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Blomfield, Sir Arthur William (1829–1899), architect, was born at Fulham Palace, Middlesex, on 6 March 1829, the fourth son of , bishop of London, and his wife, Dorothy (1795–1870), widow of the barrister Thomas Kent and daughter of the brewer Charles William Cox. He was educated at Rugby School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated BA in 1851 and MA in 1853. After university he was articled for three years to Philip Charles Hardwick (1822–1892), architect to the Bank of England and the son of Philip Hardwick; a continental tour with Frederick Pepys Cockerell (1833–1878) followed.

During 1856 Blomfield set up in independent practice at 8 Adelphi Terrace in London, where he rapidly developed a significant ecclesiastical practice through his family connections. He later relocated his office to Henrietta Street, at the corner of Cavendish Square, and then to 6 Montagu Place. His London houses were at 8 St Martin's Place and later 28 Montagu Square, and he also had a house at Broadway in Worcestershire. In 1860 he married Caroline Smith (1839/40–1882), the daughter of Charles Case Smith, and they had two sons—Charles James Blomfield (1863–1935) and Arthur Conran Blomfield (1863–1935)—who joined his architectural practice as partners in 1890. His first wife died in 1882 and in 1887 he married Sara Louisa Ryan [see ], the daughter of Matthew Ryan.

Blomfield was one of the last great Gothic revivalists. He was also a prolific architect, whose primary activity was church building and restoration. His favourite style was English Perpendicular, which he considered particularly suitable for church designs, though his variant of this style was not based on a slavish copying of architectural precedent, or on any search for eccentric originality. He was also open to the possibilities offered by modern materials, especially iron, which he used regularly, for instance in an iron screen at St Peter's Church, Eaton Square (1895), and for iron columns in St Mark's Church on the Marylebone Road (1871–2). His reputation was such that The Builder described his works as being ‘distinguished both by knowledge and by refinement’ (4 Nov 1899, 407). He was architect to the diocese of Winchester and, at various times, responsible for works on the cathedrals at Lincoln, Chichester, Canterbury, Peterborough, Salisbury, and Hereford. His ecclesiastical connections made him especially knowledgeable about nineteenth-century Anglican liturgical needs, and he was active in reordering existing churches so that they could be made appropriate to modern worship. His ecclesiastical output was considerable, and it was in such buildings, and others with an ecclesiastical connection, that he produced his best work, the most notable example being that concerned with the erection of a nave, south porch, and south transept for St Saviour's, Southwark (1890–97). His successful practice drew the attention of the young Thomas Hardy (1840–1928). Hardy's training as a Gothic draughtsman was a strong recommendation to Blomfield, in whose office he worked on his arrival in London in 1862.

Blomfield also received commissions from a number of wealthy patrons. Of particular note are: the work he did at St Mary Magdalene, Sandringham, for the prince of Wales (1890); the chapel he added to Tyntesfield, Somerset, for the Gibbs family (1872–7); Holy Trinity at Privett, Hampshire (1876–8), which he designed for the Nicholson family; St Mary's, Portsea, Hampshire (1887–9), for William Henry Smith; and Denton Manor, near Grantham, Lincolnshire, for Sir William Welby Gregory. Other important works included completion of the law courts in London (with A. E. Street) after the death of George Edmund Street (1824–1881), the law courts branch of the Bank of England (1886–8), which he designed in a classical style, and Church House in Dean's Yard, Westminster (from 1896). He was responsible for designing a number of colleges and schools, or for making additions to existing buildings, including: the Whitgift Hospital schools at Croydon (1869–71); King's School, Chester (c.1875–7); Bancroft's School, Woodford, Essex (1887–9), which was commissioned by the Drapers' Company; a headmaster's house at St Edmund's junior school, Canterbury (1897); Sion College Library on the Thames Embankment, London (1886); Queen's School and the lower chapel for Eton College (1889–91); a library and master's house at Trinity College, Cambridge (1876–8); a chapel and other buildings at Selwyn College, Cambridge (1882–9); chapels for Malvern College (c.1898) and for Queen Anne's School at Caversham, Berkshire; and the great hall for the relocated Charterhouse School at Godalming, Surrey (1885). In London the most notable buildings for which he was responsible included the Royal College of Music (1894), St John's Church, Wilton Road, St Barnabas's, Bell Street (1875), St Saviour's, Oxford Street, St James's, West Hampstead, and the rearrangement of St Peter's in Eaton Square (1873–5 and 1894).

Blomfield was also active overseas, and designed: St George's Cathedral, Georgetown, Demerara, which he designed to be built of timber on a concrete raft (1881); Christ Church Cathedral, Port Stanley, Falkland Islands (1890–92), for which most of the materials were exported from Britain; St George's Church, Cannes (1887); an English chapel at St Moritz; and St Alban's Church in Copenhagen (1885–7).

Blomfield was a member of the Architectural Association, and became its president in 1861. He was also an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects, became a fellow in 1867, was made vice-president in 1886, and was awarded the institute's royal gold medal in 1891. He was elected honorary member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Copenhagen, and received the third-class medal of the Dannebrog from the king of Denmark; both awards resulted from his designs for the English church in Copenhagen. At home he was a trustee to the Soane Museum, was appointed architect to the Bank of England in 1883, was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1888, and was knighted in 1889. He pursued an active social life. In his youth he was a rower, and occupied the bow seat in the Trinity College eight; somewhat later in life he became an amateur actor, and the president of the Westminster Abbey glee club. He died suddenly at the Royal Societies Club, 63 St James's Street, London, on 30 October 1899, and was buried at Broadway on 3 November. A memorial service was held at St Mary's, Bryanston Square, London. His second wife survived him.

Paul Waterhouse, rev. John Elliott

Sources  

The Builder, 77 (1899), 407, 418–19, 433, 449 · RIBA Journal, 7 (1899–1900), 19–20 · A. E. Street, ‘Sir Arthur Blomfield’, RIBA Journal, 7 (1899–1900), 36–7 · The Times (1 Nov 1899), 7 · ILN (16 Dec 1899), 888 · biographical file, RIBA BAL · Architect and Contract Reporter (3 Nov 1899), 276–7 · J. M. Anderson and A. W. Blomfield, ‘Presentation of the royal gold medal’, Journal of Proceedings of the Royal Institute of British Architects, new ser., 7 (1890–91), 361–5 · CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1899) · F. E. Hardy, The early life of Thomas Hardy, 1840–1891 (1928) · Dir. Brit. archs. · marriages index · The Post Office directory [annuals] · wills index

Archives  

Essex RO, Chelmsford, plans, etc. regarding work in Essex parish churches · Hants. RO, corresp., estimates, sketches, and accounts relating to rebuilding of Chawton church · RIBA, drawings collection and MSS |  Leics. RO, corresp. with Hussey Packe relating to Prestwold church · NRA, priv. coll., letters to Lord Henry Scott relating to Palace House


Likenesses  

R. Robinson, photograph, NPG · portrait, RIBA BAL · portrait, repro. in Building News (3 Jan 1890), 12 · portrait, repro. in ILN (11 Nov 1899), 681 · portrait, repro. in Year's Art (1889), 248

Wealth at death  

£28,006 12s. 2d.: probate, 4 Dec 1899, CGPLA Eng. & Wales