The following is a brief extract from the concluding chapter of Nick von Behr's Building Passions: Brunel, Barry and 'Modern' Victorian Architecture, due to be published on 20 November 2019, and previewed here by permission of the author. See "Source" for more details. — JB

While Charles Barry senior’s father was a stationer, he himself became a surveyor and then an architect. He had seven children of whom Charles junior and Edward Middleton also became architects, John Wolfe became a civil engineer, while another son, Godfrey, became a surveyor. His grandson Charles Edward continued the line of architects which passed through his eldest son Charles junior. Other grandsons, Arthur John Barry and Kenneth Wolfe Barry, worked with John Wolfe as civil engineers. This was the start of a great building family which continued for several generations into the twentieth century. A current living descendant, Andrew Wolfe Barry, works as a designer of gardens, so at least the creative part is still alive....

Charles Barry junior wrote diaries which have provided a useful resource for those researching his father and the relationship with Pugin. But they also provide an insight into Barry family life, describing how they played cards together or read aloud, and visited friends for musical evenings. Alfred Barry also notes in his biography of his father the "almost unbroken happiness and affection" shown by Charles senior at home and his pride at the achievements of his children" (329). Finally, Caroline Shenton tells us that the patriarch of the Barry family kept to a regular and industrious work pattern, but nonetheless fitted in time with his growing family every evening.

As we have seen through the stories of three of the Barry sons, Charles junior, Edward Middleton and John Wolfe Barry, there were regular interactions between them and with their father on a range of projects. Charles and Edward both worked for Sir Charles on the Houses of Parliament rebuild and on other projects of his after his death, including Halifax Town Hall, Clumber Hall and the Reform Club. He clearly gave them advice on their own projects – or directly to the commissioners in the case of the Royal Opera House by Edward. John worked on rail termini next to the hotels being constructed by his elder brother Edward at Charing Cross and Cannon Street Stations, and the contractors for all of these, including the Royal Opera House, were the Lucas Brothers, close friends of the family. John later commissioned Charles to build new premises for the ICE on Great George Street, which sadly disappeared soon after with the extension of government buildings at the start of the twentieth century, but the replacement still exists on the opposite side of the road.

Related Material


Von Behr, Nick. Building Passions: Brunel, Barry and "Modern" Victorian Architecture. Pbk. Perfect, 2019. Click here for more information.


Barry, Alfred (Rev.). The Life and Works of Sir Charles Barry, R.A., F.R.S., etc. etc. London: John Murray, 1867.

Shenton, Caroline. Mr Barry's War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Created 4 November 2019; last modified 31 October 2023