Lawrence G Summers

Lawrence George Summers’s Buildings in Sherwood, Carrington & New Basford.

In the last blog I found out some more about LG Summers’ family background. This time I’m going to take a look at some of his buildings.

Starting from Sherwood, I went for a wander to find some of the buildings designed by Lawrence George Summers which are still standing in Nottingham. Around the corner from the larger blocks of Fothergill houses on Mansfield Road is a small house on Bingham Road which has characteristics easily mistaken for Fothergill, a decorative turret and a vernacular gable with brick nogging in distinctive red bricks with black timber.

Bingham Road, Built 1921. Photo: Lucy Brouwer.

But this little dwelling at 16 Bingham Road (LGS25) is the work of Summers. Applying for planning in August 1921, the builder was W Hayes of Mapperley and the client was Mr Thomas M Basnett. It seems that this was on the land that was owned by Fothergill, part of the larger parcel where the Villas of 1906 were built.

Turret and gable at Bingham Road showing some familiar motifs. Photo: Lucy Brouwer.

A further foray into Carrington and eventually I find the next house on my list, on Herbert Road (LGS12). Little seems to be known about this, other than plans were approved in 1897 and the client was Mr J B Hughes.

Some interesting features in the roof line, the brick work and the windows make this house slightly more than initially meets the eye. Herbert Road, 1897. Photo: Lucy Brouwer.
The house on Herbert Road is one of several that seem to have been built around the same time, but each has its own idiocyncracies. Photo: Lucy Brouwer.
From the back the interesting roof layout is more apparent but the windows have been replaced. The lower roof in front belongs to next door. Herbert Road. Photo: Lucy Brouwer.

The next house on the trail was on Central Avenue (LGS22), not far away. This was built for Gilbert L Summers, LG’s nephew, in 1914. Summers marked his name on the application with “ARIBA”. After Fothergill retired LG signs off with his qualification. In the 1911 census Gilbert was living at 44 Central Avenue with his widowed father Frederick (LG’s brother), his sister Evelyn and his niece (LG’s sister Lola’s daughter) Clara Richardson lived-in as their housekeeper. (It was common practice that an unmarried female member of the extended family would live-in to provide domestic help to unmarried or widowed male relatives.)

Not many original features seem to survive in the house on Central Avenue. Photo: Lucy Brouwer.

Gilbert Lawrence Summers is listed in the 1911 census as a Sewing Machine Mechanic. Perhaps he was working in the family lace firm in New Basford. By 1939, when a register was taken, Gilbert appears to be living in Wiverton Road (around the corner from other Summers buildings in Berridge Road) with his wife Lily.

Many of Lawrence Summers’s buildings (at least the ones he signs off himself) were for members of his extended family in the New Basford area.

Over on Duke Street, a little further up the street from the site of the house where LG was born, are “Two Cottages” (LGS15). Built in 1899, these three storey houses stand out in a street that is now mostly light industrial buildings and modern additions.

The two cottages built by LG Summers on Duke Street. Photo: Lucy Brouwer.
The cottages on Duke Street on Picture Nottingham. It is wrongly attributed to Watson Fothergill (with their standard caption for his work).

At the time, Summers was signing himself as “Architect of Corporation Oaks”. In 1881 various members of the Summers family were living on Duke Street. The numbering of the houses has changed and perhaps the old family home was demolished. His sister Lola, Mrs Richardson, and her family were living at 2 Duke Street, and his father George Summers with second wife Louisa, plus Lawrence’s younger brothers Frederick and Alexander were next door at number 4. In the 1891 census LG is living with his brother Frederick and his family at number 4, while their father, George, is at number 2 with Louisa and their 9 year old son William. Did they subsequently move up Duke Street to the new cottages that LG designed with himself as the client? In 1910, Summers applied to extend the Duke Street houses into shops (LGS21), again he himself was the client, which suggested that members of the Summers family were indeed living in the cottages. As far as I can tell these are now the adjacent property which has been turned back into dwellings. The shape of the shop fronts remain, albeit much altered.

The extension, originally shops, on the corner of Duke Street and Gawthorne Street. Photo: Lucy Brouwer.

Lawrence’s youngest brother Alexander was still living in New Basford in 1901 and is listed on the census as a Pork Butcher and Shopkeeper, so perhaps the shop was his?

Following the road, past what are now mostly motor garages in older industrial buildings, some dated 1840s and some 1870s, an indication that this area was already industrial at the time the Summers family lived here when Lawrence was a child. His father’s lace business was almost certainly here.

Down at the bottom on Northgate, it is just possible to recognise the small two storey factory (LGS3), that Summers designed for James Allen in 1882.

Northgate factory premises. A fairly basic version of the lace top shop perhaps?
Photo: Lucy Brouwer.

At this time Summers is signing himself as “Architect, 11 South Parade Nottingham” (South Parade makes up the side of the Market Square that runs up the opposite side to Long Row). Summers was admitted to RIBA in 1881 but isn’t using letters after his name at this point. It is assumed he was in the Clinton Street office with Fothergill from around 1879, having also been articled as a pupil to Issac Charles Gilbert from 1869. (His studies at the Mechanics Institute and Nottingham School of Art were running concurrently).

