A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode

Gilbert Blount: A Victorian Architect through his diaries


An overshadowed architect, seen through the pages of his diaries …

Gilbert Blount Miniature.jpg

Mourning Locket of Gilbert Robert Blount (copyright reserved by Mrs Philippa Hunter and not to be reproduced without her permission)

Gilbert Blount Miniature 2

Reverse: ‘Gilbert R Blount died 13 Novr 1876.’

For permission to use these family photographs and other images please contact

Gilbert Blount 1.jpg

Gilbert Robert Blount


Gilbert Robert Blount was born at Mapledurham, near Reading, on 2 March 1819, the second child and son of Michael Joseph Blount and his wife Catherine (nee Wright). His parents were half first cousins. Michael was the second son of Joseph Blount and Mary Canning, and Catherine the daughter of Catherine Petre and her first husband Francis Wright. Her second husband was Michael Blount III of Mapledurham and brother to Joseph. These were all recusant Catholic families.

Michael Joseph Blount

Michael Joseph Blount [1783-1868]

Michael Joseph Blount 1

Michael Joseph Blount [1783-1868]

Mary Canning, the daughter of Francis Canning of Foxcote in Warwickshire (born 27 October 1755), married Joseph Blount (born 15 July 1752) in the chapel of Foxcote House, on 19 February 1776. It appears that they rented Britwell House near Watlington, Oxon for a time, as two of their five children were born there. They moved to France in the 1780’s and Joseph died at St Cyr, near Lyons, on 1 January 1793. He is buried there at the foot of the altar. Mary Blount returned to England with her children and she died at Cheltenham on 29 December 1843. Her burial actually took place at St Benet’s, Kemerton and she was the first person to be interred there as the church and cemetery were only blessed on 18 July 1843.

Britwell House near Watlington

Britwell House, near Watlington

Michael Joseph (Gilbert’s father) was born at Britwell House on 30 March 1783 and he married Catherine Mary Wright of Kelvedon, Essex. The Wrights were bankers and the majority of clergy and Catholic laity banked with them. The bank collapsed during the depression of the 1820’s-1850’s. Michael and Catherine were married at the Spanish Embassy in London, one of the few places in London where Catholic marriages could be celebrated at this time. In order to have the marriage legalised, another ceremony had to take place in an ‘Established Church’. This legal formality took place at the old St Mary-le-Bone Church on 26 February 1816.

Gilbert married Sophia Margaret Brown (born 8 October 1844), daughter of Samuel James Brown and Jacobina Sophia Radcliffe of Lofftuss Hill, Yorkshire, on 11 January 1870 at St Mary’s Chapel, Knaresbrorough. They had four daughters, Emma, Marjorie, Louisa and Gilberta, who was born after her father’s death. They lived at 1 Montague Place, London

Samuel Joseph Brown (Fr-in-law of G Blount) - Copy (2)

Samuel Joseph Brown, Father-in-Law of Gilbert Blount

Loftuss Hill, Knaresborough, (Mrs Blount's birthplace) - Copy (3)

Lofftuss Hill, Knaresborough, birthplace of Sophia Margaret Blount (nee Brown)

Mrs Gilbert Blount and 3 daughters - Copy (2)

Sophia Margaret Blount with (left to right) Emma, Louisa and Marjorie (1876)

Sophia Margaret Blount

Sophia Margaret Blount


Gilbert was educated at Downside (September 1834 – December 1836) and began his professional training as a civil engineer with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, working on the Thames Tunnel (Rotherhithe to Wapping) in 1841. It would appear that Gilbert’s father had some influence upon the directors of the Tunnel Company and he obtained this trainee post for his son shortly before Christmas 1840. The aspiring engineer took a lodging at 16 St James Place, Bermondsey so that he could be near to his place of work, namely, Walbrook Buildings, Walbrook. In September 1841 he received a letter of appointment “I have much pleasure in acquainting you, that the board this day agreed to your appointment as a temporary assistant at the works at a weekly pay of 10/-” and, a month later, this salary was enhanced with the reimbursement of his expenses, “In consideration of your not receiving Fuel and Candles from the Company’s works in kind, the Board have authorized your being paid hence-forward an additional 10/- per week in lieu“.

Gilbert Blount signature
Signature in diary of 1841

Gilbert was appointed as Superintendent of Construction and, during one of the many floods in the tunnel, he narrowly escaped drowning. His mother, brother Alfred and sister Louisa, came in a carriage to visit the Tunnel on January 17th 1842 and his diary reveals that, on February 2nd, “the King of Prussia attended by Lord Hardwick passed through the Tunnel and back, taking us rather by surprise“.

Soon afterwards the company experienced financial difficulties and, on February 13th, Gilbert received an official notice from Mr Charlier, clerk of the Thames Tunnel works, “that my services would be dispensed with in one month from yesterday as an engineer at the Thames Tunnel.” However, he continued to work at Sir Marc Isambard Brunel’s house on the Rotherhithe Staircase.

By June 1842 the young man was showing signs of a change of direction and he began studying architecture and even undertaking some of his own commissions. On June 15th: “Lady Camoys sends me a ticket of admission for the British Museum so I can commence reading Palladio on Architecture“. Gilbert also “went to examine St George in the Fields Catholic Church (now Southwark Catholic Cathedral) and had a bit of a row with the contractors” He was a great walker and, when staying with his parents at Purley, which is situated on the opposite side of the River Thames to Mapledurham, thought nothing of walking to Reading and back for Mass.

St George's Southwark.jpg

By March 1842, Gilbert’s involvement with the tunnel was minimal and the young man was considering whether his future might better lie in emigrating to Australia. Nothing came of this idea but he wrote to Edward Charles Blount, a first cousin, who was engaged at the time building the ‘railroad from Paris to Rouen in France.’ The line was opened on 9th May 1843 and again, nothing seems to have come from this.

During May, Gilbert stayed with his parents at Purley, near Reading, as his health was impaired as a result of the poor ventilation in the tunnel and the noxious fumes. He seems to have spent his time at Purley making architectural drawings. During the following month Lady Camoys sent him an entrance ticket for the reading room at the British Museum and it is here that he began to read the works of Palladio.


Many biographical dictionaries, including Wikipedia, state that Gilbert Blount trained in the office of Sidney Smirke. In fact, Blount worked with Anthony Salvin (1799-1881).

Constance C. McPhee, in her thesis for the Department of the History of Art in the University of Pennsylvania, entitled ‘Gilbert R. Blount (1819-1876) Catholic Gothic Revival Architect’ clearly outlines the architect’s early career. McPhee’s M.A. thesis, written in 1987, under the supervision of Dr David B. Brownlee, includes the following passage,

‘Early in 1842 Blount experienced a professional upheaval which was to divert him from engineering into architecture. Faced with the imminent loss of his position at the tunnel, he attempted to secure a position with the Le Havre and Rouen Railway Company through a relative in France and even considered emigrating to Australia. It was, however, a developing interest in architecture which became the channel for his energies and hopes. The architect’s diary from the first six months of 1842 records him reading a biography of Christopher Wren and books on Greek architecture and Palladio. At the same time he was writing: “an article on architecture”, designing: the plan and model of a house, and carrying out field works: a visit to Pugin’s St. George’s, Southwark, which was then building. On November 28, 1842 these preparations culminated in the beginning of a new career. Blount entered the Saville Row office of Anthony Salvin (1799-1881).

Salvin was a student of John Paterson of Edinburgh and a member of the Society of Antiquities with a successful practice in country houses and Gothic revival churches…. Blount’s diaries indicate he came to Salvin without adherence to any one stylistic philosophy and was quickly exposed to the most advanced thought on Gothic revival church design. Already interested in Pugin as the most prominent Catholic architect of the day, Blount now absorbed his theory, reading his writings for the first time. He also set to work on a proposed monument to the recently deceased Bishop of York. Modelled in part on Edward III’s tomb in Westminster Abbey.’

McPhee points out that as late as 1847 Blount was still working in Salvin’s office but he became ‘increasingly involved with small independent projects for relatives and Catholic friends.’ However, having written of his move to 1 Montagu Place in 1849, Mc Phee makes the following remark: ‘Sometime during this period there may have been a brief association with Sydney Smirke’ In support of this she cites Blount’s R.I.B.A. obituary but she comments, in Footnote No. 58, that this ‘is substantiated by no further evidence (see Barry, “Address”, Proceedings of the R.I.B.A. (1877-78):11′

Blount Family correspondence for the year 1842 may help to clarify the question – Smirke or Salvin?

His aunt was instrumental in obtaining this position, as Mrs Anne de Lisle, Anthony Salvin’s half-sister, was a great friend of hers.

Letter from Eliza(beth) Riddell to Gilbert Robert Blount from Field-gate House, Kenilworth, Aug 24th 1842

‘My Dear Gilbert,

Not knowing for sure whether your Father is at home or that you may not be at Purley (1), I will address this to you, but wish you to communicate the contents to your Father and Mother. I hope, I need not assure you, that it has been my most earnest endeavour and wish to hear of some situation for you and particularly so, since I heard your Father say, your wish was to study architecture. I applied a few days ago to Mrs. De Lisle (Mr. Salvin’s sister) a great friend of mine and have received an answer from her today, which I consider very good. I enclose you a copy of my note to Mrs De Lisle which I hope you will be able to make out, also her answer to me – at your leisure (?) when you have made what use you please of them, I shall like to have them returned to me, and I think it will be a good plan to write a line to Anthony Salvin Esq at his Office to inform him what morning you can call upon him, as he will then make a point of being there. He stands very high in his Profession, I remember some years ago seeing his plan for the new house of Parliament and after Barry’s, it was the most approved of. Mrs Canning from Devonshire tells us, they have lately been to Mamhead (2), where a new house has been built by Mr Salvin (for Sir R. Newman) they think it is the most perfect place and house they ever saw. I cannot tell you, my dear Gilbert, the pleasure it will give me, if you can arrange matters with Mr Salvin. I have not the slightest idea on what terms he will be willing to receive you, that will depend upon what your knowledge is, as to architecture, be sure to take some of your drawings, and be not discouraged at first, if he does not seem to think your knowledge so great as he may expect it to be, as you have not had time or experience. Be sure to let me know the result of your interview with Mr. Salvin, and if he is willing to receive you, whether he will remunerate you, or you on the contrary have to give him a premium, but all this remains to be seen, and of course that subject you will have Mr. S. to broach. I will write a line to your dear Mother – wishing you a happy termination to this business I remain, Dear Gilbert. Your affectionate Aunt, El. Riddell

Best love and good wishes from my dear Mother, Sister, Elizabeth.


(1) Purley is situated on the River Thames opposite to Mapledurham and it was the home of Gilbert’s parents.

(2) In 1823, Mamhead Park was bought by Robert William Newman (1776–1848), who completely rebuilt the house on a new site in 1827–1833, to the designs of  Anthony Salvin.


Eliza(beth) Riddell, nee Blount

Letter from Eliza(beth) Riddell to her brother, Michael Joseph Blount, father of Gilbert Robert Blount, from 53 Wellington Street, Leamington Spa, and dated 2nd October 1842:

‘I cannot tell you, my dear Michael, how pleased I am at your account of your interview with Mr. Salvin, I do think it promises well. I hope you will have several drawings to show him next time you go to town, it will indeed be a great gratification if I have been the means of promising him what I trust may turn out a desirable situation. In the mean time a little country air, good living, and cheerful society with a little shooting will do him good for he has had long confinement in town and hard work….’

Letter from Michael Joseph Blount to his son, Gilbert Robert Blount, from Purley, dated 13th October 1842:

Gilbert’s father wrote to his son who was, at the time, staying with father’s first cousin, Robert Canning, at Hartpury.

