Papworth, John (1775-1847) (DNB00)

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PAPWORTH, JOHN, afterwards John Buonarotti (1775–1847), architect and designer, born 24 Jan. 1775, was second son of John Papworth (1750–1799). He was originally intended for the study of surgery, but his evident predilection for architecture and the advice of Sir William Chambers led to his being placed as a pupil with John Plaw [q. v.], architect; he had already acquired considerable knowledge of drawing ornament and perspective in his father's office, and had studied the human figure and modelling under John Deare the sculptor. On 4 Nov. 1789 he was apprenticed for three years to Thomas Wapshott, builder, who carried out works for John Plaw, Thomas Hardwick, and Michael Novosielski, and he assisted the latter in his office. He also devoted a year to the study of internal decoration in the shops of Sheringham the upholsterer of Great Marlborough Street, then employed at Carlton House; and at the early age of eighteen and a half commenced life as clerk of works or resident architect in carrying out his own designs at Ray Lodge, Woodford, Essex, for Sir James Wright.

Papworth was a thorough master of drawing perspective and classic ornament; many of his architectural designs were exhibited at the Royal Academy yearly from 1794 to 1799. In 1798 he also exhibited a bust, modelled by himself, of his elder brother Thomas [see under Papworth, Edgar George]. In December of the same year he became a student of the academy, and was a contributor to nineteen of the academy's exhibitions between 1794 and 1841.

His professional practice embraced not only the ordinary work of an architect, but also that of a designer of decorations, furniture, and accessories.

Among his architectural works may be mentioned a mansion at Laleham for the Earl of Lucan, 1803–6; Haresfoot, Essex, for Thomas Dorrien, 1817–19; Leigham Court, Streatham, for John G. Fuller, 1820–1822. For James Morrison [q. v.], with whom he became closely connected, he designed works at Fonthill, Wiltshire, 1829–42; at No. 57 Harley Street, 1831–3; at Basildoun Park, Berkshire, 1839–44, and elsewhere. In 1837–9 he restored Orleans House, Twickenham, for Alexander Murray, esq., of Broughton. At Cheltenham, between 1824 and 1832, he designed and carried out numerous works, including St. James's Church, the Rotunda, and new pump-room at Montpellier Spa, and he laid out the Montpellier estate.

For the premises of Rudolf Ackermann, the art publisher, to whose ‘Repository of Arts and Essays’ from 1809 to 1823 he was a frequent contributor of prose and verse and of drawings, he designed a hall or reception-room, intended as a lounge for customers; and in 1826 the extensive building, No. 96 Strand, at the corner of Beaufort Buildings, now occupied by Rimmel the perfumer. But his most important architectural work in London was St. Bride's Avenue, Fleet Street (between 1823 and 1830). A clear view and a good access were thus secured for the magnificent steeple of St. Bride's Church, previously screened from Fleet Street by a row of houses.

Between 1817 and 1820 Papworth was engaged on three designs for a palace for Wilhelm I, king of Würtemberg (1816–1864), proposed to be erected at Cannstatt; drawings of the entrance front and south front of one of these designs were exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1823, and of the west front and east front in 1827. On 25 Nov. 1820 he received the diploma of architect to the king.

In 1815 he produced a fine design for a ‘Tropheum’ to commemorate the victory of Waterloo; the composition combined durability with grace. His artistic friends were reminded by its boldness of Michael Angelo, and he thereupon added ‘Buonarroti’ to his name. The drawing was, however, rejected by the Royal Academy (Papworth, Life and Works, 8vo, London, 1879, p. 28). A monument which he designed in 1815 in memory of Colonel Gordon was erected on the field of Waterloo, and was the first of its type, the ‘severed column.’

His attainments as a landscape-gardener obtained him employment at Claremont for Prince Leopold and the Princess Charlotte of Wales; at Alton Towers, for the Earl of Shrewsbury; at Holly Lodge, Highgate; and at Kirkby Hall, Yorkshire; while his services as designer proved of value to manufacturers in the production of ornaments and presentation plate, furniture, chandeliers, candelabra, cut-glass girandoles and lustres. In 1822 he designed costly sets of cut glass for the pasha of Egypt and the shah of Persia.

Papworth was one of the eighteen original members of the ‘Associated Artists in Water Colours,’ founded 1 July 1807, and at the first exhibition, opened 25 April 1808, exhibited his fine water-colour drawing of ‘The Hall of Hela, the Regions of Eternal Punishment;’ in the preceding year he had exhibited it at the Royal Academy. Other drawings exhibited in 1808 were the ‘Palace and Valhalla of Odin,’ Priam's Palace, a sketch from the Iliad of Homer, two compositions of ruins from Palestrina, the ancient Præneste, and two smaller drawings. In 1809 he was secretary to the society, but in 1810 he became an honorary member (Roget, History of the Old Water-Colour Society, i. 230, 268, 365; Pye, Patronage of British Art, 1845, p. 305). He was one of the original members of the Graphic Society, founded in 1833.

