Architect versus Engineer

John Wolfe Barry was a distinguished Victorian civil engineer recognised by his peers. His father had achieved the same status within the architectural profession, and John was the only one of his sons to choose civil engineering. Would he have been a successful architect had he decided to follow that path?

It’s a difficult question to answer but it does raise a range of issues about the key differences between the two professions, as well as public perceptions of these, which may not always match reality.

I’ll try to spend some time on this as I complete this website in time for the centenary of John Wolfe Barry’s death which is less than 4 months away now.

Hawkshaw and Brunel

I’ve just written another section about John Wolfe Barry’s connections to Sir John Hawkshaw, another eminent Victorian civil engineer, to whom he was apprenticed. Also included is information about his business partnership with Henry Brunel, son of Isambard K Brunel. They would both build Tower Bridge

About this website

The author of this website about Sir John Wolfe Barry is Nick von Behr. I am indebted particularly to research and writing by the late James Sutherland.

I populated this website with content in time for 22 January 2018, the centenary of John Wolfe Barry’s death.

Originally I wanted to have some kind of commemoration in Westminster Abbey where a window can be found in his honour and his father is interred. More concretely I’m expecting an English Heritage Blue Plaque may be put up on the house where he died in London, but again this is a slow burner, having applied in December 2015. If it happens in 2019 this would coincide with the 125th anniversary of the opening of Tower Bridge.

Finally, 2018 is the official UK Year of Engineering and the bicentenary of the Institution of Civil Engineers and the year structural engineer Roma Agrawal published her book ‘Built’, so perhaps other opportunities may still arise to get the message out about him to a wider audience.

His father rebuilt Parliament

John Wolfe Barry was born the son of Sir Charles Barry, architect of the British Houses of Parliament or the New Palace of Westminster.

For more on how the Old Palace was rebuilt after a terrible fire in the early 19th Century see Caroline Shenton’s website. The story features Augustus Pugin as well as Big Ben.