Home Page Image

 

 

Worsley, Giles Arthington

Date born: 1961

Place born: North Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Date died: 2006

Place died: London, United Kingdom

Revisionist architectural historian. Worsley was the second son of an aristocratic Yorkshire family, including Sir Thomas Worsley, who was an 18th-century surveyor general of the Board of Works and an amateur architect who designed the family Palladian mansion, Hovingham Hall. His parents were Sir Marcus Worsley (b. 1925), a Conservative MP and later baronet, and Lady Bridget Assheton (Worsley) (1926–2004). After attending Eton, he majored ("read") history at New College, Oxford were the architectural historian Howard Colvin (q.v.) encouraged him to pursue architectural history. After graduation, Worsley entered the Courtauld Institute, London for graduate study. He joined the staff of Country Life magazine in 1985, blending architectural and social history into his articles. He completed a Ph.D. in the architectural history on the British stable in 1989. Worsley rose to architectural editor at the Country Life. His first book Architectural Drawings of the Regency Period, 1790-1837 appeared in 1991. In 1994, he joined the journal Perspectives on Architecture, sponsored by the Institute of Architecture, which Charles, the Prince of Wales founded to promote his conservative view of architecture. As its editor, Worsley wisely declined to join the pro-classicism (anti-modernism, actually) stance of the Prince. In 1995, Worsley launched a salvo at the mainstream architectural community with his Classical Architecture in Britain: The Heroic Age. The book questioned the conclusions of Britain's major 20th-century architectural historian, Sir John Summerson (q.v.). Summerson's Architecture in Britain: 1530-1830, (1953) organized architecture as a successive progression of styles. Worsley maintained that stylistic diversity was a constant in previous ages. In 1996 he married the writer and (London) Times journalist Joanna Pitman (b. 1963). Perspectives on Architecture folded in 1998 when advisors to the Prince feared his reactionary stance was worsening the Prince's post-Diana image. Worsley became the architectural critic of the Daily Telegraph. He edited the late Brian Wragg's book, John Carr of York, for publication in 2000; his own England's Lost Houses, an account of demolished 20th-century mansions, appeared in 2002. The same year he was elected as a senior research fellow of the Institute of Historical Research. A revised version of his dissertation appeared in 2004. Work on a book on Inigo Jones was completed shortly before his death from cancer at age 44. It appeared posthumously the following year. Another work on Baroque architecture in England remained in manuscript. An annual award in his memory was established by his uncle, the Duke of Kent.

Classical Architecture in Britain: The Heroic Age made Worsley's reputation as an important and original scholar. The book was initially received coolly by many historians who believed Worsley was too young to have written a major survey or have questioned Summerson; today it is generally accepted as a key text on the subject.

Home Country: United Kingdom

Sources: [obituaries:] Cannadine, David. "Giles Worsley: Gifted Architectural Writer." Guardian (London) January 26, 2006, p. 36; Times (London), January 21, 2006, P. 72; "Giles Worsley Architectural Writer and Critic who Challenged Received Wisdom on Britain's Classical Heritage." Daily Telegraph (London), January 19, 2006, p. 25; Aslet, Clive. "Giles Worsley, Architectural Historian." Independent (London), January 20, 2006, p. 39.

Bibliography: [dissertation, revised:] The British Stable. New Haven, CT: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art/Yale University Press, 2004; Classical Architecture in Britain: the Heroic Age. New Haven, CT: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art/Yale University Press, 1995; England's Lost Houses: from the Archives of Country Life. London: Aurum, 2002; Inigo Jones and the European Classicist Tradition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press/The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2007.