‘Dear Gilbert

I had an interview yesterday morning with Mr Salvin who received me with cordiality, examined your drawings and agreed to receive you in his office. I had a clear understanding with him that you were to be initiated into every department of the profession. My impression is that you will like him and I think he is favourably inclined towards you. Let us hope that it will prove an advantageous opening for you. Mr. Salvin appears to be a good natured gentlemanly person. He will let us know when he has moved into his new house, which I do not expect will be the case for three weeks to come, therefore make the most of your time… Pray remember me very kindly to all friends at Hartpury and I hope you have some good shooting. Adieu M.J.B.’

Letter to Michael Joseph Blount from Anthony Salvin, from 32 Somerset Street and dated 21st October 1842:

‘Dear Sir,

I have sent the drawings to Lower Berkeley Street, The first work to study is certainly Vitruvius and if your son has not yet looked into (?)  it my copy is at his service. There are others on church and domestic architecture which I shall recommend his attention to afterwards. The work in Saville row gets on slowly but I hope in two or three weeks I shall be able to move my offices there. I am dear Sir, Yours truly, Anthony Salvin.’

Forwarding notes from Michael Blount to Gilbert Blount:

‘I expect that Sir Edward Blount has got a Vitruvius or some other works on architecture.’

‘Dear Gilbert,

I send you Mr. Salvin’s note in order that you may not think it necessary to hurry back to Town, for I don’t expect he will remove to his new office in Saville Row, at soonest, before the middle of Novr. We hope you will enjoy yourself at Mawley …’

Letter to Gilbert Blount from Eliza Riddell, his aunt, from 53 Wellington Street, Leamington, and dated 2nd December 1842:

‘My dear Gilbert,

I was very glad to find by a letter from your Father, that you had entered into Mr. Salvin’s employ, also that you and Alfred have most comfortably lodged in Mr. R. Walmesley’s house, I trust you will go on most satisfactorily with Mr. S. and that you will like your occupation. Your hours of attendance are very reasonable, from 9 till 5 so you will have plenty of time to yourself. I enclose you half a £10 note which I shall be glad to hear you have received, the other half will follow in a day or two. I send £10 this quarter, as you may want a few extras, the next quarter I will send £5 which will make the £25 I told you, I would give you the first year you are with Mr. Salvin. May every blessing attend you, for your own sake and that of your anxious Father and Mother…’

Gilbert began working for Salvin on November 28th at 32 Somerset Street in West London. The office was to move, in 1844, to Savile Row and then, later on, to Argyle Street. Salvin, himself, lived at Elmhurst, Finchley from 1833 to 1852 when he moved to 11 Hanover Terrace in Regents Park.

We read in the diary, “Went to Mr Salvin’s office for the first time and commenced tracing for a monument for the late Bishop of York.” Whilst working with Salvin, Gilbert produced office plans for Trinity College, Cambridge, the screen for St Sepulchre’s Church, Cambridge, work at the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Torquay, Shottesbrooke Church, near Twyford in Berkshire, St Stephen’s Church, South Shields, and  also Buckland Church  and House, near Faringdon, in present-day Oxfordshire. Sadly, his diaries for 1844-1847 are missing, so it is not known how long Gilbert worked for Salvin, except that we know that Gilbert spent time in Madrid from February to September 1846.

However, by early 1847 Gilbert was working on various house alterations for some well-known Catholic families such as the Doughtys of Tichbourne in Hampshire. He worked on the Priest’s House at East Hendred, Berkshire, for the Eyston Family and carried out alterations at Sawston Hall, Cambridgeshire, for the Huddlestons. He described Sawston Hall as, ‘a very curious place.’ He also produced vestment designs for the Riddell Family. During the following year Gilbert was working on a canopy for one of the choir stalls at Wells Cathedral. It is noteworthy that by May 1stArchdeacon Law (had) found fault with the canopy.’

Rotherwas House

Rotherwas House

On August 31st 1849, Gilbert received a letter from Father William Amherst, an old family friend and a brother of Francis Amhurst a future Bishop of Northampton, ‘asking me to get out two sketches for a church in Germany.’  These plans were for Charles De la Barra Bodenham, of Rotherwas, Hereford, whose wife, Irena Dzierzykraj-Morawka, was from Operow in the Grand Duchy of Posen (then in the Polish part of Germany). Sadly, it is not known whether this church was actually constructed.

During the year 1860 Gilbert became a frequent visitor at Rotherwas which is situated near to Hereford and was the home of Charles’ father, Charles Thomas Bodenham. Here he made significant internal alterations to the house, especially to the kitchens and hall. He also provided new stables.

May 20th ‘Thompson from Rotherwas called’

May 28th ‘Heard from Mrs C.D. Bodenham’


Five years later, Charles inherited the Rotherwas estate but today only the historic chapel remains. The stables were badly damaged by fire in 1907 and the estate was sold in 1909 because of colossal family debts.

Although Gilbert worked long hours during the week, he never worked on a Sunday, however, he did sometimes attend social events. One such occasion was on February 10th 1859 when we read in his diary, “Went to music party at the A. Salvin’s. Campanello or some such name, sang there – he makes himself out to have been a monk”

By the year 1850, Gilbert had definitely left Salvin and he had established his own office. Jill Allibone, in her book, ‘Anthony Salvin – Pioneer of Gothic Revival Architecture’, remarks, “With his contemporaries, like Gilbert Scott, Salvin must bear part of the responsibility for the rape of the English parish church in the nineteenth century.

Gilbert Blount c
Gilbert Robert Blount



When looking for a builder or an architect, a prospective client often goes on personal recommendation or possibly a family connection, and, in this,  the Victorians were no different to us today. In the mid nineteenth century Roman Catholics were often shunned and unable to pursue certain professions so architects, in particular, tended to work for fellow Catholics. Gilbert Blount was no exception, but, saying that, he had numerous wealthy connections including Cardinals Wiseman and Manning as well as the Wright and Canning Families. It is interesting to note that up until at least the mid-1800’s most of the Catholic families who could be described as ‘landed gentry’ were related to each other. However, at this time, we also have the ‘Second Spring’, that massive re-awakening of Catholic life in England.

To begin with, there were two main branches of the Wright family descended from John Wright IV (1580-1654). He married twice and his first wife was Anne Sulliard, who died in childbirth in 1617, having had six children, including John Wright V. The descendants of John Wright V were to remain at Kelvedon Hall, Essex, for 400 years.

Joane, John Wright IV’s second wife, was to have three children, the youngest being Henry. In 1699 Henry’s son, William Wright, was working as a goldsmith in Great Russell Street, London. Goldsmiths were bankers and the Wrights’ thriving business continued until about 1760 when Anthony Wright widened the range of business to include elementary banking operations (similar to what we have today). He was described as a banker at  “Ye Golden Cup, Common Garden, London”. The Wrights later moved their business to Henrietta Street and the goldsmith side of the bank gradually fell away leaving Wright & Co as a private bank of increasing repute and growing prosperity, until it collapsed, disastrously, on 17th December 1840.

Anthony’s grandson, another Anthony Wright, married Anne Biddulph of Biddulph in Staffordshire and Bruton Park in Sussex, and they became Gilbert Blount’s maternal grandparents. One can only assume that considerable wealth came from these Biddulph estates, which were entailed and safe from the creditors, because some of the other grandchildren of Anthony and Anne were to become major patrons of Gilbert.

The first grandchild to be a patron was Edward Blount (1795-1881), Eighth Baronet of Mawley, Shropshire, whose mother-in-law, Frances (nee Wright) was an elder sister of Gilbert’s  mother. Sir Edward Blount, almost certainly, paid a considerable sum towards the building of the Church of St Ambrose at Kidderminster. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Ullathorne on Whit Monday 1857 and the church was opened in August 1858. This church, which cost £2,400, included a High Altar which was made of Caen stone, with black pillars and 3 Old Testament scenes, carved by William Farmer of Vauxhall in London.

Interestingly, in 1859, Hardmans installed a stained glass window at  St Gregory’s, Cheltenham, in memory of Sir Edward’s parents-in-law, Edward Blount, the M.P. for Steyning and Founder of the Provincial Bank of Ireland, and his wife, Frances. The window depicts St Edward the Confessor and St Frances of Rome with etchings of Westminster Abbey and St Peter’s, Rome. It was presented by their ten children including their youngest son, Dom Henry Joseph Blount O.S.B. (1827-1865), who was the assistant missioner at St Gregory’s from 1854 to 1860. He is remembered for his commitment to the education of poor children, urging the wealthy to sponsor a ‘large crop of Murphys, a tribe of Flanagans and a collection of Driscolls, Flemings and Sullivans.’

Dom Henry Joseph Blount later became procurator of Belmont Abbey but his health deteriorated and, in 1861, he became chaplain to the Bodenham Family of Rotherwas and it was here that he died in February 1865.

His brother, Edward Charles Blount (1809-1905), provided a short, if somewhat inaccurate, account of Dom Henry’s life:

‘My youngest brother, Henry was a distinguished member of the Benedictine Order (of which he was ultimately President in England), and was attached to the college of that Order at Prior Park (surely Downside?) near Bath. He was subsequently appointed (assistant) mission priest at Cheltenham, where he was highly esteemed by all religious communities. A memorial window (actually a brass plaque) was placed in Cheltenham to his memory, and amongst the subscribers were many people who had little sympathy with the Catholic Church. He was President of the Benedictine College (Downside), and amongst his students was Cardinal Vaughan, now Archbishop of Westminster.’

Although St Gregory’s Church (1854-1876) was designed entirely by Charles Hansom, it illustrates how Gilbert’s relationship with these first cousins could have led to this window being a commission for him instead.

Dom Henry Blount’s sister, Frances Joanna (1816-1858), was the first wife of the banker, Henry William Pownall, of Whitford House, Isleworth. His brother, Frederick Hyde Pownall (1831-1907), an architect, lived at 33a Montagu Square, just around the corner from Gilbert. Frederick Hyde Pownall, was a convert and he, not only, designed the Anglican Church of St Peter’s, London Dock, but also Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane, and other churches for the Diocese of Westminster. He was the father of Canon Arthur Hyde Pownall (1857-1935) and also of Gilbert Pownall (1877-1960), who carried out much of the mosaic work in Westminster Cathedral. Gilbert’s cousin, Frances Joanna Pownall, was mother of Bernard Henry Pownall (1857-1918) who, like his cousin Arthur, was a Roman Catholic priest who worked in the Diocese of Westminster.

The second of the Wright grandchildren to be a patron of Gilbert Blount was Anthony John Wright-Biddulph whose residence was Bruton Park, Sussex. He was a wealthy bachelor, and he invited Gilbert to design a church which was to be erected, for the benefit of local Catholics, on the edge of his estate at Duncton. Work commenced in  1867 and when it was completed two years later it had cost him £3,000.  The elaborate Caen stone altar was again carved by William Farmer of London. Archbishop Manning consecrated and opened this church in August 1869, and many have felt that it is a memorial to the firm of Messers Wright & Co. of Covent Garden. The church is dedicated to SS. Anthony and George – presumably named after the benefactor, Anthony Wright-Biddulph, and his steward, George Morley.

Geraldine, a sister of Anthony Wright-Biddulph, married Godfrey Radcliffe in 1860 – he was later to become Gilbert’s uncle-in-law when he married Margaret Brown in 1870. The Radcliffes lived at Dan-y-Craig, Monmouthshire, and it was here that Gilbert designed for them a small chapel next to their house which was to serve the needs of Catholics living in the locality.

Tablet, 16th October 1869 : Newport and Menevia

‘Opening of a New Church at Dan-y-Craig — Amidst some of the most beautiful scenery of Monmouthshire, about four miles from the pretty village of Grosmont, there stands a large, solitary house, the property and residence of Godfrey Radcliffe, Esq. Farm-houses and cottages lie grouped at various distances around it; but churches, chapels, and meetinghouses, so thickly scattered in other parts of the county, are not to be seen in this neighbourhood, and the inhabitants seem hitherto to have lived and died without any form of religion whatever.

