About Sir Robert Taylor

Sir Robert Taylor (1714-1788), an architect, was born in Essex. His father, a London stonemason, apprenticed his son to the sculptor Sir Henry Cheere, and sent him to study at Rome. Returning to England on receiving news of his father’s death, Taylor found himself penniless, but began a career as a sculptor. The monuments to Cornwall and Guest at Westminster Abbey (1743–6) and the figure of Britannia in the centre of the principal façade of the old Bank of England are his work as is the sculpture in the pediment of the Mansion House. The Mansion House was completed in 1753, and about that time Taylor gave up sculpture for architecture. His first architectural design was a house for John Gore of Edmonton, followed by numerous other houses, Gopsall Hall in Atherstone, Chilham Castle in Kent, and Stone Buildings, Lincoln’s Inn. He became architect to the Bank of England, and was occupied in 1776–81, and again in 1783, in making additions to the bank, which included the wings on either side of George Sampson’s original façade (1733), the reduced annuity office, the transfer office, and the quadrangle containing the bank parlour. The quadrangle remains almost unaltered, showing a very tasteful use of the Corinthian order. Taylor also worked on Ely Cathedral, as well as a number of prominent country seats. Taylor was one of the three principal architects attached to the board of works. He was surveyor to the admiralty, and laid out the property of the Foundling Hospital, of which he was a governor. He succeeded James (‘Athenian’) Stuart as surveyor to Greenwich Hospital, and was surveyor and agent to the Pulteney and many other large estates. He was sheriff of London in 1782–3, when he was knighted. He died at his residence, 34 Spring Gardens, London, on 27 September 1788, and was buried on 9 October in a vault near the north-east corner of the church of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields.

The bulk of his fortune of £180,000 was left for a foundation at Oxford for teaching the Modern European languages. Owing to certain contingencies the bequest did not take effect till 1835. The lecture-rooms and library which compose the Taylorian buildings were built in 1841–5, in combination with the university galleries.


**This information was adapted from the Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, volume 55.