Reginald Blomfield

Blomfield in 1921

Sir Reginald Theodore Blomfield RA (20 December 1856 – 27 December 1942) was a prolific British architect, garden designer and author of the Victorian and Edwardian period.

Early life and career

Blomfield was born at Bow rectory in Devon, where his father, the Rev. George John Blomfield (d. 1900), was rector. His mother, Isabella, was a first cousin of his father and the second daughter of the Rt. Rev. Charles James Blomfield, Bishop of London. He was brought up in Kent, where his father became rector of Dartford in 1857 and then of Aldington in 1868. He was educated at Highgate School[1] in North London, whose Grade 2 listed War Memorial he later designed,[2] and then Haileybury school in Hertfordshire, and at Exeter College, Oxford, where he took a first-class degree in classics. At Oxford, he attended John Ruskin's lectures, but found "the atmosphere of rapt adoration with which Ruskin and all he said was received by the young ladies... was altogether too much for me". Although he had a clear leaning towards the polite arts, his family did not have the means to sustain him as a gentleman artist, and Blomfield at this date had no clear career. After Oxford, he spent a year travelling on the continent as a tutor before accepting an offer from his maternal uncle, Sir Arthur Blomfield, to become an articled pupil in his London practice in the autumn of 1881. He also enrolled in the Royal Academy Schools, where Richard PhenΓ© Spiers was Master of the Architectural School. He found the atmosphere in his uncle's office uncongenial and the practice's traditional Gothic Revival output hard and soulless, although he gained valuable mechanical skills at draughtsmanship and site experience. He prospered more at the Academy Schools, taking the junior prize in 1882 and the senior prize the following year, with a design for a town house in the fashionable Queen Anne Revival style, of which he was later ashamed. During his years in his uncle's office, the practice produced two uncharacteristic schemes (for work at Marlborough College and Shrewsbury School) that appear to foreshadow Blomfield's enthusiasm for classicism, and in the design of which he was presumably involved. He was an occasional cricketer and played in matches with J. M. Barrie's Allahakbarries XI.

Design work

At the beginning of 1884, having completed his training, he left his uncle's office and spent a further four months travelling in France and Spain before returning to London and establishing a practice at 17 Southampton Street, off the Strand, in London; E.S. Prior had an office in the same building. Through Prior, a former pupil of Richard Norman Shaw, Blomfield met others of Shaw's circle, including Mervyn Macartney, Ernest Newton and Gerald Horsley. Although he never worked in Shaw's office, Blomfield was, like them, henceforth a great admirer of Shaw. With this ground, Blomfield was involved in the founding of the Art Workers Guild and was at first made its Honorary Secretary, but he attended infrequently and when admonished about this, resigned in a huff. In retrospect, however, he paid tribute to these efforts as formative in setting a new direction for architecture: "I think it is due to these young men of the 80s that the arts were rescued from the paralysing conventions of the Victorian era". In 1890, with the idea of designing and making fine furniture, Blomfield, Ernest Gimson, Macartney and William Lethaby joined forces to establish Kenton & Co. Although the venture had the makings of a success, it lasted only two years, as the partners decided to concentrate instead on their increasingly successful architectural practices.

In 1886 Blomfield married the daughter of Henry Burra of Rye, Sussex, a town where he had designed several houses, including his own, the very informal Point Hill, Playden. The family still live there. One house was let to the American novelist Henry James. The same year, Blomfield and the printer T.J. Cobden Sanderson (1840–1922) built themselves a pair of pretty houses in Frognal, Hampstead, Middlesex; 51 Frognal remained Blomfield's London home and he died there.

