (1889, 8vo), entitled 'Rugby: the School and the Neighbourhood,' which also contains a brief biography and a portrait.

[Notice by C. E. S. in Academy, 28 April 1888, vol. xxxiii.; Annual Register, 1888.]

P. W.