John Gibbs

Stone Mason, Architect. Author
Place of Birth
Wigan Oxford

  • Born      1827
  • Married  1861 Annie Stone at Oxford
  • Died       Unknown

 “ architect of considerable eminence, the designer of the celebrated Banbury Cross and a gentleman not unknown in literary circles.” [Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 1861]

John Gibbs was born in 1827 at St Clements, Oxford, the son of John Gibbs, stone mason and his wife Alice. In 1841 at the age of 14 he was apprenticed stone mason at High Street, St Clements, Oxford, - the parental home before spending some years in the north of England, first at Wigan and then at Longsight Manchester. By 1848 he was employed as a stone carver on the restoration of Wigan Parish Church where he executed the angels on the corbels that supported the nave roof. However, he had far greater ambitions, describing himself as a scholar in the 1851 census joining the Liverpool Architectural Society in the same year. In Wigan too he met Charles Holt, an architect with whom he joined in partnership as sculptors and architects in 1853 -1854. Following the dissolution of the partnership John Gibbs moved to Longsight, Manchester, publishing ‘English Gothic Architecture, Or, Suggestions Relative to the Designing of Domestic Buildings, Ornaments, Church-yard Memorials, Chimney Pieces, and Alphabets’(1855), and ‘Designs for Gothic Ornaments & Furniture’ (1856).

He returned to his native city in 1857 or early 1858 not as a workman, but as an architect of some ability. He was elected member of the Oxford Architectural and Historical Society and presents paper on ‘Street Architecture’, on 28 April 1858. His reputation was further enhanced by his designs for Banbury Cross and an unrealised “Memorial Fountain in Oxford to Alfred the Great” both prepared the same year. In 1863 Gibbs won the competition for the memorial to the Prince Consort at Abingdon. In this and the following year he was also successful in two other competitions for memorials, one to Sir George Cornewall Lewis at New Radnor and the other to Sir Tatton Sykes at Sledmere in Yorkshire. More important from the Oxford point of view, he had begun in 1863 the rebuilding of St. Alban Hall, since absorbed into a new quadrangle of Merton College, and had taken part in Bruton's refitting of the interior of St. Martin's Church, for which he designed the reredos. He had a reputation for economy, fostered no doubt with an eye to employers who, as Bruton had complained, showed unwillingness to go to any expense'. The cost of his work at St. Alban Hall, which was borne by the Principal, was said to be 'unusually small'; and much the same remark is made with regard to 'Laleham House', now the core of the Wycliffe Hall buildings at 54 Banbury Road, which Gibbs built in 1866 for Thomas Arnold, son of Dr. Arnold of Rugby, who was then settling down in Oxford with the idea of taking pupils in what Jackson's Oxford Journal calls 'one of the largest private buildings' in the city.

Gibb’s design for the Clement Memorial at Shrewsbury was published in the Builder of 24 October 1874 p888 at which point the known record ends.

1827-1841    High Street, St Clements, Oxford
1848-1853    Wigan
1854-1855      John Gibbs, sculptor and architect (Gibbs and Holt), Standish Gate, Wigan, [Mannex’s History of Topography and Directory]
1855-1856    Longsight Manchester
1858-1871    Oxford



Name Designation Formed Dissolved Location
Gibbs and Holt Architectural practice 1854 1855 Wigan