Life retold by Yota Dimitriadi
Frederick William Albury was a prominent local architect and a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (F.R.I.B.A.). He designed several local buildings including practically the whole of the east side of Market Place, including the prominent businesses of Sutton & Sons (seeds), Bracher & Sydenham (jewellers), Heelas Sons & Co.
His obituary states that ‘there is hardly a main street [in Reading] which does not contain one or more splendid examples of his work’ (Reading Standard, 30 March 1912). Among the long list of buildings attributed to his name are: Battle Library in Oxford Road (listed at Grade II), Abbey Hall, Walter Parsons’ Corn Stores in Forbury Road (Grade II), the W.I. Palmer Memorial Hall on West Street, the Arcade, the headquarters of the 4th Batt Royal Berks Regt, the Berkshire Club, Grovelands School, St Giles School, St Saviour’s Church and School and further afield Bucklebury Place.
Albury was also clearly instrumental in the establishment, development and management of the Electric Works, the (now locally-listed) building at the eastern end of the present No. 55 Vastern Road that provided the main entrance to the Electric Works site through the carriage arch in its eastern side. His architect firm designed the building and Albury is listed as one of the Directors of the company. The main Electric Works buildings were demolished around 1970. The entrance building is the only surviving part from the original layout. Neighbours of the Reading Electricity Supply Company listed in the 1899 directory included: Collier & Catley (brickmakers & builders); Samuel Griffith (engineer) and Henry Lewis (engineer at Thames Bank Ironworks). On the opposite side of Vastern Road there were railway yards.
Frederick had links to the famous Victorian architect Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905) and was a senior partner in the prominent local architectural practice Albury & Brown. Their architect firm was considered ‘one of the oldest as well as well-known in Reading’ (Reading Standard – Saturday 30 March 1912). Together they have been responsible for drawing up and submitting the design plans for a few of the town buildings, like our favourite Jackson’s Corner (1880), Nat West (formerly London & County) Bank (1876-7), Pub (former ‘Cross-Keys’) on corner with Bridge Street – tile-hanging & Gothic (1877); The Queens Hotel (the site of Yates). John Thomas Brown is said to have designed the Cemetery Arch.
The following pubs are also listed among the buildings for which the Brown & Albury firm did alterations: The Broad Face in the High Street; Cross Keys on the corner of Gun St and Bridge St. They did the original designs for the following pubs: The Fox, 24 West St; The Rising Sun, 18 Forbury Rd; they designed a billiard room for Vine Hotel, on the corner of West St and Broad St. When Brown died Albury’s design include the following pubs: Lower Ship, north of the High Bridge, 22 Duke Street; Oakford Social Club, 53 Blagrave Street. He also designed the temperance
establishment or ‘coffee-house’ of British Workman, Abbey Square as well as Reading Corn Exchange and Markets, new shop front for Heelas and many more buildings in Reading, Tilehurst, Oxford, Calcot, Shiplake.
He was placed second in the Reading Town Hall competition.
Frederick was born in Upper Basildon, Berkshire in 1845, the son of the grocer John Albury. The family moved later to St Mary’s Butt in Reading.
The following information about William is taken from Gold’s book ‘Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Reading’:
William was one of the original pupils for the Reading School of Art from its foundation in 1860. His name appears as one of the prizewinner in the following years. Some of [his] drawings are in the possession of Reading Museum and Art Gallery and were exhibited under their ‘Art and the University’ exhibition (1976). Albury speaking at the prizegiving of Reading Art Studios in 1907 says he was at the school in 1861 and sat next to the famous animal painter Charles Burton Barber, his fellow student.
He left the Reading School of Art in 1865 and in that year he exhibited 5 of his drawings at the Reading Industrial Exhibition, desciribing himself as an architect, whilst he was still a pupil of W. & J.T. Brown) and he won a silver medal. Among his drawings, was the design, plans and sections of the School of Art, Free Library and Museum and painting in water colours of a modern mansion, showing the Arabesque architecture of Cairo.
He became pupil in the office of William and John Thomas Brown, architects and surveyors in Friar Street. After completing his training and internship or ‘serving his articles’ as that training was described, he he became the head clerk to CG Searle and the extended his knowledge by moving to Louth, Lincolnshire and serving as an assistant to Mr James Fowler (1829-1892) in 1874. He returned to Reading in 1876 and joined his old firm in partnership. With the death of William Brown and the retirement of J.T. Brown in 1885, Frederick carried on the business himself until 1909, when he took into partnership Mr H.W. Rising (FRIBA) and Mr E.P. Morgan (FRIBA).
He was elected an Associate of the RIBA in 1866 where he was proposed by Alfred Waterhouse and St Aubyn and a Fellow in 1875, with the same proposers plus Charles Smith. His office address was at 154 Friar Street, Readig from 1875-1912, with offices also at 4 Bloomsbury Place, London (1866-1868) and Norfolk Street, Strand (1910-1912). Alwyn Cave was his pupil and Cecil Willett a pupil of the partnership.
He was one of the oldest Freemasons in town, associated with the Lodge since 1876 and was a subscribing member of the Lodge of Union until his death. He became deaf and felt that he was unable to participate in some of his duties. He was co-opted as a member of the Free Library and Museum Committee and was active at the Reading Literary Society. In 1881 Frederick Albury, who “was also an antiquarian” (Built Heritage Consultancy, 2019, page 27) and a Fellow of the Institute of British Architects, wrote a paper about the history of Reading Abbey, “entitled Reading Abbey, its History and Architecture, which he read before the society” (Reading Museum).
He was a keen sportsman and when he was young he was a member of Reading Athletic Club and the Abbey Institute Swimming Club, keen supporter of the YMCA as well. Later in life he acted as vice-president of the Reading Lawn Tennis Club and of the Reading Football Club. His favourite hobby was golf, which his wife and three daughters (Violet, Gladys and Marjorie) also took up keenly.
The 1881 census shows that he, his wife Emma, his new born son Percy Maurice and their 24 year old servant, Rebecca Milton, lived in Parkside, Upper Redlands Road, where he died. Emma died in 1884 and his son in 1888. Frederick remarried Rosa Brown by whom he had three daughters: Violet, Gladys and Marjorie. Gladys married Montague Jones in 1912. She was the mother of Rev Cheslyn Jones of Lowick, Northhants. ‘Though not trained as an architect, [Gladys] worked in her father’s office and helped with his drawings’ (Gold, 1999, page 3).
In 1881 he was living at 93 Castle Street but at the time of his death on 23rd March 1912 he was at ‘Parkside’, Upper Redlands Road, his home for many years.
He contracted a cold at the end of November 1911, which confined him to his house and led to his death four months later.
His funeral took place on Thursday 28 March and was well documented in the local press. The choral service was held in Christ Church by Rev. J.F. Warren (vicar). Hymns included ‘Peace, Perfect Peace’ and ‘Abide with me’ while the organist (Mr AW Moss) played Chopin’s Funeral March ‘O Rest in the Lord’ and the Dead March in ‘Haul’. Masonic honours were paid to him by members of the order wearing sprigs of acacia. The only floral tribute was a large cross laid on his coffin by his wife and daughters. The funeral arrangements were carried by Heelas Ltd under the supervision of Mr W.B. Fordiham.
He is buried at Reading Old Cemetery with his first wife Emma, their son and his second wife Rosa. His dedication to research is indicated by his gravestone, that of an open book.
Buried in Section 57, Row D, Plot 2