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William Wilkinson Wardell

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William Wilkinson Wardell (1823-1899)

1900 Obituary [1]

WILLIAM WILKINSON WARDELL, born in London in 1823, was educated for the engineering profession, but a strong desire to become a sailor sent him to sea at an early age.

After a few years, however, he gave up the sea and entered the office of Mr. Morris, one of the surveyors to the then Commissioners of London Sewers, who was also engaged in general practice. He subsequently gained further experience in the office of Mr. W. F. East, a London architect.

During the railway mania of 1843 and afterwards, Mr. Wardell was largely engaged on surveys for projected lines; and at this time, when the attention of architects was engrossed by what was called the Gothic revival, he made the acquaintance of Mr. A. W. Pugin, who, as is well known, was a prominent leader in the movement, and soon becoming inspired by the enthusiasm of his friend, he devoted his spare moments to the study, sketching and measuring of ancient buildings within reach of his railway surveys, the constantly changing localities of which offered a large field for such pursuits.

In 1846 Mr. Wardell received his first commission for a small church on the Thames, and immediately after another for one of greater pretensions at Groom’s Hill, Greenwich. From this time to 1858 he erected, besides other works, some thirty churches and other ecclesiastical buildings in England and Scotland.

In 1858 Mr. Wardell’s health failed, and he had to seek a more genial climate. Australia was suggested, and shortly after his arrival in Melbourne he accepted the appointment of Chief Architect to the Government, and in the following year succeeded the late Major-General (then Captain) Pasley, R.E., as Inspector General of Public Works and Buildings. During the period of nearly twenty years he held that post Mr. Wardell was responsible for the design and execution of all the works, except railways and roads, undertaken by the Government, embracing an extensive and varied range of engineering and architectural practice. Among the public works carried out under his direction in Victoria may be mentioned the Alfred Graving Dock at Williamstown, the lattice girder bridge across the Yarra to the Botanical Gardens, the Government House, the Custom House and the Royal Mint at Melbourne, the lunatic asylums of Kew, Ararat and Beechworth, the Preston reservoir of the Melbourne water supply, the harbour works at Belfast, the commencement of the works to form an entrance from the sea to the Gipps Land Lakes, the improvements of the River Yarra and its basin, and wharves and jetties in Port Philip and the coast harbours.

In 1863 Mr. Wardell was Chairman of a Board appointed by the Government to advise as to the best means of preventing floods in the River Yarra and the low-lying lands of Melbourne. The report of the Board recommended the removal of the old Princes Bridge and the construction of another bridge with largely increased spans, and the formation of a canal direct from the basin of the Yarra to the river’s mouth, leaving the river undisturbed, but providing wharf accommodation on the canal banks. In 1875 Mr. Wardell was requested by the Government of West Australia to advise as to harbour works at Fremantle, and after inspection he furnished a report and estimate, but as he was aware that the probable cost (over 5%00,000) was at that time beyond the means of the Colony, he suggested the construction of a railway from Perth to King George’s Sound, a fine natural harbour, and the railway was subsequently carried out.

Mr. Wardell’s official career closed in 1878, when, as the result of a conflict between the two Houses of the Legislature, and the political excitement which followed, he and other heads of departments - county court judges, police magistrates, and other public servants of high rank - were deprived of their offices. Since that time he resided in Sydney, New South Wales, engaged in private practice.

Among his works in Sydney may be mentioned the extensive wharves and warehouses known as the Grafton Wharf, St. Mary’s Cathedral, St. John’s College at the University, the Union Club House, the New South Wales Club House, the Union Bank, and the Citizen’s Life Assurance Company’s offices. He was appointed in 1890 a member of a Royal Commission to inquire into and report on the execution of certain defence works in Sydney, Newcastle and Botany; was requested, in 1892, in conjunction with Mr. Cecil W. Darley and Mr. R. R. P. Hickson, to select a design for a swing-bridge across Darling Harbour at Pyrmont; and was chairman of a Board appointed to advise on the disposal of the Parramatta sewage. He was also the architect of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, and the fine church of St. Ignatius, Richmond.

Mr. Wardell died in Sydney on the 19th November, 1899, in his 76th year.

Mr. Wardell was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 2nd February, 1858, and was transferred to the class of Members on the 6th April, 1869. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

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