When Mr. Radcliffe first brought his family to Dan-y-Craig, a few years ago, he was much struck with the spiritual desolation by which he was surrounded. He himself could drive over on Sundays to the nearest Catholic Church, that at Coedangryd, about six miles distant, but his poorer neighbours had no means of satisfying their spiritual needs, and perhaps, from long indifference, scarcely knew they had any. However, some of them told him that if he would build a church they would all come to worship in it. Such an opportunity of gathering these straying souls into the sheepfold of the Church was not to be lust, and Mr. Radcliffe determined to do all in his power to satisfy the desires thus awakened, and to find means to “feed these men with bread here in the wilderness.” First of all he fitted up a chapel in his own house, and arranged with the Very Rev. F. Elzear, Superior of the Franciscan Monastery at Pontypool, that one of the Fathers from that place should go over to Dan-y-Craig every week to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sundays, and give religious instruction to the people who attended. He then set to work to build a church, in which, after so many years of desolation, men might worship God according to the ancient faith.

This church, after many sacrifices and much exertion on Mr. Radcliffe’s part, and with the assistance of several kind friends, was completed a few weeks ago, and was solemnly opened for Divine worship on the 6th October, within the Octave of S. Francis. It is a plain, substantial Gothic building of stone, and consists of a nave and chancel. The high altar, with the tabernacle and throne for the Blessed Sacrament, is of stone, beautifully carved (the work of Mr. Radcliffe’s own hand), and stands out fair and white, instinctively reminding the worshipper of the first pure altar on which Jesus was adored—the spotless heart of Our Blessed Lady, to whose Immaculate Conception the church is dedicated. A small altar with a statue of Our Lady, and another with one of S. Joseph, stand on each side of the chancel.

The ceremonies of the day began at eleven o’clock with the blessing, first of the interior of the church and then of the foundations, by the Rev. F. Joachim, 0.S.F.C., assisted by the Rev. Fathers Elzear, Lewis, Fortunatus, and Gerard, and the Brothers Francis and Archangel : after which the doors were thrown open, and the congregation entered the building. High Mass was sung by the Rev. F. Joachim. The sermon was preached by the Very Rev. F. Elzear. After Mass, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was given, and the services of the day concluded. Some members of several of the principal Catholic families of the county were present on this occasion.’

This once attractive place of worship was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. Sadly, today, it is a complete ruin, covered in ivy, with the main door/porch just visible. Likewise, there is still evidence of the side door which opened on to the narrow road that leads to Bont and Upper Green. During the severe winter of 1947, most of the timber was stripped from the building – beams, pews, rails, altar etc, for use as fire wood. There is a small cemetery, a quarter of a mile down the lane, and it was here that members of the family and a few locals were buried. In spring it has a beautiful carpet of primroses, but later in the year the bracken takes over and the tombstones are completely hidden.

Sir Joseph Percival Radcliffe

Sir Joseph Percival Radcliffe of Rudding Park (1824-1908)

St Filumena’s church, Caverswall, Staffordshire, may have resulted from another family connection as Caverswall Castle came into the hands of the Radcliffe family in 1860 and Sir Joseph Percival Radcliffe, who lived at Rudding Park, near Harrogate, Yorkshire, spent a great deal of time at Caverswall. He was the brother of Godfrey Radcliffe (see above). The church was built on the land lying between the castle and the main street of the village. Construction began in 1862 and the church was opened in January 1864 by Bishop William Ullathorne. It was built of local stone and the altar and other stone carvings were, yet again, executed by William Farmer of London. Sir Joseph paid the bill for the entire building which came to £1,700.

In August 1843, Eliza Canning inherited Foxcote, near Ilmington in Warwickshire, on the death of her uncle, Robert Canning of Hartpury, a few months before her marriage to Philip Howard of Corby Castle and M.P. for Carlisle. Eliza Howard was a first cousin of Gilbert and Foxcote was where his grandmother, Mary Canning, was born, brought up and married.

The Howards had two estates but they spent most of their time at Corby Castle, mainly because of Philip’s parliamentary work, which meant that Foxcote was often in the hands of tenants. Thomas and Mary Gillow rented Foxcote during the 1860’s and Gilbert’s father, Michael Blount, often stayed with them for two or three months at a time, as they were very distantly related. Thomas was a member of the Gillow furniture-making family and a keen Catholic antiquarian. During one of Michael’s visits to Foxcote, Gilbert wrote to his ‘Dad about the Foxcote school’ (24th April 1864). Whether the Howards had asked Gilbert for a design is not known, but he was certainly consulted. A new catholic school was opened at Ilmington in 1867 to replace Foxcote School but, in the event, it was designed by Charles Buckler.

Throughout his life Gilbert regularly stayed with his Canning cousins at Hartpury, especially during the shooting season. Robert Canning (1773-1843) was his father’s first cousin and Robert had two daughters Maria and Frances. Gilbert was, for instance, staying at Hartpury in 1842 when his father informed him of his appointment to train with Salvin. This close relationship with the Cannings led to at least three valuable business connections for Gilbert.

Firstly, the family erected a memorial in 1823 to Robert’s first wife, Catherine Canning, in Hartpury Parish Church and it was designed by Cooke of Gloucester. It is possible that Gilbert saw this work whilst staying at Hartpury and, as a result, chose Cooke for various jobs, such as memorials and tombstones, for his own family and for his Catholic clients.

See ‘Blount Gravestones at Kemerton’:

Later, Cooke, the local stonemason, became involved with William Farmer of London in the building of St Peter’s Church in Gloucester. 

See ‘Robert Canning of Hartpury’:

This leads to the second connection, the Church of St Peter ad Vincula in Gloucester. The Bishop of Clifton and Canon Calderbank (the Missioner) wished to build a new church in Gloucester and they invited Gilbert to be their architect. He accepted and his relative, Frances, became a major benefactress. She laid the foundation stone in 1859 and Gilbert attended this ceremony spending the previous night with Frances at Longford, just north of Gloucester. As the building work  progressed, Gilbert often stayed at Hartpury with Maria and her family and he thought nothing of walking the six or so miles into the city to oversee construction.

Thirdly, as a small boy, Gilbert stayed at Hartpury with his cousins and when, in 1862, he was asked by the Dominican nuns to design Carisbrooke Priory on the Isle of Wight, one of the elderly sisters remembered him from those childhood visits to their convent at Hartpury.

St Dominic’s Priory, Carisbrooke, Isle of Wight, (1865-66), built of local grey stone, was funded by Elizabeth, Dowager Countess of Clare and cost £12,000. Some of the nuns who had been at Hartpury, had moved first to Atherstone, Warwickshire; then Hurst Green, Lancashire, and finally to Carisbrooke. One can only guess, but was it because of his childhood visits to Hartpury, that he became one of the favoured architects of the Dominicans?

His other works for the English Dominican Province included:

St Dominic’s, Stone, Staffordshire – Chapter Room, Guest House and girls’ boarding.

The Church of The Immaculate Conception (next door) – the stone Sanctuary and Nuns’ Choir (1862).

Stoke-on-Trent – northern wing of the Convent (1864).

St Dominic’s Priory and Church at Haverstock Hill, Camden Town, London – (1863-67, 1874).

Haverstock Hill was to be a huge enterprise, occupying a three acres site. The planned church was to hold 5,000 people and was to cost £50,000. The foundation stone was laid in 1863, but only the foundations were completed so a temporary church was opened in 1867. Work did not recommence here until 1874 and this had not progressed very far when Gilbert died in 1876. The present enormous church was built to a new design by Charles Buckler.

Gilbert lived through the tumultuous events surrounding the Restoration of the Hierarchy and he noted in his diary for 16th August 1850 that Dr Wiseman left for Rome “to be elected a Cardinal” and a group of people “met at the Thatched House Tavern to get up a memorial.” In the same year we read, “Archdeacon Manning, Lord Camden, Revd Anderton of St Margaret’s, Leicester… they have put themselves for instruction under Father Vincent, the Passionist at Broadway”.

The diary entries for April and May 1854 include references to Gilbert’s frequent visits to Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman and these usually took place in the evening.

On May 16th, “Breakfast at the Cardinal’s but he did not appear not having recovered from his fall.”

On September 11th 1854 Gilbert left a sketch of the Cardinal’s reliquary with Mr Searle.

Both Cardinals Wiseman and Manning gave Blount considerable work in the Diocese of Westminster. He was asked to carry out work at Etloe House in Church Road, Leyton, which was the home of Cardinal Wiseman from 1858 to 1864. He was also involved with Cinderford Cottages, at Grove Hill Farm, Hellingby, in Sussex – a property  belonging to the same Cardinal.

In later years, Alfred Francis Blount, Gilbert’s elder brother,  a solicitor, was closely involved with Cardinal Manning and his purchase of the site of Westminster Cathedral.

Gilbert’s projects within the Diocese of Westminster included:

The House of Mercy in Blandford Square – new Convent and chapel

St Elizabeth’s Hospital – the original one, not the one used today

St Helen’s Church, Brentwood – now part of the Cathedral with newer additions of 1860

Clapham Convent, Chapel and School

Brook Green Schools

Hammersmith Convent and Church

Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Marylebone – demolished in 1960 because  of dry rot

St Catherine of Siena, Bow  – 1868-70

Mental Asylum in Hertfordshire

Gilbert provided sets of plans for house alterations and extensions for other Catholic families too – the Riddells in Nothumberland had a church built at Felton, cottages were designed for the Duke of Norfolk in Sussex and the Gerards, of Ashton-le-Willows, commissioned a number of projects. He also carried out numerous minor works for clients in London too.


New Year’s Day, 1848, saw Dr Wiseman (then Vicar-Apostolic of the London District) and Gilbert Blount staying with the Camoys at Stonor Park, near Henley-on-Thames. The Camoys were related to the Blounts and Gilbert later designed the two lodges at the entrance to their Park.

February 22nd, 1848, was perhaps a turning point in Gilbert’s life as he “was introduced to Pugin at Dr Wiseman’s Conversazione”. Later in that year Gilbert met the Pugins whilst staying in Ramsgate.

On July 4th 1848 we know that Gilbert attended the solemn opening of the Church of St George in the Fields (Southwark Cathedral), and was given a V.I.P. chair in the nave. This may indicate a blossoming acquaintance with A.W. N. Pugin, who was the architect, or perhaps a connection with one of the clergy or benefactors. Interestingly, Dominic Barberi was one of the 240 clergy to attend and was seen walking in the procession of clergy.

Clearly, Gilbert was becoming firmly established as a Roman Catholic architect and, on Christmas Eve 1849, he and his brother Alfred Blount, finally left their residence at 27 Upper Montagu Street to live at 1 Montagu Place. At the end of 1853 Gilbert moved his office from 6, Duke Street, Adelphi, to his home, 1 Montagu Place, where he converted the stables. This property was where he was to live and work for the rest of his life.


1 Montagu Place

A diary entry for March 15th 1850 mentions that Thomas Gibbins “called for a clerk of the works place”.  On May 6thGibbins (was) taken on as clerk of the works for St Ed’s convent Blan Sq at £2 per week.” By May 27th the first signs were apparent that Gibbins, the clerk, “was in liquor” and the authorities at Blandford Square wanted him dismissed. We also read more about Gilbert’s clerk of works and his disturbing antics, “Gibbins has been twice in the Station House and was fined 5/- for being drunk and he lost three plans for Spitalfields House and grounds.” It cost Gilbert 12/6 to recover them! Alcohol turned out to be a major problem whilst he worked for Gilbert who eventually gave him notice and he left on  December 5th 1859.

