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Basil Champneys (17 September 1842 – 5 April 1935) was an architect and author whose more notable buildings include Newnham College, Cambridgemarker, Manchestermarker's John Rylands Librarymarker, Mansfield College, Oxfordmarker and Oriel College, Oxford'smarker Rhodes Building.


Champneys was born in Whitechapelmarker, London, on September 17, 1842 into a family with a modest income, his father, William Weldon Champneys, was an Evangelical Vicar of St Mary's Church, Whitechapelmarker (later Dean of Lichfield), with the problems of Londonmarker’s poor to worry about. One of eight children, he attended Charterhouse Schoolmarker, showing a talent for mathematics and lacking in drawing skills. In 1860, he entered Trinity College, Cambridgemarker. In 1864, he failed to get the 'first class' degree he had hoped for, achieving a second class in the classical tripos, and he took articles to study as an architect with John Prichard, the Surveyor of Llandaff Cathedralmarker. Champneys set up his practice as an architect in 1867 in Queen’s Square, London, close to the office of William Morris & Co.

In 1876 he married May Theresa Ella, a daughter of Maurice Drummond, descendant of William Drummond, 4th Viscount Strathallan, they had two sons and two daughters. Champneys was a member of the Century Guild, the Athenaeum Club and the Saville Club, making acquaintances with Walter Pater, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sidney Colvin, and Coventry Patmore. In 1912 the Royal Institute of British Architects awarded Champneys its royal gold medal for architecture. Champneys died at his home, 42 Frognall Lane, Hampstead, on April 5, 1935.


His writings include an introduction to Henry Merritt: Art Criticism and Romance, published in 1879 and Churches about Queen Victoria Street, a portfolio published in 1871, Victorian art and originality for the British Architect published in 1887, and The architecture of Queen Victoria's reign for the Art Journal, published in 1887. A Quiet Corner of England was published in 1875 after being circulated as a portfolio and a work regarding his mother-in-law, Adelaide Drummond, A Retrospect and Memoir, was published in 1915. Champneys' correspondence has been preserved in the General Collection of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Librarymarker.


John Rylands Library in Manchester
Believing that architecture was 'an art not a science' he joined the Art Workers Guild instead of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Although Champneys was able to work in the Gothic style that John Prichard preferred and taught, he later became one of the pioneers of the Queen Anne style, working on at least 100 buildings throughout England. John Rylands' widow, Enriqueta Rylands, had admired the library Champneys had designed for Mansfield College, Oxfordmarker and hired him to develop the design on a more lavish scale — The John Rylands Memorial Librarymarker in Deansgate, Manchester took nine years to build before opening on January 1, 1900, it is one of Champneys' finest designs.

The Rhodes Building, Oriel College, Oxford
Champneys' Oxford buildings include the Indian Institutemarker (1883-1896), Mansfield Collegemarker (1887-1890), the Robinson Tower at New Collegemarker (1896), The Rhodes Building in Oriel Collegemarker (1908-1911), Merton Collegemarker (1904-1910), the library of Somerville Collegemarker (1903) and the church of St Peter-le-Bailey (1872-1874), which serves as the chapel for St Peter's Collegemarker.

His Cambridge works include the Archaeological Museum (1883), now Peterhousemarker Theatre, the Divinity and Literary School and Newnham Collegemarker (between 1875 and 1910), for which he is credited for bringing a 'touch of lightness' to the college and is acknowledged for his attention to both construction details, and to cost.

Champneys' buildings elsewhere include the chapel of Mill Hill Schoolmarker, London (1898), buildings for Bedford College in Regent's Parkmarker (1910), King's Lynn Grammar School, Norfolk (1910-1913), the Butler Museum at Harrow Schoolmarker (1886), the museum at Winchester Collegemarker (1898), and Bedford High Schoolmarker (1878-1892).

Churches by Champneys include his father's parish church, St Luke's, Kentish Townmarker (1867-1870), the sailors' church of St Mary Star of the Sea, Hastingsmarker (1878), and St Chad, Slindon, Staffordshire (1894). In 1898 he added a porch to St Mary, Manchester, where he was surveyor, and between 1902 and 1903, a south annexe. His home, Hall Oak, in Frognallmarker, Hampstead was also one of his works.

See also


  • Briggs, M.S., 'Champneys, Basil (1842-1935)', rev. Brooks, Michael W., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Online database article number 32357.

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