Basic Biographical Details

Name: William James Audsley
Designation: Architect
Born: 1833
Died: c. 1910(?)
Bio Notes: William James Audsley was born in Elgin in 1833 and was articled to Alexander and William Reid of Elgin. In 1863 he formed a partnership with his younger brother George Ashdown Audsley, born in Elgin on 3 June 1838, who had also been articled to the Reids from c.1852 to 1856 and had subsequently moved to Liverpool where he had spent some time with the City Surveyor John Weightman and with John Cunningham with whom he was briefly in partnership.

In the early years the Audsleys' practice included key-making as well as architecture. They designed a significant number of buildings in and around Liverpool, mostly Ruskinian but their Racquet Court (1879) was Thomsonesque Greek and their synagogue Moorish. The last of these brought the commission to design a church on St Petersburgh Place, London in association with the Jewish architect Nathan Solomon Joseph in 1877-79, and a London office was opened in 1881, partly to deal with their numerous publications. Both brothers were admitted FRIBA on 12 June 1876, their proposers being Edward Robert Robson and Robert William Edis of London and Joseph Boult of Liverpool.

The Audsleys' career as authors of books on architecture and design began in Liverpool with the publication of the 'Guide to the Art of Illuminating and Missal Painting' (1861) and the 'Handbook of Christian Symbolism' (1865), both of which had pioneering chromolithograph plates. These were followed by 'Cottage, Lodge and Villa Architecture', published in Edinburgh in 1868, again with chromolithographed plates. By the early 1870s they had become leading exponents of the Japanese in the 'Keramic Art of Japan' (1875) and 'The Ornamental Arts of Japan' (1882-84), these being related to their client James L Bowes who was an important collector. Their 'Outlines of Ornament in the Leading Styles' published in London in 1881 and in New York in 1882 led to a visit to New York in the following years and a chance meeting with the Milwaukee art collector Frederick Layton on the voyage home. Layton asked them to sketch out an art gallery which was built in 1885-87 and supervised by E Townsend Mix. Carried out partly in timber and terracotta, it was perhaps the finest expression of Thomsonesque Greek Revival designs outwith Thomson's own oeuvre. One of the Audsleys made a visit to the Midwest in the summer of 1889, sailing for home on 20 July.

In 1892 the Audsleys removed their practice to New York. This move may have related to the success of their publications there, but it also seems to have been connected with the commission from a consortium of English investors to design the sixteen-storey Bowling Green Building at 3-11 Broadway, built in 1895. This had a very modern pilastered treatment at the upper floors and high-quality detail at the lower floors. Other commissions included the Gothic church of Edward the Confessor in Philadelphia and the English church at Grasse in France. A substantial part of their practice in America related to organs, George having become interested in organ building at St George's Hall in Liverpool, probably during his period with Weightman, to the extent of having a large and elaborate organ in his London house for musical evenings. In the USA he became the principal advocate of the concert organ, an instrument of such wide range that it could function as a full orchestra, his ideas on the subject being embodied in 'The Art of Organ Building', published in 1905. In his later New York years, George retired from architecture to devote his time wholly to organ building and publications, working chiefly with his son Berthold rather than his brother William who retired or died c.1910. He settled in a large hilltop house in Bloomfield, New Jersey where he died on 21 June 1925. His profession was given as writer and organ builder rather than as architect.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 214, Cook Street, Liverpool, EnglandBusiness1876 *  
Item 2 of 2New York, New York, United States of AmericaBusiness1892c. 1910(?) 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 3A & W ReidAfter 1847Before 1863Apprentice(?) 
Item 2 of 3A & W ReidAfter 1850(?)1863(?)Assistant(?) 
Item 3 of 3Audsley & Audsley1863After 1895Partner 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3Joseph Boult12 June 1876for Fellowship
Item 2 of 3(Sir) Robert William Edis12 June 1876for Fellowship
Item 3 of 3Edward Robert Robson12 June 1876for Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 1James Lindsay3 January 1881for Associateship

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 11874Cawdor Castle  NairnshireScotlandProposals for the infilling of the N courtyard to creat 'King Duncan's Hall' - not executed


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 8British Architectural Library, RIBA2001Directory of British Architects 1834-1914   
Item 2 of 8Dictionary of American Biography Dictionary of American Biography   
Item 3 of 8Francis See Directory   
Item 4 of 8Grove Dictionary of Art Grove Dictionary of Art   
Item 5 of 8Jervis, Simon1984The Penguin Dictionary of Design and Designers   
Item 6 of 8Placzek, Adolf K (ed)1982Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects New York: The Free Press/Macmillan Publishing Company 
Item 7 of 8Walker Art Gallery2003The Audsleys: Victorian Pattern Designers (Walker Art Gallery Exhibition) Liverpool: Walker Art Gallery 
Item 8 of 8Withey, Henry F and Withey, Elsie Rathburn1970Biographical Dictionary of American Architects (Deceased)Facsimile editionLos Angeles: Hennessey & Ingalls, Inc (originally published in 1956) 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 4Alexander Thomson Society NewsletterJanuary 1992no 3  
Item 2 of 4Alexander Thomson Society NewsletterSeptember 2000no 27  
Item 3 of 4Builder*  CHECK illustrations index
Item 4 of 4Building News7 March 1890   

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2British Architectural Library, RIBARIBA Biographical Files  
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers F v5 p49 (microfiche 88/E1)