Pearson was born in Brussels in 1817 and at 14 years old joined the offices of Ignatius Bonomi, an architect in Durham. It is thought that it is here that Pearson’s love of gothic and religious architecture developed. He continued his architectural training in London and in 1843 began independent practice.
In 1880, as building work was starting on Truro Cathedral, Pearson received the gold medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and was honoured by the full membership of the Royal Academy,
He initially worked as a restorer for churches. He then designed cathedral restorations, additions, and alterations for Lincoln, Peterborough, Canterbury, Exeter, Rochester, Chichester and Bristol. He would have been known by Benson for his work on Lincoln Cathedral.
Truro Cathedral was a unique proposition as it was the design of an entirely new cathedral: a daunting ecclesiastical opportunity that would demonstrate Pearson’s extraordinary skill.
Sadly, like Benson, Pearson never saw his masterpiece completed. He was fully engaged in work right up until his sudden death in 1897 and was honoured with a funeral in Westminster Abbey. Pearson’s son Frank, also an architect, oversaw the completion of the cathedral.