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Basic Biographical Details

Name: (Sir) Charles Barry
Designation: Architect
Born: 23 May 1795
Died: 12 May 1860
Bio Notes: Charles Barry was born in London on 23 May 1795, the fourth surviving son of the Westminster stationer Walter Edward Barry. As his mother died in 1798 and his father in 1805, he was brought up by his stepmother, Sarah Routledge. At the age of fifteen he was articled to the Lambeth firm of Middleton & Bailey who were surveyors rather than architects but encouraged him to exhibit his designs at the Royal Academy from 1815 onwards. In 1817 he became engaged to Sarah Rowsell, who brought a useful connection to Sir John Soane, and in the same year he decided to use a legacy from his father on an eighteen-month programme of foreign travel which eventually extended to three years. It took in Athens, Constantinople and Egypt as well as the continent, Barry initially travelling with Johan David Passavant, Charles Lock Eastlake, William Kinnaird and Francis Johnson. On his final tour of Rome and its environs from January 1820, he studied in the company of John Lewis Wolfe, a pupil of Joseph Gwilt and an enthusiast for Palladian architecture who subsequently gave up architecture for stockbroking but became Barry's lifelong mentor.

In September 1820 Barry commenced practice in Ely Place, London. He had the influential support of William John Bankes whom he had met at Philae and who secured for him the Commissioners' churches at Stand and Campfield in Manchester. These enabled him to marry Sarah in 1822. In 1823-24 he commenced a long series of competition wins with St Peter's, Brighton and the Schinkelesque Royal Institution in Manchester. It was not, however, until 1826 that he felt able to put his Italian Renaissance studies into practice at Brunswick Chapel, Hove, soon followed by his competition win for the Travellers' Club in Pall Mall, London, 1828, and the Villa Attree in Brighton, designed in 1827 and built in 1829, which was intended to be part of a much larger development.

In parallel Barry started to adopt more convincing neo-mediaeval forms, notably in his unexecuted neo-Norman designs of 1828 for Drummond Castle, which in some degree developed earlier proposals by William Stark. At his neo-Perpendicular King Edward VI Grammar School at Birmingham, begun in 1832, he recruited Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin to help with the details and the finishing. This collaboration extended to the Westminster Palace competition which he won on 29 February 1836 and which was to be his main preoccupation for the rest of his career.

Concurrently with the Westminster work Barry had a large country house practice and a sizeable commercial practice, initially obtained through the influence of Lord and Lady Holland, at Holland House, Kensington. Through them the Duke of Bedford, the Marquess of Lansdowne, and the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland became clients, the success of his work for them bringing a wider clientele which transcended political boundaries. Dunrobin was much enlarged for the Sutherlands, substantially to his designs, but his executed commissions for other Scottish clients were limited to formal gardens. In his later years at least he visited Scotland only once in 1848, but he acted as consultant on a number of projects, notably the proposed new college at Woodlands Hill for the University of Glasgow and the National Galleries of Scotland.

Barry was elected Royal Academician, admitted a Fellow of the Royal Society, and awarded the RIBA's Royal Gold Medal in 1850. From the 1840s onwards he had been elected to numerous overseas professional bodies and academies including the American Institute of Architects, and in 1852 he was knighted on the occasion of the first use of the Royal Entrance at the Palace of Westminster. But his practice never made much money and a well-publicised dispute with the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland in 1855 over a massive arrears of fees drastically reduced his private practice. His last years were severely restricted by heart trouble, aggravated if not actually caused by disputes at Westminster, and were largely devoted to a master-plan for the rebuilding of Clumber for the Duke of Newcastle. Failing health compelled him to decline the presidency of the RIBA on the death of Earl de Grey in 1859.

Barry died of a heart attack at Elm House, Clapham Common on 12 May 1860. His practice was continued by a younger son Edward Middleton Barry, born 7 June 1830, who had been articled to Thomas Henry Wyatt; his eldest son, Charles Barry junior, born 21 September 1823, had left the practice in 1847 to form a partnership with a senior assistant, Robert Richardson Banks.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 2Elm House, Clapham Common, London, EnglandPrivate 1860Place of death
Item 2 of 2Ely Place, London, EnglandBusiness1820  

