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Rickman, Thomas

Rickman, Thomas (1776–1841). English architect, of great importance in the history of the Gothic Revival as he was the first (as early as 1811) to subdivide the medieval styles into ‘Norman’, ‘Early English’, ‘Decorated English’, and ‘Perpendicular English’ Gothic. He wrote an architectural history of Chester Cathedral (1812) and a long contribution on Gothic architecture published in Smith'rama of Arts and Sciences (1812–15), which he later (1817) brought out as a separate volume entitled An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of English Architecture from the Conquest to the Reformation: it reappeared in many subsequent editions. He applied simple scientific methodologies to a subject that, up to then for the most part, had been treated with vagueness, and his grasp of detail enabled him to come to conclusions abut stylistic progressions that were reasonably sound. One of his earliest essays in an archaeologically correct Second Pointed revival style was the pretty funerary monument to Jonathan Henry Lovett (d. 1805) in the Cathedral of St Carthagh, Lismore, Co. Waterford: it is signed, and if it is almost contemporary with Lovett's death, is remarkable for its time. He advised John Slater (fl. 1812–23) of Liverpool who remodelled (1812–16) Scarisbrick Hall, Lancs. (later gone over by A. W. N. Pugin), and, with the iron-master John Cragg (c.1767–c.1854), designed the Churches of St George, Everton (1813–16), St Michael, Toxteth (1814–15), and St Philip, Hardman Street (1815–16— demolished 1882), all in Liverpool, and all with cast-iron elements used structurally inside.

The publication of his Attempt had an enormous impact, gaining Rickman credibility where it mattered, and although self-taught as an architect, he took the plunge and opened an office in Liverpool (1817), where he took on Hutchinson as his pupil. Rickman's standing as an expert on Gothic gained him many commissions, and he acquired a considerable share of the patronage of the Church Building Commissioners. His first churches were really Georgian preaching-boxes with Perp. details, but his later essays were more robust, probably through Hutchinson's influence. In 1820 he opened a second office in Birmingham (having secured the commission to design the Church of St George there (1819–22—demolished 1960) ) with Hutchinson (who became his partner in 1821) in charge. Thus Rickman managed to obtain a considerable share of the architectural commissions in the West Midlands and Lancs., and his practice was one of the most successful in England during the 1820s and 1830s. Among the ecclesiastical works carried out may be mentioned the Churches of St Andrew, Ombersley, Worcs. (1825–9), St Peter, Hampton Lucy, Warwicks. (1822–6), St John, Oulton, Yorks. (1827–9), and the lovely belfry and spire of St Mary the Virgin, Saffron Walden, Essex (1831–2). One of the firm's most successful works was the Gothic New Court, St John's College, Cambridge (1827–31), with its charming ‘Bridge of Sighs’ designed by Hutchinson. Rickman's grasp of the Picturesque was also demonstrated at the village of Great Tew, Oxon. (1820–1), where he designed some of the buildings.

His brother, Edwin Swan Rickman (1790–1873), had assisted in the Liverpool office, and was a partner (1831–3) in Birmingham, to which the whole practice was transferred, but became mentally incapacitated, and was replaced by Richard Charles Hussey (1802–87) who became Thomas Rickman's partner in 1835. By 1838 Rickman made Hussey responsible for the office: Rickman's son, Thomas Miller Rickman (1827–1912) was articled to Hussey in 1842, moved with him to London in 1849 when the practice was transferred thither, and remained associated with the firm until 1855. T. M. Rickman compiled a list of his father'sworks for Papworth's great Dictionary.


The British Library, Add. MSS. 37793–37802, 37803;
Colvin (1995);
W. Papworth (1887);
Port (1961);
Rickman (1848);
Jane Turner (1996)

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