Regent Street, London

The heyday of Blomfield's practice, between 1885 and 1914, was dominated by the construction of new country houses and the renovation and extension of existing ones on the most generous scale. Notable among these works are the alteration of Apethorpe Palace, Northamptonshire (1906-09);Chequers, Buckinghamshire (mostly 1909–12), Heathfield Park, Sussex (1896–1910) and Brocklesby Park, Lincolnshire (1898–1910). The completely new buildings are mostly slightly smaller but still substantial; houses such as Wittington at Medmenham, Buckinghamshire; Caythorpe Court, Lincolnshire; Moundsmere Manor. Hampshire; or Wretham Hall, Norfolk. Much of this work was carried out in a manner inspired by Blomfield's studies of both English and French Renaissance styles. Blomfield's fairly numerous university and commercial buildings also included a number of prestigious commissions, including the college buildings for Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford and the United Universities Club in London. He played a major part in the completion of the Quadrant on Regent Street, London when Richard Norman Shaw withdrew from the project. The First World War put an end to the type of building projects on which he had been engaged, and after it ended in 1919 his practice never returned to its former size. He was sixty-five in 1921, but continued working at a gradually decreasing pace into his late 70s, producing a large number of war memorials in the 1920s, including the Menin Gate at Ypres. His last major project was the reconstruction of 4 Carlton Gardens, London, in 1932.


The Cross of Sacrifice in Bayeux War Cemetery in Normandy

Blomfield had a gift for sketching and writing. His first book, Formal gardens in England, illustrated by Inigo Thomas, appeared in 1892. His views invoked the criticism of the gardener William Robinson, who pursued a lengthy dispute with those architects who dared to interest themselves in gardening, especially Blomfield and John Dando Sedding. In 1897 Blomfield's first major historical work, A history of Renaissance architecture in England, 1500–1800 was published by George Bell and Sons. The architecture of the Wren era in particular appealed to him, and he came to regard it as the era of England's finest architecture. This book was complemented by the appearance of a companion study, A history of French architecture, published in two volumes covering 1494–1661 (1911) and 1661–1774 (1921). Together with the work of Blomfield himself, Sir John Belcher and Mervyn Macartney, the arrival of a serious account of architectural development in the 17th and 18th centuries led not only to the preservation of many previously neglected buildings of those periods, but also increased interest in the neo-Georgian style.

His other published works include Studies in Architecture (1905); The Mistress Art (1908), Architectural Drawing and Draughtsmen (1912); The Touchstone of Architecture (1925); Six Architects (1925); Memoirs of an Architect (1932); the controversial anti-Modernist polemic, Modernismus (1934) and the sketchy Richard Norman Shaw (1940). A further collection of autobiographical material, 1932–42, continuing his memoirs, remains unpublished and is in the possession of his descendants.

Archival materials

The British Architectural Library Drawings Collection has a number of his perspective drawings produced for Royal Academy exhibitions and an incomplete collection of his sketchbooks, photographs and papers. Other documents remain in the possession of his descendants, but he disposed of the majority of his drawings during the Second World War. A bronze bust of Blomfield by Sir William Reid Dick is in the National Portrait Gallery.

List of works

The following list of major works is selected from that given in R.A. Fellows, Sir Reginald Blomfield: an Edwardian architect, 1985, with additions from The Buildings of England and other sources cited in the bibliography:

