Taylor, George Ledwell (17881873), architect, was born on 31 March 1788 in London, the son of Henry Taylor and his wife, Elizabeth. He was educated at Rawes's academy, Bromley. In 1804 his uncle introduced him to James Burton. This architect, being about to retire, transferred his pupil to Joseph T. Parkinson (17831855) of Ely Place, London, who was district surveyor of Westminster, and then engaged in laying out the Portman estate. Taylor, while articled to Parkinson, superintended the building of Montagu Square and Bryanston Square (both 1811) and the neighbouring streets. His fellow pupil, both at Rawes's academy and under Parkinson, was Edward Cresy (17921858), with whom he maintained an uninterrupted friendship for more than fifty years. In 1816 he took two walking tours with Cresy to study English architecturethe first in the south-western counties, the second, a tour of forty days, from York to Lincoln, Peterborough and Ely. On 23 June 1817 he started with Cresy on a grand tour, at his mother's expense, which lasted two years. In 1817 they travelled, mostly on foot, through France, Switzerland, and Italy, spending the winter at Rome and Naples. On 1 May 1818 they left Naples for Bari and Corfu, and spent the summer in Greece, in company with John Sanders and William Purser. Their one discovery of importance, found by Taylor himself when his horse stumbled over the buried remains, was that of the famous Theban lion at Chaeronea on 3 June 1818. Taylor was later to be compelled to write an account of the find (The Builder, 20, 1862, 908) to counter claims then being made that attributed the find elsewhere. After a second winter spent at Rome, Taylor returned to Britain on 12 May 1819. Of a journey of 7200 miles, 4000 miles had been performed on foot. His sketchbook of this tour is in the Victoria and Albert Museum collection, with additional drawings at the Brighton Art Gallery.
Taylor now took an office with Cresy in Furnival's Inn, London. He lived at 52 Bedford Square, and afterwards in Spring Gardens, until he built a house for himself at Lee, Kent. On 8 June 1820 he married Bella Neufville, with whom he had eleven children. Taylor was married three (according to some accounts four) times. Between 1820 and 1822 he exhibited thirteen drawings at the Royal Academy. On 3 February 1824 he was appointed surveyor of buildings to the naval department, the successor to Edward Holl. In this capacity he superintended important works in the dockyards at Chatham, Woolwich, and Sheerness, and in 182832 alterations in the Clarence victualling yard, Gosport. A survey he made of the naval dockyards is in the National Maritime Museum. He built the Melville Hospital, Chatham, Kent (1827); the Woolwich River wall (1831); a custom house, Glasgow (c.1840); and various schools, rectories, and private houses. His most remarkable building was the 170 foot high Gothic tower of Hadlow Castle, Kent (c.1840), an early Victorian folly. (A lithograph by Taylor of his projected tower appears in C. Greenwood, An Epitome of County History: County of Kent 1838.) He received some attention from William IV, and claimed credit for inducing the king in 1830 to accept Trafalgar Square instead of King William IV Square, the name originally proposed for the site. In 1837 a scheme for retrenchment at the Admiralty involved Taylor's dismissal. He was obliged to take up general practice, and qualified as a district surveyor. In 18438 he laid out considerable portions of the bishop of London's estate in Paddington, including Westbourne Terrace (where he built a house for himself), Chester Place, and parts of Hyde Park Square and Gloucester Square. In 1848 he succeeded his former teacher Joseph Parkinson to the post of district surveyor of Westminster. In 1849 he undertook the continuation of the north Kent Railway from Stroud, through Chatham and Canterbury to Dover, but the negotiation fell through, at a considerable financial loss to Taylor. He seems after this to have abandoned active professional work for archaeology.
In 1856 Taylor revisited Italy with his wife, and stayed at Rome from 20 November 1857 to 22 March 1858, collecting materials for The Stones of Etruria and Marbles of Antient Rome, which he published in 1859. He finally returned to Britain in 1868. During 187072, while residing at Broadstairs, Kent, he published a collection of sketches and descriptions of buildings which he had visited in his travels, under the misleading title The Autobiography of an Octogenarian Architect (2 vols., 187072). He also published several pamphlets on technical and professional subjects, and published jointly with Edward Cresy The Architectural Antiquities of Rome (2 vols., 18212; new edn, 1874), Revived Architecture of Italy: Palaces of Genoa (1822), and Architecture of the Middle Ages in Italy: Pisa (1829).
Taylor was a member of several clubs and societies: he belonged to the Architects' Club (founded in 1819) and was its president between 1822 and 1823; he was a fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Society of Antiquaries, and the Royal Institute of British Architects, becoming an honorary member of the latter institution shortly before his death at his home, The Maisonette, Broadstairs, on 1 May 1873.
Campbell Dodgson, rev. Helene Furjań
Colvin, Archs. [incl. complete work list] · [W. Papworth], ed., The dictionary of architecture, 11 vols. (185392) · Dir. Brit. archs. · Graves, RA exhibitors · D. Ware, A short dictionary of British architects (1967) · Boase, Mod. Eng. biog. · Mirror [Journal], iii, 88 · The Builder, 20 (1862), 908 · IGI · CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1873)
Brighton Art Gallery, collection of drawings
NMM, survey of naval dockyards
V&A, sketchbook | RIBA BAL, Edward Cresy MSS
Wealth at death
under £1500: probate, 11 June 1873, CGPLA Eng. & Wales