Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
Sir Reginald Theodore Blomfield
(1856-1942)
The son of a Vicar and grandson of the Bishop of London, he was born at Nymet Tracey, Devon, on 20 December 1856, and studied at Exeter College, Oxford, and the RA Schools.

In 1881, he commenced his architectural training in the London office of his uncle, Sir Arthur Blomfield, and then set up his own practice in 1883, at 17 Southampton Street, Strand, as a designer of houses and commercial and educational buildings in the English Renaissance style.

He was also an illustrator and writer; his most important publications being A History of Renaissance Architecture in England, 1500-1800 (1897) and A History of French Architecture, 1494 to 1661 and 1661 to 1774 (1911-21).

Blomfield’s architectural work in London includes the Arts Building, Goldsmiths’ College (1907), the redesign of Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus (1928), and the design for Lambeth Bridge (1929-32).

During World War I, he designed the Brandhoeck Military Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Ypres, Belgium, for the Graves Recognition Commission (1915). Towards the end of the war in 1918, Blomfield was appointed as one of the three principal architects to the Imperial War Graves Commission, together with Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker.

His work for the commission included the design for the War Cross, or Cross of Sacrifice, which became the standard design for the principal memorials in British and Commonwealth war cemeteries around the world and in towns and villages throughout the Britain (1918). He also designed the Menin Gate war memorial at Ypres (1927).

The War Cross is in the form of a four point limestone Latin cross, 18-23 feet tall, with a bronze sword on its front, blade down, and mounted on a stepped octagonal base. It is always inscribed: THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE, and bears a dedicatory inscription commemorating the casualties of whichever district the cross was erected in after the First World War of 1914-18, together with an additional inscription for the fallen of the Second World War of 1939-45.

Examples of the cross can be found in Glasgow’s Western Necropolis and Craigton Cemetery, and in the Abbey Close, Paisley (1923). He also designed the Royal Air Force Memorial on the Thames Embankment, London, which features a bronze eagle sculpted by the Scottish sculptor Sir William Reid Dick (1923).

He was awarded the RIBA Gold Medal in 1913, and elected President of RIBA, 1913, and RA, in 1914. He was knighted in 1919.

A bronze bust of Blomfield, by Sir William Reid Dick, of 1927, together with other portraits of the architect, is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Blomfield lived at 51 Frognal, Hampstead, one of a pair of houses which he designed for himself and his neighbour, Cobden Sanderson. He died there on 27 December 1942.

Sources:

  • Gray (1985), pp. 113-16;
  • Rowand (1993, rev. 1997), p. 75 (ill.)
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