Employment and Training

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 10Frederick Richard Wilson  Assistant 
Item 2 of 10John Gibson1835c. 1837Apprentice 
Item 3 of 10George Penrose Kennedyc. 1837After 1842ApprenticeLater assistant
Item 4 of 10John Gibsonc. 18371844Assistant 
Item 5 of 10Charles Barry (junior)18401846Apprentice 
Item 6 of 10Peter Kerrc. 1848c. 1852Assistant(?) 
Item 7 of 10James WylsonBefore 1850Before 1860Assistant 
Item 8 of 10Julius Alfred Chatwin18511855Apprentice 
Item 9 of 10Edward Ingress BellAfter 1852Before 1860Assistant 
Item 10 of 10Thomas KempBefore 1855Before 1855Assistant 


RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 4John Gibson5 February 1849for Associateship
Item 2 of 4Alexander Graham9 June 1879for Fellowship
Item 3 of 4John Edgar Gregan5 February 1849for Fellowship
Item 4 of 4Frederick Humphrey Groves12 February 1838for Associateship

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 161827 or 1828Drummond Castle  PerthshireScotlandUnexecuted proposals for reconstruction as Romanesque castle, updating earlier scheme by William Stark. Barry visited the site on September 1827.
Item 2 of 16Before 1828(?)Drummond Castle  PerthshireScotlandProbably advised Lewis Kennedy on restoration of formal gardens
Item 3 of 161832Dunrobin Castle, Sutherland MemorialGolspie SutherlandScotlandOriginal pavilion
Item 4 of 161837Buchanan CastleDrymen Stirlingshire/DunbartonshireScotlandDrew up plans for transforming existing house into Italianate palazzo - not executed
Item 5 of 161840Houses of ParliamentWestminster LondonEnglandWon design competition to secure job
Item 6 of 16c. 1840Drumlanrig CastleDrumlanrig DumfriesshireScotlandScheme for remodelling as French chateau with formal gardens; only gardens carried out
Item 7 of 161841Bowhill HouseSelkirk SelkirkshireScotlandChapel and conservatory; proposals for Italianising house with balustraded parapet and urns not carried out.
Item 8 of 161843House of Tongue, stablesTongue SutherlandScotlandDesigns
Item 9 of 161844Dunrobin CastleDunrobin SutherlandScotlandNorth front and reconstruction with William Leslie of Aberdeen as executant, modifying scheme to fit site; formal gardens. Barry did not visit until 1848 when work was complete.
Item 10 of 16c. 1845Erskine House and terraces and formal gardensFreeland, Bishopton RenfrewshireScotlandTerraces and formal gardens added to house
Item 11 of 161847University of Glasgow, proposed new college at WoodlandsWoodlands GlasgowScotlandAppointed to advise by the Treasury
Item 12 of 161848National Gallery of Scotland  EdinburghScotlandSketch scheme; also consulted by Treasury in 1849 on Playfair's original scheme for two identical galleries housing the National Gallery and Royal Scottish Academy flanking the Mound roadway; recommended that they be combined as a single structure
Item 13 of 161849Dornoch Cathedral, Monument to Elizabeth Ducchess and Countess of SutherlandDornoch SutherlandScotland 
Item 14 of 161850FountainGolspie SutherlandScotland 
Item 15 of 161855Life Association of Scotland, Head Office and Bedford Hotel  EdinburghScotlandJointly with David Rhind (revised Rhind's scheme)
Item 16 of 161858Balintore CastleLintrathen AngusScotlandUnexecuted design; commission went to William Burn, probably due to Barry's failing health


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 6Barry, Alfred1867Life and Works of Sir Charles Barry1973 ReprintIn NMRS 
Item 2 of 6Binney, Marcus1969A Lion in Rome28 Aug, 4, 11 SeptemberCountry Life 
Item 3 of 6Colvin, H M1995A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-18403rd editionNew Haven and London: Yale University Press 
Item 4 of 6Colvin, Howard2008A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840 London: YUP. 4th edition 
Item 5 of 6DNB Dictionary of National Biography   
Item 6 of 6Placzek, Adolf K (ed)1982Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects New York: The Free Press/Macmillan Publishing Company 

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1National Archives of Scotland (formerly SRO)Gifts and deposits GD 220/6/548/3 Buchanan, GD 220/6/547/23 Buchanan, (?) GD 220/6/547/19 Buchanan


© All rights reserved.  National Portrait Gallery, London 

© All rights reserved. National Portrait Gallery, London