Charles Barry

Portrait of Charles Barry

Charles Barry was a British architect, best known for his role in the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster in London He was born on 23rd May 1795 in Westminster, London and died there on 12th May 1860 aged 65.

Major Works

Reform Club, London, England (1836)
Highclere Castle (1842)
Dunrobin Castle, Scotland (1845)
Palace of Westminster (or Houses of Parliament), London, England (Largely completed by 1860)

Biography Timeline

When and Where was Charles Barry Born?

Charles Barry was born on 23rd May 1795 at Bridge Street, Westminster, London, England. He was the son of Walter Edward Barry, a Stationer and was educated at home an then at Aspley Guise.

1810: He is apprenticed to a Lambeth Surveyor.

1817: His father dies and he inherits enough money to travel around Europe and the Middle East. His journeys through Italy inspire him to become an architect.

1820: He returns to England.

1822: He marries Sarah Rowsell.

1824: He wins a competition to design the Royal Manchester Institution for the Promotion of Literature, Science and the Art. (This now forms part of Manchester Art gallery).

1825: He begins work on Buile House in Salford, Greater Manchester and also a number of churches in the Manchester area. He realises that the Church Commisoners preferred the gothic style so worked in that style.

1826: He designs St Peter’s Church in Brighton which is one of the first good examples of the Gothic Revival style in Britain.

1832: He designs the Traveler’s Club in Pall Mall, London using the Italianate style.

1834: The old Houses of Parliament burn down in a fire on 16th October as old tally sticks are being burnt in the basement and the fire gets put of control. Parliament had sat in the building since 1547. The only part of the Medieval Structure to survive (which still stands today) is Westminster Hall whose roof was built during the reign of King Richard the Second.

1836: He wins the commission to rebuild the Houses of Parliament (sometimes known as the Palace of Westminster) and sets to work jointly with Augustus Pugin on the designs.

1840: The foundation stone of the Houses of Parliament is laid on 27th April by Charles Barry’s wife Sarah. He is elected an Associate of the Royal Academy.

1841: He is elected as a Full Member of the Royal Academy.

1842: He works on Highclere Castle in Hampshire to restore and extend the Elizabethan House.

1846: He designs the Italianate Bridgewater House in London and works on the Treasury Building in Whitehall.

1847: The House of Lords section of the Palace of Westminster is now complete. He also begins to work on ideas for the Great Exhibition of 1851.

1849: He becomes a Fellow of the Royal Society.

1850: He is awarded the Royal Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

1852: Completion of the House of Commons section. The project was late and over budget although he was knighted for his efforts. The Victoria Tower at the House of Lords end stands at 336 feet and was the tallest tower in the world at the time. The tower at the other end has a clock and inside a bell known as “The Big Ben” which chimes the hours. Many people call the tower “Big Ben incorrectly but it is called the Elizabeth tower.

1859: He designs Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire.

Charles Barry died on 12th May 1860, at his home “The Elms”, in Clapham Common, London of a myocardial infarction. His ashes were interred in Westminster Abbey in London.

Further Information

List of major works by Barry.