James Savage was born in Hoxton, London, on 10 April 1779. He was educated at a private school in Stockwell and then articled to Daniel Asher Alexander, architect of the London Docks, for whom he worked for several years as clerk of the works. He became a student at the Royal Academy in 1796.
In 1805 he won a competition for the rebuilding of Ormond Bridge over the River Liffey, which had collapsed as a result of floods. However, the project was delayed, and in the meantime Savage developed a design for a bridge about fifty metres west of the original position of the Ormond Bridge. Construction commenced in 1812 and was located upstream of the old bridge to the adjacent junction at Winetavern Street. This bridge was called Richmond Bridge on completion and was constructed by George Knowles.
The same contractor commenced construction on the next bridge upstream almost immediately on completion of Richmond Bridge and he adopted Savage’s design for it. It is generally accepted that Savage and Knowles worked together on many projects and, while it does not appear to be documented, he probably assisted Knowles on the single arch bridge at Lucan (1814). This bridge is currently the longest single span masonry arch bridge (33.83m / 111 ft) in Ireland.
Savage in his architectural practice focused mainly on advising clients on legal architectural and engineering issues. He also designed a bridge over the River Ouse (1815) in England and St. Luke’s Church (1819) in Chelsea. He died in London in 1852.