Robert Smirke (architect)

Sir Robert Smirke (1781-18 April 1876) was an English architect.


Smirke was the son of portrait painter Robert Smirke, and studied architecture as a pupil of classical architect John Soane in 1796, the same year he commenced his studies at the Royal Academy. He also studied and travelled in southern Europe for several years.

Smirke designed public buildings in the classical style, among the most famous being those still standing in London, including:
* the Royal Mint, Tower Hill (1809);
* the main block and facade of the British Museum, Bloomsbury (1823-31);
* the Royal College of Physicians building in Trafalgar Square (now known as Canada House) (1824-27);
* the east wing of Somerset House, and the adjacent King's (formerly Smirke) Building of King's College London, on the Strand (1831).

Of those no longer extant, he also designed:
* the second incarnation of the Covent Garden Theatre, now the Royal Opera House (1808-9, but destroyed by fire in 1857),
* the General Post Office building in St Martins-le-Grand in the City of London (1825-1829, but demolished c. 1910).

His buildings outside London included the Shire Halls of Gloucester, Shrewsbury, Hereford and the Old Council House, Bristol.

Domestic buildings include alterations to Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire, and Hardwicke Court, near Gloucester. His domestic buildings in the neo-Gothic style include Lowther Castle in Cumbria, his first job in 1806 when he was 25, and Eastnor Castle, Ledbury, Herefordshire, designed in the early 19th century.

Together with John Nash and Sir John Soane, he became official architect to the Office of Works in 1813. He advised the Parliamentary Commissioners on the building of new Churches from 1818 onwards, contributing four himself, including St George, Brandon Hill in Bristol.

He was knighted in 1832, and received the RIBA Royal Gold Medal for Architecture in 1853.

His brothers were also notable - Sydney Smirke was also an architect, best known for the circular reading room at the British Museum, and Edward Smirke was a lawyer and antiquarian.

Robert Smirke lived at 81 Charlotte Street, London. A blue plaque commemorating his residence is situated on the exterior of the building. He died in Cheltenham on 18 April 1867.


* H.M. Colvin, "A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840" (1997) ISBN 0-300-07207-4

External links

* [ Smirke's work in Cumbria]
* [ Eastnor Castle, designed by Robert Smirke]

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