Edward Blore (1787-1879) was born in Derby on 13 September 1787 as the eldest child of Thomas Blore, a topographer and antiquary. At first, he followed in his father's footsteps. Having been apprenticed to an engraver, he became a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1823. His precise and atmospheric illustrations for the Rev. Philip Bliss's Monumental Remains of Noble and Eminent Persons (1826) show the great skill and accuracy of his antiquarian drawings. But such work had already spilled over into architectural drawing and draughtsmanship, and by then he had already embarked on his highly successful career as an architect.
Sir Walter Scott was an early admirer: in 1816, Blore added Scottish baronial details to the designs of Scott's principal architect, William Atkinson (see Port). His work had also attracted the attention of the influential Spencer family of Althorp, for whom he had illustrated T. F. Dibdin's Aedes Althorpianae (1822). Through the Spencers' patronage and friendship, he gained his first important commission, to restore Lambeth Palace (1823). More followed. Notably, from 1827-49 he was surveyor to Westminster Abbey, and, as a favoured architect of King William IV, and then to the queen in the early Victorian period, he carried out work at the royal palaces, Windsor Castle, Hampton Court and St James's Palace. From 1829-31 he took over from Nash at Buckingham Palace — although his frontage there was later covered by Sir Aston Webb's façade.
Blore was hardworking, dependable, and adaptable. Despite the Gothic leanings acquired from his antiquarian pursuits, he was competent in a variety of styles, including Norman Revival (as at St John's, Leytonstone), Scottish baronial (as at Abbotsford), Jacobean (as at Crewe Hall in Cheshire), and classical (as at Buckingham Palace). He built or restored country houses (again, Crew Hall is a good example, though it was much restored by E. M. Barry after a fire), and his ecclesiastical restoration works included St Giles on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Glasgow Cathedral (to which he was consultant architect, 1846-49) Ripon Minster (later Cathedral), Ely Cathedral, Glasgow Cathedral, the chapels at Trinity College, Cambridge, and St John's, Oxford, and Christ Church, Chelsea. He was responsible too for additions to Merton College, Oxford, and the Pitt Building for the University Press at Cambridge (1831-32), which Reginald Turnor describes as "enormously more pleasant than anything by Scott or Waterhouse" (53 — in Cambridge? Still, debatable).
Blore married and had a large family, of whom four survived him. He was successful and affluent. As well as his involvement with the Society of Antiquaries, he was a Fellow of the Royal Society, and one of the founder members of both the Royal Archaeological Association and the Institute of British Architects (later RIBA). According to one reliable source (see "Edward Blore"), he was offered but declined a knighthood. As well as his buildings, he left 48 volumes of his beautifully executed drawings, and additional sketchbooks. He died in London on 4 September 1879, just short of his 92nd birthday, and was buried at Highgate Cemetery.
It means little that the Ecclesiologist) could be scathing about Blore's ecclesiastical work, as the Ecclesiologists were scathing about most church architects except the favoured few. A passing comment in Charles Eastlake's praise is more telling: of his work at Westminster Abbey, he says: "His restorations ... though wanting in life and vigour, abound in careful detail. This was, in short, his great forte. He had studied and drawn detail so long and zealously that its design came quite naturally to him, and in this respect he was incomparably superior to his contemporaries" (140; emphasis added). The reservation about his lack of spark or flair is endorsed by others today. The verdict seems to be that he was "not very individual" (Cherry and Pevsner 343).
Two interesting points, though. First, Blore's overseas work was quite distinctive. His design for Prince Vorontzow's Alupka Palace at Alushka in the Crimea (now the Ukraine), completed in 1840, is a stunning mix of Jacobean and Saracenic styles. Equally impressive in its own way is his sandstone battlemented castle for Government House, Sydney (finally completed 1845), so different from William Wardell's later Italian Renaissance style Government House in Melbourne. Secondly, among his pupils were Philip Charles Hardwick and William Burges, neither of whom was at all lacking in "life and vigour," especially the latter, whose love of detail was apt to run to extraordinary lengths. It might be that Blore's diligence and deference to his clients' wishes at home squashed some of his own inspiration. — Jacqueline Banerjee
Architectural works and other designs
- St Thomas Charterhouse, London
- Christ Church, Chelsea
- Pitt Building, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
- The Church of St John the Baptist
- Government House, Sydney, Australia
- Worsley New Hall, Salford, Greater Manchester
- Abbotsford (with William Atkinson; as illustrated by Thomas Allom)
- Font for the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy
Blore, Edward. The Monumental Remains of Noble and Eminent Persons, Comprising the Sepulchral Antiquities of Great Britain. London: Harding, Lepard, amd Co., 1826. Engraving numbered 1376. Internet Archive. Web. 8 July 2012.
Cherry, Bridget,and Nikolaus Pevsner. London 2: South. Buildings of England series. London: Penguin, 1983. Print.
Eastlake, Charles. The History of the Gothic Revival. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1872. Internet Archive. Web. 8 July 2012.
"Edward Blore." Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Web. 8 July 2012.
O'Sullivan, Margaret. "Blore, Thomas (1764-1818)." Oxfod Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 8 July 2012.
"Papers of Edward Blore." Cambridge University Library. Web. 8 July 2012.
Port, M. H. "Blore, Edward (1787-1879)." Oxfod Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 8 July 2012.
Turnor, Reginald. Nineteenth Century Architecture in Britain. London: Batsford, 1950. Print.
Wroth, Warwick. "Blore, Edward (1787-1879)." Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 5 (Bicheno-Bottisham). Ed. Leslie Stephen. New York: Macmillan, 1886. 237-38. Internet Archive. Web. 8 July 2012.
Last modified 4 February 2020