- Born: 14 June 1838
- Married: 21 May 1862 Elizabeth Barbara Thorburn (1839–1917) at Bury
- Died 28 September 1893 at Bury
James Maxwell was born on 14 June 1838 at George Street, Haslingden, Lancashire, the only child of Thomas Maxwell (1798–1871), builder, plumber, and glazier, and his second wife, Mary (1799–1858), daughter of Henry and Judith Holden. James Maxwell was educated at Whalley Grammar School before being articled to the architect Thomas Holmes of Bury from 1852 until 1857.
In December 1857 James Maxwell commenced independent practice in Bury. His early works included Bury baths and offices for the Bury Times, both built in 1862. This was also the year of his marriage to Elizabeth Barbara Thorburn (1839–1917), daughter of William Reid Thorburn, congregational minister, which took place on 21 May 1862 at the Bethel Congregational Chapel, Bury. The couple had one daughter and three sons, one of whom, Francis William (qv) later joined his father's firm. The years after his marriage saw Maxwell's practice continue to prosper and in 1864 he was placed third in the design competition for Rochdale Town Hall. In 1865 he took Charles Tuke into employment and two years later into partnership. This partnership would continue until the deaths of both men in 1893. He had been elected a Fellow of the RIBA on 17 December 1888, proposed by J. Holden, L Booth and Charles Clegg. He was also a Fellow of the Surveyors' Institution and a prominent member of Manchester Society of Architects. With Charles Tuke, James Maxwell was one of the pioneers of St Anne’s-on-the-Sea. He was among the first to foresee the possibilities of that growing town and had been a director of the St Anne’s Land and Building Company from its commencement.
On 28 September 1893, James Maxwell died from cerebritis at his home, The Hollies, 179 Manchester Road, Bury. Maxwell, who was survived by his wife and four children, had been an alderman of Bury and a justice of the peace, as well as being a prominent Congregationalist. His death came on the same day as the flagstaff was placed in position at the top of Blackpool Tower and six months after that of Charles Tuke.
1859 James Maxwell architect & surveyor 1(or3) Broad Street Bury (MG 14 May 1859)
1859 James Maxwell architect & surveyor 2 Haymarket Street Bury (MG 21 May 1859)
1860 James Maxwell architect & surveyor 2 Haymarket Street Bury (MG Jan 1860)
1861 George (sic) Maxwell architect & surveyor 2 Haymarket Street Bury
Death Notice: Manchester Guardian Saturday 30 September 1893 Page 5 (Deaths)
Obituary: RIBA Journal v1 1894 Page 116
Obituary: Manchester Courier 30 September 1893 Page 8 column 5
Obituary :Blackpool Gazette and News 29 September 1893