John Loughborough Pearson RA RIBA (1817-1897)

The Gothic architect J. L. Pearson was a native of in Durham, son of a watercolour artist today somewhat obscure, known as 'William Pearson of Durham'. When aged 14, he was apprenticed in that city to Ignatius Bonomi, and there developed his lifelong interest in church architecture.

Pearson came to London, working for Anthony Salvin and then Philip Hardwick, before establishing his own practice in 1843. His first independent work was Holy Trinity, Vauxhall Bridge, followed by St Peter's Church and Art Schools nearby. His reputation grew, and he became one of the more successful establishment figures, becoming ARA in 1874 and being elected RA in 1880. He was architect to several of the great Cathedrals - Rochester, Bristol, Peterborough, and Lincoln, and his pinnacle was reached with his design of Truro Cathedral in Cornwall (1880), which was completed in his own lifetime.

Pearson's style was very much in the Gothic idiom, at first much influenced by Pugin, in an English Gothic style, later more independent, and more French Gothic. The churches by him I have seen have tended to feature the vertical, with tall towers, emphasised by tall, thin windows. He seems to have been somewhat ruthless in his restorations of older work, largely rebuilding the front of the North Transept of Westminster Abbey to his own design, and refacing the West Front of Rochester Cathedral to leave little of what had been there before. He was more careful at Peterborough.

Among many other important works, we may mention St James's Weybridge, Surrey (1848); St Peter, Kennington Lane, Vauxhall (1863-4); St Augustine Kilburn (1870-80); and Incorporated Accountants Hall, Victoria Embankment (1895). Abroad, he was the architect of Brisbane Cathedral.

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