The road to a blue plaque

I applied for an English Heritage Blue Plaque for Sir John Wolfe Barry in December 2015. The plan would be to commemorate the centenary of his death in January 2018 by having English Heritage put up a plaque on the building in Chelsea where he died. The process can take a long time due to the high demand for these in London where the scheme operates, and of course the current inhabitants need to be happy with a plaque.

I am sure there are many more worthy historical figures and you could argue that Tower Bridge is a commemoration of its own, plus there is special window in Westminster Abbey above the resting place of John’s famous father Sir Charles Barry, architect of the New Palace of Westminster.

I still remain optimistic that the plaque will be granted in 2018 even if not in time for the centenary which is only 3 months away now. It was short-listed in 2016 and it just seems too good an opportunity to miss.

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. 2018 was the official UK Year of Engineering and the bicentenary of the Institution of Civil Engineers and the year structural engineer Roma Agrawal published her amazing book ‘Built’.

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 hoping an English Heritage Blue Plaque will 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.

I am now writing a book about the 19th-century Brunel and Barry families of architects and civil engineers. See my latest blog posts for how it is progressing.

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.