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Ipswich Icons - the prolific architects who designed the stations on the Colchester to Ipswich line

PUBLISHED: 09:00 20 November 2016

Brantham Bridge on the Colchester to Ipswich line

Brantham Bridge on the Colchester to Ipswich line


I may have caused some minor confusion a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned the architect Frederic Barnes, writes John Norman, of the Ipswich Society,

Writing about Princes Street I included Barclays Bank, designed by Frederic Barnes, and suggested he had also designed the station. You might, quite reasonably, have expected this to be the current station at the north end of the tunnel.

It wasn’t, the present station was designed by Robert Sinclair with Sancton Woods in 1860, the station Frederic Barnes designed was the original station of 1843 in Croft Street (long since demolished). Barnes was commissioned by Peter Bruff, the railway engineer who also gave him instructions for other, less prominent buildings on the line from Colchester such as the railway station at Capel St Mary.

Frederic Barnes was born in 1813 in Hackney, east London and educated at Christ’s Hospital School, where his father taught. He served his articles (architectural apprenticeship) alongside fellow pupil Sancton Wood in the office of Sydney Smirke in London

Sydney Smirke, a RIBA Gold Medal winner (1860) was the younger brother of Sir Robert Smirke, both eminent architects at the time. Sydney designed the Carton Club in Pall Mall, 1845 and the circular reading room at the British Museum, 1857. He went on to become a professor of architecture at the Royal Academy (1861 – 1865), and he clearly was an inspiration to his young disciples.

Frederic Barnes worked in London and then Liverpool before coming to Ipswich to help his friend J M Clarke on the new Customs House building (1842-43). He then formed a loose partnership with Sancton Wood and they worked together for Peter Bruff on the Eastern Counties Railway, and the Ipswich to Bury Railway. The station at Bury, sometime regarded as the finest in the Eastern Counties, is credited to Sancton Wood, the adjacent bridge to engineer Charles Russell, but it is certain that Frederic Barnes contributed to both, probably providing the architectural flair for the bridge.

Frederic Barnes designed some substantial and significant buildings in and around Ipswich between 1845 and 1885, when he retired. As well as the station at Capel and a number of smaller buildings alongside the railway he designed the bridge at Brantham which leaps across the cutting over five arches. By 1850 he was sufficiently established to open his own practice at 13 Lower Brook Street, the first commission from this office was Thurleston Lodge in Henley Road for Chas Steward.

He won the contract to design and oversee the construction of ‘National Schools’ which were built in 20 Suffolk villages between 1854 and 1874. National Schools were the forerunner of church schools which were introduced with the Education Act of 1870. In Ipswich St John’s School in Cauldwell Hall Road (1860) was a National School designed by Barnes.

Among the multitude of other buildings Barnes designed in Ipswich were Alexander’s Bank, 1862, Crown Street Congregational Church, 1865 now demolished and the Presbyterian Church on Barrack Corner (complete with spire). He designed the Public Hall (1868) in Westgate Street and explored a scheme to link the building with the museum, (now Arlington’s Restaurant) using a building along the north side of Arcade Street.

In 1875 Barnes designed 61 Anglesea Road, a house for himself, which was built by J Pells and Son. This house with its triangular bay window was one of many large detached houses designed by Barnes that were being built in the late Victorian town. Most have proved too big for a single family and have been converted, 23 Henley Road became the administrative offices for Ipswich and East Suffolk Hospital, 46 Anglesea Road a Spiritualist Church (now being converted into two houses) and a house in Elm Street for Edward Packard, of fertilizer fame (now demolished).

For a short period of time (1874 - 1877) he was working in collaboration with another prolific Ipswich architect, E F Bisshopp at the premises in Lower Brook Street.

The joint practice was responsible for the 1875 additions to Framlingham College (then the Albert Memorial College) originally designed by Frederick Peck and paid for by Richard Garrett of Carlton Hall and Leiston Works. Not only did Peck win the architectural competition to design the college he won the heart of Garrett’s daughter, Clara, and married her.

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