Christopher Nicholson

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Christopher Nicholson
Christopher Nicholson, portrait from History of British Gliding Part1.jpg
Christopher David George Nicholson

(1904-12-16)16 December 1904
Pilgrim's Lane, Hampstead, London
Died 28 July 1948(1948-07-28) (aged 43)
Samedan, Switzerland
Nationality British
Occupation architect
Years active 1927–1939, 1946–1948
Notable work

Christopher "Kit" David George Nicholson[1] (16 December 1904 – 28 July 1948) was a British architect and designer of the early Modern Movement in Britain. His most notable works of the 1930s were comparable to the advanced modern abstract style of his older brother, the artist Ben Nicholson.[original research?]

Early life and education

Kit Nicholson was born on 16 December 1904 at Pilgrim's Lane, Hampstead, the fourth child of the artists William Nicholson and Mabel Pryde. His siblings were the celebrated painter Ben (1894–1982); Anthony (1897–1918), who died of wounds in France during the First World War; and Annie Mary "Nancy" (1899–1978), artist and wife of the poet Robert Graves.[2] Kit Nicholson was educated at Gresham's School, Holt, from 1917 to 1922, and then read architecture at St. John's College, Cambridge. In 1926 he won a one-year Davison Scholarship to study architecture at Princeton University.[3]:27


After his return to Britain in 1927 he undertook several small architectural commissions. From 1929 to 1930 he taught at the School of Architecture, University of Cambridge; one of his pupils was Hugh Casson. Nicholson moved to London in 1931, and worked for Watson Hart and Val Myer. In December 1931 Nicholson married Elsie Queen Myers, usually known as EQ Nicholson, whom he had met in about 1930.[3]:27

In 1933 Nicholson started his own architectural practice, in premises over a chemist's in the Fulham Road. Casson joined the practice in 1934, and EQ also worked there.

Between 1933 and 1934 Nicholson worked on the design and construction of a new studio for Augustus John at Fordingbridge in Hampshire. In 1935 and 1936 he designed and built the premises of the London Gliding Club at Dunstable in Bedfordshire.[3]:27 In the same period he made alterations to Monkton House for Edward James, and designed and constructed a private house, Kit's Close, at Henley.[3]:27 In 1938 James asked him to design a new building for his estate at West Dean, which was to incorporate the façade of James Wyatt's Pantheon in Oxford Street, London, which was being demolished.[3]:27

Nicholson was elected to the Modern Architecture Research Group in 1937,[3]:27 and was on the committee which organised the New Architecture Exhibition held by the group at the New Burlington Galleries in London from 11 to 29 January 1938.[4]

With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Nicholson signed up as a Meteorological Officer in the Fleet Air Arm. Between 1943 and 1945 he was the commander in charge of flying at the Inskip airfield in Lancashire.[3]:27 In 1945 he flew a Hellcat to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to take up a position as commander of the Katukurunda base of the Fleet Air Arm. He flew solo, and the journey took him a month.[5]:20

After he returned to Britain in 1946, Nicholson resumed practice as an architect. He undertook small commissions, including some design work for exhibition stands, and the design of radio and television sets for Ferranti.[3]:27[5]:108

A gliding enthusiast, Nicholson died at age 44 on 28 July 1948[6][5] in a gliding accident during the World Gliding Championships at Samedan in the Graubünden, in Switzerland.[3]:27

Legacy and honours

In 1988 an exhibition in York showed Nicholson's work beside that of his brother, his sister and his wife.[3] In 1994, the Royal Institute of British Architects acquired his complete collection of drawings, records and photographs for the Drawings Collection of the British Architectural Library.[7] A selection was reproduced by Neil Bingham in Christopher Nicholson (1996), from the early projects through to his major buildings such as Augustus John's studio and the London Gliding Club.


  1. ^ Elissa Arnesen. "Tim Nicholson Collection: A holding of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, Starsmore Center for Local History". Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, 2002. Archived 28 Septembera 2011.
  2. ^ Colin Campbell, Merlin James, Patricia Reed and Sanford Schwartz (2004). The Art of William Nicholson. London: Royal Academy of Arts. ISBN 1903973449. p. 164–65.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j The Nicholsons, a story of four people and their designs: Ben Nicholson, 1894-1982; Nancy Nicholson, 1899-1977; Kit Nicholson, 1904-1948; E.Q. Nicholson, born 1908. York City Art Gallery, 1988. ISBN 9780903281065.
  4. ^ William Whyte ([n.d.]). MARS group (act. 1933–1957). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (subscription required).
  5. ^ a b c Neil Bingham (editor). Christopher Nicholson Royal Institute of British Architects Drawings Monographs No. 4. London: Academy Editions, 1996. ISBN 9781854904454. pp. 6–11.
  6. ^ Philip Aubrey Wills (1953). On being a bird. London: Max Parrish.
  7. ^ Major Accessions to Repositories 1994 relating to Architecture. The National Archives. Accessed March 2012.

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