One of Gilbert’s closest collaborators was the stonemason, William Farmer, who lived at 4 Mead Place, Westminster Road, Sutton, London, and he was the stonemason used for the majority of his church commissions.  Farmer had his works at Freeman’s Stone Wharf at Deptford, and here he produced  numerous tombstones, monuments, altars and other richly carved stone details. The diaries reveal that William Farmer, “the carver”, called upon Gilbert a great deal during the year 1854.

October 1852 was an important month for Gilbert because it marked his introduction to Hardman of Birmingham. However, it was not until November 12th, 1855, when he was in Birmingham journeying from Kenilworth to Chillington, that he “called at Hardman’s and went over his establishment”. This establishment was at 66 Great Charles Street. John Hardman’s father, also John, was originally a button and medal maker, but he set up the firm, John Hardman & Co, in 1838, to meet the growing demand for metal fittings for new churches. When the firm moved to Great Charles Street, in 1845, they also supplied stained glass. From that time on Gilbert was to use Hardman’s for most of his door fittings, tabernacles and altar rails. John Hardman & Co also had an office at 13 King William Street, Strand, London.

During the year 1852 Gilbert spent time working on plans for a presbytery at Gravesend for Mr Butt. Like the Crewe complex these plans do not appear to have been realised.

1853 was a busy year for Gilbert Blount as work continued at both Spitalfields and Blandford Square, two major projects. He also prepared two sets of plans for Lanark Church and Presbytery for a Mr Monteith. The designs for the schools at Homer Row (Marylebone Road) were also commenced during this period.

During 1854 Gilbert spends a great deal of time on plans for a school at Winchester Row (possibly near Marylebone Road) and the school at Mortlake. He also carried out work at Clapham Convent and oversaw alterations to Hippenscombe House, near Chute in Hampshire, the home of Edmund Wheble his brother-in-law. At the same time, he was responsible for the enlargement of St Mary’s Training College at Hammersmith.

Diary entries for 1855 reveal further projects and commissions:

On January 23rd 1855, “Heard from the Clapham Nuns, giving up my design and asking for my account.”

In April, Gilbert is asked to begin plans for the Chelsea Almshouses and a second design for the nuns at Clapham.

August 9th “Win Row Schools opened.”

September 1st “I understand Hansom has brought down the builders contract for Brook Green within the £7,000.”

Gilbert Blount wins the competition to build the college.

Blount's Fellowship 2

Gilbert Robert Blount was elected a Fellow of the Institute of British Architects on 30th November 1857

 Gilbert’s portfolio was extensive and, just to take 1859 as an example, he was involved with Bromsgrove Catholic Church and Cinderford Cottages Further projects included the Convent at Westbury-on-Trym, the Catholic Church at Brentwood, a gate house for Highgate Cemetery in London and the schools at Wardour in Dorset. Gilbert also had various house alterations in progress as well as the monument for Lady Newburgh of Slindon.



Back in May 1848, Dr Wiseman “told me he wishes me to build a convent in Harewood Square”. However, by the end of August, it was decided that the site should be moved to Blandford Square and, “if we have the convent church to hold 4 or 5 hundred it will be sufficient!

According to an article dated 1850 in the Tablet, St Edward’s Convent was to include a chapel, living quarters for fifty nuns, a school for up to a thousand girls, and a House of Mercy for fifty distressed women, of good character, chiefly servants temporarily without a place. Apparently, White of Vauxhall Bridge Road had already modelled the figure of St Edward, in clay, before the first brick was laid at Blandford Square on May 16th.

Meanwhile, the nuns entered the new convent in Blandford Square on June 16th 1851 and it was officially opened on the 26th with a “grand celebration”. The House of Mercy plans were started in 1852 and Smith’s estimate for the earthworks amounted to £3,448.

However, by the beginning of July “water was coming thro’ the roof in 4 or 5 places”.



During the same year, 1850, Lady Mostyn asked for designs for the proposed schools at Mortlake and, during the November, Gilbert wrote, “I believe it is arranged for me to build the Mortlake Church.” The plans were completed by the end of the year.

1851 was clearly a very busy year for Gilbert and his diary reveals that he was working for very long hours on his design for St Mary’s Schools at Mortlake, which were accepted, on February 7th. As an aside, he mentioned in his diary that the Great Exhibition opened on May 1st and cost 2/6 admission.

May 8th “Smith called and will undertake to build Mortlake Church for £….”

June 19th “Went to Mortlake where they are digging the trenches for the ch.”

June 20th “Wenham (the priest) and Smith sign contract for Mortlake Church.”

July 19th ” Lunched with Lady Mostyn.”

July 22nd “Went to Mortlake where the Cardinal laid the first stone of the new church”

January 26th 1852 “Went to Mortlake, settle with Wenham gable crosses, chancel steps, also settled additional support to organ loft”

April 17th “Gibbins told me the Sacristy ceiling under the organ loft at Mortlake is cracked and that the Organ is very heavy, so went down with a carpenter, but found no indication on anything giving way, but as a precaution I had the plate at the west side strutted and shall have two stronger corbels put in.”

The final bill at Mortlake brought the total sum to £2620 and the church was opened on May 12th.

In June 1851 Smith, the builder at Mortlake, won the competition to build the Brook Green Schools with an estimate of £1997, “Bird £1999 and Wilson about £400 more.

February 5th 1852: “Bought and sent by Gib to B. Green 4 doz ink stands for Children’s desks” December 5th 1851: “Called on Mr Pagliano, his gift of £300 towards House of Mercy no longer a secret”

A note at the front of the 1851 diary: “A rod of brickwork:- 4300 bricks, 1yd lime, 2yds sand, bricklayer 4 1/2 days, labourer 4 1/2 days, scaffolding 4/- per rod”.


Edward Scholefield [1825-1859], a catholic convert, married Isabella [Jane] Young in 1849 at Ryde on the Isle of Wight. He died in Paris, aged thirty-four, and was buried at St Mary Magdalen’s Mortlake. His grieving widow decided to build a chantry chapel at Mortlake and asked Gilbert to prepare a design. According to his diary, Gilbert began work on this project on 16th February 1861. Many hours were spent on this during the next three months and, on 26th April, we read:

‘Farmer (the stonemason) called & brought estimate. Wrote Mrs Scholefield & the bishop.’

However Mrs Scholefield, seems to have had a dispute with Mr Wenham [parish priest] about the conditions of the gift so she consulted her friend, Dr Frederick Rymer, who was then the missionary rector of St Thomas’, Fulham. Shortly afterwards, in 1861, Rymer was appointed as Vice President of St Edmund’s College, Ware. A. W. Pugin had designed the college chapel at Ware and his son, Edward Welby Pugin, suggested that the chantry chapel should be built there instead, which it was. Following completion in 1862, the body of Edward Scholefield was moved  there from Mortlake.


On July 25th 1851 work started on plans for the alteration of “Fieldgate Church”. Gilbert had already designed the belfry in 1849 and Mr Taylor was paid £50 to build it. ‘Fieldgate Church’ was actually the Church of St Augustine at Kenilworth, known locally as St Austin’s, which had been designed by A.W.N. Pugin in 1841 for the Amherst family. The two sons, William and Francis had been pupils at Oscott at the time when Pugin was lecturing there. Pugin was the Professor of Ecclesiastical Antiquities and this was where he had established a museum of medieval artefacts and casts. William and Francis were very good friends of Gilbert and they were regular visitors to his house during the 1850’s and 1860’s.

Kenilworth 1

August 10th:” W. Amherst came to tea. Gave him my design for alterations to Fieldgate Church.” August 20th: “left London & came to Fieldgate. W. Amherst not well Frank arrived in the evening.” August 21st: “Took some measurements of the church & made a fresh design. Wm not well. Frank left for Oscott.”(Francis had been ordained in1846 and was later to become Bishop of Northampton.)

August 25th”: Left Kenilworth by 7.40am train. Wm not any better.”

September 1st: “Heard Wm has received the last rites of the church.”9

Kenilworth 2

The nave at Kenilworth was lengthened, and north aisle, sacristy and confessional added. Work finished on January 31st 1852 and the church was officially re-opened by the bishop on August 10th. At the end of December, plans were prepared for the erection of a priest’s house and school. The foundations were commenced on March 25th 1852 by Mr Joyce of Kenilworth. Gilbert also won the tender for the church alterations which were to cost £315-11s-11d. Smith tendered at £370.

Kenilworth in diary

May 15th “Came to Kennilworth, find the Presbytery and School progressing slowly”.

The presbytery was finished during the month of December in 1852. The parish priest Fr Walker did not employ a housekeeper but was helped with the household duties by a young boy whose room was over the hall of the house. Fr Walker did not like to see women cleaning in the church, either, so red curtains were fixed to the rood screen and when any women attended to the altar, the curtains were drawn to conceal them from view.

Kenilworth 3

Two windows were changed at Kenilworth in 1855 and these were a double light in the nave and a window in the West End, costing £22-13s-3d.

Kenilworth 6


Whilst the Mortlake church was being constructed, Gilbert began work on a church complex at Crewe for Mr Hall of Macclesfield. This was started on May 30th, 1851, and, on January 19th 1852, Gilbert went by train from Kenilworth to measure the ground meeting both “Mr Hall and Mr Allcock”. Two sets of drawings were made in 1851 and 1852. Whether these were ever executed it is not known, except that, on August 27th 1854, “Very Rev J. Hall V.G called to say they had built part of the Crewe Presbytery to my design. I said I decidedly objected to my designs being used without my supervision.” Nothing of this work survives to-day. The original complex was for a church, presbytery, school and master’s house, and, as local records show, a church and then a school were opened in 1852 and 1854 in Russell Street – now Heath Street.


St Anne's Underwood Road

St Anne’s, Spitalfields, in Underwood Road, London, was perhaps Gilbert’s masterpiece. The project comprised of the Church, the Presbytery – known as the Monastery – and the Hall. On November 19th 1850 Father J. Quiblier, a French Sulpician priest, who had been sent from Montreal to do missionary work in London, applied to open a chapel: “…. A place for Divine Worship according to the Roman Catholic Rite.” This marks the beginning of the Mother House of the Marist Fathers in this country. The Marists had been asked by, the then, Mgr Nicholas Wiseman to take charge of the new mission during the previous August. The area was an extensive one and included Whitechapel, Bethnal Green and Mile End. There was an estimated Catholic population of approximately 6,000 souls, mostly poor Irish who had come to the East End to work in the cloth mills.

September 29th “Mr Bernin (first parish priest of St Anne’s) called and settled to have the Spitalfields house built, if done for £3000.”

March 5th1852 “Mr Bernin and Mr Locke sign the contract for Spitalfields Monastery

March 12th “Wrote to Locke & Nesham, (of 68 Theobalds Road, Holborn,) to give orders to commence at Spitalfields.”

John Carew was appointed clerk of the works at 38/- per week. For the next few months a great deal of time was spent by Gilbert on drawings, site visits and technicalities.

July 2 “…saw Mr Bernin who wishes to omit the two rooms at ends of passages”

July 25th  “The  drains overflowed at Spitalfields owing to the heavy rain” which caused the basement to flood.

October 1 “Mr Bernin called at office and told me to design their church and let them know the probable cost.”

November 1 the Monastery was blessed by Cardinal Wiseman.

During the month of November and during part of December, we read in his diary that Gilbert visited various sites and relatives, and at one point he stayed with the Giffards at Chillington, Staffordshire. He was very fond of their children and enjoyed being with them. He would normally shoot during most of the day, but the whole week was “very wet” so he spent the days on the drawings for Spitalfield Church. His new shooting jacket had cost him £2-6s-0d.

