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The Arts and Crafts Movement in Victoria, B.C.


Biggerstaff Wilson Residence

Biggerstaff Wilson, a son of well known clothiers from England, commissioned a home from Samuel Maclure in 1905. Wilson, who had an ice and cold storage business, made his fortune from an inheritance from his namesake, a wealthy, family friend who was a bachelor. The Wilson home, located at 1770 Rockland Avenue, is considered to be Maclure's "most successful and powerful Tudor Revival residence" (Victoria, pg. 64).

Biggerstaff Wilson Residence, by Samuel Maclure, 1905
Biggerstaff Wilson Residence
by Samuel Maclure, 1905

One of Maclure's first and finest large Elizabethan Revival timber style manor houses, the Wilson house represents Maclure "at the height of his Medieval Arts and Crafts period" (Segger, Victoria..., 1879, pg. 301). Although the house has a strong Tudor flavour, it projects an asymmetrical effect.

The first level of the Wilson residence is composed of irregular masonry which was a favourite material of Maclure. Above this Maclure used white stucco rectangles and dark woodwork in his exterior design.

The half-timber elevation of the house is dominated by a massive roof and gabled entrance bay. Random ashalar on the first floor blends with the surrounding rock gardens, creating an atmosphere true to the Arts and Crafts style of harmonizing the house with its natural environment.

The Elizabethan revival scheme is not continued to the rear of the home. Instead, it is replaced by shingled wall surfaces and flat and hipped roof dormers.

Maclure always tried to ensure that the residents of his homes were privy to spectacular views. In the Wilson home, the south porch opens into the garden and the balconies on the second floor and the entrance provide breathtaking views of the landscaped grounds.

The interior of the Wilson residence is equally tasteful and demonstrative of the belief in high quality handcrafted work of the Arts and Crafts Movement. In the Wilson home, Maclure created a stately mansion complete with a grand baronial hall, richly panelled with unpolished local woods and complimented with delicately patterned art glass.

Grounds of the Wilson Residence
Grounds along the driveway of the Wilson Residence

The large central hall of the Wilson residence is galleried on three sides and lit by a collection of art-nouveau leaded windows on the fourth. This hall, which contains a large fireplace, is treated as a living room and considered one of Maclure's "most successful halls where the handling of light, space and architectural detail combine to produce an almost sculptural quality" (Segger, 1986, pg. 134). On a sunny day, this hall is filled with a beautiful array of controlled light.

One of the main features of this house is the staircase whose divisions are marked off by vertical elements with a strongly sculptural character. This wood detailing on the staircase is continued through and around the fireplace.

With the Wilson residence, Maclure set the standard for gracious living in Victoria. This style would be emulated by the upper class in Victoria for the next decade (Segger, Victoria..., 1979, pg. 301). This house is representative of Maclure's prewar phase which is "generally considered to be his most innovative and vigorous period" (Mills, pg. 376).

To this day, the Wilson residence remains in use as a single-family dwelling. Neither the interior or exterior have undergone significant changes. The original garden scheme also remains intact and therefore, this house is considered one of Maclure's "most impressive surviving houses" (Segger, 1986, pg. 134).

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