Wakeman, William Frederick (1822–1900), antiquary and artist, was born 12 August 1822 in Dublin, the son of W. F. Wakeman, originally from Nottingham, England, bookseller and publisher in D'Olier St., Dublin. By the age of 15 William was a drawing pupil of George Petrie (qv), superintendent of the topographical department of the ordnance survey of Ireland. At 17 he became a draughtsman and assistant in the topographical division of the ordnance survey. As assistant to John O'Donovan (qv) he travelled extensively to counties Clare, Galway, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Waterford, and Wexford, and on shorter visits to other counties, to draw and describe monuments; much of this work is now in the RIA. He also made woodcuts – some of his own drawings – to illustrate Petrie's works (e.g., The ecclesiastical architecture of Ireland . . . (1845)). When the topographical department of the ordnance survey was disbanded (1842) he subsisted for a short time in Dublin as a draughtsman and watercolour painter. Residing at 12 Upper Dominick St. (1842–3), he had some pupils and obtained a prize for an engraving. He then moved to London, where he described himself as being an ‘art student’ for four years. Missing Ireland, he returned to become art master in St Columba's school, Stackallen, Co. Meath. Required to teach only two days per week, Wakeman took the opportunity to resume his interest in antiquities, visiting and sketching many in the area, including the drained crannog of Lagore, and producing the first edition of his Archaeologia Hibernica: a handbook of Irish antiquities, pagan and christian (1848; enlarged 2nd ed., 1891; 3rd ed., 1903), illustrated with his own on-location drawings.
When four years later St Columba's moved to Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin, Wakeman took up a post as art master in Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, where he remained for nineteen years, an enjoyable and productive phase of his career. His house opposite the school remains with the same name as he gave it, ‘Crannog’. For thirteen of these years he also taught art in the district national model school, Enniskillen. He was a frequent exhibitor with the RHA (1842–63), many of his works being watercolours of abbeys, castles, and trees. Besides Irish subjects he exhibited scenes of London and Yorkshire. He contributed fifty articles to various journals, particularly that of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland (RHAAI) (which became, in 1890, the RSAI), mainly concerned with crannogs, early ecclesiastical sites, megalithic rock art, and artifacts. He wrote and illustrated guides to the Shannon (1852), Lough Erne, Dublin, and Ireland, and illustrated Ireland, its character and scenery (1841), by Mr and Mrs Samuel Carter Hall (qv). He executed almost all the illustrations in William Gregory Wood-Martin's (qv) Lake dwellings of Ireland . . . (1886), half of the illustrations in Catalogue of antiquities in the museum of the RIA, by Sir William Wilde (qv), and 200 of those in Lives of the Irish saints (ten vols. from 1875) by John O'Hanlon (qv). He illustrated other well-known works, and contributed pen and pencil sketches to such periodicals as the Dublin Saturday Magazine, Hibernian Magazine and Literary Gazette.
Wakeman became an RHAAI member (1868), fellow (1876), and honorary fellow (1888); an RHAAI officer and eventually its honorary general secretary (1888), he read papers to the association and to the RIA. When, owing to a lack of pupils, his post in Portora ceased, he worked on cataloguing the RIA library, and executed hundreds of cuts and plates for the RHAAI journal. As woodcuts, however, became superseded by other methods of illustration, he had difficulties making a living. After some years in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, he returned to Dublin in 1884 and published an illustrated newspaper series on old Dublin (Evening Telegraph (Oct.–Dec. 1886)), reprinted in booklet form the following year (‘Graves and monuments of illustrious Irishmen’, ‘Old Dublin (1st series)’, and ‘Old Dublin (2nd series)’, Evening Telegraph reprints 1, 2 & 4). On the death in 1886 of Rev. James Graves (qv), editor of the RHAAI journal, Wakeman's significant and copiously illustrated Survey of the antiquarian remains . . . on Inismurray . . ., commissioned by the society in 1884,was published as a monograph (1887), thereby providing a volume for members in lieu of the quarterly issue then due. Responding to suggestions by well-wishers that he generate income for himself by writing of his achievements, Wakeman composed a ‘Statement of services to Irish archaeology’ (1888), cited below. He drew attention to the fact that, despite much of his Handbook being used by the commissioners of Irish national education, he had received no acknowledgement or remuneration, nor, when his positions terminated, had he received a pension from either Portora or Enniskillen model school; the statement also contains a bibliography and list of illustrations. A testimonial fund was opened, and he applied for a state literary pension. Apart from the absence of state monetary reward for his outstanding service, Wakeman's talent and prestigious output were not sufficiently appreciated and acknowledged by contemporary antiquaries, possibly because of differences in social background.
Wakeman was married, and had at least two children. He died 15 October 1900 at his daughter's house in Coleraine, Co. Londonderry, and is buried near Portrush, Co. Antrim, a Celtic cross marking his grave. A quarter-length photographic portrait of him in later life accompanies his obituary in the RSAI journal. He donated his artifacts to the RIA. One of his watercolours is in the staff room of Portora Royal School, while an oil painting of Devenish and twelve prints are in Fermanagh county museum. Many of his original sketches and drawings of monuments and artifacts are in the RIA (see Hayes) as are seventy of his letters to Wood-Martin (Ó Casaide collection). Two volumes of drawings, of Inishmurray and Co. Sligo in general, done 1878–82 for Edward Cooper of Markree, are in the Sligo county museum. After Wakeman's death, his son Gerald, also an accomplished painter, was employed as an archaeological illustrator by Wood-Martin.