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Major General Sir Fabian Ware I Sir Alfred Mond I Sir Edwin Lutyens OM I Sir Reginald Blomfield

Sir Reginald Blomfield

Reginald Theodore Blomfield was born on 20th December 1856 at Nymet Tracey in Devonshire. He was the third son of a country rector. His ancestors the Blomviles, came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. He was educated at Haileybury and at Exeter College Oxford. In 1881 he started training as an architect in the office of his uncle Sir Arthur Blomfield. A year later he was admitted as a student of architecture at the Royal Academy. In 1883 he set up on his own as an architect and became one of the early members of the Art Workers Guild. He struck up friendships with Norman Shaw, Edwin Lutyens, D.S. MacColl and William Morris. He became involved with the Arts and Crafts movement.

In 1900 he published a Short History of Renaissance Architecture in England and in response to the Boer War, joined the Inns of Court Mounted Infantry, (A Territorial Army unit based in Lincoln's Inn in the Holborn area of London). In 1906 he was appointed Professor of Architecture to the Royal Academy. He was elected President of the RIBA in 1912, was awarded their Royal Gold Medal 1913 and elected a member of the Royal Academy in 1914. Upon the outbreak of the Great War, he renewed his acquaintance with the Inns of Court and dug trenches all over London in the company of some of the most distinguished legal minds of the Empire and the war poet Laurence Binyon. In 1918 he was appointed one of the Principal Architects of the Imperial War Graves Commission and for the next nine years was heavily involved with the design of their cemeteries behind the Western Front. He designed the Cross of Sacrifice [5] which stands in the Commission's cemeteries. He collaborated with Sir Aston Webb and Sir W. Hamo Thornycroft in designing several war memorials for London. They were forbidden use of the Royal Parks, which explains the considerable number of war memorials on Victoria Embankment. He designed the Royal Air Force Memorial on the Embankment, the municipal memorials at Leeds, Luton and Torquay and the Memorial Chapel at Oundle School.

In 1918 he was appointed to the memorials committee convened by Sir Alfred Mond, First Commissioner of Works. In 1919 he was sent by the War Office to Ypres to design a memorial intended initially to take 40,000 names of those who had no known grave. He chose the site of the Menin Gate and designed there the memorial that was to be the best known work of his career. There were to be major difficulties involved with its erection, which he overcame with the help of the brilliant engineer Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice. The completion of this commission ended his time with the Commission. In December 1927, Sir Fabian Ware wrote to him: 'I think you will understand it, when I say that everybody working had wished, looking back on the past years, to send you a special message of gratitude for the great work that you have done for the Commission…. We are all deeply grateful to you, and very proud to have been associated with you'.

A pugnacious and energetic figure, Blomfield relished a fight and engaged in the architectural controversies of his day with gusto. His plans for remodelling Carlton Gardens led to a debate in the House of Commons and his resignation from the Royal Fine Art Commission. He published Memoirs of an Architect (1932), Modernismus (1934), Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban (1938) and Richard Norman Shaw (1940). He designed the façade of the Carlton Club in London and Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford. He was also responsible for remodelling Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus. He designed Lambeth Bridge and St George's Memorial Church in Ypres, which was built in 1928. He died in 1942. A bronze portrait bust by Sir William Reid Dick is in the National Portrait Gallery.

[5] The Cross of Sacrifice is also known as the Great War Cross.

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