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Fowke, Captain Francis

Fowke, Captain Francis (1823–65). Ulster-born military engineer. He designed the Raglan Barracks, Devonport, Plymouth (1853–5—de-molished), to an advanced hygienic specification. Ingenious and inventive, his ideas were usually blocked by a conservative military and naval establishment, but his opportunity arrived when, under the aegis of Henry Cole, he was appointed Superintendent of Buildings for ‘Albertopolis’, the cultural complex in South Kensington, London, from 1856 until his death. His buildings, of brick and terracotta, were in the Rundbogenstil, influenced by German precedents (notably by von Gärtner and Semper), and include the galleries, courts, and lecture-theatre of the South Kensington (now Victoria & Albert) Museum (1856–65—with Godfrey Sykes (1824–66)), the buildings for the International Exhibition, South Kensington, London (1862—demolished 1863–4), and the Royal Albert Hall (1867–71— with Lt.-Col. Henry Scott). He also designed (1858) the handsome Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh (begun 1861), a grand essay in the Lombardic Renaissance style, with an elegant galleried Great Hall of iron and glass, and improved and enlarged the National Gallery, Dublin (also 1860s). His designs have been underrated, but there can be little argument about his finesse in building large-scale structures and impressive public buildings. Fowke patented a folding camera in 1856, and following further research, developed the large ‘bellows’ camera, which came into general use, and was widely employed for architectural photography. See also Albert, Prince.


Gifford, and McWilliam & Walker (1984);
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004);
P&D (1973);
Sheppard (ed.) (1975).

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