George Bodley was articled to the famous architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, under whose influence he became imbued with the spirit of the Gothic revival, and he gradually became known as the chief exponent of 14th century English Gothic, and the leading ecclesiastical architect in England. He is regarded as the leader of the resurgence of interest in English and northern European late-medieval design. He is also noted for his pioneering design work in the Queen Anne revival.
His secular work included the London School Board offices, and in collaboration with Thomas Garner, the new buildings at Magdalen College, Oxford, and Hewell Grange, Worcestershire (for Viscount Windsor).
From 1872, he worked in a twenty-eight year partnership with Thomas Garner, designing collegiate buildings in Oxford and Cambridge, country houses and churches throughout the British Isles. He also designed (with his pupil Henry Vaughan) the cathedral at Washington, D.C., and cathedrals at San Francisco and in Hobart. Bodley also worked with his lifelong friend, the stained glass designer C.E. Kempe, also from Brighton. They collaborated on a number of projects including: St John the Baptist, Tuebrook in Liverpool; Queens’ College Chapel, Cambridge; All Saints, Danehill, East Sussex and Clumber Park Chapel in Nottinghamshire
In 1874 Bodley founded the firm of Watts and Co. together with his partners Thomas Garner and George Gilbert Scott, Jr.
In 1902, Bodley was one of the assessors for the competition to design the new Anglican cathedral in Liverpool, selecting the design by the young Giles Gilbert Scott. When construction of the cathedral began in 1904, Bodley was appointed to oversee Gilbert Scott’s work and made several changes to the interior design of the Lady Chapel.
Bodley’s final architectural accomplishment was the design of the chapel at Bedford School, England, the foundation stone of which was laid on 18 May 1907 by Lord St John of Bletso. Building work took only a year, the consecration of the chapel taking place in July 1908, by which time the architect had died.
Bodley began contributing to the Royal Academy in 1854, and in 1881 was elected A.R.A., becoming RA in 1902. In addition to being a most learned master of architecture, he was a beautiful draughtsman, and a connoisseur in art; he published a volume of poems in 1899; and he was a designer of wallpaper and chintzes for Watts & Co., of Baker Street, London. He served as prime warden of the Fishmongers’ Company in 1901-2. In early life he had been in close alliance with the Pre-Raphaelites, and he did a great deal, like William Morris, to improve public taste in domestic decoration and furniture. Bodley was a significant early patron of William Morris.
He died on 21 October 1907 at Water Eaton near Oxford.