The Audsley brothers

Photograph of an elderly man with a white beard and moustache

William James Audsley (1833-1907) and brother George Ashdown Audsley (1838-1925) were born in Scotland. George, the better known of the brothers, was originally apprenticed to architects A & W Reid in his birth town of Elgin. However, by 1856 the Audsleys were both in Liverpool and employed by different local firms.

George worked alongside Liverpool Corporation surveyor, John Weightman, on plans for Liverpool Free Public Library and Museum - now Liverpool Central Library and World Museum. At about the same time William was working for John Cunningham, the architect responsible for the original Liverpool Philharmonic Hall and the Sailors' Home at Canning Place.

In 1860 the brothers opened offices in Upper Stanhope Street and set up a partnership under the name W&G Audsley. They both became important figures in Liverpool society, joining the Liverpool Scottish Volunteer Rifles and playing an active role in the Liverpool Art Club. Their contribution included loaning items for exhibitions, giving lectures, organising events and writing catalogues.

Full length portrait of a man in military uniform

The brothers worked so closely together on their many different projects that it is often unclear which brother took the lead. Later in their careers, they relocated to London and eventually to America. Over the years, they worked on domestic architecture, churches, synagogues and even a skyscraper, as well a variety of decorative arts.

Today the Audsleys are mostly remembered for their publications on architecture and decoration. Few of the original patterned interiors that the brothers designed remain intact, but their work also appeared in pattern books created for professional and amateur decorators to copy. These books bought them international repute and some have been recently reprinted for design students to use today.

Beautiful and illustrated publications on display in the exhibition include an ornate version of Byron's poem 'The Prisoner of Chillon', plus 'The Ornamental Arts of Japan'. George Audsley started his own collection of oriental arts, the influence of which can be seen in patterns from books like 'The Practical Decorator and Ornamentalist' which he wrote with his son Maurice in 1892.