Look out for the next installment of my blog as I carry on into Mapperley Park on the trial of LG Summers…

I hope to organise a walk featuring some of Fothergill and Summers buildings in and around Sherwood, Sherwood Rise and Mapperley Park later this year – sign up to my mailing list for the latest news or “like” the Facebook page.

Lawrence G Summers, Uncategorized

On the trail of Lawrence George Summers…

Research can be a tricky business. The internet offers the researcher plenty of opportunities to find pictures, archived material and other useful records… but it can also throw up its own new set of new mysteries.

For instance, the top returned result in a Google search for L.G. Summers, Watson Fothergill’s assistant and the man who carried on working at the George Street office after Fothergill retired, is a page at the Watson Fothergill website* that hasn’t been updated in a while. There’s lots of tantalising nuggets of information there, but to the researcher looking to dig deeper there is a frustrating lack of citations and references to sources.

This is Lawrence George Summers from and I don’t know where they got it from or when it was taken!

I’ve been looking for more information on Summers, looking for more about the man who seems to have been somewhat in the professional shadow of the more flamboyant Fothergill.

As I become more emersed in searching for all things to do with Nottingham architecture, I find myself running names through different search engines and websites. After finding a coffee cup that seems to be from The Black Boy Hotel on eBay (see previous blogpost) I check back from time to time to see what else might be out there. A while ago, a search for Lawrence G. Summers and a few variations on his name, threw up a link to some pictures that I hadn’t seen before. They were prints that were for sale and eventually I tracked them down to an online print gallery. 

Design for a church by Lawrence G. Summers. Lithograph from The Building News Mar 20, 1874.

Further variations on Summers’ name (L.G., Lawrence C. etc) returned more results and I couldn’t quite believe my luck. Compelled by curiosity and reasonable prices, I bought the prints. It turns out that they are lithograph pages from the trade publication The Building News and they are not copies.

Design For A Town Hall by Lawrence G. Summers.
Lithograph from The Building News, Dec 25, 1874.

On receipt of the lithographs I realised they were actually pages from the magazine and I was able to look up the accompanying articles. Archives of some of the issues are online. It turns out the designs were Summers’ winning entries in competitions.

From The Building News, Mar 20, 1874.

Tracing the lithographs to the relevent issues of The Building News in online archives reveals that Summers won the “National Silver Medal Prize” for his Church design, “The highest award in the kingdom”.

From The Building News, Dec 25, 1874

The town hall, also gained the Silver Medal in a prize from Kensington (from where architecture qualifications were dispensed). This appears to have been while Summers was a student at the Nottingham School of Art.

Excited about my finds, I did another search and discovered that the other lithograph in the set had been bought by someone (who I found on Twitter) who I think works at Nottingham Trent University, (perhaps even in the Nottingham School of Art building.)

The front elevation of Lawrence G. Summers design for a town hall. The Building News, Dec 25, 1874.

More on Summers in the next blog…

Meanwhile I treated myself to having the lithographs framed:

Somewhat wonky photos of the Nottingham-themed wall in my “office”.

*If this is your site, please get in touch!


William Burges & The Gothic Revival

I recently visited Cardiff Castle to see William Burges’ Clock Tower and the fantastical interiors he designed for the Marquess of Bute.

Exterior of the Clock Tower at Cardiff Castle. (Photo: Lucy Brouwer).

William Burges (1827-1881) was one of Watson Fothergill’s great influences, his name and dates being one of those carved onto the front of Fothergill’s office in George Street.

Watson Fothergill’s architectural heroes appear on the front of his office on George Street, Nottingham. The busts depict Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin and George Edmund Street. To the right: the names and dates of George Gilbert Scott, William Burges and Richard Norman Shaw. Fothergill himself is perhaps the inspiration for the medieval architect on the left. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Andrewrabbott).

William Burges was perhaps the greatest of the Victorian “art-architects” who sort to re-establish the architectural and social values of a utopian Medieval England. His work stands as the apex of the Gothic Revival, along with the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and it heralds the Arts and Crafts movement.

In Burges’ short but illustrious career, some of his most spectacular work was done for the “richest man in Victoria’s Empire”, the 3rd Marquess of Bute. In particular his Clock Tower at Cardiff Castle, and the lavish interiors that he produced in the tower and in the main building.

Burges Portrait
William Burges, photo portrait to be seen in the Winter Smoking Room of the Clock Tower, Cardiff Castle. “Ugly Burgess who makes beautiful things… isn’t he a duck,” wrote Gwendoline, Marchioness of Bute.

Burges was an eccentric genius, with a wild imagination fueled by smoking opium. He produced architecture, furniture, jewellery and objects which Bute’s wealth was able to indulge on the highest level.

The Clock Tower contains two smoking rooms, for winter and summer, all sumptuously decorated in rich colours.

Figures of the Four Winds, Summer Smoking Room
East winds
Figures of the Four Winds, Summer Smoking Room.
Mouse detail summer sr
Every inch is covered in details, Summer Smoking Room.
Summer Smoking Room
Lamps to light the Summer Smoking Room. (Photos Lucy Brouwer.)

