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A dynasty of architects

Charles Francis Annesley Voysey stands in a strong family tradition of architecture.

His grandfather Annesley Voysey (1794-1839) was "an engineer/architect responsible for the design of lighthouses and churches and credited with the design of the first purpose built office block in London in 1823", in Clement's Lane but long since demolished.[1] He was known to Augustus Welby Pugin, "who showed my grandfather his designs for the Houses of Parliament, in the presence of my father, the Rev. C. Voysey".[2]

Annesley Voysey was in partnership with Richard Suter (1797-1883), based for at least a part of their association at 35 Fenchurch Street, London.

In 1837, Voysey moved to Jamaica in order to design a new church for Port Antonio. He died there just two years later, as recorded on a fine memorial in the church. A letter to John Brandon-Jones from a Mrs Lesley Lewis FSA explains:

"A wall monument in the porch of the parish church of Port Antonio, on the east coast of Jamaica, commemorates Annesley Voysey late of Port Antonio, architect of the Church, who died 5th August 1839 in his 46th year. He left England for the purpose of building the church and died after a few days illness when it was nearly finished. The church itself is in yellow brick with stone dressings, in a kind of neo-Romanesque with a western tower and spire. It reminded me of St Clement’s church, Oxford, by an obscure architect, Robertson, of about the same date. The interior of Port Antonio church is fine and spacious but with unattractive wooden fittings. There is a shallow chancel recess and the main space is divided by wooden columns into a nave and aisles. The columns also support galleries on each side and at the west end. Earthquakes and hurricanes have dealt harshly with Jamaican churches and Port Antonio is a comparatively early one which has survived." [3]

Annesley's son Henry Annesley Voysey (1824-1851), C.F.A. Voysey's uncle, was apparently "an architect of more than ordinary ability". [4] From 1847 until his death he was in partnership with Charles Reeves at 102, Guilford Street, London. Reeves had studied under Richard Suter and Annesley Voysey. In 1843 Reeves was appointed architect and surveyor to the Metropolitan Police and in 1847 he also became architect to the national network of county courts established in the previous year. He was awarded a medal for his services to the 1851 and 1862 exhibitions.

Henry Annesley's son (and therefore C.F.A. Voysey's first cousin), Annesley Wesley Voysey (1848-1928), emigrated to Australia in 1868 at the age of 20. After architectural training in England he worked in Brisbane for Richard George Suter for a year before joining him in partnership. (Suter was the son of Richard Suter, the partner of Voysey's grandfather, Annesley Voysey.) In 1879, Voysey formed a partnership in Rockhampton, Queensland, with Frank Scarr. Amongst completed works was St Paul's Church (subsequently Cathedral) in Rockhampton by Voysey and Scarr, 1879.[5]

A notice in the London gazette of 2nd May 1884 records the dissolution of a partnership between C.F.A. Voysey and another cousin, Richard Annesley Ellison Voysey (1855-1934). He was the son of the Reverend Richard Voysey, who had run the school in Hessle with C.F.A. Voysey's father where both boys were born. The partnership had been trading as Voysey & Voysey, Architects and Surveyors, indicating that cousin Richard too was in the profession.

A further cousin was Vernon Annesley Edlin (1864-1921). He was the son of the Reverend Vernon Edlin, who was the son of Robert Edlin and his wife Frances Martha, née Voysey, sister of Annesley Voysey. Vernon Annesley Edlin was articled to the architect Henry Simpson Legg in 1882 and then assisted in several other offices before going into practice as an architect and quantity surveyor on his own account in about 1897. He became a Licentiate of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1911.[6]

C.F.A. Voysey's own son Charles Cowles-Voysey (1889-1981) studied at the Architectural Association school and then at the Bartlett school of London University. After periods in various other offices he set up his own practice in 1912. In his work he consciously avoided his father's distinctive style, often relying upon classical proportion. He insisted, however, upon good materials and fine craftsmanship and avoided elaborate decoration.[7] His completed works included:

  • White Rock Pavilion (1922), Hastings
  • Bridgeton Public Halls (1924), Glasgow
  • Kingsley Hall (1927), London
  • Wildwood Road (1929), Hampstead Garden Suburb, London
  • Chance Wood (1929), Sevenoaks, Kent
  • Worthing Town Hall (1933), West Sussex
  • Watford Town Hall (1937-39), Hertfordshire
  • Peas Hill Guildhall (1939), Cambridge
  • Town Hall extension (1939), Bromley, Kent
  • Magistrates' Court (1939), Bromley, Kent
  • Maybridge Estate (1940s), Worthing, West Sussex
  • Morley College reconstruction (1958), Waterloo, London

More information about Cowles-Voysey.


[1] Wendy Hitchmough, CFA Voysey (Phaidon, 1995), pp.16-17, quoting a paper on 'City offices' in RIBA transactions (1864-65).

[2] Letter from C.F.A. Voysey to the editor of The Standard reproduced in The British architect, 18th November 1910, p.347.

[3] From a note by John Brandon-Jones on autobiographical notes by C.F.A. Voysey, held at RIBA Archives, VoC/1/6(iv). Brandon-Jones also refers to a brief reference to Annesley Voysey in the memoirs of Sir Gilbert Scott, to which his attention had been drawn by Gavin Stamp.

[4] G.J. Stevenson, Memorials of the Wesley family (Partridge, 1876), p.286.

[5] Donald Watson & Judith McKay, Queensland architects of the 19th century : a biographical dictionary (Queensland Museum, 1994), p.201, and supplementary information from Lynnette Joines of Tasmania, Australia.

[6] Directory of British architects, 1834-1914 (Continuum, 2001).

[7] Obituary, The Times (London), Wednesday 15th April 1981, p.16.

Page last amended 27th December 2023