In 1835 he gave evidence before Mr. Ewart's select committee of the House of Commons on arts and manufactures, and in 1836 was consulted by the government respecting the formation of a school of design. In December 1836 he was appointed director of the government school of design, which was intended to occupy the rooms in Somerset House vacant by the removal of the Royal Academy of Arts to the west wing of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The details of the organisation and arrangements were in his hands, and he was assisted by his son John as secretary. The school was opened on 1 May 1837, but in the second year a more economical arrangement appeared to the council to be desirable, and Papworth and his son retired (Papworth, Life and Works, pp. 106–14; Loudon, Architectural Mag. 1837, iv. 350).

As a leading member of the architectural profession, he was consulted respecting the formation of the Institute of British Architects in 1834, and was one of the twelve who signed on 2 July 1834 the resolutions on which the society was based. He was eight times chosen a vice-president; he retired in 1846, and was elected an honorary member.

Owing to failing health, Papworth withdrew from his profession at the end of 1846 (Papworth, Life and Works, pp. 32, 93; The Literary Gazette, No. 1567, 30 Jan. 1847; The Builder, vol. v. No. 208, 30 Jan. 1847, p. 54). He left London on 6 Feb. 1847, and resided at Little Paxton, near St. Neots, Huntingdonshire. His family had long been connected with that place, and there he died on 16 June 1847, aged 72 years. He was buried in Little Paxton churchyard. In 1813 his portrait was painted by James Ward, R.A., who presented him with it; in the following year another was painted by James Green, and engraved in mezzotint by William Say; a third portrait was painted in 1833 by Frederick Richard Say.

He was twice married: first, to Jane, daughter of his former master, Thomas Wapshott (she died in 1806); secondly, in 1817, to Mary Ann, eldest daughter of William Say, mezzotint engraver, by whom he had three children—two sons and one daughter, viz., John Woody, Wyatt Angelicus Van Sandau, both of whom are separately noticed, and Julia.

Papworth's chief publications were:

  1. ‘An Essay on the Causes of Dry Rot in Timber, with some Observations on the Cure of Dry Rot by the Admission of Air into the parts of Buildings affected with that Disease,’ 4to, London, 1803.
  2. ‘Select Views of London, with historical and descriptive Sketches of some of the most interesting of the Public Buildings,’ 76 coloured plates, 4to, London, 1816 (reprinted from Ackermann's ‘Repository of Arts’).
  3. ‘Rural Residences, consisting of a Series of Designs for Cottages, small Villas, and other Buildings, with Observations on Landscape Gardening,’ 27 coloured plates, 4to, London, 1818; 2nd edition, 1832.
  4. ‘Hints on Ornamental Gardening, consisting of a Series of Designs for Garden Buildings, useful and decorative Gates, Fences, Railings, &c., accompanied by Observations on the Principles and Theory of Rural Improvement,’ 28 coloured plates, 4to, London, 1823. Of the ‘Poetical Sketches of Scarborough,’ 1813, illustrated by the drawings of James Green, he wrote fourteen chapters out of twenty-one.

He contributed four designs to the ‘Social Day’ (1823) of Peter Coxe [q. v.], viz. the breakfast-room, the dressing-room, the dinner-room, and the architecture of ‘the carriage at the portico;’ and he assisted W. H. Pyne in the description of Marlborough House, St. James's and Kensington Palaces, for the ‘Royal Residences,’ 4to, 1820. He wrote the articles ‘Antony Pasquin’ and ‘Somerset House’ reprinted from the ‘Somerset House Gazette’ in Gwilt's edition of ‘Sir William Chambers,’ 1825, and six descriptions of buildings for Britton and Pugin's ‘Public Buildings of London.’ He prefixed ‘An Essay on the Principles of Design in Architecture, with Nine New Plates illustrative of Grecian Architecture,’ to Sir William Chambers's ‘Treatise on the Decorative Part of Civil Architecture,’ 4th edition, edited with copious notes by J. B. P., 4to, London, 1826. To the ‘Transactions’ of the Institute of British Architects he contributed ‘On the benefits resulting to the Manufactures of a Country from a well-directed Cultivation of Architecture, and of the Art of Ornamental Design,’ read 27 July 1835 (vol. i. 4to, London, 1836), and ‘Suggestions relative to the Stone Beam at Lincoln Cathedral’ (vol. ii. 4to, London, 1842).

[John B. Papworth, Architect to the King of Würtemberg, a brief Record of his Life and Works, being a contribution to the History of Art and of Architecture during the period 1775–1847, by Wyatt Papworth, privately printed, 8vo, London, 1879; Dict. of Architecture, s.v. vi. 37.]

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