My interest in Sancton Wood arose almost incidentally, while I was researching material for a PowerPoint Presentation (and for a future book) about the life times and works of Alexander McDonnell, (1829-1904) the distinguished Irish locomotive engineer. Wood had provided the designs for Kingsbridge and Inchicore works where McDonnell worked from 1863 to 1882. From a comfortably placed family Wood started his professional career in the artistic circle developed around the talented Smirke family with their abilities in architecture, painting and antiquarianism. Wood’s main early commissions however were in designing railway stations. Only later did he design municipal and private residences, before becoming an official surveyor in the London area and working for various committees for railway surveying and benevolent companies. Apart from his obituaries for RIBA and ICE, there was only Gordon Biddle’ s interestingly discursive and speculative 2-part article for “Backtrack’ in 2007. This covered much of his career as railway architect. Of Wood’s diaries, personal letters, portrait or photograph of him or his family, nothing has survived. The extant obituaries provide a mere skeletal outline of his times his personality and work. I have only one surveyors’ report from a newspaper account, which reveals little about him except professional concern. Census returns and internet searches plus contemporary newspaper articles have provided me with sources of information about him, his family and its connections, especially details of his life after 1850 when he decided to do more surveying and other committee work as well as dealing with family commitments. and less on actual building design. Putting them into some kind of contemporary context has helped me to understand him and what he achieved in his lifetime.
This is a biography of Sancton Wood, an early provider of railway stations of quality and style in various sizes both in Ireland and England. Fortunately on both sides of the Irish Channel, most of them remain. Indeed the large ones are still in daily use and are now architectural adornments to the cities and towns where they are situated. Changing to do more surveying in mid-life and to working on the Boards and committees for various enterprises, railway, local government and insurance. Finally he in particular supported the Association, which is now known as “Aviva”. He took much care dealing with his family’s financial probate at his later years.