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Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

William Burges (1827-1881), Architect and designer

Architect and designer; born 2 December 1827, in London. Trained under Edward Blore 1844–9; his leading patrons were High Anglicans and Roman Catholics, notably the 3rd Marquess of Bute at Cardiff Castle (where he worked from 1866), Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute (1870s), and Castell Coch (from 1872), and the 1st Marquess of Ripon at Studley Royal, Yorks (1870s); elected ARA 1881; died a few months later, 20 April 1881, from the effects of a chill, at Tower House, Kensington.

A lifelong bachelor, increasingly odd in appearance – he was known as ‘Ugly Burges’ to distinguish him from J.B. (‘Pretty’) Burgess the painter – he died unexpectedly in the same year as his rival G.E. Street. Like a number of the Pre-Raphaelite generation, he seems to have enjoyed opium and alcohol, and the intensity of his vision was perhaps diluted by a luxurious lifestyle. But no Gothic revivalist was more highly gifted, or better loved.[1]

…poor dear Billy Burgess [sic] is dead. He was a very nice little fellow, and it was a well-known joke of his at the Club that he was only waiting for Joe’s [Jopling] decease to be my No.3. He seems to have caught cold in the train coming from Bute Castle, and partial paralysis set in, which they feared would affect the heart. It evidently did, and he has gone, poor fellow. […] He was a very clever architect, and had built himself a wonderfully curious house near Val Prinsep’s. Walls thick enough to last half a dozen centuries![2]

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) Crook 2004.
2) Letter from Louise Jopling to Percy Jopling, Paris, no date; quoted Jopling 1925, p.185.

Referencesback to top

Charteris 1931
Charteris, E., The Life and Letters of Sir Edmund Gosse, London, 1931.

Christian 2011
Christian, J., Edward Burne-Jones the Hidden Humourist, London, 2011.

Crook 1981
Crook, J.M., William Burges and the High Victorian Dream, London, 1981.

Crook 2004
Crook, J.M., ‘Burges, William (1827–1881)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004; online ed., May 2006.

Crook & Lennox-Boyd 1984
Crook, J.M., and C.A. Lennox-Boyd, Axel Haig and the Victorian Vision of the Middle Ages, London, 1984.

Godwin 1881
Godwin, E.W., ‘William Burges’, British Architect, vol.15, 1881, pp.213–15.

Jopling 1925
Jopling, L., Twenty Years of My Life, 1867 to 1887, London, 1925.

Pritchard 1882
Pritchard, H. Baden, ‘The Van Der Weyde Electric Studio in Regent Street’, in The Photographic Studios of Europe, London, 1882; repr. New York, 1973, pp.72–6.

Rossetti 1906
Rossetti, W.M., Some Reminiscences and Other Writings, 2 vols, London, 1906.

Soros 1999
Soros, S. Weber, ed., E.W. Godwin: Aesthetic Movement Architect and Designer, exh. cat., Bard Center, New York, 1999.