In Praise of Fothergill Watson

Many thanks to Richard White, who has provided the below. Richard is a Director of Mitchell Architects in Plymouth and a regular Design Review Panel member, attending Design Review Panels across the South West; in Devon (both Plymouth and Exeter) as well as Somerset sessions held in Taunton.

"Fothergill Watson, notable architect of Nottingham from circa 1866 until 1907, completed some 100 buildings in his lifetime.

Many of his surviving buildings are listed and described as a style of a combination of Gothic revival flavoured with a taste of Old English vernacular.

Watson changed his name upon marriage to Watson Fothergill, with his mother’s maiden name added as he considered this addition improved his status in society. He later switched the names around to Fothergill Watson for the same rationale.

He is recorded as being witnessed driving down the Mansfield Road in the morning in a large carriage driven by four grey mares with two liverymen up front and two behind. Once on site, he is again reported to have never left his carriage but given his instructions directly to the building foreman and never conversed directly with the tradesmen or artisans. An empirical example of the Victorian elitist.

One most noticeable aspect to his work is that he “signed” his buildings with a stone plaque, always on the first floor, with his name, Architect, and a date. When asked why, his response was that people on the upper deck of a trolley bus should have something interesting to read.

In the 1970’s, it was discovered, when restoration work was being done to one of his banking client buildings, that the parapets were adorned with carved monkey statues. The only explanation at the time was that this may have been a reference to the term “monkey” being the Victorian slang for a bad debtor. The assumption then was that this was a thinly veiled insult by Fothergill Watson to his clients.

It may be that we should now consider that the buildings of today be adorned with plaques from their creators ... as well as some carved monkeys !


Some of this information has been gleaned from Wikipedia – that font of all true knowledge, Delphic oracle and new age arbiter of many publican disputes. "

by Richard White of Mitchell Architects

BA(Hons) BArch RIBA

Mitchell Architects are a Chartered Architects Practice based in Plymouth and Exeter, in Devon. They have been delivering their chartered architectural service since 1986. They have a team of highly skilled, motivated & hard working professionals, dedicated to providing the best service possible. You can read more about Richard by clicking here ...

#FothergillWatson #NotinghamArchitecture #GothicRevival #DesignReviewPanel #SouthWestDesignReviewPanel #DesignReviewSouthWest #Architects #DesignReview