Godwin, George (1813-88)

George Godwin was an influential architect, journalist, and editor of The Builder magazine. The son of George Godwin, he trained at his father’s architectural practice in Kensington where he set up a practice with his brother Henry Godwin (1831-1917).

Encouraged by his friend the antiquary John Britton, he pursued an interest in architectural history and wrote several volumes on the Churches of London (1838), masons’ marks and gothic style. He was also interested in new materials and wrote on the use of concrete (1836). He soon joined the Institute of British Architects, the Society of Antiquaries, and became a Fellow of the Royal Society.

The Builder was first published in 1842 by Joseph Hansom, inventor of the Hansom cab, as a weekly magazine. In 1844 Godwin became its third editor and immediately expanded its scope and coverage beyond new works and architectural issues to include history, archaeology, arts, sanitation and social issues. It described itself as ‘An illustrated weekly magazine for the architect, engineer, constructor, sanitary reformer, and art lover’.

This broadened its appeal beyond the construction trade, and he took a campaigning stance to improve the circumstances of the working classes. Godwin wrote on slums and republished edited collections of his articles as reforming books. In addition to self-improvement, he promoted the use of public baths, wash-houses, charitable housing trusts, and pavilion-styled hospitals.

He edited the journal until 1883.