Sir Charles Barry (23 May 1795-12 May 1860) was an English architect, best known for his role in the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster (perhaps better known as the Houses of Parliament) in his home city of London during the mid 19th century, but also responsible for numerous other buildings and gardens.
Born in Bridge Street, Westminster, Barry was educated privately before being apprenticed to a Lambeth surveyor at the age of 15. Upon the death of his father (a stationer), he inherited a sum of money that allowed him to travel extensively around the Mediterranean and Middle-East (1817-20). His travels in Italy exposed him to Renaissance architecture and apparently inspired him to become an architect.
His first major civil commission came in 1824 when he won a competition to design the new Manchester Institution for the promotion of Literature, Science & Arts (now part of the Manchester Art Gallery). Also in north-west England, he designed Buile Hill House in Salford (1825-27) and two churches in Manchester (The Church of All Saints' Stand, Whitefield and Ringley Church, 1827, partially demolished in 1854). His church designs also include one in Brighton, East Sussex (St Andrew's in Waterloo Street, Brunswick, 1828).
Houses of Parliament
Following the destruction by fire of the existing Houses of Parliament on 16 October 1834, Barry won the commission in 1836 to design the new Palace of Westminster, working with Pugin on the Gothic-influenced building. Work on site began with the laying of a foundation stone on 27 April 1840 by Barry’s wife Sarah. The House of Lords was completed in 1847 and the House of Commons finished in 1852. In the meantime, Barry also served on the learned committee developing plans for the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Other major projects
Barry also designed:
the Travellers Club, London (1832)
the Royal College of Surgeons, London (1834-36)
the Manchester Athenaeum (1836 – now also part of the Manchester Art Gallery)
the Reform Club, London (1837 – next door to the Travellers)
remodelling of Kingston Lacy, Dorset
the Trafalgar Square precinct (1840)
Trentham Gardens, north Staffordshire (1842)
remodelling of Highclere Castle, Hampshire (1842)
Harewood House, Yorkshire (1844)
HM Treasury building in Whitehall (1846-47)
Bridgewater House, London (1846)
Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire (1849)
Gardens of Dunrobin Castle near Golspie, Scotland (1850)
Shrubland Hall gardens, Suffolk (1850)
restoration of Gawthorpe Hall, near Burnley, Lancashire
Halifax Town Hall, West Yorkshire
The next generation
Three of Sir Charles Barry's four sons followed in his career footsteps. Eldest son Charles Barry (junior) designed Dulwich’s New College and Park in south London and rebuilt Burlington House (home of the Royal Academy) in central London’s Piccadilly; Edward Middleton Barry completed the Parliament buildings and designed the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden; Sir John Wolfe-Barry was the engineer for Tower Bridge and Blackfriars Railway Bridge. Edward and Charles also collaborated on the design of the Great Eastern Hotel at London’s Liverpool Street station.
His second son, Alfred, became a noted clergyman.
Sir Charles’ nephew Charles Hayward designed several buildings at Pembroke College, Oxford.
Sir Charles lived and died at a house, 'The Elms', in Clapham Common North Side, London SW4 (blue plaque), and his ashes were interred in Westminster Abbey.