Salvin that he decided to become an architect. His father, a colonel, had intended his son for the Army, which was a profession for gentlemen, while architecture at that time was not. However Colonel Salvin had lost one son in the fighting and finally agreed that Anthony Salvin should be placed as a pupil with Paterson, the architect at Brancepeth.

Paterson knew very little of architectural detail and had no respect for the past. He built on vast reception rooms, created a huge barbican where there had been a mere gate, and would have done well as a set designer for Ben Hur. However, the restoration had been enough to fire Salvin's imagination, but his work would be far more sensitive.

After a short time, Salvin and William Nesfield moved to London, taking lodgings in Newman Street, behind Oxford Street. Salvin went to work with John Nash at the period when he was building All Soul's, Langham Place, and the Regent's Park Terraces. Clearly his early experiences at Brancepeth had turned his ideas to the problem of careful and discreet restoration of old buildings. Some people wanted to leave things as they were, allowing buildings to decay naturally. Others advocated ruthless renovation and rebuilding, without regard for historical accuracy. When Salvin was asked to restore Norwich Castle, which was becoming a dangerous structure, he was in a dilemma, because Norwich Castle was also a prison. If he left things to rot, the walls would fall down, killing half the prisoners and allowing the rest to run away. In this case restoration was essential, but it should be as sensitive as possible.

This and similar work led him to study old buildings and castles closely, so that he developed a deep knowledge of styles, materials and methods. All his life he made watercolours and drawings of buildings, trimming and mounting them in albums, to build up a library of authentic details for further study. Many are now in the RIBA Drawings Collection, but sadly wheel-barrows full were burnt after his death and are completely lost.

His close study of old buildings allowed him to build successful new houses in old styles. One example of many is Thorsby Hall 1 The house was begun in 1864 for the 3rd Earl Mantravers who had succeeded to 38,000 acres and £50,000 a year. He commissioned Salvin to build a house to rival the great whig palaces of the eighteenth century. It was completed just before the agricultural depression of the 1870s, and sold off by the Coal Board in 1988, an enormous pile for which a new use has to be found.


The magnificent 182 foot expanse of Thoresby Hall's south front
displays Salvin's brilliance in re-creating an Elizabethan mansion.

 

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1 Salvin, The Sunday Times 28 Aug1917.

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