John George Jackson was born on 2nd February 1799, the son of Ralph Jackson and Eliza (nee Hopwood). He was baptised at St George’s Church in Hanover Square in London, the church where his parents had married. John married Emma Prichard, daughter of Bristol surgeon William Evans Prichard and Sarah Radford on 19th February 1835 in London. John and Emma had five children. After his death his wife continued to run a school.
Jackson was a pupil of the architect Peter Frederick Robinson who was one of his cousins. John was active in Leamington from about 1833 until his death on 16th June 1851, aged 52..
Initially Jackson lived at Strawberry Cottage in what is now the Jephson Gardens, roughly on the site of the Hitchman Fountain. This cottage was soon replaced by Newbold Lodge in 1834, probably to the design by George Mair rather than Jackson. The property was owned by Edward Willes and it is suggested that Willes selected Mair because they had travelled on the Continent together. Newbold Lodge was demolished in 1855.
He was agent for Edward Willes and developed a design for the development of some of the land of Edward Willes in the early 1830s. Eventually, he was responsible for implementing the plans for a large part of the Willes estate by John Nash and James Morgan from 1833 to 1836. He also drew up designs for buildings in Clarendon Square for Willes but it is unclear if any of them were built to his plans.
Jackson was involved in many other projects including designs for enlargement of the Parish Church of All Saints in 1834, some of which were rejected by Rev John Craig because the columns were too thick and ugly (although functional). In 1840 he designed changes to the chancel in this church. He was asked for further designs at the west end of the church in 1843; again these were not formally selected but some of his ideas were used; Jackson complained that he had not been paid for his labours.
He designed the distinctive Episcopal Chapel at Milverton (named the Pepper Box Chapel for the circular tower on the top) in 1833 in ‘Grecian style’; this was demolished soon after St Mark’s church was opened in 1879 and houses were built on the site.
He designed a new frontage of the Royal Assembly (later the Parthenon) in Bath Street in 1835 including the removal of the colonnade; this was one of several revamps for the Parthenon building over two centuries. The facade above Iceland’s shop in 2021 is a replica of Jackson’s design which was replaced after a fire in the 1960s.
Jackson laid out the Jephson Gardens for Willes as a pleasure ground in 1834. It is said that Jackson also helped to fight the fire in Euston Place in 1835, just across the street from his home.
He designed a terrace of three houses at the west end of Newbold Terrace in 1835 which have been demolished. The site is occupied in 2021 by the Justice Centre.
He also produced designs for Bertie Terrace but it is not certain that it was built entirely to his designs; it is certainly not uniform design from end to end. He also designed the tall and imposing terrace of three houses at the east end of Newbold Terrace on the corner of Willes Road in 1837; one of these became the home of Sidney Flavel senior and was named Edgeville.
Jackson was consulted about the widening of Victoria Bridge in 1838, together with William Russell and William Thomas. He later sought tenders from builders for the work and it can be inferred that major parts of the final design were his. The foundation stone was laid in 1839 and it opened the following year; the previous bridge had been only 23 feet wide; the new one was 53 feet wide at the northern end and 73 feet wide at the south end.
He designed St Mary’s Church in 1839 in what was open countryside and on what is now named St Mary’s Road; it is unique in the town as the only church finished with stucco and it is a rare Victorian revival of a design from the fifteenth century. The tower is 75 feet high and the church accommodated 1136 people including 415 in the balcony. In the same year he drew the very useful map of the town which was published in Reeves Guide.
In 1841 he also designed St Mary’s Church School in Radford Road, on the corner of Leam Terrace East, now used as offices.
He handled the sale of Newbold Comyn House and grounds for Edward Willes in 1839, some time after Willes left the town around 1831. In 1842 he redesigned parts of Regent Grove and Hamilton Terrace. He also designed the Tennis Court in Bedford Street following initial discussions in 1844 and the foundation stone was laid in 1846.
He designed the new Post Office in Bath Street in 1846 which survived only until 1872, it had an imposing pillared portico.
He designed the East Lodge in the Jephson Gardens at Willes Road in 1846 in an Old English style. Around that date he wrote a book about the design of garden lodges and labourers’ cottages.
He made alterations to Lillington Church of St Mary Magdalene in 1847. In 1848 he gave evidence for Mr Willes in a case where a Mrs Dawson was accused of demolishing part of the fence of the Jephson Gardens in Newbold Terrace and inserting a gate.
Jackson died of apoplexy whilst in the audience at the theatre in Clemens Street in 1851.
Michael Jeffs, April 2021
Thanks to Stella Bolitho for research into family history