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