John Chessell BUCKLER (1793–1894)

Artist, antiquarian, architect

58 Holywell Street, Oxford

John Chessell Buckler was born in Bermondsey, the eldest of eleven children, to John Buckler and his wife Ann (née Chessell), both originally from the Isle of Wight. John Buckler senior (1770–1851) was an architect and remarkable topographical artist whose secure income came from managing Magdalen College’s London estates. From c.1811, John Chessell Buckler assisted his father with an enormous output of topographical drawings, including many of Oxfordshire churches and other buildings. These drawings in pencil or pen and wash are prized holdings in the Bodleian and the British Library and are invaluable for research and building restoration, supplying the only known record of buildings now altered or demolished e.g. nos. 108–112 High Street, pulled down in 1872–3.

Manor House, Old MarstonThe Manor House, Old Marston: Extract from an engraving after J. C. Buckler
published in
Gentleman’s Magazine, 1816, lxxvi(2), 577.

J. C. Buckler wrote the text of his father’s Views of the Cathedral Churches of England and Wales (1822). Observations on the Original Architecture of St Mary Magdalen College, Oxford (1823), an important source for the understanding of the architectural history of the College that played a major part in persuading them to abandon some developments which would have destroyed the fifteenth-century cloister.

While continuing to produce topographical drawings (e.g. Sixty Views of Endowed Grammar Schools, 1827), he began to practise as an architect in the 1820s, designing Costessey Hall, Norfolk (now demolished) and other neo-Tudor houses. He received the second prize for his design for the new Houses of Parliament in 1834 after the fire. He carried out restoration work at Lincoln Cathedral and at several Oxfordshire churches, including Adderbury (1831–4), Pyrton (1856), and Iffley, where he was responsible for the reinstatement of the blocked twelfth-century west window in 1856. He designed Magdalen College Schoolroom, now the College Library (1849–51), the Turl Street front of Jesus College (1854) and carried out restorations at Oriel, Brasenose and the University Church. He succeeded H. J. Underwood as architect at the Oxford Castle Prison and Littlemore Hospital in the 1850s.

In the next generation his son Charles Alban Buckler, a Roman Catholic convert, designed several impressive churches and was responsible for the spectacular transformation of Arundel Castle for the 15th Duke of Norfolk in 1890–1903.

58 Holywell Street

John Chessell Buckler lived at 58 Holywell Street (right) from c.1861 to 1889 and then for the remaining years of his life at Melbury House, Cowley Road. He died at the age of 100.

Source: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, article on John Buckler and the Buckler dynasty by Geoffrey Tyack


Portrait of John Chessell Buckler in 1872 by William Riviere (BBC Your Paintings)


The ceremony was held at 58 Holywell Street on 30 October 2015. The speaker was Dr Geoffrey Tyack, FSA, FRHistS. Among those attending were the Lord Mayor of Oxford, the Warden of Merton, and representatives of the Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society.

Malcolm Graham: “Exploring city and county 200 years ago – John Buckler and John Chessell Buckler


Buckler plaque


Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board


Artist, architect,

lived here

Oxfordshire architectural
& historical society

© Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board


Email: oxfordshireblueplaques@gmail.com