William Wilkins (1778-1839)

North Front of the Porta Honoris, one of the entrances to Gonville & Caius College Cambridge



Engraved by James Basire for the Society of Antiquaries and published on 23 April 1809

Published in Vestuta Monumenta iv as ‘Observations on the Porta Honoris of Caius College, Cambridge’.

We have all three engravings of the Gate of Honour from this publication listed.

Wilkins designed the National Gallery, University College London and buildings for several Cambridge Colleges.

Born in Norwich, his father was a successful builder and following Norwich School and a scholarship to Caius College (graduating as 6th wrangler) he spent three years on a Grand Tour of the classical antiquities of Greece, Asia Minor and Italy. This Grand Tour inspired the commencement of his architectural career, with his Greek-revival designs for the newly-founded Downing College in Cambridge – construction of which commenced in 1807 and halted in 1821.

Other notable Greek-revival works are Haileybury College (designed for the East India Company), the entrance to the Lower Assembly Rooms at Bath, the United University Club on Pall Mall, and the National Gallery. His plans for Trafalgar Square were not adopted, but Charles Barry’s scheme – after Wilkins’ death – incorporated many of the latter’s ideas.

He was just at home designing Gothic buildings, starting with Dalmeny House and Thregothnan House shortly after he commenced work on Downing College. In 1823 he won the competition to design for King’s College, Cambridge, the hall, provost’s lodge, library and the Trumpington Street screen. King’s Court of Trinity College and the chapel and other new buildings at Corpus Christi College also followed in Cambridge.

He succeeded John Soane in 1837 as professor of architecture at the Royal Academy, though died in Cambridge in 1839 without having given a single lecture. He is buried in the crypt under his chapel at Corpus Christi College.