Edgar Wood (pictured right) was born in Middleton near Rochdale. His father
was a successful local mill owner and his mother came from Lindley near
Huddersfield. Young Edgar would have liked to become an artist, whereas his
father would have liked him to enter the family business. The compromise was
his training as an architect whilst working for Mills Murgatroyd of Manchester.
By 1885 he had qualified and established his own practice, designing not just
the buildings but supervising many
aspects of design including metalwork, stained glass, furnishings and
sculpture, making the same commitment to ‘Total Design’ as his contemporary CFA Voysey (1857-1941), a fellow architect who had established his practice
in1882, and incorporating the ethos of the Arts and Crafts movement. In
executing commissions Wood engaged the services of numerous local craftsmen
who helped him achieve a high degree
of skilful workmanship in his design
projects. Mature examples of Wood’s earlier Arts and Crafts/ Art Nouveau style
include houses in Middleton (especially Fencegate and his own home, Redcroft)
and larger buildings, most notably Long Street Methodist Church in Middleton
(1899) and the First Church of Christ Scientist in Daisy Bank,
Wood later became a leading member of the Northern Art
Workers’ Guild, established in
1896. By 1903, architects Parker and Unwin, pioneers of the Garden City Movement, were exhibiting at the
Guilds exhibition in Manchester. Wood’s buildings, like Parker and Unwin’s award
winning work at New Earswick (north of York), are often designed to maximise
sunlight in the living spaces; Briarcourt in Lindley, Huddersfield (1895) is an
Around 1906 Edgar Wood formed a working partnership with the
architect and furniture designer, James Henry Sellers (1859-1918). The
influence of many strands of new architectural thought were all around them and
perhaps account for Wood’s architectural style developing rapidly towards
Modernism (most obviously in the use of flat roofs, beginning in 1906 with 36
Mellalieu Street, Middleton) throughout the remainder of what was to be a
short career in architecture.
A close friend from childhood and for much of Wood’s life
was the painter F W Jackson (1859-1918), an artist and illustrator also from
Manchester. Jackson was a founder member of the Staithes group of artists and
painted Wood’s portrait on a number of occasions.
In 1909 Wood’s
father died and Edgar, freed financially from the need to accept architectural
commissions, devoted the rest of his life to painting.
Edgar Wood retired and settled in Italy where he designed
and built himself a house and garden at Porto Maurizio, Liguria where he lived
until his death in 1935.
Edgar Wood Heritage Group (Yorkshire) 2012