Brunels versus Barrys: a generation game

Isambard Kingdom Brunel is probably the most famous engineer in history and arguably one of Britain’s best recognised heroes. Certainly he had the advantage of an equally talented engineer father, with whom he worked closely from a young age.

By contrast, Sir Charles Barry, who was Brunel’s near contemporary, came from a less auspicious background. His projects were technically less challenging and he sought consensus rather than individual distinction.

Sir Charles’ sons achieved successful careers as architects, a senior clergyman and a civil engineer. Isambard’s eldest son became a lawyer and his youngest son Henry was a ‘junior’ partner to Sir John Wolfe Barry, in the sense that he relied on John’s moral and financial support for many years.

While the Brunel name of engineers died out with Henry after only two generations, the (Wolfe) Barry’s continued in civil engineering well into the 20th Century.

Different families make their mark on society in different ways.

Author: Nick von Behr

I've been blogging since 2012 under different guises and on a range of topics mainly linked to education, but more recently focusing on the history of civil engineering and architecture. I have written a book on the 19th-century Brunel and Barry families of successful architects and civil engineers who built the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, Paddington Station and the Royal Opera House in London and the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. www.buildingpassions.co.uk

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