Blount's Ref to Salvin

Work progressed at Spitalfields and the 6,000 Catholics quickly grew to 9,000, and seven Masses were celebrated every Sunday in the Spitalfields Schools. Here 500 could be squeezed into every Mass to the acute discomfort of all concerned, but it was evident that these arrangements were insufficient for the needs of the mission. Cardinal Wiseman, in a letter dated January 13th, 1853, gave his blessing to an appeal for funds which was launched in that month. The clergy were also faced with the need for further schools to accommodate the ever-growing number of boys and girls, living in the area served by the mission, who were clamouring for an education in Catholic schools. To resolve such difficulties would require almost superhuman strength.  A private appeal was sent out to two hundred titled families living in the country but this only brought in £5!!!  The poor Catholics of the area came to the rescue, subscribing the £600 which would purchase the site. Thus, began the construction of the Church of St Anne, which was later described by the Tablet as “…the best modern specimen of a conventual church adapted to parochial purposes which we know of in England

February 8th, 1853 (Shrove Tuesday) “…Two letters from Mr Bernin stating they are not intending to spend more than £10,000 on their church”

February 11th, Mr Bernin “does not appear to know exactly what he wants with regards to their church .”

February 15th, “Attended a meeting of the Committee for the building of Spitalfields Church at which Mr Bernin was present. Also met him again at the Cardinal’s in the evening, when he decided upon having a new design for the church.” 

February 16, “..on third design for Spitalfields Church.” 

February 23, “..On Spitalfields ch third design. Mr Bernin called and gave me to understand he will have the original design for cross ch carried out, so I commenced again to work on it.”

Both Gilbert and Gibbins worked on the church plans for many hours but there were obviously problems of communication between “Mr Bernin” and France.

The foundations were commenced in the summer by Edward Reddin, of  43 Bankside, whose tender came in at £30 less than Locke & Nesham. Eventually, on May 13th1854, “Mr Chaurain (one of the Marist priests) and Mr Locke signed Spitalfields agreement.

It is not clear when the foundation stone was laid but we do know that Mr Chaurain asked, on May 18th, “to have the laying of the first stone postponed for the present.” Work had definitely begun by the autumn, and the church was officially opened on September 8th 1855. The final bill brought the total cost to £11,351-12s-2d. William Farmer spent 86 days on the carvings at Spitalfields.

“The Church of St Anne, Spitalfields, by Mr Blount, is an excellent example of the Early English architecture of the later period. The nave and a temporary apse only have been erected, but the design embraces a copious chancel for the community, a central tower, spire and transepts, the foundations of which are already made. The nave and side aisles now completed are 90 feet by 71 feet and form an admirable church, with 23 confessionals (!) entered from the aisles…… There is an appearance of extraordinary massiveness in the walls and roof…. What would have been the west front if the nature of the site had allowed it, i.e. the front opposite the chancel, is ornamented with a large rose window, seventeen feet in diameter, several niches for statues, and four pinnacles. The entrance is a very richly recessed doorway. The pitch of the roof strikes us as flatter than is ordinarily adopted, and the architect has certainly affected the horizontal rather than the perpendicular in his enrichments. In this respect the style is a slight approximation to the Italian Gothic.”

The church was later extended in 1894 this realised more of Gilbert’s original designs. In 2007 St Anne’s Church was the Brazilian Chaplaincy for the Westminster Diocese.

The church hall, which was destroyed by fire on October 5th 1965, stood to the south of the church. Tenders were invited in April 1859, and Mr Kelly’s was accepted as contractor for £1,130. It opened in 1859 and, during the 1860’s, housed a secondary school for boys run by the Marist Brothers, the first of its kind in East London. The girls were taught by the Marist Sisters who came over from France in 1858. Gilbert designed a convent and school during the period 1862-63 and these were built in Hunton Court, next to Underwood Road. Gilbert  attended the official opening on June 1st 1863.


Thomas Riddell was the son of Gilbert’s aunt, Elizabeth Riddell. It was through her, that Gilbert had become an apprentice to Anthony Salvin, after he had left the employment of Brunel. In the November of 1854 Gilbert went to stay with the Riddells at Felton Park in Northumberland and, whilst he was there, he took ground measurements for a new church and he started to draw plans. In her will of 1848, Elizabeth had left Thomas £100 towards the building of the church. We know from his diary that he also saw the village carpenter and had discussions with a stonemason. Gilbert paid a visit to Helm Moor Quarry where he inspected the stone which would be used for the construction of the church.

This church, St Mary’s, was finally completed in 1857, after endless delays with the builders during the years 1855 and 1856. St Mary’s Church had beautiful stone carved corbels, gargoyles and angels. The altar, which cost £50, was made by William Farmer and John Hardman and Co supplied the iron safe and the tabernacle.

On 15th March 1858 Gilbert wrote in his diary, ‘Hardman sent sketch for baptistry gates sent tracings & wrote Thos Riddell.’   

1st July ‘on mortuary cross’

8th July ‘Felton cross heard from Farmer.’

Sadly, this church is now a private dwelling.


Construction work ended at Spitalfields during the late summer of 1855 and Gilbert began the Church and Schools of Our Lady of the Rosary in Marylebone Road, London. It was his first large commission in brick and consisted of a building arranged on three floors. The ground floor housed the church and the upper two floors the schools. The only indication that it had a religious connection was a life-size statue of a Madonna and a bell turret, otherwise the passer-by may have thought it was a residential property. This building was demolished in 1960 because it had developed severe dry rot.


The building of St Ambrose, Kidderminster was Gilbert’s next major project. It is not known who suggested or recommended him as architect, possibly it was his cousin, Sir Edward Blount, who lived nearby at Mawley, or even Bishop William Ullathorne of Birmingham from whom he had received various other commissions. A diary entry for March 10th 1856 records that “Rev Courtenay & Mr Hodges call about Kidderminster ch for which they told me to prepare designs.

This church was built to replace a small chapel which was erected in 1834. Fr Ambrose Courtenay had taken a two-year long leave of absence, between 1853 and 1855, to raise funds for the new church. He travelled around the world but spent much of his time in Australia, where he later returned during the 1860s to set up missions and schools.

The first two of Gilbert’s designs were rejected but the third was sent to the bishop on June 7th 1856. In response, Ullathorne paid him a visit on 3rd July and “settled to build the nave and aisles of Kidderminster ch to cost including commission £1,300”. The post on December 15th must have caused some distress at 1 Montague Place as, “had a letter from (E.W.) Pugin saying Kidderminster is his work!!!”

Matters were obviously resolved and the builder appointed was Mr R Wullow of Wolverhampton and the bricks and stone came from Burgess of Kidderminster. The first stone was laid on Whit Monday, June 1st 1857, and Gilbert travelled up from London by train for the day with N.W Hodges. The cost of tickets was £1-19s-9d for a day return and the journey took five hours each way. They left London at 6.15am and had returned home by 9.30pm.

Kidderminster 1

St Ambrose’s Kidderminster, Sanctuary

Later in the year the bishop informed Gilbert that he was “to carry out (the) sacristy and adjoining chapel at Kidderminster.” However, relationships with the Pugins must have remained entirely amicable because Gilbert was in correspondence with Anne Powell, the eldest daughter of A.W.N. Pugin, who had married John Hardman Powell in 1850. Mrs Powell had moved to 5 Gordon Square, London in November 1856 with her children, to share the house there with her brother, Edward, and stepmother, Jane. Her husband, John, divided his time between Birmingham and Ramsgate. By 1858 Edward Pugin had moved back to Ramsgate and Anne had returned to Birmingham but before their departure they held a party on February 10th and Gilbert Blount was invited.

The Bish of Birmingham told me to get estimate of Kid spire & design altar – also told me he wants another job done”. This new commission from Ullathorne was to design a church for Bromsgrove, which Blount began in January 1859. During the same week, in March 1858, the Canning sisters from Hartpury in Gloucestershire, together with the Bishop of Clifton, invited Gilbert to build a new church in Gloucester to replace the small brick structure which had been erected some years earlier in the garden of the priest’s house.

Kidderminster 2

Meanwhile, work progressed on St Ambrose’s Church where the bricklaying was carried out by T. Thomas of Kidderminster. During the months of April and May William Farmer, the stone mason from London, carved the main altar, font and pulpit for Kidderminster. The pulpit is now surrounded by mosaic and is adorned with painted figures of the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John together with Saint Peter and St Paul. This was erected as a memorial to Mother Augustine who was headmistress of the school from 1888 until 1910. John Hardman and Co supplied the door fittings and tabernacle safe, which cost £100.

On August 17th 1859 Gilbert set out from London, at 6.15 am, on a journey to Stoke where he visited the site and viewed the progress of the schools which were being built for “Mr Northcote,” before travelling on to the convent at Stone.

James Spencer Northcote was a convert and former Anglican clergyman, who taught at Prior Park College in Bath before moving to Birmingham with Ullathorne when the latter was appointed bishop there. Northcote and Edgar Edmund Estcourt, who had also taught at Prior Park, both played key roles in the Diocese of Birmingham and, also, at St Mary’s College, Oscott.

Gilbert’s excursion to Staffordshire involved a stop-off at Kidderminster on the way back where he arrived at 9.30pm and spent the night there. The following day he attended the solemn opening and blessing of the church. Bishop Ullathorne was the celebrant at the Pontifical High Mass and Bishop Amherst of Northampton preached. Gilbert returned to London at 10pm, his train fare cost £1-1s-4d, his dinner 5/6 and the cab one shilling.

The pulpit at Kidderminster was finished on October 9th 1858. Gilbert never saw the tower completed as the spire was not added until 1901.

Inside the front cover of his diary for this year there is a set of accounts:

Kidderminster contracts                                                    

Nave & aisles: £1,340-10-0d

Chancel chapels & sacristy: £611-13-0d

Part of tower: £151-16-0d

Total: £2,103-19-0d                                                                                                               

Certificates: £1,785  


Because of his close association with the family of Robert Canning, described above, it is hardly surprising that Gilbert was invited, on 11th March 1858, to draw up the plans for the new church in Gloucester. The commission directed that the new building, “was to be in the plain decorated Gothic style prevalent in England during the reigns of the three Edwards.

Gilbert wasted no time and, by April 5th, the designs were completed and copies were sent to Frances and Dr Clifford, the Bishop of Clifton. Mr Calderbank, the missioner at Gloucester, was also consulted. The working drawings were started by the end of the month and further progress was made during a visit to Hartpury in the July when he “took dimensions of Gloster ground & called at Longford, but found no one at home”.

October 5th “Glos ch examining papers & drawings & sent contract drawings & also wrote to Mr Calderbank”.

In November Mr Calderbank called to talk over the plans, but, “… he now seems doubtful about light on the railway side.”

Wingate and Sons, the builders who eventually won the contract, were asked to estimate facing the church with stone. The Cardinal and Dr Clifford were clearly satisfied with the plans and by the beginning of 1859 papers were drawn up for the signing of the contract between Mr Calderbank and Wingate & Sons. Accounts at the back of the 1858 diary show a sharp rise in the train fare from London to Gloucester between March and December:

March 22nd Fare to Gloster – £1-0-0, Cab 1/-, Lunch 1/-, Fare to Lon – £1-0-0

December 3rd Fare Birm to Chelt – 10/-, Bus 6d, Hotel 9/3

December 4th Fare to Gloster -7/3, Fare Glos to Lon £1-5-0

Further entries in the diary shed further light on this important commission:

May 25th1859 “Went to Gloucester by 9.30am train & took up my quarters at Longford. Bishop of Clifton did the same & Mr Calderbank dined there”. 

May 26th ” Gloster ch first stone was laid. I returned to London by 2.42pm train.”

Some four hundred spectators were present at the laying of the Foundation Stone which was almost certainly laid by Frances Canning who had given £1,000 towards the cost of the church. The first portion of the church consisted of two-thirds of the nave and aisles, the chancel, lady chapel and sacristy and cost £2,500. This phase of the building was solemnly opened by Bishop Clifford on March 22nd 1860. Except for the altar-stone itself, which was of marble and supported by marble columns, the altar and reredos were of carved stone, beautifully executed by William Farmer at his stone works in Freeman’s Wharf in Deptford, London. The altar cost £120 and was paid for by the bishop.