Goldsmith's College, London, 1907
Lincoln Public Library, 1910
Westgate Water Tower, Lincoln, 1910
Regent Street London, 1916–1926
R.A.F. Memorial, London, 1921
The Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium, 1922–1927
The Headrow, Leeds, 1924–1937
The Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium, 1922–1927
Lambeth Bridge, London,1925–1932
The Usher Art Gallery, Lincoln, 1927
  • Ditcham Park, Hampshire: engaged to build the house and also a catholic church in the nearby town of Petersfield, 1887
  • Haileybury College, Hertfordshire: erection of Bradby Memorial Hall, 1886; Music School, Sports Pavilion and organ case, 1923
  • Broxbourne, Hertfordshire: erection of five houses on St Catherine's estate for J.A. Hunt, 1887
  • 20 Buckingham Gate, Westminster, Middlesex: new town house in free Queen Anne style, 1887
  • Rye, Sussex: new vicarage, 1887; mission room, 1900
  • Swinford Old Manor, near Ashford, Kent: restoration, 1887
  • Blacknoll, Dorset: new house, 1889
  • Hertford, Hertfordshire: new covered market, public library and art school, 1889 (with W.H. Wilds)
  • Brooklands, Weybridge, Surrey: alterations and renovation for Arthur Brook, 1889, in free Queen Anne style
  • Rye, Sussex: erection of houses in Gun Garden and Watchbell Street, 1890, 1910
  • Aslockton, Nottinghamshire: new church, 1890–92
  • Bern (Switzerland): rebuilding of St. Antonien Kapelle, 1891, in late Gothic style
  • Carshalton, Surrey: extension of All Saints church, 1891–1914 (with A.W. Blomfield)
  • Southwater, Horsham, Sussex: new house and gardens, 1891
  • Chequers Court, Buckinghamshire: restoration, alterations and gardens for Bertram Astley, 1892–1901 and Arthur Lee, 1st Baron Lee of Fareham, 1909–12, in neo-Jacobean style
  • Frogmore Hall, Hertfordshire: alterations, 1892
  • Frognal, Hampstead, Middlesex: new houses at 49–51 Frognal for himself and T.J. Cobden Sanderson, 1892
  • Swiftsden, Etchingham, Sussex: new house in neo-Georgian style, 1892
  • Borrowstone Lodge, Kincardine O'Neil, Aberdeenshire: new house, 1893
  • Queen Anne's School, Caversham, Oxfordshire: chapel, 1893
  • St. George, Hanover Square, London: new fittings, circa 1894
  • Warley Lodge, Essex: new gardens, 1894
  • Mystole House. Chartham, Kent: alterations and additions, 1895, in neo-Georgian style
  • Godinton Park, Kent: alterations, 1895, 1924 and new garden, circa 1902
  • Greycoat Place, London: warehouse for Army and Navy Stores, 1895
  • Limpsfield Chart, Surrey: St. Andrew's Church, 1895, in Arts & Crafts style
  • Point Hill, Playden, Sussex: expansion of cottage into new house for himself, 1895–1912
  • Cowley House, Middlesex: addition and alterations, 1896
  • Heathfield Park, Sussex: alterations and additions for W.C. Alexander, 1896–1910, in neo-Georgian style
  • Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford: college buildings, 1896–1915
  • St Edmund's School, Canterbury, Kent: headmaster's house, 1897
  • Hillside School, Godalming, Surrey: school buildings and house, 1897
  • Wittington, Medmenham, Buckinghamshire: house, gardens and lodge for Hudson Kearley, 1st Lord Devonport, 1897–1904, and enlargement, 1909; in Wrenaissance style
  • Mellerstain, Roxburghshire: restoration and gardens for Lord Binning, 1898–1910
  • Brocklesby Park, Lincolnshire: reconstruction and new gardens for Earl of Yarborough, 1898–1910 in Wrenaissance style
  • Caythorpe Court, Lincolnshire: new house and gardens for Edgar Lubbock, brewer and banker, 1899–1903, in neo-Jacobean style[3]
  • Effordleigh House, near Plymouth, Devonshire: new house, 1899
  • Fratton, Portsmouth, Hampshire: St Mary's Church Institute (1899–1907)[4]
  • Drakelow Hall, Derbyshire: restoration and gardens for Gresley family, 1900–06
  • West Broyle, Chichester, Sussex: new house, 1901
  • Yockley, Frimley, Surrey: new house and gardens for Charles Furse ARA, 1901–02 in neo-Georgian style; additional wing, 1910
  • Murraythwaite, Dumfriesshire: new house, 1901
  • Blundell's School, Tiverton, Devonshire: additions, 1901
  • Heywood Manor, Boldre, Hampshire: new house and gardens, 1902
  • Euston Hall, Suffolk: new gardens for Duke of Grafton, 1902
  • Hatchlands, Surrey: new Music Room, 1902–03, in Wrenaissance style
  • Sherborne School for Girls, Dorset: new buildings, 1902–26, in neo-Tudor style
  • Gogmagog Hall, Cambridgeshire: alterations, 1903