See more of Burges’ work for Bute in this documentary on BBCiPlayer.

Bute: The Scot Who Spent A Welsh Fortune

Burges’ influence on Fothergill can be seen in the animals and mythic creatures he attaches to his buildings, as well as the Gothic Revival flourishes that became part of his architectural style.

thurland bank s richards
Thurland Street Bank, by Fothergill Watson. Photo © Stephen Richards (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Learn more about Fothergill and the Gothic Revival on The Watson Fothergill Walk. Now booking on Eventbrite.


Benjamin Creswick – Sculptor

One of the most interesting discoveries I’ve made while researching the buildings of Watson Fothergill is the identity of the sculptor of the terra cotta panels on two of his Nottingham city centre buildings.

It turns out that the panels on the Parliament Street side of Furley & Co. grocers (now Lloyds Bank) and Fothergill’s Office on George Street were both created by Benjamin Creswick (1853-1946).

Benjamin Creswick’s terra cotta frieze on the Furley & Co building, Parliament Street, Nottingham. (© Copyright John Sutton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence)

Creswick was born in Sheffield in 1853, the son of a spectacle frame maker. He was apprenticed to the knife-grinding trade. At the time this was difficult and dangerous work, often leading to lung disease from the inhalation of stone dust or the risk of serious injury (even death) from the breaking or disintegration of the stone grinding wheel.

After showing early signs of lung disease, Creswick visited a doctor. The doctor asked if Creswick had any other skills by which he might earn his living and Creswick produced from his pocket a small bust of Dante modelled in terra cotta. So impressed was the doctor that he ordered a bust of himself from Creswick.

ruskin by creswick
Bust of John Ruskin by Benjamin Creswick, photo:

Creswick had been attending sculpture classes at Sheffield School of Art. He also visited the Walkley Museum, the art gallery set up in Sheffield by John Ruskin. The eminent art critic had set out to feed the minds of the working men of Sheffield and the city is still the home of The Guild of St George and a large portion of Ruskin’s collection.

The Walkey’s curators, Henry and Emily Swan, persuaded Creswick to exhibit his work in 1876. Ruskin was encouraging and the Swans lent Creswick a photograph of the art critic and from this is was able to model a small portrait bust. Impressed by this, Ruskin invited Creswick to his home at Brantwood in Cumbria to model a portrait bust from life.

Ruskin continued to help Creswick, connecting him with employers in Bewdley and supporting his family by paying for lodgings and a studio at Coniston. Ruskin helped to teach Creswick and sought patrons and commissions for him. His aim was to make buildings “sparkle with interest,” and he went on to create sculpture for several buildings, including a bust of Thomas Carlyle which is still attached to the philosopher and historian’s house in Cheyne Row, London. He also created portrait busts of Homer and Dante for Leeds City Library.

Creswick became a teacher at Birmingham Municipal School of Art, furthering Arts and Crafts ideals. He continued to develop his career as a sculptor for thirty years.

Cutlers’ Hall, London (© Copyright Marathon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence)

One of Creswick’s major commissions was for the frieze on the Cutlers’ Hall, in London (1887). Possibly his best known work, it depicts the various stages of the cutlery manufacturing process, with particular attention to the harsh working conditions which the artist himself had experienced working at the grindstones. Other notable Creswick sculptures (just about) survive in Birmingham on the Bloomsbury Library and the Handsworth Library.

Little is known about his association with Watson Fothergill. I contacted Annie Creswick Dawson, the sculptor’s great granddaughter who has been researching Creswick’s story for many years. She has travelled the world searching archives and libraries to find out about the artist’s life and to locate all of his surviving works – these include carvings, terra cotta sculptures, bronzes, friezes, wall decoration and metalworks.

Annie confirmed that the Nottingham terra cottas are indeed Benjamin Creswick’s work, but that they had been mistakenly cited in a study as being located in Northampton, so it had taken a while for her to find them. Consequently they are not mentioned in her book on Benjamin’s Creswick’s life and work and we can only surmise how Creswick came to work on Fothergill’s buildings. Did Fothergill have any connections with John Ruskin and the Arts and Crafts movement?

Ancient Architecture on The Office of Watson Fothergill, George Street, Nottingham. Terra cotta by Benjamin Creswick (© Copyright John Sutton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.)

From 1895-7 (the period when Furley & Co shop and Fothergill’s Office were being built) Creswick was working in Birmingham and was Professor of Sculpture at the Art College. Did Fothergill come across Creswick’s work through artistic connections? Perhaps we shall never find out, but if anyone has any information please get in touch with Dr Stuart Eagles, a companion of The Guild of St George, who has taken over the Benjamin Creswick website from Annie.

Many thanks to Annie Creswick Dawson for her help and thanks to The Guild of St George for the copy of her book (with Paul Dawson), “Benjamin Creswick”.

Discover Benjamin Creswick’s terra cottas on Watson Fothergill’s buildings on The Watson Fothergill Walk or contact me to book a private tour for a small group.