1 February 2013
Architect: Thomas Rickman
Thomas Rickman. 1776 (Maidenhead, Berkshire) - 1841 (Birmingham).
Thomas Rickman was self taught in his profession, but was one of the most influential writers and architects contributing to the Gothic Revival in England, and was celebrated for his knowledge of Gothic architecture. He should probably be remembered better in Birmingham where he completed some excellent work, but so few of his buildings survive, so there is little to remember him by. He first became interested in architecture as a career in about 1812,* after his wife died; he would take long walks and sketch the architecture that he saw. He began describing the Medieval styles that he saw in detail, and classified the periods using terms such as Norman, Perpendicular English, Decorated English and Early English, which are still used today. At this time the Gothic styles were unfashionable, but Rickman lectured and wrote on the subject for a number of years, publishing his most influential work in 1817; An attempt to discriminate the styles of architecture in England, from the Conquest to the Reformation, which greatly influenced the Gothic Revival in England.
After lecturing he set up a practice in Liverpool as a full time architect at 42 years of age, and hired a young, but talented, assistant, who was only 18, called Henry Hutchinson; a man from Birmingham whose brother Thomas was a practicing architect at 57 New Street. It was the town of Birmingham that gave Rickman his first break as an architect, as he was commissioned to build a new Commissioner's church, St. George's, in a newly built-up part of the town, which was erected between 1819 and 1822. Whilst construction was underway Rickman opened up an office in Birmingham's Cannon Street (no. 5), of which he left Hutchinson in charge, perhaps testing the water in the town, but must have seen the potential of finding work in the place as in 1820 he made the permenent move to Birmingham. After the successful erection of St. George's Rickman, by now (since 1821) partnered with Hutchinson, was kept busy with a number of other churches, including the church at Hampton Lucy (above). In the twentieth century, though, he was critisised for merely copying original examples, rather than interperating the styles with any flair.*
Rickman and Hutchinson worked together till the latters death in 1831, afterwards Rickman partnered his brother Edwin but their partnership was dissolved in 1833.* In 1835 he became partners with R. C. Hussey with whom he worked till his own death in January 1841.
Following is a list of Thomas Rickman's Birmingham commissions;
Rickman and Hutchinson years
1819-1822: St. George's on Tower Street (enlarged in 1882, demolished 1960)
1822: St. Barnabas' Church on High Street, Erdington (enlarged in 1883 by J. A. Chatwin and re-roofed in 1893)
1823: Alterations to Thornhill House (drawing room) for Anne Boulton, Handsworth
1823-1824: Rebuilt St. Mary's Church on St. Mary's Row, Moseley (rebuilt 1884-1910 by J. A. Catwin)
1825: Infant School at 48 Ann Street (demolished)
1825-1827: St. Peter's on Dale End, repaired after fire (rebuilt 1835 by Charles Edge) (demolished)
1826: New offices for Rickman and Hutchinson practice at 45 Ann Street (demolished)
1826: The Watt Chapel in St. Mary's Church on Hamstead Road, Handsworth (original design by R. H. Bridgens)
1826-1829: St. Thomas' Church on Bath Row, Holloway Head (bomb damaged-1940)
1827-1829: St. Mary's Church, Harbourne (enlarged later by Rickman, then altered extensively by Yeoville Thomason)
1828: Additions to the News Rooms on (Temple Row) (demolished)
1828: Society of Arts Building on New Street (demolished)
1829: The Master's House at the Deaf and Dumb Asylum, Edgbaston (demolished)
1830: Bank for the Birmingham Banking Company on the corner of Bennetts Hill and Waterloo Street (altered in c. 1870 by Yeoville Thomason)
1830: Two houses on Islington Row, Edgbaston, one occupied by Rickman (demolished)
1831: Bordesley School on Camp Hill, Bordesley (demolished)
Years with Edwin Rickman
1832: Lodge entrance to Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Edgbaston
1833: All Saints Church on All Saints Street (chancel added in 1881)
1834: Rebuild of St. Margaret's Church, Ward End
Years with R. C. Hussey
1838: Bishops Ryder Church on Great Lister Street
There were other commissions outside of Birmingham not listed here.
Books by Thomas Rickman
An attempt to discriminate the styles of architecture in England, from the Conquest to the Reformation (1825 edn.). Digital version available at Google Books.
* References on request.
*** In 1825 their offices had been in Colmore Row (Berrow's Worcester Journal (Worcester, England), Thursday, May 12, 1825; pg. ; Issue 6384). Ann Street later became an extension of Colmore Row.
*4* From The Morning Post (London, England), Saturday, March 02, 1833; Issue 19417.