John Taylor was an architect and builder in Southampton between the 1790s and the 1840s. He became a pupil - effectively a three-year apprenticeship - of the architect John Plaw in 1797 or 1798. A later advertisement by Plaw for a pupil specified "a youth of genteel connections, liberal education, and who has a taste for drawing" (Salisbury Journal 18 April 1803).

John's immediate family were in the building trade. His grandfather, Joseph Taylor (died 1 February 1782), was a builder and carpenter. His father (also Joseph) was a house carpenter and builder, the business apparently being taken over by his mother (Elizabeth) when she became a widow. There were three uncles: Daniel, a bricklayer and ne'er-do-well whom his father threatened to leave out of the distribution of the family's property "if he continued his indolent & wicked course of life" (will of 18 February 1779: Southampton Archives 4/4/452/21); Richard, a stonemason; and James, a plumber.

A taste for drawing is evinced by five drawings that John showed - as an honorary exhibitor - at the Royal Academy between 1797 and 1800. These include illustrations of three recent local buildings - All Saints church, Banister's Court and Chessel House - and, in 1799, a design for a bridge over the Itchen Ferry at Northam. The exhibits between 1798 and 1800 list his address as "at Mr Plaw's", suggesting he may have been living at his patron's house in Spring Place.

The main focus of John's architectural work was in the area around the southern end of Bugle Street. He lived on the west side of Bugle Street near Bugle Hall (listed as no.1 Bugle Street, but distinct from no.1 in the main sequence, which was the Roman Catholic church) between 1811 at least and 1866. The family were lessees from the late-eighteenth century of "a wharf building and premises in Cuckoo Lane" (Southampton Archives SC 4/3/1611 and 1792). Corporation-owned, the site occupied 160 feet of prime waterfront between the entrance to the pier and the West Quay baths. A boat house was added under John's tenancy. Eight allotments of building land - four in French Street and four in Bugle Street - were put up for auction in May 1820, with John Taylor named as builder. This involved the demolition of the old grammar school in what had been West Hall. The new grammar school was rebuilt between 1820 and 1821 to plans by John Taylor.

Only slightly away from this close assemblage of property and interests lay five messuages, with gardens, on the north side of Simnel Street: family property which passed to John Taylor in 1811 (Southampton Archives, SC 4/4/452/22).

The only work by Taylor identified by Howard Colvin (An architectural dictionary of British architects 1600-1840, 4th edition, 2008) outside the town is "an elegant portico" added pre-1805 to Portswood House, originally built in 1776 by John Crunden.

Taylor seems to have been active as a builder up to the early 1840s, thereafter described (as in the 1851 census) as a retired builder. He did not marry, living until her death in August 1849 with his unmarried sister Mary. He died on 8 September 1866. He left his property to the six children of another sister, Elizabeth, and her husband William Mortimer, builder and timber merchant of Niton in the Isle of Wight. John Taylor is buried in Southampton cemetery.

Grammar School

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Rebuilt to the design of John Taylor, 1820-21.

see also

Further reading:

'John Plaw, John Kent and John Taylor: three late-18th/early-19th century Southampton architects' by Richard Preston in Southampton Local History Forum Journal, no. 22, Spring 2014, p33-42. (HS/h)


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