William Burges was the son of a prosperous civil engineer; educated at King's College, London, and articled to Edward Blore in 1844. In 1849 he went into the office of Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt where he worked on drawings of mediaeval metalwork for Wyatt's large book, Metalwork, which appeared in 1852. In 1855 and 1856 Burges made prize-winning designs for Lille Cathedral and the Crimea Memorial Church in Constantinople, but neither building was carried out; his first important ecclesiastical design to be realised being St Fin Barre's Cathedral, Cark, which he began in 1862. In this same year with William Slater he devised the Mediaeval Court for the International Exhibition in London on behalf of the Ecclesiological Society with whom he had been involved since 1845; his knowledge of metalwork and mediaeval antiquities in general was greatly respected.
In his decorative work he tempered his expert knowledge with a quirky sense of humour, he said himself
There are some people who . . . consider mediaeval art as eminently ecclesiastical, and therefore profoundly serious to be approached with caution, forgetting that mankind has been very much the some in every age, and that our ancestors joked and laughed as much as we do.
This attitude is exemplified repeatedly in the ornamental details of his decorative work. Burges stamped his personality unmistakably on the commissions which he undertook for the Marquess of Bute at Cardiff Castle and in the designing of his own house in Melbury Road.
- Dressing Table
- Tulip Vase
- Architecture (stained-glass panel)
- Cup and cover
- Wallpaper design
- Mirror on Stand
- Painted Escritoire
- Lord Bute's bathroom, Cardiff Castle
Architect-Designers from Pugin to Mackintosh. Exhibition catalogue. London: The Fine Art Society with Haslam & Whiteway Ltd., 1981.
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Crook, J. Mordaunt. "Two Pieces of Painted Furtniture by William Burges." Morris and Company. Exhibition catalogue. London: The Fine Art Society with Haslam & Whiteway Ltd., 1979.
Aslin, Elizabeth. "E. W. Godwin, William Burges and the Japanese Taste." Apollo 76 (1962) : 779-84.
Last modified 3 November 2007