The exhibition of John Douglas (1830-1911) sets out to illustrate the wealth of his work within the Wrexham County Borough Council area. A noted late Victorian architect, he epitomised the late Victorian secular architecture, with his own distinctive character emphasising qualities of refinement and sensitivity. It was the era of Aestheticism and Pre-Raphaelite influence on decorative art and was considered the golden age of English domestic architecture. His influence in the geographic area of Cheshire and Wrexham is abundantly clear, with much of his work located in the North West and North Wales.
John Douglas (1830-1911) was born in Sandiway near Northwich, the son of a builder. He studied under E G Paley Architect of Lancaster and after completion of his articles he remained with Paley and became his chief assistant. At the age of 25 he was in practice in Chester until his death in 1911. Most of his commissions came through Estate patronage for example the Duke of Westminster, Cheshire, and Edmund Peel of Bryn-y-Pys Estate, Overton. He established a partnership with D P Fordham (1884-1897) who was well known as a good pen and ink draughtsman, and later with C H Minshull 1897-1909 articled to Douglas in 1874. He also passed his talent onto his subordinates, notably the celebrated E A Ould 1852-1909 responsible for suburban houses in Fairy Road, Wrexham, using turrets clearly inspired by Douglas.
A strong village landmark within Holt Conservation Area. This outstanding Parish Church was initially re-modelled in the late 16th Century by Sir William Stanley of Bromfield and Holt Castle. Douglas, with Ewan Christian, restored the Church in 1871-3. Christian built the present sanctuary with Douglas responsible for the furnishings and a complete or very substantial re-building of the camberbeam roof. The wonderful carving and detail is typical of Douglas and of note are the panels in the Chancel, decorated with foliated bosses.
The Church of St Dunawd is situated in a rectangular churchyard in the picturesque Bangor-is-y-Coed Conservation Area. It is thought to be the site of an early church with the present building dating from the 14th Century. Major phases of restorations and additions by John Douglas were undertaken in 1868-1877.
Douglas influence can be seen in the neo-perpendicular west aisle and in the north porch with its timber framed gable and carved Aesthetic Movement motif. Gothic stalls and rails, pews and pulpit with the incised flower pattern are also all his work. The interior is of significant quality and interest and Douglas' contribution influenced the decision to list this medieval church with its fine early 18th Century tower as Grade II*.
Built as a lodge to Acton Park and set back to one side of the Park gates, and dated 1887. Its neo-vernacular style is strongly influenced by Douglas. Coursed and squared stone with red tiled roof. Single storey with the upper floor entirely within the roof. Listed as a good example of neo-vernacular estate architecture. Group value with Acton Park gates.
Built as a lodge to Acton Park and dated 1876. A Douglas-like lodge but the architect is not known. Roughly coursed and squared rubble to lower storey, half timbered above with red tiled hipped roof, this building has been listed as a good example of neo-vernacular estate architecture.
This building has been listed as a good example of late 19th Century estate architecture. Picturesque and without grand architectural pretensions it is coursed and squared stone with plain tiled roof. Located in the village of Overton on the western fringe of the conservation area and next to the gates which formerly led to Bryn-y-Pys Hall.
The lodge was built for Bryn-y-Pys estate in the late 19th Century Neo-vernacular design and dated 1875. An excellent example of the work of John Douglas, it is exceptionally well massed and detailed, with picturesque asymmetry. Important also is the lack of grand architectural pretensions and the use of regional traditional materials.
Designed by Douglas and Fordham in 1886 and constructed 1891-2. It replaces an earlier Gothic Revival Church of 1841 and is within the attractive village of Rossett.
Built in the Gothic Revival Style inside and out, this building has charm and is thorough in detail. The pinnacled tower is sturdily buttressed and well designed. Constructed of dressed stone this design by Douglas is inventive and is built in a cruciform plan with a slate roof. It is listed Grade II as a good example of a late Gothic Revival Church.
The National Westminster Bank situated in the attractive village of Rossett was originally built as a coffee house for the Liverpool merchant and shipowner Alexander Balfour, in 1881. Douglas was influenced by the timber framing of the Welsh borders and Cheshire. Half timber is indeed, the most important and consistently used element in Douglas' vernacular buildings. This example illustrates Douglas' use of 'light' half timbering and, buildings in which it appears include a number, with moderately pitched roofs.
No's1 and 2 Yew Tree Cottages are located on the Llay road west of Rossett and were constructed in 1881 to the designs of John Douglas for Alexander Balfour. One cottage was for a farm bailiff and the other for use of Members of a Liverpool mission. Built in the vernacular revival style, the ground floor is in red brick with half timbered gables. Half timber is indeed the most important and consistently used element in Douglas' vernacular buildings. The distinctive chimney, tall red brick stepped in plan, again are a noticeable feature of Douglas. The cottages have group value with the adjacent outbuildings range at Yew Tree Farm.
Douglas was also commissioned by Balfour to design the range of outbuildings to Yew Tree Farm. They are listed as a distinctively designed and well preserved range of farmbuildings with group value with the pair of cottages at Yew Tree Farm. Constructed in the vernacular revival style, red brick with red tiled roof. The centre storey section has a nearly pyramidal roof with a full brick chimney stack stepped in plan. The work of John Douglas is, moreover, architecture which can be enjoyed as well as admired.
Located within the Fairy Road Conservation Area, this fine building is listed as a very good example of the Arts and Crafts style, using local materials. It compliments strongly the Victorian and decorative character of the Conservation Area. It was constructed in 1884 to the designs of E.A Ould for W.E Samual and built of red brick with stone dressings and a green slate roof. The two storeys and attic create a balanced asymmetry.
Occupying a remote and elevated position on the border of Wrexham County Borough and Cheshire, the Gelli was built for Honourable Georgina and Henrietta Kenyon of Victorian revival executed in brick, stone and half timber. The detailing of brick lozenge patterns is however, immediately recognisable as Douglas and equally characteristic are the hipped roofs and dovecote turret of the stable. The fittings of the Gelli, although simple and with the joinery in pine rather than oak, are an early instance of a typical and consistent Douglas.
Designed by Douglas and Fordham in 1892 as widows' accommodation with an integral labourer's cottage. It is located on the main road through Tallarn Green. The cottages are of timber framed construction designed in a vernacular revival manner with whitened brick nogging on a brick plinth, clay tiled roof and three red brick chimney stacks. They successfully combine imaginative planning with traditional design and are listed as an interesting example of late 19th Century philanthropic building.