Thomas Rickman

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Thomas Rickman
Born(1776-06-08)8 June 1776
Died4 January 1841(1841-01-04) (aged 64)
Nationality English

Thomas Rickman (8 June 1776 – 4 January 1841), was an English architect and architectural antiquary who was a major figure in the Gothic Revival. He is particularly remembered for his Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of English Architecture (1817), which established the basic chronological classification and terminology that are still in widespread use for the different styles of English medieval ecclesiastical architecture.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Architect Person trained to plan and design buildings, and oversee their construction

An architect is a person who plans, designs and reviews the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to provide services in connection with the design of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the buildings that have human occupancy or use as their principal purpose. Etymologically, architect derives from the Latin architectus, which derives from the Greek, i.e., chief builder.

Antiquarian Specialist or aficionado of antiquities or things of the past

An antiquarian or antiquary is an aficionado or student of antiquities or things of the past. More specifically, the term is used for those who study history with particular attention to ancient artifacts, archaeological and historic sites, or historic archives and manuscripts. The essence of antiquarianism is a focus on the empirical evidence of the past, and is perhaps best encapsulated in the motto adopted by the 18th-century antiquary Sir Richard Colt Hoare, "We speak from facts, not theory."


Early life

Rickman was born on 8 June 1776 at Maidenhead, Berkshire, into a large Quaker family. He avoided the medical career envisaged for him by his father, a grocer and druggist, and instead went into business for himself. He married his first cousin Lucy Rickman in 1804, a marriage that estranged him from the Quakers. [1]

Maidenhead town and unparished area in Berkshire, England

Maidenhead is a large market town in Berkshire, England, on the south-western bank of the River Thames. With an estimated population of 67,441, Maidenhead is the largest town in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. The town is situated 25.7 miles (41.4 km) west of Charing Cross, London, 11.7 miles (18.8 km) northeast of the county town of Reading, 28.3 miles (45.5 km) southeast of Oxford, 8.0 miles (12.9 km) east-south-east of Henley-on-Thames and 5.8 miles (9.3 km) northwest of Windsor.

Antiquarian activities

The failure of his business dealings in London and the death of his first wife left Rickman despondent: the long walks into the countryside that he took for his state of mind were the beginning of his first, antiquarian interest in church architecture. All his spare time was spent in sketching and making careful measured drawings, and classifying medieval architecture, at first through its window tracery, into the sequence that he labelled "Norman" "Early English", "Decorated English" and "Perpendicular English", names that have remained in use, which he was already employing in his diaries [2] in 1811; he gained a knowledge of architecture which was very remarkable at a time when little taste existed for the beauties of the Gothic styles. The Encyclopædia Britannica 1911 reported that "in 1811 alone he is said to have studied three thousand ecclesiastical buildings". In September that year he gave the first of a series of lectures on medieval architecture at the small Philosophical Society of Liverpool, which he had joined.

Norman architecture sub-type of Romanesque architecture

The term Norman architecture is used to categorise styles of Romanesque architecture developed by the Normans in the various lands under their dominion or influence in the 11th and 12th centuries. In particular the term is traditionally used for English Romanesque architecture. The Normans introduced large numbers of castles and fortifications including Norman keeps, and at the same time monasteries, abbeys, churches and cathedrals, in a style characterised by the usual Romanesque rounded arches and especially massive proportions compared to other regional variations of the style.

Gothic architecture Style of architecture

Gothic architecture is a style that flourished in Europe during the High and Late Middle Ages. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture. Originating in 12th-century France, it was widely used, especially for cathedrals and churches, until the 16th century.

His first publication was an article on Gothic architecture for Smith's Panorama of Arts and Sciences (Liverpool). This was separately published in 1817 as An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of English Architecture from the Conquest to the Reformation, the first systematic treatise on Gothic architecture and a milestone in the Gothic Revival. It ran through many editions and provided the basis of Rickman's public reputation. He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1829.

Society of Antiquaries of London British learned society for archaeologists

The Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL) is a learned society "charged by its Royal Charter of 1751 with 'the encouragement, advancement and furtherance of the study and knowledge of the antiquities and history of this and other countries'." It is based at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, and is a registered charity.

Rickman's architectural practice

St Peter ad Vincula, Hampton Lucy is a Grade I listed building. St Peter ad Vincula Hampton Lucy.jpg
St Peter ad Vincula, Hampton Lucy is a Grade I listed building.

As an architect, Rickman was self-taught. When in the Church Building Act of 1818 a large grant of money was set by the government to build new "Waterloo churches", Rickman sent in a design of his own which was successful in an open competition; thus he was fairly launched upon the profession of an architect, for which his natural gifts strongly fitted him. Rickman then moved to Birmingham where he designed the St George's Church (demolished in 1960) for the city. The design also consisted of churchyard gates, completed in 1822, which remain today. [4] By 1830 Rickman had become one of the most successful architects of his time. He built churches at Hampton Lucy, Ombersley, and Stretton-on-Dunsmore, St George's at Birmingham, St Philip's, St Mary the Virgin and St Matthew's in Bristol, two in Carlisle, St Peter's and St Paul's at Preston, St David's in Glasgow, Grey Friars at Coventry, St Michael's Church, Aigburth and many others. He also designed New Court of St John's College, Cambridge, a palace for the bishop of Carlisle, and several large country houses.

