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Reviews and references

Review comments inside the book:

“This lavishly illustrated book tells the fascinating and at times controversial story of two families, the Barrys and the Brunels, over several generations … Their legacy includes the iconic Houses of Parliament … as well as an enduring influence on their respective professions. Nick von Behr brings passion and knowledge to his subject. He has produced an engaging and original book that deserves a wide readership.”
Dr Peter Collins, Emeritus Director, The Royal Society

"A comprehensive and fascinating overview of the impact of the two families chiefly responsible for Britain’s built environment in the nineteenth-century. The author ably demonstrates the manner in which nineteenth-century Britain rapidly created its own professional world of commercial-engineers, consulting-architects and project-managing surveyors, the legacy of which we still live with internationally."
David McKinstry, architectural historian and conservation advisor

“The book is intriguing, empathic, well researched, and offers a hugely respectful and detailed portrayal of the Brunel, Barry, and subsequently Wolfe Barry families … I'm honoured that my forefathers envisioned and brought to life so many iconic and enduring structures. Your labour of love is greatly appreciated!”
Andrew Wolfe Barry, great great grandson of Sir John Wolfe Barry

Post on the Pugin Society's Facebook site (created 24 October 2019) 

Review by Nicholas Kingsley on the Country Houses of the UK and Ireland Facebook Group site (created 1 Nov 2019 - request to join this private group)

The Victorian Web article on 'Sir Charles Barry and His Descendants' (created 4 Nov 2019)

The Royal Society's Repository History of Science Blog 'Building Passions' (created 12 Nov 2019)

Images of the Month

April to July 2020: an image of the COVID-19 virus marking a major global crisis and associated economic and sociallockdown. What impact will the virus have on the built environment? Who really knows now?

March 2020: The city of Florence in Italy, which is mentioned a number of times in the book 'Building Passions'. It was one of the key cities that inspired Sir Charles Barry on his artistic tour of the Mediterranean as a young man. He travelled around this Renaissance gem with his new friend John Wolfe, who he had met in Rome. Together they admired and sketched a range of buildings that would later influence them in their joint design for the Travellers Club in London.

February 2020: Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany was built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the late 19th Century. Ludwig died after being arrested and certified insane in 1886. He had only lived in his incomplete, but magnificent castle for two years. The structure is a symbol of the Romantic/Medieval revival movement within architecture at that time, but was also technically innovative in the use of steel and concrete.

January 2020: The Thames Tunnel was designed and constructed by Sir Marc Brunel and his more famous son Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the 19th Century. It was a unique structure for its time, taking foot and carriage traffic under the River Thames between Rotherhithe and Wapping. Isambard was almost killed building it and once recovered went on to greater things, starting with the successful design for the Clifton Suspension Bridge, a previous Image of the Month.

December 2019: Tower Bridge was designed by Sir Horace Jones, architect to the Corporation of London. Sadly he died early in the building project, which meant that John Wolfe Barry, as the lead consulting civil engineer became the key person responsible for the completion of the bridge. Tower Bridge  used giant bascule leaves that quickly opened and shut for river traffic on a regular basis. The mechanism was powered through a cutting-edge hydraulic process developed by Sir William Armstrong and company with whom, Henry Marc Brunel, Barry's business partner and son of the great Isambard Kingdom Brunel, had worked. The bascules still operate today though under electric power, allowing less frequent, but often quite large boats to pass in and out of Central London.

November 2019: Big Ben is part of the Elizabeth Tower in the Houses of Parliament. Sir Charles Barry designed and built the New Palace of Westminster with the help of his sons Charles Barry junior and Edward Middleton Barry as well as Augustus WN Pugin, the famous Gothic designer.

October 2019: Clifton Suspension Bridge was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel when still a young man. The final version was completed by other engineers in the 1860s after he died. IKB went on to do great things in Bristol including building gigantic steamships and a rapid new railway line to London. In the same year of the design competition for the bridge, a youngish Charles Barry also entered one to build a new gentleman's club in central London. It would prove to be the pivotal Travellers Club on Pall Mall, about which more in the book.

September 2019: A family tree of the Brunel and Barry fathers and sons who feature in the book (Figure 1). The key relationship between the two families was that of the civil engineers Sir John Wolfe Barry and Henry Marc Brunel who began working together in the 1860s. Wolfe Barry and partners continued trading in its own name for many years until eventually it merged with another famous consultancy. This new entity was absorbed by Hyder (now part of Arcadis), the company that helped build the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest skyscraper at the time of writing the book.