Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Godwin, Edward William
GODWIN, EDWARD WILLIAM (1833–1886), architect, was born in Old Market Street, Bristol, on 26 May 1833. From his father, who was in business as a decorator, he inherited a taste for architectural and archæological studies, and before leaving school mastered Bloxam's ‘Gothic Architecture.’ He received his professional training in the office of Mr. W. Armstrong, architect, of Bristol, and afterwards practised for some years in that city, at first alone, and subsequently in partnership with Mr. Henry Crisp. The firm had an office in London, and Godwin, after the death without family of his first wife, removed to London about 1862. His earlier works, among which may be mentioned the town halls of Northampton and Congleton in the Decorated style, and the restorations of Dromore Castle for the Earl of Limerick and Castle Ashby in Northamptonshire, and many churches, schools, and houses in and near Bristol, exhibited much promise. In London he enjoyed the esteem and friendship of Scott, Street, Burgess, and other great architects. He assisted Burgess in the preparation of his designs for the new law courts. He also assisted Mr. R. W. Edis, F.S.A., in his design for the houses of parliament in Berlin. But his removal to London proved a mistake from a professional point of view. His chief works there were the premises of the Fine Art Society in Bond Street and a studio for Princess Louise at Kensington Palace. But he has left no building there really worthy of his capabilities. As an architect he worked chiefly in the Gothic style; his works are characterised by taste in design and the accuracy of his knowledge of detail. But he failed to fulfil his early promise. A facile sketcher, a good draughtsman, with a quick eye for proportion and harmonious groupings, a clear writer, an antiquary well versed in the architecture, furniture, and costume of all periods, a well-informed Shakespearean scholar, and an excellent lecturer, he found too wide a field for his many talents, and turned from the exercise of his profession to literature and the designing of art furniture. Latterly his time was almost exclusively occupied in the designing of theatrical costumes and scenery, among the plays which he assisted in setting being ‘Hamlet,’ ‘Claudian,’ ‘Helena in Troas,’ and ‘Bachelors,’ which last was brought out at the Opera Comique, London, only a couple of months before his death. In the last years of his life he suffered from a painful disease; the operation of lithotomy ultimately became necessary, and he died in his rooms, 6 Great College Street, Westminster, on 6 Oct. 1886. His second wife, a daughter of Phillips the sculptor, to whom he was married in 1876, survived him, and he also left one son.
Godwin contributed largely both articles and sketches to the professional journals. To the ‘British Architect’ he was for long a frequent contributor, and his book, entitled ‘Temple Bar Illustrated,’ London, 1877, was reprinted from its columns. He also published:
- Designs for the work in ‘Art Furniture’ by William Watt, London, 1877.
- ‘Artistic Conservatories and other Horticultural Buildings designed to be constructed on the patent system of Messrs. Messenger & Co.,’ London, 1880.
- ‘A few Notes on the Architecture and Costume of the Period of the Play of “Claudian,” A.D. 360–460,’ published in the form of a letter to Mr. Wilson Barrett, London, 1883.
- The article on ‘Dress and its Relation to Health and Climate,’ London, 1884, in the ‘Handbook’ to the International Health Exhibition of 1884.
- ‘The “Faithfull Shepherdesse” by John Fletcher adapted and arranged in three acts for the open air,’ London, 1885.
- A subscription work for the Art Costume Society, of which only a few parts were published at the time of his death.
[Architect, 15 Oct. 1886, xxxvi. 217; Building News, 15 Oct. 1886, 1. 589 (list of designs contributed to the paper); Builder, 16 Oct. 1886, 1. 572; British Architect, 15 Oct. 1886 (list of articles, with portrait); American Architect and Building News, 30 Oct. 1886.]