Thomas Rickman (1776-1841) Architect and Antiquary

The first staging post of the travelling Thomas Rickman exhibition to commemorate the bicentenary of the 1817 printing in Liverpool of Thomas Rickman’s epoch-making book An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of Architecture.

 Special Collections and Archives, Sydney Jones Library and Harold Cohen Library. 

In 1817 Rickman, a Quaker accountant in a Liverpool insurance firm, wrote An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of Architecture, the first accurate history of English gothic architecture, which became a nineteenth-century bestseller. Rickman’s Attempt was a scholarly milestone which resulted in greater understanding and appreciation for medieval architecture; its clear schematic illustrations of the varied styles of Norman and gothic architecture enabled architects to employ the styles more knowledgeably in their executed buildings. In 1818 the second Church Building Act was passed by Parliament, creating demand for his services as a recognised expert in gothic architecture with a strong financial background. Thanks to the Church Commissioners, Rickman went on to have a large and varied architectural practice.

 Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • An original first edition of Rickman’s An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of Architecture (1817) and copies of every subsequent edition
  • The handwritten text of Rickman’s lecture on modern church architecture delivered to the Liverpool Literary and Philosophical Institute
  • A manuscript letter from Thomas Rickman to Matthew Gregson
  • The copy of Rickman’s book owned an annotated by his friend William Whewell, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge
  • William Roscoe’s proprietor’s ticket for the Liverpool Royal Institution
  • Etchings of churches by John Sell Cotman (1782-1842).

 

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