More about Philip Wilkinson


Philip Wilkinson grew up in Cheltenham, on the edge of the Cotswolds, one of the most beautiful parts of England, and started looking at buildings – especially Cheltenham’s Regency houses and the limestone buildings of the Cotswold villages, at a young age. This was an education in itself, but Philip’s formal education was at the local grammar school (an institution also attended by Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and the writer Geoff Dyer, which makes the place sound much cooler than it was) and at Corpus Christi College, Oxford (where the poets Henry Newbolt and Robert Bridges were educated, which makes it sound much worse than it was). At Corpus he read English, learning how to analyse texts and sharpen his prose under the expert guidance of Valentine Cunningham.

After Oxford Philip went into publishing. He worked as an editor for several firms but stayed longest at Dorling Kindersley, a company which, in the 1980s, was on a mission to transform reference publishing and illustrated non-fiction, producing books full of complex and engaging pages on which words and pictures were integrated as never before. He enjoyed his time behind an editor’s desk at DK, especially when the firm was young, small, and fast moving. Close proximity to the directors of the company could be alarming when Peter Kindersley suddenly seized one’s elbow and led one off in an unexpected direction, but the journey was always absorbing, the colleagues were congenial, and the books, especially in those early days, were things to be proud of.

But years of correcting and rewriting other people’s copy left him with the thought that it might be still more rewarding to write his own stuff. Wasn’t there, after all, something in what the great Flann O’Brien said – when the pipe bursts I call in the plumber and settle up at the going rate, but when I want something to read, I write it myself? With that thought in his mind and a generous commission from his DK colleagues to write a children’s book on architecture in his pocket, Philip began a new literary journey, which still continues.

Philip has been a writer for some twenty years now. During this time he has written lots of books, for both adults and children, on a range of subjects. His abiding interest in architecture – sparked to begin with by a childhood visit to Lincoln Cathedral and by looking at those Cotswold buildings – has led to numerous titles on this subject. His passion for visiting and revisiting the buildings of his native England also fuels the English Buildings blog. A particular interest in the architecture of past centuries and religious buildings specifically has led to books not just about England’s abbeys but also more general books on religions, belief systems, and various historical subjects.

Writing books and looking at buildings (and giving occasional talks and courses on historical architecture) takes up lots of Philip's time, but he's also a voracious reader and a lover of classical music. He divides his time (unequally, it has to be said) between the Cotswolds and the Czech Republic, where his profile picture, in the column to the right, was taken. The glass was big, but not quite as big as it looks.

If you want to read more about Philip’s books, please go the books page of this blog.