Murphy, James Cavanah (DNB00)
MURPHY, JAMES CAVANAH (1760–1814), architect and antiquary, was born in 1760 of obscure parents at Blackrock, near Cork, and was originally a bricklayer. He showed early talent for drawing, and made his way to Dublin to study. His name appears in a list of the pupils of the drawing school of the Dublin Society about 1775, as working in miniature, chalk, and crayons (Herbert, Irish Varieties, p. 56). Afterwards he practised in Dublin, and in 1786 was one of seven architects who were consulted as to the additions to the House of Commons. To him and another was entrusted the execution of James Gandon's design for the work (Mulvany, Life of Gandon, pp. 116, 144). In December 1788 William Burton Conyngham commissioned him to make drawings for him of the great Dominican church and monastery of Batalha, and he accordingly proceeded to Portugal. He was back in Dublin in 1790, and was in England at the end of the year. In 1802 he went to Cadiz, where he remained for seven years studying Moorish architecture and occasionally performing some diplomatic duties. Settling in England in 1809, he spent his time in preparing his notes on Arabian architecture for the press, but died on 12 Sept. 1814 in Edward Street, Cavendish Square (now Lower Seymour Street), when only aportion of his book had been published. T. Hartwell Home [q. v.] superintended the completion of the publication. T. C. Croker (Researches in the South of Ireland, p. 204) mentions that he left a large collection of notes and drawings. In the library of the Royal Institute of British Architects is a large folio volume of his drawings of arabesque ornaments. He was unmarried, and his estate (5,000l.) was administered in November 1814 by his sister, Hannah, wife of Bernard McNamara.
His published works are : 1. 'Plans, Elevations, Sections, and Views of the Church of Batalha. ... To which is prefixed an Introductory Discourse on the Principles of Gothic Architecture,' twenty-seven plates, London, 1795, 1836. A history and description of the church by Manoel de Sousa Coutinho (translated by Murphy) occupies pp. 27-57. One drawing, Murphy's design for the completion of the monument of King Emmanuel, is in the print room of the British Museum, and a volume of studies and copies of Murphy's letters in the library of the Society of Antiquaries. A German translation of the 'Discourse on Gothic Architecture,' by J. D. E. W. Engelhard, was published in Darmstadt in 1828. 2. 'Travels in Portugal,' London, 1795, with portrait, after a painting by Sir Martin Archer Shee. A German translation by M. C. Sprengel was published at Halle in 1796 as vol. vi. of an 'Auswahl derbesten auslandischen . . . Nachrichten,' and a French translation by Lallemant (2 vols. 8vo, 1 vol. 4to) in Paris, in 1797. 3. 'General View of the State of Portugal,' London, 1798 (see Gent. Mag. 1798, pp. 960-3). 4. 'Arabian Antiquities of Spain,' London, 1813-16, embellished with 110 plates from drawings by Murphy (cf. T. F. Dibdin, Library Companion, p. 310). The work was edited and the descriptions written by T. Hartwell Horne. A 'History of the Mahometan Empire,' by John Shakespear, T. H. Horne, and John Gillies, and designed as an introduction to Murphy's book, was published in London in 1816. Murphy took out a patent in 1813 for a method of preserving timber and other substances from decay.
[Dict. of Architecture; Murphy's works; Manuscript Diary, 1790, in Libr. of B.I.B.A. (with sketches of building in Liverpool, Chester, Manchester, York, Cambridge, and Ely); Univ. Cat. of Books on Art; Keyser's Bücher-Lexicon; Cat. of Libr. of Sir John Soane's Museum; Admon. Act Book, November 1814 (in Somerset House); Annual Register (App. to Chronicle), 18U, p. 335.]