THE ARCHITECT who designed the Randolph Hotel's gothic arches and high sand-coloured walls, has been honoured with a blue plaque at his former home opposite the 19th century Oxford hotel.

William Wilkinson, 1819-1901, was born in Witney and had a remarkable impact on the county's architectural heritage.

Last week a plaque to commemorate him was unveiled at 5 Beaumont Street where he lived and practised between 1860 and 1886.

Professor William Whyte, of St John's College, Oxford, spoke at the ceremony and described Mr Wilkinson as "Oxford's most important architect."

He said: "Not just because he was responsible for landmarks like the Randolph Hotel and St Edward's School. Not just because he trained a whole generation of other architects – HW Moore and Fredrick Codd included, who went on to build houses across the city –but chiefly because his plans for North Oxford transformed the place.

"It was his vision, his determination, and his exacting standards, which made the suburb what it is.

"In one of her novels, Barbara Pym has a character declare, 'I think heaven will be a little bit like North Oxford.' Well, if that's true, it was Wilkinson who made it so."

Mr Wilkinson was commissioned by St John's College in the 1860s to supervise the layout and building plans of the Norham Manor Estate.

He designed many of the North Oxford houses himself and his concept involved spacious gardens front and back with low garden walls to create a 'garden suburb.'

From 1864 to 1866 he created his masterpiece, the Randolph Hotel, as well as St Edward’s School (1872), the Oxford Union reading room (1863), and the former University Gymnasium in Alfred Street.

Mr Wilkinson worked on more than 40 schools, churches and other buildings throughout the county, including work on Witney, Woodstock and Chipping Norton police stations in the 1860s, and 10 Broad Street in Oxford.

Towards the end of his life he took up residence in the Randolph and died there in 1901.

Eda Forbes, secretary of the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board, said: "We are delighted to bring greater recognition to this local Oxfordshire architect who designed so many striking buildings, but whose name is not so well known

"He deserves to be celebrated as a local architect who made a very distinctive contribution to the architectural heritage of the city and the county.

"The Randolph Hotel and the special character of the North Oxford Victorian suburb, with its gothic houses and leafy streets, are a major part of his legacy.

"He was a prolific architect engaged in church restorations, and the design of country parsonages, schools and police stations all over Oxfordshire and surrounding counties."