Architecture Planning and Preservation C. F. A. Voysey
Karen Livingstone
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 February 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190922467-0015


Charles Frances Annesley Voysey (b. 1857–d. 1941) was an architect, designer, and leading figure of the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain. The houses and interiors he designed, notably his own home, The Orchard, Chorleywood (1899), were much acclaimed. From 1890 to 1910 he was regarded as one of the most innovative and influential architects of his generation. His international reputation was enhanced through the widespread publication of his work, and his own writing and lectures. He had strong guiding principles, believing in a simple and honest life, lived close to nature. Voysey was trained by J. P. Seddon (b. 1827–d. 1906) from 1874 and then worked for Henry Saxon Snell (b. 1830–d. 1904), followed by George Devey (b. 1820–d. 1886). He set up his own practice in 1882, specializing in small-scale houses. He designed only a few commercial or public buildings, including a factory for Sanderson and Co., London (1902) and Winsford Cottage Hospital, Devon (1901). Voysey designed homes to suit the needs of his clients’ lifestyles and budgets, in which he merged traditional styles with modern construction techniques, materials, and amenities such as plumbing and electricity. He used a consistent architectural language, and while the same details appear over and over, the result is never repetitive and always suited to the setting. Voysey was also a successful designer of patterns for textiles and wallpapers, beginning around 1884 and producing a prolific range over the next fifty years. He designed extensively for other media, including furniture, clocks, ceramics, metalwork, stained glass, jewelry, sculpture, and graphic design. Voysey was a pioneer, and scholars, notably Pevsner 1968 (cited under General Overviews), at first positioned him as a pioneer of modern design. Voysey firmly rejected this notion, believing that he was an individual, a man of his age, and a follower of the Gothic revival. His most important influences were the architect and designer A. W. N. Pugin (b. 1812–d. 1852), the writer and critic John Ruskin (b. 1819–d. 1900), and the designer, poet and socialist William Morris (b. 1834–d. 1896). He also greatly admired the architect Ninian Comper (b. 1864–d. 1960). Voysey did not receive formal recognition until later in life. He became a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1927 and was awarded the RIBA Gold Medal in 1940. In 1936 he was elected Designer for Industry by the Royal Society of Arts. He lived in poor financial straits exasperated by the decline of his practice after 1912, ill health, and separated from his wife since 1917. He died in Winchester in 1941.

General Overviews

Voysey’s work and legacy has, from the outset, been widely published and illustrated. The recording of his work, and our understanding and interpretation, stems predominantly from having supporters whose publishing helped secure and maintain Voysey’s reputation in the United Kingdom, Europe, and America during his lifetime and in the decades following his death in 1941. Notable among these was Hermann Muthesius (b. 1861–d. 1927), a German architect and author, who became cultural attaché at the German Embassy in London, in 1896. He was commissioned to study and report on the ways of the British, investigating residential architecture and domestic lifestyle and design, over six years and ending with a now-famous three-volume report, Muthesius 1904–1905, which represents important contemporary perspective and context and helped establish Voysey’s reputation. Brandon-Jones 1963 and Pevsner 1968 were of the next generation who bridged the gap between personal knowledge and experience of Voysey, and the “revival” among future scholars who then took up the mantel in the 1970s. Gebhard 1975 (cited under Monographic Exhibitions), Simpson 1979, and Durant 1992 are solid introductions to the subject and provide essential context but remain limited in scope. All are significantly superseded in breadth and depth by later scholarship. Hitchmough 1994 and Schofield 1997 are monographs focusing on specific architectural projects. O’Donnell 2011 is an example of the illustrated summary introductions that reflect the continued interest in Voysey today. The only two substantive surveys presenting in-depth and new scholarship in recent times are Hitchmough 1995 and Livingstone, et al. 2016, dealing primarily with architecture and design, respectively.

  • Brandon-Jones, John. “C. F. A. Voysey.” In Victorian Architecture. Edited by Peter Ferriday, 269–287. London: J. Cape, 1963.

    General history and overview of context of architecture of the period, with a chapter on Voysey’s architecture.

  • Durant, Stuart. C. F. A. Voysey. Architectural Monographs. London: Academy Editions, 1992.

    Study of Voysey’s most significant work in architecture, positioning him as a great 19th-century domestic architect.

  • Hitchmough, Wendy. The Homestead: C. F. A. Voysey. Architecture in Detail. London: Phaidon, 1994.

    Technical study of one of Voysey’s important and best-preserved homes at Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, completed in 1905.

  • Hitchmough, Wendy. C. F. A. Voysey. London: Phaidon, 1995.

    The seminal work, providing a comprehensive survey and introduction to the life and work of Voysey, with a particular focus on his architecture and built works.

  • Livingstone, Karen, with Max Donnelly, and Linda Parry. C. F. A. Voysey. Arts & Crafts Designer. London: V&A, 2016.

    A broad survey of the key areas of Voysey’s life and work as a designer of pattern, furniture, metalwork, and ceramics. Richly illustrated and detailed exploration of his working practices, partnerships, and philosophy. Based on substantial new research and placing a new emphasis on design rather than architecture.

  • Muthesius, Hermann. Das englische Haus. 3 vols. Berlin: Wasmuth, 1904–1905.

    Important contemporary work, reviewing Voysey’s architecture and interiors, carpet designs, fireplaces and fire irons, and wallpapers in a survey of pioneering architecture and design in Britain. Translated and published as The English House, with an introduction by Dennis Sharp. Editions published in 1987 (New York: Rizzoli International) and in 2007 (London: Frances Lincoln).

  • O’Donnell, Anne S. C. F. A. Voysey: Architect, Designer, Individualist. Petaluma, CA: Pomegranate, 2011.

    A summary introduction to Voysey’s life, architecture, and design.

  • Pevsner, Nikolaus. “C. F. A. Voysey.” In Studies in Art, Architecture, and Design. Vol. 2, Victorian and After. By Nikolaus Pevsner, 186–189. London: Thames & Hudson, 1968.

    Discusses architecture and design through early influences, comparison with William Morris, influence on others, and the importance of international publishing. Continues with positioning of Voysey as a pioneer of modern design, while acknowledging Voysey’s disagreement with him on this point.

  • Schofield, Alice Shirley. C. F. A. Voysey’s buildings at Whitwood. Castleford, UK: Alice Shirley Schofield, 1997.

    Account of the design and history of Whitwood Terrace and Miners’ Welfare Institute was commissioned from Voysey by pit owners Henry Briggs Son & Co. Revised and republished as A Century of Voysey’s Buildings at Whitwood (Castlewood, UK: Alice Shirley Schofield, 2007).

  • Simpson, Duncan. C. F. A. Voysey: An Architect of individuality. London: Lund Humphries, 1979.

    Early introductory survey with key architectural works described. Notable guest preface written from personal encounter with Voysey in 1938.

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