64 - George Goodwin and The Builder | London Metropolitan Archives


64 - George Goodwin and The Builder


The Builder was the foremost English architectural and building periodical of the nineteenth century. It remains a valuable source of information for the architectural controversies of the age, the history of individual buildings and the wider debates on the social crises caused by rapid industrialisation and urban growth. This leaflet is a brief guide to London Metropolitan Archives holdings of the journal, available indexes, and some connected materials. Library references for the books and journals mentioned, together with an indication if an item is kept in store rather than on the open shelves, are given in square brackets.

The Builder

The Builder was founded in 1842 by J.A. Hansom (now better known as the inventor of the Hansom cab) as a weekly for the construction industry. However, it was the appointment of George Godwin as editor in 1844 which established the fortunes of the journal. Under Godwin The Builder adopted a campaigning stance on a number of important social issues, particularly those concerned with the housing and sanitary conditions of the working classes. As a result its readership stretched well beyond the architectural and building profession, and in 1883, at the time of Godwin's retirement, The Builder'smasthead proclaimed it "An illustrated weekly magazine for the architect, engineer, constructor, sanitary reformer, and art lover". Following Godwin's departure the magazine continued to flourish, and in 1937 absorbed the rival publications Architecture and British Architect. In 1966 the journal was renamed Building, and under that name is still in existence.

George Godwin

Godwin was born in 1813, and trained like his father as an architect. His energy and the wide range of his interests were evident throughout his life. He practised as an architect as well as writing extensively on architectural history and producing a standard text on the use of concrete; he wrote plays, at least one of which was performed in London; in 1840 he helped found the Art Union of London; and he joined or supported many other reforming associations and societies.

Apart from The Builder, the library has copies of several of Godwin's publications, including the following:

  • The churches of London: a history and description. C. Tilt, 1838 [59.1 GOD]
  • Buildings and monuments, modern and medieval. The Builder, 1850 [45.61 GOD]
  • London shadows; a glance at the "homes" of the thousands. Routledge, 1854 [40.2 GOD - John Burns Collection]
  • Town swamps and social bridges. Routledge, 1859 [40.2 GOD - a facsimile reprint by Leicester U.P., 1972]
  • Another blow for life. W.H. Allen, 1864 [40.2 GOD]

The last three of these publications were based on material about the appalling housing and sanitary conditions of the poor originally published in The Builder.

For further information about Godwin see the relevant entry in the Dictionary of National Biography [61.9 DNB], his obituary in The Builder (4th February 1888), the introductory essay by A.D. King in the reprint of Town swamps and social bridges, and the article by the same author in Architectural Review vol. 136 no 814, Dec 1964 - Another blow for life: George Godwin and the reform of working-class housing [2.0].

Holdings of The Builder

The following volumes of The Builder are available at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA). Please note that these items need to ordered from the Library Store.

  • Vol. 1  26 1842 - 1868
  • Vol. 28  56 1870 - June 1889
  • Vol. 60 Jan - June 1891
  • Vol. 62  63 1892
  • Vol. 70  109 14 Mar 1896  1915 116  138 25Apr 1919 June 1930
  • Vol. 140  210 1931 - Feb 1966 [As Building]
  • Vol. 210  227 Mar 1966 - Oct 1976

The Guildhall Library holds a full set of The Builder, should any of the volumes not held here be required.

Indexes to the Builder

  • The Builder itself has annual indexes for the period 1842 - 1879 and half-yearly indexes from 1880 onwards. These are bound with the appropriate volumes.
  • The Survey of London index to The Builder 1842 - 1892. This was compiled on index cards by researchers working for the Survey, and then transferred to microfiche. It covers the area of the former County of London, and is arranged in the following way:
    • By pre-1965 London Borough, and then within the Borough by street or building name.
    • By separate series of architects, artists and craftsmen, engineers, and builders.
    • By subjects: these include types of buildings, for example libraries and schools, and wider topics such as poor relief and public health.
  • Richardson, Ruth and Thorne, Robert. The Builder illustrations index 1843-1883. Hutton and Rostron, 1994 [45.605 RIC].
  • Harper, Roger H. Victorian architectural competitions: an index to British and Irish architectural competitions in the Builder, 1843 - 1900. Mansell, 1983 [45.605 HAR].

Other Journals

The library holds runs of a number of nineteenth century periodicals which include material of architectural and topographical interest. These include journals such as The Gentleman's Magazine [66.6 URB], The Illustrated London News [67.0 ILN - Store] and Punch [02.0 PUN], as well as those aimed more specifically at the construction industry such as the Architectural Review [45.0] and the Building News & Engineering Journal [35.11]. Details of the library holdings of these and other periodicals can be found in current and non-current periodicals catalogue available in the Information Area.

For a general discussion of nineteenth century architectural periodicals see the article by Frank Jenkins in Concerning architecture (edited by John Summerson. Allen Lane, 1968) [45.6 SUM].

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