Belcher, John

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Belcher, John (1841–1913). One of the most distinguished late-Victorian and Edwardian British architects, he joined his father, John (c.1816–90), in practice in London in 1865, remaining until 1875. He made his name with the Genoese-inspired Mannerist Baroque Hall of the Incorporated Chartered Accountants, Great Swan Alley, City of London (1888–93), designed in association with Arthur Beresford Pite. The building was adorned with a lively frieze carved by ( Sir) William Hamo Thorneycroft (1850–1925), while Harry Bates (1850–99) designed the terms and corbels. The ideals of revived Classicism and the Arts-and-Crafts movement were fused in the building, as they were in Belcher's own career, for he was not only responsive to the spirit of the Italian Renaissance (and especially the Genoese palazzi), but he was a founder-member of the Art Workers' Guild. In 1898–1902 his office produced Colchester Town Hall with a fine campanile and vigorous main façade, enlivened by a Giant Order carrying broken pediments. From 1897 J. J. Joass joined Belcher, becoming his partner in 1905, and the firm evolved an assured and robust Baroque, culminating in the massive Wrenaissance Ashton Memorial, Lancaster (1904–9). He published Essentials in Architecture (1893), and with Mervyn E. Macartney, a collection of photographs and drawings of Later Renaissance Architecture in England (1901), which had a considerable effect on contemporary architecture. Belcher and Joass designed the Franco-British White City Exhibition in 1908, displaying their mastery of opulent late-Baroque to great effect.


A. S. Gray (1985);
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004);
Service (ed.) (1975);
Service (1977)