Samuel Flint Clarkson - keen antiquarian and architectural expert

Samuel Flint Clarkson
Public domain

Samuel Flint Clarkson was elected a member of our Society in 1884, as it gathered momentum with the restoration of the Abbey church and a focus on the archaeology of the monastery. He brought architectural expertise and a passion for the antiquarian, which made for a substantial contribution to a group who were culturally equipped and well connected, but perhaps lacked the practical energy required to take the Society forward.

Successful architectural practice

Samuel was well known in the city, having served articles in London and moved to set up practice in St Albans just as the Midland Railway brought expansion to the town. Throughout the 1870s his work here included redesigning the footpath paving on St Peter’s Street west and similarly on Holywell Hill, new wings for the Board of Guardians at the infirmary, and the construction of our Board schools on Hatfield Road, Alma Road and Catherine Street, as well as Watford Road.

By the time of his marriage in 1881, the rest of the family had moved away and Samuel settled in one of the newly built eleven room houses in Bricket Road. He was apparently already sufficiently well connected in the town to have been commissioned by Corporation Treasurer and later Town Clerk, Isaac Newton Edwards, to build his proposed mansion at the foot of St Stephen’s Hill, which he called Westminster House (latterly ‘Lodge’). Still to be seen, though converted to apartments, it is now Trevelyan Place (see Fig. 2). Other high profile commissions followed and in 1885 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

The practice, which included his brothers John and William, operated from both London Road here and Great Ormond Street in London, where they were also responsible for high profile commissions, such as the parochial school for St George the Martyr in Old Gloucester Street and several churches.

Interest in antiquarian matters

Samuel’s interest in the antiquarian had emerged early in his career, first on attending at University College the lectures of T.L. Donaldson, brother in law of Abbey church rector Henry Nicholson. (Both Nicholson and Donaldson were early members of our Society.) An active member of the Architectural Association, Clarkson had, when President in 1879, brought a group to visit the Abbey church and in the absence of the usual guides, had ushered participants through the building himself with well-presented notes.

His energy in support of the antiquarian interest is evident. He organised outings for the Society – in 1887, “after a beautiful afternoon ride over the Flamstead hills, Society members heard a talk by Clarkson on the architectural history of the church and its monuments and also the history of the Saunders almshouses opposite. The party then moved on to Beechwood Mansion where Clarkson gave notes in front of the house”. He was no doubt regarded highly as an asset to the Society, and joined its committee in 1890. It was he who suggested that a catalogue of all archaeological work in Hertfordshire should be drawn up.

On retirement from active practice after the turn of the 20th century, he became district surveyor in Kensington and moved to Holland Road, where he died in 1915. The ten papers he wrote and had published in the Transactions are lasting evidence of the substantial contribution Clarkson made to the Society’s work. You can see copies of these on our website.

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