Wills, John
1845 -1906

Architect, the son of William Wills (d.1878), a WM local preacher and builder of Kingsbridge, Devon. Moving to Derby c.1877, he established a substantial architectural practice specializing in Nonconformist chapels in England and Wales. Over 200 schemes are attributable to him. A member of Green Hill WM church, Derby, he also was a local preacher and a Liberal councillor. He died at Salcombe, Devon on 30 June 1906.

From c.1893, when his sons joined it, the practice was divided into two. The elder son, William Francis Wills' (19 November 1876 - 1958) oversaw the northern section, first from Derby and later from Skegness. The younger, John Ross Wills (b. 16 June 1882), opened a London office covering southern England, but in the 1920s joined the Architects Department of the LCC.

Some of the earlier chapels, such as Keddleston Street PM, Derby (1871) and Grove Street WM, Retford (1879) were in an Italianate style, but Gothic, especially Early English, predominated. Among the Methodist examples of this are Penmaenmawr WM (1878), Kelsall WM (1884), Steyne Gardens WM, Worthing (1899), Bucks Road PM, Douglas IOM (1899-1900) and the Linacre WM Mission, Liverpool (1900).Under the influence of his two sons, possibly following their father's death, there appear to have been stylistic changes. Alford Road WM, Sutton-on-Sea (1904-10), Windsor Square UM, Neath (1914) and St. Paul's UM, Elland (1915) were influenced by the Art and Craft Gothic style. In the inter-war years Middleton Park Baptist, Leeds (1926) and Haverton Hill PM, Stockton-on-Tees (1930) reflect an abandonment of the Gothic style. John Wills' Hints to Trustees of chapel property and chapel keeper's manual went into at least three editions by 1884 and, besides helping to advertise his practice, was widely used.

  • David Barton (ed.), Hints to Trustees of Chapel Property (3rd edition, c.1884; reprinted 1993)
  • R.F.S. Thorne, John Wills (Plymouth & Exeter Branch of WHS, Occasional Paper No.2 (1982)
  • East Midlands Branch of WHS, 1:10 (1984) pp.13-20
  • Directory of British Architects 1834-1914