Biography of Charles Barry

Photo of Charles Barry

Charles Barry was an architect chiefly remembered for designing the Houses of Parliament in London.

When and Where was Charles Barry Born?

23rd May 1795, Bridge Street, Westminster, London, England.

Family Background:

Charles Barry was the son of Walter Edward Barry, a Stationer.


Educated privately in Homerton and then at Aspley Guise. Then apprenticed to a Surveyor in Lambeth.

Timeline of Charles Barry:

1810: He is apprenticed to a Lambeth Surveyor.

1817: Death of Charles Barry’s father. He inherits money which allowed him to travel around Europe and the Middle East. His travels in Italy inspired him to become an architect.

1820: He returns to England.

1822: He marries Sarah Rowsell.

1824: Barry 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 and also a number of churches in the Manchester area. He realised that the Church Commisoners preferred the gothic style so matched his work to that pattern.

1826: Charles Barry designs St Peter’s Church, 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. Parliament had sat there since 1547. The only part of the Medieval Structure to survive (which still stands today) is Westminster Hall.

1836: Barry wins the commission to rebuild the Houses of Parliament (sometimes known as the Palace of Westminster) and set 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: Barry is elected a Full Member of the Royal Academy.

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

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

1847: Completion of the House of Lords section of the Palace of Westminster. 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.

Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament, London taken from the London Eye big wheel (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1852: Completion of the House of Commons section of the Palace of Westminster. The project is late and over budget although he is knighted in this year. 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 its real name is the Elizabeth Tower.

1859: Barry designs Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire.

When and Where did he Die?

12th May 1860, at his house “The Elms”, in Clapham Common, London of a myocardial infarction.

Age at Death:



1822 to Sarah Rowsell.

Site of Grave:

Ashes interred in Westminster Abbey, London.

Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey, London
(copyright Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:


Cliveden House.
Highclere Castle, Near Newbury RE20 9RN


Remodelled Gawthorpe Hall. National Trust
Manchester City Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester, M2 3JL


The Houses of Parliament.
Trafalgar Square fountains.
Blue Plaque on his house “The Elms”, in Clapham Common.
Bridgewater House, St James’s.
The Travelers Club, 106 Pall Mall, SW1Y.
Dulwich College and the Old Grammar School.
Pentonville Prison.


Designed Manchester City Art Gallery.


1824: St. Peter’s Church, Brighton.


Halifax Town Hall.
Harewood House.