In the year 1863 Gilbert designed the schools at Gloucester and these were built at a cost of £600.  At the end of August 1865, a bill was sent to Dr Case, by now the missionary Rector, from John Hardman and Co for the East window of the church. It consisted of 5 lights all depicting the life of St Peter and the cost was £107-10/-. The fixing, with wire guards, cost an extra £120.


Dr Case

In August 1867 Dr Case was given permission to knock down the old presbytery and work resumed on the church to the Blount’s design, so that the nave and aisles were extended by two bays, ending in a western organ gallery and the façade at the ‘West end’, facing on to the street, included a rose window. A baptistery and spire (159ft) were added, the top stone and vane being fixed by Dr Case on the evening of August 3rd1868. A new stone pulpit with open panels, columns and steps of Devonshire and Irish marble was carved by William Farmer and given by Frances Canning. Minton tiles were used for the floors. The Lady Chapel and chancel were rebuilt, with a groin-vaulted wooden ceiling being added. Reynolds was the clerk of the works and he was paid £2-15/- per week. The builders were, once again, Wingate & Sons. The cost of all this work added a further £4000 to the total cost.


The completed church was consecrated by Dr Clifford on October 8th1868. The Gloucestershire Chronicle summed up the work,

“… that whilst the general effect of the incomplete building was neat and simple, undoubted appearance of the finished structure is extremely beautiful. The Roman Catholics of Gloucester may congratulate themselves upon having erected an exceedingly handsome ecclesiastical structure”

Gilbert’s final accounts were paid during the following February and work on the church, as far as he was concerned, was now completed. In 1863 he worked on some designs for the schools and these were accepted. The working drawings were sent to Canon Calderbank in the following May. The adjoining presbytery was designed by Canon A. J. C. Scoles after Gilbert’s death.

St Peter’s in Gloucester is still probably the best of Gilbert’s churches to survive in the way that he designed it.

Diary Extracts:

March 11, 1858 –   Gilbert heard from Maria Gordon Canning (his cousin), obviously sounding him out as to whether he would consider designing a church for Gloucester. The next day “the Bishop of Clifton (Dr Clifford) called to say he wishes me to build a church at Gloucester. Frances Canning called about the same- wrote to Maria”.

April 10 1858 – The designs were sent to Frances Canning and Dr Clifford.

July 15 1858 – he leaves “London by the 6.10am train and went to Kidderminster -to see how the church there was progressing; and went to Hartpury arriving at 9pm.” The next day “ Mr Calderbank wrote”. Gilbert “took dimensions of the Gloster ground” the following day before returning to London. The following two months were spent on the specifications and tenders sent out.

November 5 1858 – “Mr Calderbank called and talked over the plan s- he now seems doubtful about the light on the railway side.”   December 6 1958 – Wingate & Son had won the tender. 

March 16 1859 went to Gloster. Wingate signed the contract”

May 25 1859 – “Went to Gloucester by 9.30am train and took up my quarters at Longford. Bishop of Clifton did the same and Mr Calderbank dined there.” The first stone was laid the following day (May 26). The accounts at the back of the 1859 diary show that on March 22 the train fare to Gloucester was £1, lunch 1/-, but by December 6 the train fare had risen to £1-5/-,Gloster to Cheltenham 7/3 and the hotel in Cheltenham 9/3. There was a change of plan in June as Mr Calderbank wanted to change the arch mouldings from plaster to stone. During November “the pavement drawings” were sent to Wingate and the gas specifications to Mr Calderbank and the altar design took up a great deal of time.

February 22 1860 – Mr Farmer called to settle the price for carving the altar and pisina. Hardmans were asked to quote for “the safe”.

March 22 1860 – The church was officially opened when the bishop gave Gilbert £120 -for William Farmer-,to cover the cost of the altar. At this stage the cost of the church amounted to £2500. 1865 – more time on designs, but it is not clear what. Minton tiles were ordered for the floors in 1866 and 1867  saw the resumption of work again extending the nave, aisles, creating an organ gallery, the baptistery, a vesting room, the pulpit and spire. Reynolds is the clerk of the works and is paid £2-15/- per week. Usually Gilbert stayed at Hartpury when he visited the church and this often combined with shooting.

April 26th1860 – ‘Left Rotherwas. Called at Gloucester & came to Clifton’

January 1, 1869 “after attending Mass at Gloster go shooting -pheas 4, hare 1, rab 50.” By now the church and schools were complete -that is, as far as Gilbert Blount was concerned, and a further £5000 had been spent.


A few diary entries for 1859:

January 21st: ‘Saw Bishop of Birmingham at 8 York Place (the Cardinal’s London residence), he told me he wants to build a church at Bromsgrove.        

January 27th: ‘Left by 6.15am train for Bromsgrove, arrived there 11.7am & found the Bishop & Mr Estcourt. We examined the ground for proposed church. Then went to Grafton Manor, calling on the way at Mr Webber’s, the agent of the Shrewsbury Estate. Lunched with Mr Campbell. Looked at old ch at Bromsgrove. Returned to Birm & I returned to Lon by train arriving at 11pm.’

March 28th ‘Wrote to Jeffries. Bromsgrove ch 1hr.’

To unpack some of this detail, the Bishop of Birmingham was Dr William Ullathorne and Mr Estcourt was Edgar Edmund Estcourt, a convert from Anglicanism who taught at Prior Park, Bath, during the time that Dr Ullathorne was Vicar Apostolic of the Western District and living in the City. Estcourt was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in about 1850 and he followed Dr Ullathorne to Birmingham becoming his financial secretary and later Chancellor of the diocese. The Cardinal was, of course, Nicholas Wiseman, the first Archbishop of Westminster.

Grafton Manor was situated about a mile from Bromsgrove and for many generations it belonged to the Talbot Family. The estate had been given to them by King Henry VII and Catholics had worshipped there in secret after the break with Rome. The Second Catholic Relief Act of 1791 allowed Catholics to meet publicly for worship and so local families gathered for Mass in the chapel at Grafton Manor. John Talbot, born at Grafton in 1791, became the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury in 1827 and he moved to Alton Towers in Staffordshire where he endowed a number of Catholic foundations and, as result of the skill of his favoured architect, the area is, today, affectionately known as ‘Pugin-land’.  The Earl of Shrewsbury was one of the wealthiest men in England and his chapel at Alton Towers was of great beauty. The altar was designed by Joseph Potter of Lichfield but its reredos was the work of Augustus Welby Pugin. In due course, after the death of the Earl, this altarpiece (altar and reredos) was moved to the new Church of St Peter at Bromsgrove, a church designed by Gilbert Blount. The old church at Bromsgrove had been dedicated to St John the Baptist.

More extracts from the diary:

February 17th ‘Bromsgrove ch design finished and sent to the Bishop’

March 22nd ‘Left Lon by 6.15am train & went to Bromsgrove to look at fresh site for ch. Mr Jeffries accompanied me from Birmingham. We saw Mr Campbell & Mr Webber. Saw the Bishop & dined in Bir. Called at Hardman’s’

  Mr Jeffries was Canon George Jeffries, the Vicar-General of Birmingham Diocese. In the year 1867 he was appointed to St Peter’s, Bromsgrove. Mr Campbell was Rev Henry Campbell, the last priest to serve the mission at Grafton Manor. He was at Grafton from 1814 until 1874. At this time the secular Roman Catholic Clergy were not generally given the title of ‘Father’.

During the next four weeks Gilbert was spending at least eight hours a day on his plans for Bromsgrove. The diary entries continue:

May 14th ‘Bromsgrove sent plans to Mr Webber. Invited builders to tender and wrote to Mr Jefferies.’

June 21st ‘Left Lon by 6.15 train for Birmingham where the Bishop and Wilson signed Bromsgrove agreement. Went to Bromsgrove & fixed position of ch. Then to Gloster.’

Mr J. Wilson was the builder of the church and he lived at Soho Hill, close to what is now the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter. The stone chosen for the building was local grey sandstone and this was quarried from the site.

September 16th ‘Bromsgrove ch – on Niche for western end and also windows. 7hrs.’

December 7th ‘Left Clifton, called at Gloucester, Bromsgrove & Birmingham & returned to London.’

May 3rd ‘Bromsgrove heard from Wilson about a settlement at West End.’

May 7th ‘Bromsgrove went there. Called on the Bishop of Birmingham & returned Lon.’

May 8th ‘Bromsgrove ch on relieving arch.’

May 9th ‘Bromsgrove ch sent rel arch tracing to Wilson.’


January 19th ‘Heard from Bishop of Clifton (Bishop Clifford), asking me to meet him at Swindon to-day about some proposed buildings there, which I did & we returned to Lon. together’

January 26thCommenced plan for Buildings at Swindon’

During the next week, Gilbert spent between three and seven hours a day on the design of the school and this was completed on 4th February and sent off to the bishop who approved it on 8th February. The next three weeks were then spent on preparing the working drawings and the specifications, during which time Gilbert was in correspondence with Mr Clark, the Missioner. The Rev James Clark had arrived in Swindon in March 1858, as the first resident priest there, succeeding the Rev John Clarke who had been Missioner for both Fairford and Swindon. One of his parishioners was Richard Iles, whose wife, Dorothy, was a member of the Arkell Family, landowners and brewers of Swindon. A Mr Arkell offered to loan money for the land so that a Catholic chapel could be erected in Swindon, but the bishop said he had insufficient funds to make this possible. However, by the end of 1858, money and land were both made available for the school, almost certainly by Arkell.

March 19th ‘Swindon School sent plans to Mr Clark for builder’s tenders & wrote to him’                              

March 31st ‘Swindon recd tender from Bird’

April 4th ‘Swindon heard from Bishop of Clif & Mr Clark. Wrote to Builders sending result of competition.’

April 6th ‘Heard from J. Phillips of Swindon.’ (Mr Phillips was a builder who lived in Swindon.)

April 27th ‘Swindon School went there to fix the position & found one of the dimensions of the ground 7 ft out.’

April 28th ‘Swindon schools- Mr Clark sends plan of ground. On & sent corrected plan of school to Phillips, also sent him plan of ground to return to Mr Clark.’

November 7th ‘Swindon School on Gallery & Benches. Phillips called, wrote to Mr Clark.’

The school chapel was opened in 1859 and the school itself in 1862, but the Swindon Mission was now in debt. Fr James Clark wrote to the Tablet in January 1859:

‘Will any-one refuse to assist this poor mission in its struggle for the holy cause of raising for itself a little temple in which its God may be truthfully adored? Will no one then, lend us a helping hand?’


1859, March 10th ‘Mr Searle & self came to Hailsham station & on to Grove Hill Farm, the Cardinal’s property, about building some cottages’

Fr Searle was Cardinal Wiseman’s principal assistant and Grove Hill is situated near to Hurst Green in Sussex. and John Lade was living there at the time and he was, possibly, the agent. All documents pertaining to Cinderford Cottages bear the names of both Cardinal Wiseman and John Lade.

March 11th ‘Mr Searle & self went out shooting. Some of the farmers dined with us and we returned to Lon by 5.25 train’

The cottage plans were completed by 23rd March.

April 5th ‘Canon Searle called with plan of Cardinal’s Cottages & told me to prepare in twos.’

April 25th ‘Cinderford Cottages read over papers & sent off drawings for builders to tender.’

May 10th ‘Kelly & his foreman called with tender which was settled at £630.’


The Visitation Nuns bought Westmead House, Westbury, in 1832. A chapel was erected in 1835 and the nuns asked Blount to provide additions to the buildings in 1859 and again in 1862. Later on the Visitation Nuns were to move away from Westbury and they sold the property to the Sisters of Mercy.


