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John returns to Tower Bridge, his famous great-grandfather built

PUBLISHED: 15:00 15 April 2011 | UPDATED: 18:10 15 April 2011

John Wolfe-Barry... on the bridge his great-grandfather built

John Wolfe-Barry... on the bridge his great-grandfather built

Carmen Valino

John Wolfe Barry has returned to keep an eye on the renovation of the world’s most famous bridge that his great-grandfather built more than a century ago.

He is the fourth generation down from the famous Victorian civil engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry who built Tower Bridge in 1894.

The bridge held a reception to mark completion of its latest three-year spruce-up which it gets every quarter-century.

John was invited along with his daughter Isabel, 33, a solicitor in Bermondsey—just half-a-mile from the iconic bridge her great-great-grandfather put up.

The Wolfe Barrys were at the centre of London’s Victorian grandeur, on a par with Brunel and Bazalgette.

A decade before Tower Bridge, Sir John completed the Inner Circle railway in 1884 which is still the centre-piece today of the huge London Underground network.

He went on to build Cannon Street and Charing Cross stations, Hungerford Bridge and Kew Bridge.

His father, Sir Charles Barry, was even more famous—responsible for rebuilding the Houses of Parliament and installing Big Ben in 1859 and laying out Trafalgar Square.

But Sir Charles’s great-great grandson John admits he hasn’t risen to the dizzy heights of his famous ancestors.

“Sadly I didn’t follow the right path,” John told the East London Advertiser. “Both my parents died when I was a teenager and I had to survive.

“My ambitions fell by the wayside—then I got married and raised three children.”

Even so, the modest John, now 69, rose to become a leading chartered company secretary, while his daughter—fifth generation from the ‘father of Tower Bridge’—has a successful career in law.

They returned to the family’s famous bridge for Wednesday’s reception—partly to keep an eye on it to make sure three years of grit-blasting and repainting lasts another 25 years.


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