Ralph Nevill (1845-1917) became an architect and the first to specialize in studying vernacular buildings of Surrey, and had knowledge of archaeology. He was born on the 23rd April 1845 in Tottenham, Middlesex the son of William Nevill, a wholesale hosier. The 1855 Kelly’s Directory listed Nevill & Co as manufacturers of patent fleecy hosiery, Segovia lambs’ wool and cotton goods etc at Langham Mill in Catteshall Lane, Godalming. The 1851 and 1861 censuses list the family living in Seven Sister’s Road, Stoke Newington. Ralph Nevill was educated privately in Brighton.
The family had strong connections with the Surrey Archaeological Society. His father was a member of the Society in 1864, and Ralph became a member the following year, and was a Member of Council for 42 years. His nephew, Humphrey Nevill was Secretary 1932-37. The Society has a ‘Nevill Collection’ that includes Ralph’s drawings and articles from The Builder. The Surrey Archaeological Collections have printed his numerous papers and descriptions of buildings.
Ralph was articled under Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1863, aged 18, and served in his office for 5 years as pupil and 2 years as a salaried clerk. He set up in his own practice often employing his own workmen direct. He became an Associate of The Royal Institute of British Architects in 1870, and a Fellow in 1876. He was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries from c.1874 for over 15 years. Ralph worked and lived in London, Godalming and Guildford. The 1880 list of Burgesses of the Borough of Godalming, in the Parish of Godalming listed Ralph Nevill as being rated for a house in the High Street. In the 1881 census he is listed at 12, South Square, Grays Inn; the 1882 Kelly’s Directory lists Nevill, Ralph, FSA, Architect at 31, High Street, Guildford and at Godalming; and in 1888 at Rolls Chambers, Chancery Lane, London. In October 1889 he was a candidate for the Office of District Surveyor to the London County Council, and the Surrey History Centre has a letter sent by Ralph outlining his experience and with 17 testimonials. Ralph married in 1892 Mary Beatrice Tweed, and Beatrice Cecilia was born in 1893 in Kensington. He returned to Guildford and the 1901 census lists Ralph at Albion Villa, South Hill.
His work included designing additions to Pinewood, Brook Road, Wormley, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1870. An article appeared in The Architect in 1875 on Pinewood, and in 1892 on a Fishing Lodge in Tilford. He designed alterations to the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Godalming in 1877-79, additions to Rake Manor, Milford in 1882, and designed Snowdenham Hall, Bramley in 1886 for John Courage of the Brewery family
In 1889 he wrote Old Cottage and Domestic Architecture of South-West Surrey. This was based upon his sketches in ‘Spring Gardens Sketch-book’ a private work while with Sir G.G.Scott, along with his published work in the Builder, and his fine-line drawings of small buildings and their architectural features. Ralph influenced many architects on the Surrey style, and the book can be seen in the Godalming Local Studies Library.
He designed the Surrey Archaeological Society building next to Castle Arch, Guildford in 1911 thereby retaining its headquarters and collections. This was to be his last work. He died in January 1917 at Clifton House, Castle Hill, Guildford.
In 1986 an exhibition, ‘South West Surrey at the close of the 19th Century’, exhibited drawings by Ralph Nevill, F.S.A., at Guildford House Gallery.