March 12th ‘Heard from Bishop of Clifton saying I am to add to the Convent at Westbury.

March 14th ‘Left Lon by 2pm train & came to Clifton. Liz Riddell (cousin) gave me a bed at Arlington Place.’

March 15th ‘Westbury Convent went there & heard what the nuns propose for their new building 2hr. Walked about Clifton, we called on Miss Mostyn’

March 16th ‘Left Clifton by 8.10am train’ 

It would appear that the Westbury Nuns asked Gilbert to take a look at their house in Boulogne because he refers to a visit there:

March 28th ‘Left Lon by 1.30pm train & arrived in Boulogne about 6.45pm. very sick. Put up at the Hotel Meurice’

March 29th ‘Remained at Boulogne & went all over the Visitation Convent, also dined there’

March 30th ‘Left Boulogne by 8am boat & got home about 4.30pm.’

May 16th ‘Left Lon by train for Westbury. Called at Arlington Place & commenced measurements of Westbury Convent worked till 7.30pm. Self & Carew put up at the Kings Arms.’

May 17th ‘Westbury commenced measuring about 8.15am left off about 5.15pm dined with Liz Riddell met Geo Weld, Dr Clifford (Bishop of Clifton) & Mr -Mrs Charlton & Mrs Wilmot went to tea’

May 18th ‘Westbury measuring from 8.30am to 6.45pm. Called at Arlington Place’

March 19th ‘Westbury measuring from 9am to 6pm. In the evening called at Arlington Place’

March 20th ‘Westbury finished measuring & consulted with Nuns from 9am to 8.30pm. Called late at Arlington Place.’

May 21st ‘Westbury went there about 9.30am & talked over the proposed arrangements till about 12.30. I left the King’s Arms &put up in Arlington Place. I called on & dined with the Stonors at Bath. (almost certainly his great aunt Maria Euginia’s family) Carew left for London’

May 22nd ‘Went to 10-oc mass. Called on the Bishop, Mr Neve & Mother Margaret. Some people came to tea.’

May 23rd ‘Wrote several letters 3hr. Returned home from Clifton. Cemetery lodge on 3h’

For most of June and July 1859, Gilbert spent at least four to five hours, six days a week, on the Westbury plans and he completed the specifications by 24th August. On September 27th he received the tenders, so that on 6th September he could write in his diary, “Met Baker who signed contract & examined stone quarries”

The following year, 1860, there is a lot of correspondence regarding the plans with “Miss Weld” who is, clearly, a major benefactor.

April 27th ‘All day at Westbury met Baker there’

April 28th ‘At Westbury all day met Drs Clifford, Amherst (Bishop of Northampton) & Brown of Shrewsbury” Gilbert returns to London after the week end.’

June 3rd ‘Came to Clifton & went to Westbury’

Blount remains there until Saturday 8th June working at the convent and there is a further diary entry:


August 9th ‘Westbury Stations ordered at Burnes’s’ (later to become Burns & Oates of Victoria in London)


1860 found Gilbert busy working on plans for a Dr William Tandy at Banbury. On 3rd March he finished and sent off his plans to Dr Tandy. Sadly, we do not know what these plans were actually for but we do know that on 28th July, Gilbert ‘sent my bill for Banbury’


1860 March 28th ‘Stratford-on-Avon drew plans of ground.’

During 1861 many hours were spent preparing plans for a Catholic Church for Stratford-on-Avon and he often called there on his way to projects in Stone and Stoke in Staffordshire. His design for Stratford was never realised, because when he went to visit the Missioner, Mr Lane, at his address, 40 Wood Street, on 15th April 1862, he was informed that no church would be built that year. During the November of that year the Fund Raising society was even disbanded, however, a few years later a church was erected and E.W. Pugin was given the commission!


On 3rd May 1860, Gilbert received a letter from the Rev George Oldham, of 29 Oriental Place, Brighton, regarding what would become the Church of St Mary Magdalen. Later on in the month, Gilbert made visits to a site in Upper North Street, Brighton, and he was able to send his finished design to Mr Oldham on 5th July. On the 15th he returned to measure the site again and stayed with his cousin, William Riddell. The working drawings were commenced on 18th July and completed on 11th of the next month. Whilst working on the specifications Gilbert mentioned that a carpenter had called looking for work but we don’t know whether he was successful! The contracts were sent off on 31st August and tenders were received on 11th September.

Addresses at the front of the 1861 diary indicate that Rev G.A. Oldham had moved to 50 Montpelier Road, Brighton and a William Gildea was living at 38 Cavendish Street, Brighton.

1861, February 19th ‘Brighton Ch- went there. Brighton schools called on Mr Rymer & gave opinion on same.’

 No further work in Brighton is recorded by Gilbert until July 3rd, when five days were spent on the plans for the roof. In early January 1862 there is mention of door fittings being ordered from ‘Harts’ and on 26th July the accounts were sent to Mr Oldham.

During August 1863 the specifications were completed and, on 9th October, Gilbert went to Brighton for the actual signing of the contract. Mr Jones, the clerk of the works, also accompanied Gilbert and he was to receive £2 per week together with expenses for his journeys to and from home. The schedule from ‘Fabrian’s’ (builder?) was also received. Many more hours were recorded spent in the office and in journeys to Brighton and in March 1864, drawings were made for a spire. The church was opened on 16th August1864 and Mr Jones left the site on 3rd September to go on to his next job which was at St Mary’s College, Oscott, near Birmingham.


On 21st February 1863 Gilbert commenced plans for Oscott College, which had been rebuilt by Joseph Potter during the late 1830’s. The chapel was embellished by A. W. Pugin and further work was carried by his son. The college was a school and seminary under the presidency of James Spencer Northcote (1860-77). The earliest plans were for “the filling for the arches” and he sent tracings to Mr Northcote. During the month of July 1864 he spent most of the month preparing plans for the dining room, sending these off on 16th August.

August 23rd ‘Receive tenders & send contracts to be signed..

September 3rd (Saturday) ‘Jones left B’ton ch & called here. Oscott arrange for Jones to go on Monday @ £ 2 per week.’

Ten days later Jones sent adjusted plans for the dining room and in June of the following year, Gilbert was able to send accounts to Mr Northcote.

In the February of 1866, Gilbert spends most of that month preparing more plans for Oscott, this time for the Exhibition Room. This was the museum and lecture room and Gilbert seems to have been responsible for producing the glass roof – a simple design, making use of the ceiling for natural light.


During 1859 Gilbert was working on a monument for Lady Newburgh.  Anne Webb, a daughter of Sir John Webb, 5th Baronet of Odstock, was born at Hatherop in Gloucestershire on 14th February 1763. She married Anthony James Radcliffe on the 30th June 1789 and died at Slindon House, Slindon on the 4th August 1861. Plans for her monument seem to have been drawn prior to her death and these were sent to Mr Wilkinson at Chichester.

During 1860 there are very few references in his diary to further work at Chichester including, in September, plans for a gallery for “Mr Wilkinson at St Richards, Chichester”. Quite often Gilbert called there whilst journeying back to London from Brighton. From the diaries we can see that Gilbert’s train fares from London to Brighton were 13/- and from Brighton to Chichester 9/6d.


To be continued …


Gilbert Blount died in 1876. No obituary seems to have appeared and when Charles Barry, the President of the R.I.B.A., gave his annual address in 1877, he had great difficulty in finding any information about him, even though Gilbert had been a member of the Institute for 20 years. However he was described in the address as,

“a disciple of Pugin, he was a capable architect responsible for a small body of interesting but unadventurous works, variable in quality. Whilst he was not in the first flight as a designer, his work often had character – a personal flavour – due to his choice of parts and, at times, the wayward handling of their details…… He was a gentleman of very courteous manners and much respected among friends who deplore his death.”[ii]

Gilbert Blount 2.jpg

Gilbert Robert Blount

Gilbert Blount died on 13 November 1876, ‘at 9.20pm, very calmly and beautifully.’[iii] His funeral took place on 18 November at St James’ Church in Reading. He was buried in the churchyard, beside the south wall of the church, in the family vault alongside his parents and sister. Since the alterations to this church in 1962, the Blount vault is now under the side aisle and is, unfortunately, not marked, but a plaque is now been placed on the nearest wall. His wife and three unmarried daughters, Marjorie, Louisa and Gilberta are all buried there with him. Emma, his eldest daughter, married William May, a solicitor, and they are both buried at St Edward’s, Sutton Park, Guildford.


Blount 4

[i] Letters to Gilbert Blount from Elizabeth Riddell (author’s collection) and  Jill Allibone, ‘Anthony Salvin – Pioneer of Gothic Revival Architecture’

[ii] Charles Barry, R.I.B.A. address, November 1877

[iii] Gilbert Blount’s diary 1876 – continued by his wife. (author’s collection)

Blount 2

Blount 3

Gilbert’s widow, Sophia Margaret Blount, continued living at 1 Montagu Place until the the early 1880s when she moved to Woodbridge Park, Guildford. Alfred Blount, Gilbert’s brother, moved back to the property in Montagu Place where he stayed until he died.

Sometime between 1918 and 1923 she moved to a house in Camberley which was renamed ‘Woodbridge.’ Here she died in 1927.

Mrs Gilbert Blount 1 (2)

L to R. Jacobina Maria Sophie Brown nee Radcliffe (1820-1910), Emma Mary Agnes Theresa May nee Blount (1873-1956), Michael William Blount May (1906-1982) and Sophia Margaret Blount nee Brown (1844-1927)

Mrs Gilbert Blount 2 (2)

Sophia Margaret Blount and grandson Michael Blount May



Woodbridge Park in 1885 (Acknowledging the Chris Quinn Collection)

Possibly Woodbridge Park, Guildford (2)

Woodbridge Park, Camberley


Possibly Woodbridge Park, Guildford (3)

Blount 5


Correspondence regarding Blount’s Work

In the possession of Philippa Hunter (Great Grand-daughter)

(i) The Priory, Little Malvern, Oct. 15. 1912 to Mrs Blount

Dear Madam,

Mr. Wm Berington encourages me to write to you and to ask you, if you can without inconvenience, give me some information, which I have been long seeking for.

I began some years ago to draw up a list of the works executed by Catholic architects during the past century, and was particularly anxious to make your husbands’ list as full as possible, as however, I believe, an aluminus of Downside, my own college.

I have a catalogue of some of the churches, convents, etc which he designed – but, I dare say you could easily give me a fuller one than I could compile.  If so, I shall be very grateful.  Someday soon I hope I may be able to work it into a short article for the Downside Review of which I am editor – and when I come to that, I should dearly like to have a portrait of so distinguished a man.  Perhaps you could give me, or lend me, a photograph of Mr. Gilbert Blount, for reproduction; with a few dates for the contemplated memoir.

 With every apology for thus troubling you,

I am yours very sincerely

 Gilbert Dolan OSB

(ii) From MEADOW GRANGE, Near CANTERBURY, 26th October 1912

(A.E. Purdie was Blount’s assistant and he continued the uncompleted works after Blount’s death. He later became an architect in his own right.)

Dear Madam,

We had at the office Montagu Place, a fairly, full list of most of the work designed and carried out by the late Mr. Gilbert Blount, this list I made out many years ago and fastened with paste on the inside of the cupboard doors of recess (?) where most of the drawings and tracings were kept, so now I am quite at a loss to remember a twentieth part of them.

