Ferrey, Benjamin (DNB00)

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FERREY, BENJAMIN (1810–1880), architect, was born at Christchurch, Hampshire, on 1 April 1810. He was the youngest son of a gentleman of Huguenot extraction, whose family settled in England on the revocation of the edict of Nantes. He early evinced a taste for drawing and a love of sketching old buildings, and at the age of thirteen made very correct drawings of the interior of the fine old priory church of his native place. While at the grammar school of Wimborne in Dorsetshire, where he received his early education, he used to spend hours drawing in the ancient minster, and he eventually became, indeed, one of the best architectural draughtsmen of his day. At an early age he was placed by his father with the elder Pugin. He accompanied his master on many excursions for the purpose of measuring and drawing mediæval buildings in England and Normandy, while as an inmate of Pugin's house he benefited by a discipline somewhat rigorously enforced by Mrs. Pugin, and humorously described in the ‘Recollections’ of the elder and younger Pugins afterwards published by him. Many of the drawings published by the elder Pugin were executed by his pupils, and a large proportion of those in his ‘Ornamental Bargeboards’ and his ‘Gothic Ornaments’ bear the signature of Ferrey. After several years spent in this excellent school of practice Ferrey entered the office of Wilkins, who employed him upon the detail drawings of the National Gallery; and being thus fortunately brought under the influence of the classic school he was effectually weaned from a bigoted attachment to the Gothic revival, in which he had been an early worker. In 1834 he brought out, in conjunction with Brayley [q. v.], his ‘Antiquities of the Priory Church of Christchurch, Hants,’ and soon afterwards commenced business as an architect in Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, on a site now occupied by the British Museum. His first important commission was the laying out of the estate of Sir George Gervis at Bournemouth. The oldest part of the present town on the east cliff, including the Bath Hotel, opened in 1838, and adjacent villas, was designed by and erected under the superintendence of Ferrey. Another of his earliest clients was the Rev. Thomas Thurlow, nephew of Lord-chancellor Thurlow, to whose old Tudor mansion of Baynard's Park in Surrey he made extensive additions. In 1836 he married his first wife, the daughter of Mr. Lucas of Stapleton Hall, Hornsey. In 1839 he carried out a portion of the County Hospital, Dorchester, and in 1841 he was appointed hon. diocesan architect of Bath and Wells, a post which he held till his death. In 1842 he superintended the restoration of the nave, transepts, and Lady Chapel of Wells Cathedral, and about that time obtained through influential friends considerable professional employment in the county of Dorset. His work at the bishop's palace and chapel at Wells is much admired. In 1843 he designed the costly church of St. James, Morpeth, a successful adaptation of the grander features of the Norman style. In 1845 he designed for the Baroness (then Miss) Burdett Coutts the church of St. Stephen, Rochester Row, Westminster, and the handsome schools and vicarage also erected by her about the same time in what was then a poor neighbourhood. During the next twenty years he was one of the best employed and best liked architects of his day. His professional skill and reputation gained him many clients whom his winning manners and the evenness of his temper enabled him to retain as friends. His practice probably lay most largely in ecclesiastical architecture, mainly Gothic. He was one of the consulting architects of the Incorporated Church Building Society. A very full list of his works will be found in the ‘Builder,’ cited below. During the latter years of his practice he was associated with his son, Edward Benjamin Ferrey, who succeeded him in business. His last work was the Duke of Connaught's mansion at Bagshot Park, commenced in 1877. In the same year he had a slight attack of paralysis, and died at Inverness Terrace, London, 22 Aug. 1880. Ferrey was one of the original members of the Architectural Society, and took an interested part in the formation of the Royal Architectural Museum. In 1839 he became a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, of which he was twice vice-president, and at his death one of the oldest members. He contributed many papers to its proceedings, and in 1870 was recommended as the recipient of the royal gold medal. He acted as secretary to the committee of architects in the competition for the houses of parliament, and himself contributed a design. In 1863 he was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. His only literary production is his ‘Recollections of A. N. Welby Pugin and his father, Augustus Pugin,’ a work which modesty induced him to defer publishing until 1861. It gives a faithful and interesting account of the lives of the Pugins, father and son, and presents a valuable history of the ‘Gothic revival in English architecture.’ Ferrey was particularly severe in his denunciation of the increasingly prevalent union of the work of the contractor with the profession of architect. In the ‘Builder’ is published an interesting letter from him, deprecating in pithy terms the evils of the system. His favourite relaxation was music. While in the full tide of professional employment he invented and patented an effective and cheap mode of stamping plaster, which was used in several of the churches erected by him. In private life his good temper and genial humour were conspicuous. With young architects he was always popular. He was survived by a second wife, whom he married in 1872. By his first wife he had two daughters and a son. They also survived him.

[Builder, 4 Sept. 1880, xxxix. 281; Recollections of A. N. Welby Pugin, &c., with Notices of their Works, by Benjamin Ferrey, Architect, F.R.I.B.A., London, 1861; Antiquities of the Priory Church of Christchurch, Hants, &c., by B. Ferrey, the literary part by E. W. Brayley, London, 1834.]

G. W. B.