Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Smirke, Sydney

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SMIRKE, SYDNEY (1798–1877), architect, fifth son of Robert Smirke [q. v.], and brother of Sir Robert Smirke [q. v.] and of Sir Edward Smirke [q. v.], was born in London in 1798. He became a pupil of his brother Robert, whom he largely assisted in his later works. In 1819 he gained the gold medal at the Royal Academy, and in 1820 visited Italy and Sicily. From 1828 to 1832 he was clerk of the works at St. James's Palace.

Smirke's earliest commissions were the private mansions, Oakley Park, Eye (for Sir E. Kerrison), Thornham Hall, Suffolk (for Lord Henniker), and Gunnersbury Park (for Baroness Rothschild). In 1834 he reconstructed the Pantheon in Oxford Street. He succeeded his brother Robert as surveyor of the Inner Temple, and in 1841 completed, with the assistance of Decimus Burton, the restoration of the Temple Church, of which he published an account. Between 1843 and 1845 he and George Basevi [q. v.] constructed the Conservative Clubhouse in St. James's Street. In 1847 he took up his brother's work at the British Museum [see Smirke, Sir Robert], which he completed in 1855, erecting the western side of the quadrangle, and designing the handsome iron railing; in 1854 he commenced the admirably constructed new reading-room which was opened to students in 1857 [see Panizzi, Sir Anthony]. In 1847 Smirke altered and in 1857 completely rebuilt the Carlton Club, in Pall Mall, the design of which he adapted from Sansovino's Library of St. Mark's, Venice. This was the first introduction of polished granite columns into England. Smirke was architect to Bridewell and Bethlehem hospitals, to both of which he made extensive additions, surveyor-general to the Duchy of Lancaster, and architect to Woking cemetery. He restored the Savoy Chapel in 1843, and again after the fire of 1860, and he rebuilt Crown Office Row, Temple (1863–1864) and Inner Temple Hall (1868–70). His latest work was the construction of the fine range of exhibition galleries for the Royal Academy at Burlington House, Piccadilly, which he began in 1866 and completed in 1870. He was elected A.R.A. in 1847, and R.A. in succession to his brother in 1859; he held the professorship of architecture at the Royal Academy from 1861 to 1865, and became treasurer in 1871. He was a fellow of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries, to the proceedings of which he contributed five papers. He was also fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, the gold medal of which he received in 1860. In 1852 Smirke founded the Architects' Benevolent Society, and he held the presidentship until his death. His residence was at 28 Berkeley Square. He died at Tunbridge Wells on 8 Dec. 1877, leaving four sons and four daughters.

Smirke was the author of: 1. ‘Suggestions for the Architectural Improvement of the Western Part of London,’ 1834. 2. ‘The Temple Church,’ in Weale's ‘Quarterly Papers on Architecture,’ 1843–5. 3. ‘A Mode of Assisting the Eye in the right Perception of Colour in Pictures,’ 1853, 8vo (privately printed). 4. ‘Some Account of the Professional Life of C. R. Cockerell, R.A.’ (read at a meeting of the Royal Institute of British Architects on 16 Nov. 1863).

[Dict. of Architecture; Builder, 1877, p. 1256; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Art Journal, 1877.]

F. M. O'D.