Robert Jewell Withers
- Birth date 2 February 1824 at Shepton Mallet
- Marriage 20 April 1854 to Catherine Mary Vaux at Croydon Parish Church
- Death date 7 October 1894 at Schubert Road Putney London
A London architect and follower of the Ecclesiologists who, it was said, developed a specialty for restoring and rebuilding churches with unpronounceable Welsh names. He established a large practice in West Wales, "where he imparted to many a barn-like structure some semblance of life and feeling." Withers did little in the industrial North, his only known works being the re-ordering of Holy Trinity, Stretford Road, Hulme, Manchester, an early work by G G Scott and a school chapel at Howe Bridge, near Atherton, both demolished.
Robert Jewell Withers was born on 2 February 1824 in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, the eldest of four sons of John Alexander Withers, a solicitor’s clerk and his second wife Maria Jewell of Romsey. He was tutored at home by his mother who had been a private tutor before her marriage but at the age of ten he was sent to Mr Clark's school for boys at Newport on the Isle of Wight. He moved for a brief period to Hossington School near Templecombe but returned to Newport for two years afterwards. In 1839 he was articled to Thomas Hellyer in Ryde, Isle of Wight, a specialist in the design of churches (RIBA) although the Dictionary of American Biography suggests that he received his architectural training in the London office of Thomas Henry Wyatt, as did his brother, Frederick.
According to his obituarist Withers 'built and restored nearly a hundred churches in the United Kingdom' and particularly draws attention to St James, Great Grimsby. He also obtained some work abroad, notably the English churches at Brussels and Wildbad. In 1844 he made a tour of England and the Continent but returned to Sherborne, Dorset where his parents had moved in 1839. Withers commenced practice on his own account in Sherborne in 1846 (or 1848) where he obtained a series of commissions though he does not seem to have been entirely happy, being 'disgusted with the place' according to the notes made on his life by his second youngest daughter Mabel.
He was admitted ARIBA in 1849 and in the following year he moved to London where he worked for the Improvement Commission and with his brother Frederick Clark Withers, also an architect. In 1854 Robert Jewell Withers opened an office at 6 John Street, Adelphi. On 20 April of that year he married at Croydon Parish Church Catherine Mary Vaux (1833- 4-**), the sister of Calvert Vaux, his brother Frederick's partner. They subsequently had nine children, five daughters and four sons. During 1854 the couple lived briefly in Kent but returned to live and work in London thereafter.
R J Withers was elected Associate of the RIBA on 30 April 1849, and, in 1871, became an ordinary member of the RIBA Council, along with Edmund Sharpe of Lancaster. [Building News 5 May 1871 p353]. Withers was elected FRIBA in 1873 but had resigned from the organisation some years before his death. He was a long-standing member of the Cambridge Camden Society, having joined in 1844. In his private life he was a volunteer and rose to the rank of Captain in the Central London Rangers (40th Middlesex RV Gray's Inn). He was also a Freemason.
Withers died of cancer on 7 October 1894 at Schubert Road Putney after a short but painful illness. He was predeceased by his wife but survived his sons and two of his daughters.
1847-1850 Sherborne, Dorset
1850 Robert Jewell Withers, architect, 23, Harrington Street. London. (Graves RA)
1850-1854 3 or 45, Winchester Street, Adelphi, London,
1854-1855 6, St John Street, Adelphi, London
1855-1868? 51, Doughty Street, London
1869-1884 11, Adam Street, Adelphi, London
1885 Withers, Westcroft, Putney London SW [Church Times 20 March 1885 page 229 – classified]
1893 Withers, 40, Schubert Road, Putney, London [ Church Times 20 October 1893 page 1080]
Death Notice Times 10 October 1874 page 1
Death Notice Church Times 12 October 1894 page 1063
Obituary Building News 12 October 1894 page 518
Directory of British Architects 1834-1914
Dictionary of Scottish Architects