Craftsmanship in the architecture of James Gibbs and Richard Castle
While three research strands create a conceptual framework for the project, tangible focus, essential for meaningful analysis, is provided by the craft circles of James Gibbs in England and Richard Castle in Ireland. Gibbs (1682-1754) and Castle (c.1690-1750) were near contemporaries who both had European experience and were the most successful architects of their time in public and private commissions. Conservative, eclectic and disposed to rich ornamentation, they were consummate draughtsmen, exacting taskmasters and effective businessmen. Their offices thus ground the research in rich documentary and built evidence for the practice of craftsmanship in the first half of the eighteenth century.
Both Gibbs and Castle employed the Lafranchini brothers in the late 1730s and they may well have had further professional association. Gibbs’ right-hand man, John Borlach, was, like Castle, of Anglo-German lineage with close connections to the Saxon court at Dresden. His role as Gibbs’ draughtsman for some three decades places him at the heart of elite building activity in England during the period, while Castle’s courtly pedigree, and exceptional drawing and writing skills helped to secure his place as Ireland’s pre-eminent architect after the death of Edward Lovett Pearce in 1734. Together Pearce and Castle had overseen a group of skilled English craftsmen who migrated to Ireland c.1728 to build the Dublin Parliament House. Like Gibbs, Castle developed a circle of trustworthy associates whom he continued to employ on successive projects.