‘IF it had not been for my aunt Beattie I might never have discovered that there had once been a famous architect in my family.”
So begins Northampton man Alan Teulon’s book on the life of one of his ancestors, his great great great uncle Samuel Sanders Teulon, who lived during the 19th century.
It was Alan’s aunt who first informed him of his descendancy from the French Huguenot family and it was while investigating this that he found out more about Samuel’s work.
Alan, who lives in Kingsthorpe, said: “He wasn’t popular, he did churches and did not always do them like the church people would like them. He had his critics and I ask myself why he was criticised and was it fair?
“He was criticised but did not bite back very often, he did not write books, and he seems to have been quite modest.”
In fitting with her stereotypical image, Queen Victoria did not approve. At least, it seems, for a while.
Alan, who says that Samuel’s client list had looked like a “who’s who of Victorian gentry” explained: “Queen Victoria did at one stage say that the work of Mr Teulon was not to her taste, but when she saw the chapel at Windsor she said it was quite pretty.”
The private chapel at Windsor, used by the Royal family, is just one of hundreds of buildings across the UK born out of Samuel’s creative architectural wizardry.
At Alan’s house there are proudly displayed prints showing the results of some of Samuel’s work: a picture of Bestwood Lodge in Nottingham, an incomplete drawing of a building at Windsor Park for Queen Victoria (which was never built) as well as a photo of The Buxton Memorial Fountain at Westminster – alongside the Houses of Parliament – which Teulon designed in memory of one of the politicians who campaigned for the abolition of slavery.
But there were multiple other examples of work done in a career which carved Teulon’s name as a prolific and accomplished architect.
Images and facts about just some of the Teulon buildings have now been included in Alan’s book, written in his memory and entitled The Life and Work of Samuel Sanders Teulon, Victorian Architect.
The book is the result of many years of research.
Alan, who is now 77, said: “I started research in my mid-20s so it has taken a long time. I started long before the days of research on computers.”
His research took him on a surprising voyage around the country, tracing some of the beautiful buildings once dreamt up by Samuel. Alan was particularly surprised at exactly how widespread Samuel’s work actually was.
He said: “I have been all over the place in England and Wales. He was based in London but had worked all around England and Wales. It was remarkable at the time as railways were only just being brought in and he would have had a trek to these places.”
He continued: “Samuel Sanders Teulon built a vicarage at Roade, a school at Gayton, but most of his work was done for the Duke of Bedford around Wansford.”
Teulon was a graduate of the Royal School of Art and a former pupil of the artist Turner, but just how important was Teulon’s architecture in the Victorian period?
Alan said: “When I read books of that period and look at the amount of information I have collected, I read of Sir George Gilbert Scott (architect of the Victoria & Albert memorial and St Pancras Station); he was the leading architect of the time with a huge office of staff.
“But I went through one Victorian book and Samuel was there in the top 12 in terms of production. He earned a good living.”
On a personal level, Samuel must have had a busy home life. He had 10 children to look after, as well as managing a hectic career in architecture. He eventually passed away in 1873.
Alan said: “It is said that he died from overwork. He had a huge family, not that I’m blaming the family, as everyone had huge families in those days.”
A copy of the book costs £8, plus £1.50 postage and packing, available by writing to Alan at 54 Clarence Avenue, Kingsthorpe, Northampton, NN2 6NZ or ringing 711755.