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John Loughborough Pearson was a Gothic Revival architect renowned for his work on churches and cathedrals. Pearson revived and practised largely the art of vaulting, and acquired in it a proficiency unrivalled in his generation.

Early life and education

He was son of William Pearson, etcher, of Durhammarker, and was brought up there.At the age of fourteen he was articled to Ignatius Bonomi, architect, of Durham, whose clergy clientele helped stimulate Pearson's long association with religious architecture, particularly of the Gothic style.

He soon moved to Londonmarker, where another tutor was Philip Hardwick (1792-1870), architect of the old Euston Archmarker and Lincoln's Innmarker. Pearson lived in central London at 13 Mansfield Street (where a blue plaque commemorates him), and was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 1880.


From the erection of his first church at Ellerkermarker, in Yorkshiremarker, in 1843, to that of St Peter's, Vauxhallmarker, in 1864, his buildings are geometrical in manner and exhibit a close adherence to precedent, but elegance of proportion and refinement of detail lift them out of the commonplace of mere imitation. Holy Trinity, Westminstermarker (1848), and St Mary's, Dalton Holmemarker (1858), are notable examples of this phase.

St Mary's Dalton Holme
Peter's, Vauxhall (1864), was his first groined church, and the first of a series of buildings which brought Pearson to the forefront among his contemporaries. In these he applied the Early English style to modern needs and modern economy with unrivalled success. St. Augustine's, Kilburnmarker (1871), St John's, Red Lion Squaremarker, London (1874), St Alban's, Conybere Street, Birminghammarker (1880), St Michael's, Croydonmarker (1880), St John's, Norwood (1881), St Stephen'smarker, Bournemouthmarker (1889), and All Saints', Hovemarker (1889), are characteristic examples of his mature work.

Truro Cathedral
He is best known for Truromarker Cathedral (1880), which has a special interest in its apt incorporation of the south aisle of the ancient church. Pearson's conservative spirit fitted him for the repair of ancient buildings, and among cathedrals and other historic buildings placed under his care were Lincolnmarker, Chichestermarker, Peterboroughmarker, Bristolmarker and Exetermarker Cathedrals, St George's Chapelmarker, Windsormarker, Westminster Hall, and Westminster Abbeymarker, in the surveyorship of which he succeeded Sir George Gilbert Scott. He re-faced the north transept of Westminster Abbey, except for the porches (which are the work of Scott), and also designed the vigorous organ cases. In his handling of ancient buildings he was repeatedly opposed by the anti-restorers of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (as in the case of the west front of Peterborough Cathedralmarker in 1896), but he generally proved the soundness of his judgment by his executed work.

Pearson's practice was not confined to church building. Treberfyddmarker (1850), Quar Wood (1858), Lechlade Manor, an Elizabethan house (1873), Westwood House, Sydenhammarker, in the French Renaissance style (1880), the Astor estate offices (1892) upon the Victoria Embankmentmarker, London, the remodelling of the interiors of Clivedenmarker House (1893) and No. 18 Carlton House Terracemarker (1894), with many parsonages, show his aptitude for domestic architecture. In general design he first aimed at form, embracing both proportion and contour; and his work may be recognized by accurate scholarship coupled with harmonious detail. Its keynotes are cautiousness and refinement rather than boldness.

He is buried in the nave of Westminster Abbey, where his grave is marked by the appropriate motto Sustinuit et abstinuit. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academymarker in 1874, becoming a full member in 1880. He was also a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and a fellow and member of the Council of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

In 1862 Pearson married Jemima Christian, a cousin of his friend Ewan Christian, a Manxman and architect to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Their son Frank Loughborough Pearson was born in 1864, but to Pearson's great sorrow Jemima died the following year of typhoid fever. Frank followed in his father's footsteps completing much of his work before embarking on his own original designs.

Notable buildings

Bristol Cathedral West front

Some of Pearson's other important works

Back view of St John's Cathedral taken from Adelaide Street, Brisbane, Australia, ca. 1910

External links

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