Birmingham Major city in the English Midlands, 2nd highest population of UK cities

Birmingham is a major city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands, England. Birmingham is the second-most populous city in the United Kingdom and the most populous city in the English Midlands. It is also the most populous metropolitan district in the United Kingdom, with an estimated 1,137,123 inhabitants, and is considered the social, cultural, financial, and commercial centre of the Midlands. It is situated within the larger West Midlands conurbation, which is the third most populated urban area in the United Kingdom, with a population of 2,897,303 in 2017. The wider Birmingham metropolitan area is the second largest in the United Kingdom with a population of over 3.8 million. It is frequently referred to as both England and the United Kingdom's "second city".

Hampton Lucy village in United Kingdom

Hampton Lucy is a village and civil parish on the River Avon, 4 miles (6.4 km) northeast of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire. The population of the civil parish as taken at the 2011 census was 566.

Ombersley village in United Kingdom

The village and parish of Ombersley is in the Wychavon District Council area of Worcestershire.

Rickman's Henbury School (1830) (now Henbury Village Hall). Henbury School Bristol.jpg
Rickman's Henbury School (1830) (now Henbury Village Hall).
Holy Trinity, Bristol: one of Rickman's "Waterloo churches". Holy Trinity Lawrence Hill Bristol.jpg
Holy Trinity, Bristol: one of Rickman's "Waterloo churches".

Rickman attracted a large share of the Church Building Commission's patronage in the new churches built in the West Midlands pursuant to the Church Building Act of 1818. Rickman's transitional Gothic style, that later designers looked down on as "Church Commissioners' Gothic", did not stand the more rigorous scrutiny of better-informed historicists in the age of photography. The Encyclopædia Britannica 1911 said of his churches "These are all in the Gothic style, but show more knowledge of the outward form of the medieval style than any real acquaintance with its spirit, and are little better than dull copies of old work, disfigured by much poverty of detail." A later, more generous critic, Sir Howard Colvin, has remarked:

Howard Colvin British architectural historian

Sir Howard Montagu Colvin was a British architectural historian who produced two of the most outstanding works of scholarship in his field: A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600–1840 and The History of the King's Works.

"He was no ecclesiologist. If the detailing of his buildings was unusually scholarly, the planning remained Georgian, and the total effect of most of his churches is thin and brittle, if by no means unattractive" [5]

Rickman nevertheless played an important part in the revival of taste for medievalism, perhaps second only to Pugin.[ citation needed ]

Henry Hutchinson partnered with Rickman in December 1821 and formed a practice called Rickman and Hutchinson. Rickman remained in this practice until Hutchinson's death in 1831. [6]

Death and burial

Tomb of Thomas Rickman in the former churchyard of St George in the Fields, Hockley Thomas Rickman tomb.JPG
Tomb of Thomas Rickman in the former churchyard of St George in the Fields, Hockley

Rickman died at Birmingham on 4 January 1841. He was buried in the churchyard of the church he had designed: St George's Church. His tomb, designed by R. C. Hussey and completed in 1845, still stands, although the church does not. [4]

Personal life

Rickman was married three times: first to his cousin, Lucy Rickman of Lewes; secondly to Christiana Hornor; and thirdly to Elizabeth Miller of Edinburgh, by whom he had a son, the architect Thomas Miller Rickman (1827–1912), and a daughter.

Major works

See also


  1. According to Alex Kerr, Rickman was disowned, in 1804, for marrying his first cousin "before a priest", but continued to attend Meetings for Worship. He was widowed and, in 1813, applied to be re-admitted, prior to his second marriage, which was accepted. However, he later became an Irvingite. See Kerr, Alex (1985). "Thomas Rickman in France". In Blamires, David; Greenwood, Jeremy; Kerr, Alex (eds.). A Quaker Miscellany for Edward H. Milligan. Manchester: David Blamires. pp. 111–120. ISBN   0-9510152-1-4.
  2. Rickman's diaries are conserved at the R.I.B.A. Library.
  3. "Church of St Peter Ad Vincula". Retrieved 7 May 2007.
  4. 1 2 Douglas Hickman (1970). Birmingham. Studio Vista Ltd.
  5. H. Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600–1840 3rd ed. sub "Thomas Rickman", p 813.
  6. Leslie Stephen (1896). Dictionary of National Biography. Smith, Elder. p. 267.
  7. Ballard, Phillada (2009), Birminghams Victorian & Edwardian Architects, Oblong for the Birmingham and West Midlands Group of the Victorian Society, ISBN   978-0-9556576-2-7

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Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Rickman, Thomas". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.