First major book on flamboyant Edwardian architect Edwin Rickards published

Edwin Rickards by Timothy Brittain-Catlin is the latest in the The Victorian Society’s monograph series on Victorian and Edwardian architects.

First major book on flamboyant Edwardian architect Edwin Rickards published

Photo: Timothy Brittain-Catlin’s Edwin Rickards book cover. Photo Copyright: Timothy Brittain-Catlin.

This is the first book devoted to the life and work of the most exuberant, preternaturally confident, and stylish of Edwardian architects. Rickards’ buildings were described by John Summerson, a leading British architectural historian, to effervesce like fine champagne. It is available for sale directly from the The Victorian Society here for £25. This book is published in partnership with Liverpool University Press and Historic England.

Profusely illustrated throughout with stunning new photography by Robin Forster, and by Rickards’ own sketches and drawings, this book portrays his meteoric rise that ended with his early death and his close friendship with the novelist Arnold Bennett who described him, along with H.G Wells, as one of “the two most interesting, provocative, and stimulating men I have yet encountered”. Rickards appears as a fictional character in Arnold Bennett’s 1918 novel The Roll-Call.

Rickards (1872–1920) sadly only had a short working life. His career was launched when, aged 25, he won a major competition to design Cardiff City Hall (Grade I, 1897) with his partners H.V. Lanchester and James Stewart. In partnership with Lanchester, his buildings in the High Edwardian grand manner include Methodist Central Hall, Westminster (Grade II*, 1905), and Deptford Town Hall (Grade II, 1903). Most grandiose Edwardian architecture is influenced by a combination of 18th English baroque or French architecture. Rickards’ work was unique with its personal combination of French and Austrian sources.

Rickards was one of the most brilliant designers and draughtsmen of the Edwardian period, and worked with H.C. Fehr and Henry Poole, leading practitioners of the naturalistic New Sculpture. He was a natural choice to design the Great Britain pavilion (1909) at the Venice Biennale which is still in use today.

Rickards was also a remarkable and prolific caricaturist. His abilities and personality meant he found a place in the demi-monde. His architectural and personal daring made him an unforgettable figure to everyone who encountered him.

Timothy Brittain-Catlin is an architect and architectural historian at the University of Cambridge. His book The English Parsonage in the Early Nineteenth Century was published in 2008. In 2020 he published The Edwardians and their Houses, the first major appraisal of the subject for 40 years. He is a member of Historic England’s national Advisory Committee.

“Brittain-Catlin has done a fine job, erudite and entertaining, informative and perceptive, with a splendid choice of visual matter.” The Critic

“Robin Forster’s work is spectacularly fine.” The Critic


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