  • Ballard's Court, Goudhurst, Kent: new house, 1903
  • Leasam House, Playden, Sussex: alterations and new gardens, 1903
  • Medmenham Manor House, Buckinghamshire: restoration for Hudson Kearley, 1903
  • Apethorpe Hall, Northamptonshire: alterations and additions, and new gardens, for Leonard Brassey, 1st Baron Brassey, 1904
  • Knowlton Court, Kent: alterations and new gardens for Major Elmer Speed, 1904
  • St Mary's Church, Islington, Portico at west door, 1904
  • Merchant Taylors' Hall, London: alterations, 1904, 1926
  • Saltcote Place, Rye, Sussex: new house for Mr Hennessy, 1905 | URL=
  • Kenfield Hall, Kent: additions and alterations, 1906–09
  • Oxford & Cambridge Club, Pall Mall, London: alterations, including new staircase, 1906–12
  • United University Club, Suffolk St., London: new building, 1906; extensions, 1924, 1938
  • Wyphurst, Cranleigh, Surrey: additions for C.E.H. Chadwyck-Healey, 1907, in neo-Tudor style
  • Garnons, Herefordshire: alterations, 1907, in neo-Georgian style
  • Ickworth, Suffolk: remodelling of entrance hall for 4th Marquess of Bristol, 1907
  • Hill House, Shenley, Hertfordshire: new gardens for S. de la Rue, 1907
  • Milner Court, Sturry, Kent: additions and new gardens, 1907
  • Moundsmere Manor, Hampshire: new house and gardens for Wilfred Buckley, 1908–09 in neo-Georgian style
  • Roehampton, Surrey: new archive repository for Bank of England, 1908–10
  • Hill Hall, Essex: alterations and additions for Mrs Charles Hunter, 1909
  • Sherborne School, Dorset: Carrington Building, 1909–10; Classrooms and Gatehouse Tower on the northside of the Courts, 1913–23; War Memorial Staircase and ante-Chapel, 1922; Gymnasium, 1923; Music School, 1926
  • Manoir de la TrinitΓ©, Jersey: remodelling for Athelstan Riley, 1909–12
  • Sandhouse, Witley, Surrey: new house, circa 1909–11
  • New Public Library, Lincoln, Lincolnshire, 1910–14, in Wrenaissance style
  • Westgate Water Tower, Lincoln, Lincolnshire, 1910
  • 20 Upper Grosvenor Street, London: alterations and redecoration, 1910
  • Regent Street/Piccadilly, London: redevelopment of The Quadrant with new shops and stores, 1910–26
  • Malma, Pyrford, Surrey: new house, 1914–1915
  • Lockleys, Welwyn, Hertfordshire: alterations, additions and gardens, 1911
  • Whiteley Village, Surrey: new houses in North Avenue, 1911
  • The Lordship, Much Hadham, Hertfordshire: additions, 1912
  • Wretham Hall, Norfolk: new house and gardens for Sir Saxton Noble, 1912–13, in Wrenaissance style
  • Netherseal Hall, Derbyshire: restoration, 1914
  • Kinnaird House, Pall Mall, London: new building, 1915 (with A.J. Driver)
  • Penn House, Buckinghamshire: alterations, 1918
  • Brodick Castle, Arran: restoration and new gardens, 1919
  • Harefield Place, Middlesex: alterations, 1920, 1934
  • Carlton Club, Pall Mall, London: extension, 1920 (destroyed in Second World War: not the current premises in St James's Street)
  • Sulgrave Manor, Northamptonshire: additions and restoration, 1921
  • Halstead Hall, Lincolnshire: restoration, 1922
  • Barkers Department Store, High Street, Kensington, Middlesex: new department store, 1924
  • The Headrow, Leeds, Yorkshire: layout of new street with shops, offices and banks, 1924–37 (with other architects)
  • Lambeth Bridge, London: new bridge, 1929–32
  • Ypres (Belgium): new British School building, 1925
  • Stowe School, Buckinghamshire: development plan, 1926
  • Usher Art Gallery, Lincoln, Lincolnshire: new building, 1926–27
  • Chantry Bridge, Rotherham, Yorkshire: reconstruction, 1927
  • Crockerhill, Sussex: alterations, 1929
  • County Hall, Lewes, Sussex: rebuilding, 1928–30
  • Middlesex Hospital, London: new facade, 1930
  • 4 Carlton Gardens, London: new offices, 1932 (part of a scheme for the total redevelopment of Carlton House Terrace

Among war memorials for which he was responsible are:

Awards and honours

Blomfield was made an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 1881 and a Fellow in 1906; an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1905 and elected to the Academy in 1914, where he had been Professor of Architecture 1907–11 and awarded the Royal Gold Medal in 1913. He was President of the RIBA in 1912–14 and was knighted in 1919. In 1933, he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Honorary Corresponding member.

See also