The Architect: John Robinson
John Robinson is a relatively unknown Victorian architect who, based in London, designed mainly small buildings, residences and shop fronts and interiors. He was born in 1829 in Chiswick. He attended Walpole College and later the Royal Academy.
He was awarded the school’s Silver Medal in 1850, Gold Medal in 1851 and a threeyear travelling studentship in 1861. He was an associate of the Institute of Civil Engineers from 1857, and after his studies became the only pupil of London architect and planner Sir James Pennethorne (1801-1871), who had studied under Pugin and Nash. Pennethorne served as chief architect at the Office of Works, retiring as crown architect in 1863 and receiving the RIBA Gold Medal in 1865. Robinson left Pennethorne’s office upon the latter’s retirement, and established his own practice based from Carteret Street, Westminster. He married Agnes Sophia, the daughter of a Captain Foot of Plymouth, with whom he had two sons and two daughters.
Robinson maintained and small firm seems to have specialised in interior decoration.
He edited Pennethorne’s The Geometry and Optics of Ancient Architecture and also wrote small articles on archaeological subjects. Most of his commissions were in London and included:
– Piccadilly Chambers, London
– 7, 8 and 9 Piccadilly, London
-Mr Morell Bros.’ premises at 10 and 11 Piccadilly
-59 and 60 Jermyn Street Chambers (1884-5)
– Nos. 24-27 Jermyn Street, Westminster (1885-6)
– Gambrinus Restaurant, Regent Street
– Challis’ Royal Hotel, Rupert Street
– Henrietta Mansion, Cavendish Square
Robinson was responsible for designing at least two built memorials, one to Queen Victoria in Hong Kong, and a fountain to the Duchess of Sutherland in Dunrobin, Scotland.
The Sculptor: Joseph Durham (1814-1877)
Joseph Durham was a popular sculptor of the nineteenth century, best known for the Memorial to the Exhibition of 1851, now located to the south of the Royal Albert Hall.
He studied under John Francis, before working for Edward Hodges Baily RA (1788- 1867), the sculptor of Nelson’s column and half of Marble Arch. Durham established himself independently by around 1835, the year in which he exhibited prolifically at the Royal Academy. He became an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1866.
The 1851 Exhibition Memorial, the architectural form of which was modified by Sydney Smirke, features four figures, the Continents, around an elevated central statue of Prince Albert. They consist of Africa wearing a carpet, Asia with a banana leaf, America with axe, bow and crown of stars, and Europe in a castellated crown and bearing a sword wrapped in olive leaves.
His work consisted of realistic busts and idealised statues, many in public places.
– Six figures (Phidias, William of Wykeham, Bentham, Harvey, Middleton and Newton) for Burlington House, Piccadilly
– The Leigh Hunt Memorial, Kensal Green Cemetery
– A bust of Hogarth, now located in Leicester Square
– Alastor and Hermoine at Mansion House
– Girl at the Spring, a fountain by Gloucester Gate (1877, Fig. 9, a copy of which sits outside Blackburn Town Hall)
The National Portrait Gallery in London has four busts by Durham, including two of William Makepeace Thackeray (1864) and one each of Sir George Pollock (1870) and Charles Knight (1874). The University Museum in Oxford has busts by the artist of George Stephenson and a figure of Euclid.
The Contractor: William Thomas
Relatively little is known of the contractor for the fountain, William Thomas, other than he was based at Clipstone Street, Westminster. He was previously based from Princes Street, then York Road, in Lambeth. He was partially responsible for the building of terraces in Drayton Grove.