John Gwynn RA (November 1713 - 1786)

RA Collection: People and Organisations

The architect John Gwynn was a Founder Member of the Royal Academy, chiefly remembered today for his bridges across the River Severn and Magdalen Bridge in Oxford.

Gwynn was born in Shrewsbury in 1713 and may have trained in carpentry before turning to architecture. He first came to public notice with a series of publications including An Essay on Design, published in 1749. Its subtitle, Including Proposals for Erecting a Public AcademyFor Educating the British Youth in Drawing, marked Gwynn out as an early advocate for the establishment of a Royal Academy.

In the 1740s, Gwynn purchased the late architect Christopher Wren’s plans for London when they came up at auction. These formed the basis of his best-known book, London and Westminster Improved, which was published in 1766 with a foreword written by his friend, the writer Dr Samuel Johnson. In this book Gwynn set out his vision for an improved London, including detailed drawings and plans. Few of his ideas for the city came to fruition in Gwynn’s lifetime but his suggestions anticipated the building of landmarks including Waterloo Bridge and Trafalgar Square in the following century.

In 1768 the Royal Academy was founded, realising Gwynn’s ambitions of an academy for sculptors, painters and architects. He was made a Royal Academician in the category of architect, despite the fact that he had almost no practical experience at this stage having lost out to the Scottish architect Robert Myle in a competition to design Blackfriars Bridge in 1759. The first building project that can be definitely ascribed to Gwynn is the English Bridge over the River Severn completed in 1774.

In later years, Gwynn completed a number of notable projects including Worcester Bridge and its surroundings, and Magdalen Bridge and the Covered Market in Oxford. He argued passionately throughout his life for a greater awareness of public requirements in city planning and architecture, particularly with regards to new developments in London. Gwynn died in 1786 and is buried in St Oswald’s Hospital graveyard, Worcester.


Royal Academician

Foundation Member

Born: November 1713 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, United Kingdom

Died: 27 February 1786

Nationality: British

Elected RA: 10 December 1768

Gender: Male

Preferred media: Architecture and Town-planning

Works by John Gwynn in the RA Collection

5 results

Associated books

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Associated archives

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