Street View: 18 Suppl.
Address: 5 Adelaide Place
There are two John Belchers, father and son, both architects. Belcher senior lived from 1819 to 1890 and junior from 1841 to 1913. It was obviously senior who had his office at 5 Adelaide Place in the Tallis Street View as junior was only seven years old when the Supplements came out, but because they worked together during part of their careers, I have chosen to include junior. John senior is frequently given the year of birth of 1816; the ODNB is slightly more careful in giving 1816/17, but if you look at the census records for 1851 to 1881, John consistently gives his age as 32, 42, 52 and 62 which would give the year 1819 for his birth. John was apprenticed to William Chadwick, architect, on 22 April 1833. His father, John Young Belcher, a chemist and druggist, had to pay £150 for the privilege. The fact that his father is described as a chemist, helps to confirm the birth date of John; on 17 January 1819, John, the son of John Young Belcher, a chemist, and his wife Sophia, is baptised at St. John’s, Hackney. This does not preclude a birth date in 1818, as baptisms did not always take place straight after birth, but it is a good indication.
John senior married Anne Woollett, the daughter of George Woollett, a linen draper in 1840.(1) The year after, on the 10th of July, John junior is born, the eldest of many more children to come. At some point, John junior is sent to Luxembourg and Paris to complete his architectural schooling and in 1865, he becomes a partner in his father’s practice. That is also the year in which he marries Florence Parker, the daughter of William Parker, originally from Ireland, and Laura Elisabeth Boass (sometimes referred to as Louisa); John and Florence did not have any children.
Belcher and Belcher had their offices at 5 Adelaide Place, but that was not where they lived. 1-6 Adelaide Place, on the east side of the new approach to London Bridge, had been built in about 1835 and functioned as the address for many separate businesses, ranging from solicitors to provision agents. At some point, the Belchers left these offices and they seem to have moved to 38 Somerleyton Road, Brixton, or at least, that is the address given on the City freedom record of John junior in 1873. After his father’s retirement in 1875 Belcher worked with various partners: James W. James (-1882), Arthur Beresford Pite (1885-1897), and John James Joass (1897-1913) who continued the business after Belcher’s death. Belcher’s probate record gives 9 Clifford Street, Westminster, as the business address. Joass was the dominant influence when Belcher and he designed Mappin and Webb’s premises at 1 Poultry.
Although the Belcher business was very successful (you can see some more buildings they designed here), they did not always get to build what they designed. In the competition for the completion of the Victoria and Albert Museum, they came second and the design of Aston Webb was chosen, although Alfred Waterhouse, the architect of the Natural History Museum, considered Belcher’s “a magnificent design, the most original of the 8 [entries]”.
According to the census records, Belcher and Belcher lived at the following addresses:
1841: Montague Terrace
1851: Trinity Square
1861: Doddington Grove, Newington
1871-1881: Brunswick Square
William Parker, John junior’s father-in-law, is described in the 1861 census as a proprietor of copper mines, but in 1871 as the minister of the Catholic Apostolic Church of Albury, Surrey. Ten years later, we find John senior with the same job description. According to the ODNB, John junior was also a minister of the Apostolic church, although the censuses consistently name him as architect. What he certainly did do was design their church in Camberwell New Road (now a Greek Orthodox church).
There is much more to be said about the two Belchers, but I will leave it at this as most can be found online, for instance on Archiseek, Bob Speel’s website, Wikipedia, or, if you are interested in their entries at the Royal Academy of Arts, see here for pages 169 and 170.
(1) Holy Trinity, Newington, 30 June 1840. Why the article on John Belcher junior in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography fails to mention George and just names one Philip Woollett as Anne’s ancestor because he is the father of William Woolett, an engraver, is totally beyond me.
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