The Eagle House

12.11.2003
London, UK
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Eagle House has had a varied and eventful past. Originally built as a wealthy merchant's home in the seventeenth century, it had a series of tenants in the eighteenth century and was converted into a boarding school for boys in the nineteenth. Much altered - and undoubtedly the worse for wear - the building was put up for sale in the 1890s. Luckily for al-Furqan and the residents of Wimbledon Village, it caught the eye of Sir Thomas Jackson, an eminent Victorian architect. One of the most distinguished and prolific architects of his generation, Jackson had tired of the busy life of central London so determined to buy Eagle House. He wasted no time in restoring it to its former glory and its first role, that of a family home. He lived there until his death in 1924.

On November 12th 2003, the architect's grandson, Sir Nicholas Jackson, returned to Eagle House, where he had spent many happy times as a child, to deliver a lecture about his grandfather's life and work. Held jointly by al-Furqan Foundation and the Wimbledon Society, the lecture was enthusiastically attended by many local residents and historians, keen to learn more about the famous architect. Sir Nicholas illustrated his lecture with slides of many of Sir Thomas's sketches and watercolours: of Eagle House, of the buildings he designed and of the travels which inspired and informed his work.

During his lifetime Sir Thomas had an almost unrivailed reputation as an architect of collegiate and school buildings and as a sensitive restorer of historic buildings and monuments. He travelled extensively in Europe and often visited the Croatian coast. He wrote a three-volume history of the region which is still recognised as the definitive work on its medieval monuments.

Mediterranean and Byzantine influences can be detected in many of his buildings, for example the Bridge of Sighs in New College Lane, Oxford or the domed chapel of Giggleswick public school on the Yorkshire moors. Jackson's romantic, scholarly buildings fell out of fashion after his death but there has been a recent revival of interest in his achievements. Sir Nicholas has published a beautifully illustrated edition of his grandfather's memoirs and the lecture at Al-Furqan co-incided with two exhibitions of his watercolours and travel drawings in London: in the Library and Print Room of the Royal Academy of Arts and at the Croatian Embassy.