We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
  Henry Thomas  Cadbury-Brown (1913–2009), by Eamonn McCabe, 2007 Henry Thomas Cadbury-Brown (1913–2009), by Eamonn McCabe, 2007
Brown, Henry Thomas [Jim] Cadbury- (1913–2009), architect, was born on 20 May 1913 at Dellfield, Common Wood, Sarratt, Hertfordshire, the second of three children and only son of Henry William Cadbury-Brown (1881/2–1958), a solicitor turned farmer, and his first wife, Marion Ethel, née Sewell (1878–1940). In 1916 his father (who served during the First World War as a captain in the Royal Army Service Corps) bought a freehold in Essex, and Cadbury-Brown had a solitary childhood. Educated at Westminster School, where he was good at mathematics, science, and drawing, he was set to become an actuary, then realized it was only because he liked the Actuary's Hall in Holborn; he turned to architecture following introductions through his father to F. R. Yerbury, secretary of the Architectural Association School of Architecture. He entered the school in 1930 aged seventeen, without completing his higher certificate, and spent a blissful five years, enjoying every aspect of the course and growing in confidence, especially from his third year when he was introduced to the works of Le Corbusier by an older student, Bobby Brown.

To complete his training Cadbury-Brown worked unpaid for a year for Ernö Goldfinger, mainly on shop interiors, from whom he learned, he told Jill Lever in 1997, ‘everything, from the grammar of detailing to the grammar of composition, the way to use materials and how they came together’ (BL, NSA). He joined the and in 1938 worked on their ‘New Architecture’ exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries with his friends Hugh Casson and Ralph Tubbs.

Cadbury-Brown then won a competition for high street ticket offices for the ‘Big Four’ railway companies. This allowed him to set up in private practice, and he realized offices in Queensway and the Strand, plus an exhibition structure at the V&A, before the Second World War. Already a member of the Territorial Army, he served throughout the war, initially joining a non-combative searchlight division, and later with the 51st Welsh and 7th armoured divisions. He was demobilized in 1945 with the rank of major.

Casson and Tubbs were on the organizing committee of the Festival of Britain's South Bank exhibition, and were anxious to work with architects who would ‘pull together’, in Cadbury-Brown's words (BL, NSA). He was commissioned to design the unifying entrances to its two main sections and the concourse between them. This ended in fountains by the Thames facing Whitehall Court, inspired by a visit to Versailles, with primitive cats' eyes that glittered as people danced there at night, after gas jets were deemed too dangerous. It was also set with sculpture by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Heinz Henghes, and others, with murals in the adjoining Turntable Café.

On the South Bank, Cadbury-Brown was assisted by the American architect Elizabeth Romeyn (Betty) Dale, née Elwyn, who would in due course become Elizabeth Cadbury-Brown (1922–2002). She was born on 28 March 1922 in New York, the twin daughter of Adolph Elwyn, professor of neuroanatomy at Columbia University, where she studied architecture after attending Hessian Hill School in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. She met and on 30 November 1948 married , an English constitutional lawyer, and on arrival in London secured unpaid work with Goldfinger, who introduced her to Cadbury-Brown. When her marriage failed Betty Dale was set to return to the United States until Cadbury-Brown suggested, ‘Why don't you marry me?’, the ingenuousness with which he told the tale reflecting the simple way he could see directly through any problem. Following an uncontentious divorce they married on 8 May 1953, spending their honeymoon at the Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne at Aix-en-Provence. They had no children but enjoyed a close and productive partnership, such that it was sometimes difficult to disentangle their respective contributions. She was particularly noted for the detailing which was such a feature of Cadbury-Brown's most successful work.

Casson secured several commissions following the Festival of Britain, mainly for interiors, that he divided between his inner circle of friends, Cadbury-Brown realizing the boardroom of Time Life's London offices, and the main staircase of the royal yacht Britannia, both in 1953. He later designed the directors' dining room at London's Shell Centre, and the banqueting suite of London's Royal Lancaster Hotel. Another job secured through Casson was for two halls at Birmingham University in 1962–4, subsequently largely rebuilt.

Cadbury-Brown felt that his pre-war work helped secure commissions for housing at Cook's Spinney and Pittmans Field for the Harlow Development Corporation under Frederick Gibberd, together with a school, built in 1952–3, followed in 1954–6 by flats for Hammersmith borough council. The MARS Group fostered Cadbury-Brown's interest in the integration of art and architecture, and at Hammersmith he invited the artist Stephen Sykes to quote as a subcontractor, thereby securing decorative tile patterns for the communal stairs and a large plaque on one block. This interest also led him to teach part-time between 1952 and 1961 in the sculpture department of the Royal College of Art.