An interesting work or article might however be written giving a brief account of his useful life, serving his time after leading a collegiate education, with the eminent Engineer Brunel and then following by preference the study of Architecture in which he was most successful, ‘a thing of beauty is a joy for ever;’ and this was his principal aim in life, and is expressed to a marked degree in all his buildings, for the greatest and most minute care was lavished on them.  His architectural studies through Britain, France and Italy etc., were greatly appreciated by a mind so fertile, so persevering, so painstaking and richly rewarded in the number of Churches, Convents, Schools, Mansions, Restorations, Monuments, Altars and other work requiring skilful and educated treatment, with his vast knowledge, he was consulted frequently by Prelates, Priests and Laity and often called on by architects of high standing to arbitrate on complicated matters of dispute and misunderstanding.

Tall of stature handsome in build and appearance, of a gentle and modest nature, few can surpass him, always ready to do a good and help in works of charity, a devout son of Holy Church.  He passed to his reward on … and is buried in the beautiful churchyard at Reading.

Here follows a list of some of his works:

Churches –


St Thomas’s Fulham

St Helen’s Brentwood

Church & Schools Holy Rosary Marylebone

Felton Church.

Garswood Newton-le-Willows

St Mary Magdalene Brighton

St John’s Brighton restoration and additional chancel

Church of the Holy Family, Bedford

Church and additions to Mansion, Swynnerton Park

Church, House and Presbytery Burton Park, Sussex

Church etc at Wednesbury

Lanark Church & Convent

Restoration Chapel at Richmond

Church, Hendon

(Church) at Bosworth Hall

St Mary’s Mortlake

Church at Caverswall

St Dominic’s Priory, Haverstock Hill

Glasgow Friary

Training College, Hammersmith

Convent of Mercy Blandford Square

Convent of Dominican Nuns and Chapel, Isle of Wight

Sisters of Nazareth, Hammersmith

Schools at Spitalfields

School Chapel, Dorking

Do (School Chapel ?) at Wolverton

Convent of Notre Dame, Clapham

Notre Dame, Southwark

Visitation Convent at Westbury

College buildings and additions for the Jesuit Fathers, Beaumont, old Windsor also the expensive deep foundations for the Church of St Ignatius.

and many others too numerous to mention.

Probably you may remember more than I have described, if so kindly append them.

I trust you and your family are keeping in the best of health and hurrying to catch post, with kindest regards,

I remain dear Madam

Yours very sincerely,

A.E. Purdie

(iii) Letter from A.E. Purdie to Mrs. Blount 30th October 1912

(Editor – Purdie was Gilbert Blount’s assistant and took over the Practice after Gilbert died)

Meadow Grange, near Canterbury.

Dear Madam,

I return your list with a few corrections added thereon.

Those shown by X I am uncertain about since they might be additions only.

I dare say you will be able to assist the Revd Father a good deal.

With Kindest Regards

I remain dear Madam

Yours very sincerely

A.E. Purdie

(iv) Some of the works of Mr. Gilbert Robert Blount

Undated List probably by Margaret Blount, widow

Ashton-le-Willows Church and Schools (Sir M. Gerard afterwards Lord Gerard)

Arundel Cottages (for Duke of Norfolk)

Archbishop’s House Westminster (formerly the Guards Institute structural alterations were made to suit the requirements of the late Cardinal Manning)

x Aldworth Church

Blandford Square complete Convent and Chapel

x Barfriston Church

Burton Park Church and house Mr. Bullocks (editor – should be Wilcocks) house

Bromsgrove Church

Brentwood St. Helen’s Church

Bow Church of Our Lady

Brighton Church St. Mary Magdalen

Brighton Church St. John the Baptist an old Church to which was added Chancel and chapels and other extensions – a mural monument to the memory of the late Mrs. Fitzherbert is fixed on the epistle of the nave.

Bosworth Hall Church of Our Lady for St. Francis Turville

Bedford Church of the Holy Family (for the late Canon Warmoll)

Old Beaumont College, Church and additions

Clapham Notre Dame Convent, Schools and Chapel

Carisbrook Priory complete Convent and Chapel

Crewe Church

Castle Rising Church

x Colney Hatch Asylum

x Chelsea Almshouses

x Cinderford Cottages

Caverswall Castle Church and additions for the late Sir Percival Radcliffe Bart

Chalgrove Church

Dan-y-graig Church

Dorking (? not sure of word following – editor) Church, St Josephs, Schools Presbytery

x St. Dormier Church

x Englefield and x Ewell Churches

Felton Park Church

Glasgow Friary (added in pencil – editor)

Goring Church

Garswood and Wrightington schools

Hendon Church

Hammersmith Training College

Hammersmith Church and Convent Good Shepherd

x Highgate Cemetery uncertain as Cemetery etc of this (being (concluding illegible note – editor)

Homer Row London Our Lady of the Rosary Church and schools

Hartbury Church

x Ivor Church

Ingatestone Hall Church and additions

Kidderminster (Church of the Holy Family)

Lanark Church and Convent (added in pencil)

Leydden Church

Mortlake (in pencil)

Manor House Ilford Church and additions to old house

Marylebone Church and Schools (added in pencil – possibly Homer Road above – editor)

Nazareth House Church, Convent and Schools

New Hall Convent Lodge and Porch

Newton le Willows (added in pencil – probably Ashton-le-Willows – editor)

Romford Church

Rudding Park Cottages

Swindon Schools

Spicer St Spitalfields London schools

Spitalfields St. Anne’s Church

Stone part of Church and complete Convent

Stoke Staffordshire Convent and schools

Swynnerton Park Church and additions to house

x Streatley Church

x Shotterbrook Church

Southwark Notre Dame Convent (added in pencil)

Westminster Archbishops House. This was formerly the Guards Institute. Structural alterations were made to suit the requirements

Shrine enclosure for the late Cardinal Wiseman’s tomb removed to Westminster Cathedral.

Numerous tombs, sacred vessels and Altars were designed by Mr. Gilbert Blount

Oscott College extensions and additions

Haverstock Hill St. Dominic’s Church

Large drawings for metalwork

Fonts etc etc

Benches, vestment chests

and numerous other designs

The names with x against them I am uncertain about, they might be additions only but there are drawings of them among Mr. G. Blount’s

Wednesbury Church (added in pencil)

Westbury Convent (added in pencil)

Wolverton (added in pencil)

Wrightington schools (added in pencil)

(v) The Priory, Little Malvern (postcard, postmarked 26th January 1913, addressed to Mrs. Blount, Woodbridge Park, Guildford, Surrey )

I have not yet completed my paper – So, with yr kind permission will keep the documents a little longer. I have, alas, only one eye to work with, & must use it economically. My article I trust will appear in the Downside Review & of course you shall have a copy.

Yrs. v. faithfully

Gilbert Dolan O.S.B.

(vi) The Priory, Little Malvern 27.10.1913

(To Mrs Blount, Woodbridge Park, Guildford, Surrey)

Dear Mrs Blount,

I cannot tell you how much I am obliged to you for your kind communication – the photograph and Mr Purdie’s letter : & I shall look forward with pleasure for the further information which you promise me.

I am sure you will agree with me that our leading Catholic architects of the revival, especially such a one as your husband, deserve commemoration in some proper quarter.

With renewed thanks I am

Very sincerely yours

Gilbert Dolan O.S.B.

(vii) The Priory, Little Malvern, 12.3.14

Dear Mrs. Blount,

I thank you very much for so kindly giving me the supplementary information, dates etc., regarding your late husband’s career.  In a day or two I shall be sending it off to Father Abbot Butler, who has relieved me from the editorship for this year. As it is the Centenary year of Downside, instead of the three usual numbers, one volume with history, memoirs etc., for the period, will be issued in the summer, it is usual and I do not suppose that you would care for five copies of a work likely to run over 300 pages.  With the ordinary numbers one often had application for reprints (taken before the type was broken up) of special articles; the terms for these reprints varied, of course, with the number of pages; whether there was a portrait or print; whether a special cover was asked for etc. I will look up a specimen of what I mean that you may judge for yourself.  I have had the photograph reproduced and hope funds will run to its appearance in the Review.  There would be, of course, no difficulty of printing it there if you kindly thought fit to guarantee the cost.  If I were not a poor monk without a sixpence of my own I would gladly be at the expense myself, being anxious to preserve the memory and the features of so distinguished an aluminus of my old School, and me who was such an ornament to the Catholic body.  When I hear from the Right Rev. Editor I will write again.

Meantime with best thanks and wishes,

 I am

Yours very sincerely,

 (pro) Gilbert Dolan O.S.B.

(viii) Undated List of Gilbert R. Blounts designs etc.

The pencil additions and the Crosses are possibly by Emma Blount, his daughter (according to Philippa Hunter, Great Grand-daughter)

Clapham, Notre Dame Convent & Schools & Chapel (pencil)

Stoke Staffordshire Convent & Schools

Nazareth House Church (pencil addition) & Convent & schools

Westbury Convent

Stone (pencil addition) part of Church & Convent complete

Carisbrook Priory (pencil addition) Dominican complete convent & Chapel

Blandford Sq Convent & Church (pencil addition) complete convent & chapel

Goring Church

Swynnerton Park Church (pencil addition) & additions to House

X Englefield

X Bradfield,

X Basildon

X Ivor

X Barfriston

X Upton Church

Ewell (pencil addition) Chapel

X Hartbury

X Horne churches

X Tilehurst Church

Cheltenham Church  (pencil addition) this was by Hansom

X Aldworth

X Shotterbrook Churches

X Leydden

X Streatley

X Chalgrove

Kidderminster Church of the Holy Trinity

Romford Church

Burton Park Church (pencil addition) Mr. Willock’s House)

Wednesbury Church

Brentwood St Jos  (pencil addition) Helens

Manor House Ilford Church (pencil addition) is an old house & additions to House only

Bow Our Lady Church

Gloucester St Peters Church

Brighton St Mary Magdalen

Brighton New Church (pencil additions) changed from new to old. St John’s Brighton Additions of chancel and chapels

Woodchester Franciscan Convent & Church (incorrect – editor)

Hammersmith Good Shepherd Church & Convent.

Bosworth Church of Our Lady (pencil addition) Hall for Sir Francis Turville KCMG

Bedford Church of the Holy Family (pencil addition) for the late Canon Warmoll

Dorking St Jos. Church  schools & Presbytery

Ingatestone Hall Church of St Erconwald (pencil addition) additions

Stone Convent (pencil addition) complete

Felton Park Church

X St Dormier Church

Dan-y-Craig Church

Spitalfields St Anne’s Church

Hendon Church

Homer Row London “Our Lady of the Rosary Church & Schools”

Castle Rising Church

Wolferton Church & schools

Old Beaumont College & Church (pencil addition) additions

X Coney Hatch Asylum

New Hall Convent Lodge and Porch

Rudding Park Cottages

Schools, Spicer Street (pencil addition) Spitalfields London E

X Swindon Schools

X Chelsea Almshouses

X Cinderford Cottages

X Highgate Cemetery (pencil addition) uncertain as to extent of this being protestant.

Garswood & Wrightington Schools (pencil addition) & additions to house

Arundel cottages (pencil addition) for the Duke of Norfolk

Ashton-le-Willows Church & Schools Sir B Gerard afterwards Lord Gerard

(ix) Undated Pencil Notes:

Ashton Le Willows Church  and school for Sir B Gerard)

Bromsgrove Church

Brentwood Church

Crewe Church

Caverswall Castle

Garswood Church

Felton (actually written Fetern – editor) Church

Hendon Church

Dorking Church and Presbytery Schools

Gloucester Church

Manor House, Little  (could be another similar word – editor) Ilford

Wednesbury Church

Richmond Church

Archbishops House

Two bottom drawers etc (not clear – editor)

St. Dominic’s Haverstock Hill Church

Carisbrook Convent and Church


Image result for gilbert blount, architect

Philippa Hunter with one of  the diaries of her ancestor, Gilbert Robert Blount



One comment on “Gilbert Blount: A Victorian Architect through his diaries

  1. Pingback: Gilbert Blount – A Miscellany | btsarnia

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