The Twickenham Museum
People : Architects and Scientists

John James
A parson's son and a leading architect of the first half of the 18th Century
1672 - 1746

St Mary's Church, Twickenham showing the nave designed by John James

Education and apprenticeship

John James was the eldest son of the Rev John James, Master of the Holy Ghost School at Basingstoke, later vicar there and Rector of Stratfield Turgis.

Attendance at his father's school led to his estimation that there was "no person pretending to Architecture among us, Sir Chr Wren excepted, [who] has had the advantage of a better Education in the Latin, Italian and French tongues" besides " a competent share of Mathematicks and ten years instruction in all the parts of Building by Mr Banks". James was actually uneasy about his relationship with Wren and unsure of his reputation with the man.

James was apprenticed to Matthew Bancks, Master Carpenter to the Crown from 1683 to 1706 and lodged with him at Hampton Court from 1689 until 1697. In that year he married Bancks' niece Hannah, at St Mary's Church Teddington, describing himself in the register as a bricklayer.

Architect for rebuilding St Mary's Church nave

When the nave of St Mary's Church, Twickenham collapsed in 1713, James was appointed architect for the rebuilding and the brickwork reflects James' skilful use of that material.

Orleans House being demolished in 1926

Orleans House and other Twickenham designs

His first known connection with Twickenham was the commission to design the house later known as Orleans House, for James Johnston, in 1710. This house, unhappily demolished in 1926, was illustrated in Colin Campbell's edition of Vitruvius Britannicus in 1715. There is an unverified claim that he assisted Thomas Twining in 1725 with work at Dial House, Riverside, later St Mary's Vicarage, in Twickenham.

John James's monogram on a sun dial at Warbrook

Country houses and public office

Among his many country houses, James designed Standlynch (now Trafalgar) House, Wiltshire for Sir Peter Vandeput between 1731 and 1733. Vandeput had earlier been a resident in Twickenham and may have encountered James there.

James held a number of public offices throughout his career as a member of the architectural establishment, eventually succeeding Sir Christopher Wren as Surveyor to St Paul's Cathedral.

James built himself a house, Warbrook, at Eversley in Hampshire, where he died and is buried.

Further reading:

Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840, Yale, 1995
John Brushe, Some Designs by John James, The Georgian Group Journal, 1994

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