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Sancton Wood

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Sancton Wood (1815-1886)

1886 Obituary [1]

SANCTON WOOD was born at Hackney, in the year 1815. His father, Mr. John Wood, who was a member of an old and prosperous Cumberland family, had, when a young man, quitted his native county to enter into business in London as a 'Manchester Merchant;' from thence he married a Miss Harriet Russell, niece of the eminent painter, Mr. Richard Smirke, R.A.

Six children were born of this marriage, the youngest child and only son taking his distinctive Christian name from an uncle, Mr. Philip Sancton, a successful London Merchant, who had married his father’s sister.

As a boy, Sancton Wood does not appear to have received any great educational advantages so far as school life was concerned; he was first placed by his father at a small private school in Devonshire, and was afterwards transferred to a school in Birmingham presided over by Mr. T. R. Hill, the father of Sir Rowland Hill, C.B. This school was conducted on a somewhat unique 'Voluntary' system, which attracted some attention at the time, and certainly had its measure of success, if Mr. Hill’s own sons may be taken as examples. It is to be doubted, however, whether such a system could possibly produce high results with the majority of boys, and Mr. Sancton Wood was wont to declare that he fully entered into its spirit by volunteering to do as little as possible in the way of serious study; however this may be, it is certain that his general acquirements at the time he left school failed to inspire his friends with any great hope of future success.

The lad was destined, however, to meet with greater advantages and more vigorous discipline in his professional education, and the connection with the Smirke family above referred to proved a most valuable influence in determining his career.

Having manifested a taste for drawing, he was, through his mother’s influence, admitted into the office of his cousin, Sir Robert Smirke, RA., who was then one of the leading London architects ; from this office he was transferred to that of Mr. Sydney Smirke, R.A., who succeeded to his brother’s practice. He remained with Mr. Sydney Smirke for several years after the expiration of his articles, and was engaged upon the drawings of many important works ; amongst others may be mentioned the sketches of the designs for rebuilding the Houses of Parliament, which Sir Robert Smirke had prepared for Sir Robert Peel’s government before the House of Commons decided in favour of an open competition.

Whilst with Mr. Smirke, Sancton Wood became a student in the Antique School at the Royal Academy; subsequently he travelled on the Continent, spending considerable time in Spain and Portugal, collecting numerous drawings of the most important buildings he had seen, and making many sketches, all of which possess artistic merit.

In the offices of the two Smirkes he had been well drilled in the highest class of work, and his taste always bore the stamp of refinement which it there received.

About the time he commenced practice for himself, the railway system of these Islands was advancing by leaps and bounds, offering great opportunities to those architects who were so fortunate as to be employed, and Sancton Wood, partly by competition, partly by recommendation, secured a large share of the work.

In 1838 he was engaged by Mr. John Braithwaite, M. Inst. C.E., to design the buildings for the Eastern Counties Railway, including the old terminus at Shoreditch; his designs for the latter, however, were considerably modified, owing to financial difficulties. The first premium of S100 was awarded to him for his design for the station at Ipswich, and several of the stations on the Eastern Union Railway were designed by him for Mr. Peter Bruff, M. Inst. C.E. In 1845 his design for the terminal station in Dublin of the Great Southern and Western Railway was accepted in a competition in which sixty-five competitors were engaged, and this building, and nearly all the intermediate stations from Dublin to Cork, were erected from his designs and under his superintendence. He was also architect to the Limerick Junction line, and to the Grand Racing Stand at the Curragh.

Mr. Charles Liddell engaged his services in the design and superintendence of several stations on two branches of the Midland and North Western Railways. In 1846 Mr. Wood obtained a premium of £100 for his design for the Blackburn Railway Station.

His work, however, was by no means confined to railway architecture ; the streets and terraces known as Upper Hyde Park Gardens were laid out by him for Messrs. J. and C. Rigby, who built all the houses on the estate from his designs and specifications. He was also architect to the block of offices at the southwest corner of King Street and Gresham Street. His practice was now of a very extensive character, and it would be tedious to mention all the numerous buildings erected from his designs in London and in the provinces; they comprise, churches, schools, dwelling-houses, warehouses, offices, stables, and buildings of almost every class, many of them of considerable importance and excellence of design. In addition to the above works, Mr. Sancton Wood was surveyor to several building estates in different parts of London and the suburbs, amongst the most successful of which was the Lime Grove Estate, Putney ; this estate was laid out by him and entirely covered under his superintendence, several houses upon it being built from his own designs.

Mr. Wood formerly held the appointment of District Surveyor of Putney and Roehampton, and for the last twenty-four years was District Surveyor of St. Luke’s, Chelsea. In 1861, he was a candidate for the office of Superintending Architect to the Metropolitan Board of Works, and was only defeated by Mr. George Vulliamy by three votes.

His long and varied experience, coupled with his reliable judgment and rapid perception, eminently qualified him for the surveying branch of his profession, and he was very largely occupied with arbitrations, valuations and compensation cases ; in later life his architectural practice was almost relinquished for this more profitable class of work.

Mr. Wood was a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, on the Council of which he served in 1850 and 1851, and a Fellow of the Institute of Architects of Ireland; he was also a Member of the Institute of Surveyors. He was elected an Associate of this Institution on the 4th of April 1848, and served on the Council in the Session 1857-58.

Although of too quiet and retiring a disposition to make the attainment of office a matter of ambition, still, like many other busy men, he did not shirk such voluntarily imposed duties. He was also a member of the Examining Board for District Surveyors, the duties of which post he performed up to the last.

For many years he was an active member of the Directorate of the Provident Clerks Assurance Company, in which he took a considerable interest. He was an eminently successful man in most things that he undertook, an able administrator with a clear, sound judgment, and a quick and accurate perception of facts. Although of a somewhat nervous and excitable temperament he was possessed of considerable vigour of mind, and great refinement and delicacy of feeling, and his unimpeachable integrity of character and courtesy of manner won him the respect and esteem of all men who came into contact with him.

He died at his residence at Putney Hill on the 18th of April, 1886, in the seventy-first year of his age, after an illness of two or three days.

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