The Harlow school led to a commission for the London county council. Ashmount School in Hornsey Lane, Islington, built in 1954–7, was characteristic of Cadbury-Brown's ability to refine an existing idea—here the light steel frame developed by Hills of West Bromwich and popularized by Hertfordshire county council, which he gave an opaque curtain-wall cladding. Ashmount had an intellectual quality lacking in other steel-framed schools of the period, with linked wings for the infants and juniors around two assembly halls, and open-air teaching areas for the infants. Again Cadbury-Brown introduced art, paying John Willats, one of his Royal College of Art students, through his office to produce a figure of a fighting cock for the wall facing Hornsey Lane. Cadbury-Brown enjoyed designing schools, accepting that because of cost he could not be entirely driven by aesthetics. At Grove Vale School, Great Barr, West Bromwich, built in 1961, he surrounded two octagonal assembly halls with pairs of classrooms in near-detached single-storey pavilions set into the hillside. That he got no more London county council commissions Cadbury-Brown blamed on a dispute when in 1959–60 he was president of the Architectural Association; proposals for the association to join the London county council's higher education system were frustrated because the council would not allow a student bar.

Cadbury-Brown's most important building was the Royal College of Art on Kensington Gore, London, built in three phases in 1960–63. Though nominally jointly credited, his fellow tutors Robert Goodden and Hugh Casson respectively prepared the brief and steered the job through committees, while the actual design was Cadbury-Brown's. The main block housing the workshops demonstrated the ruggedness that set Cadbury-Brown's work apart from his peers. Betty Cadbury-Brown's hand was most clearly seen in the detailing of the Gulbenkian Hall, added as an exhibition hall in 1962 but subsequently altered. A range housing the library and senior common room added in 1963 retains the richest details, including the high doorways for which the Cadbury-Browns—both tall people—were noted.

Betty Cadbury-Brown's exceptional gift for detailing was well seen in the Cadbury-Browns' own house at Aldeburgh, built in 1964 on land originally purchased by the festival for an opera house, for which they prepared a design. The built scheme included a small house for Benjamin Britten's assistant, Imogen Holst, as well as a long, single-storey house for themselves that was remarkable for its directed top-lighting, sunken living area, and near-wild garden, from which the only view was of Aldeburgh church. Betty Cadbury-Brown delighted in the planners' description of the property as a ‘bungalow in back land development’ (The Guardian, 17 May 2002).

In 1963 Eric Lyons, Jim Cadbury-Brown's contemporary, secured a large commission for public housing at World's End for Chelsea borough council, but did not have sufficient staff to realize the work. He and Cadbury-Brown formed a partnership that allowed the latter to complete the designs and working drawings within the former's approved framework. The job was controversial because of its scale and height, but red brick and tiles brought character and warmth to its elevations, and led to Cadbury-Brown designing a chapel and school there, followed by further housing in Tavistock Crescent, Notting Hill, long slabs in stock brick built in 1977–81.

Cadbury-Brown was proud of the lecture theatres added to Essex University in 1965–7, designed as a series of hexagonals around a central atrium that remains one of the practice's most impressive single spaces. The university's master plan by the Architects' Co-Partnership intended a number of signature buildings by different architects, but Cadbury-Brown's was the only major one to be realized.

Cadbury-Brown was appointed OBE in 1967 and elected a Royal Academician in 1975. He was professor of architecture at the Royal Academy from 1975 to 1988, and served as its surveyor from 1984 to 1990. The Cadbury-Browns' last major work was the library and print room at the Royal Academy, in 1985–7, of double height in a reinterpretation of a design by Fischer von Erlach seen on a student trip to Vienna. Cadbury-Brown believed that a gallery made a room appear grand, while giving access to all the books, and followed similar designs for Nottingham University's art department and the Royal College of Art.

Cadbury-Brown (known professionally as H. T. Cadbury-Brown but by family and friends as Jim, after a friend of his parents, killed during the First World War) was among the most intellectual designers of his generation. German influences, and that of Goldfinger, saw a greater robustness in his work than that of his peers, which he and Betty combined with elegant details, classical proportions, changing levels, and top-lighting, well seen in their libraries and at Aldeburgh. Their tough yet exquisite house also reflected their personalities as cultured bon vivants, noted for their omelettes, whiskey sours, and stimulating conversation. Betty Cadbury-Brown died at their home in Aldeburgh of cancer on 17 March 2002, but Jim Cadbury-Brown remained the genial host there until his own death at Ipswich Hospital on 9 July 2009, following a stroke.

Elain Harwood

Sources  

H. T. Cadbury-Brown interviewed by Jill Lever, 9 July 1997; Betty Cadbury-Brown interviewed by Alan Power, 24 Aug 1999, BL NSA, architects' lives · H. T. Cadbury-Brown, ‘A good time-and-a-half was had by all’, Festival of Britain, ed. E. Harwood and A. Powers, Twentieth Century Architecture: Journal of the Twentieth Century Society, 5 (2001), 58–64 · Daily Telegraph (4 April 2002) · The Times (5 April 2002) · The Guardian (17 May 2002) · J. Dunnett, A. Powers, and E. Harwood, ‘Elegant variation: the architecture of H. T. Cadbury-Brown’, arq [supplement], 10 (2006) · The Times (13 July 2009) · The Guardian (13 July 2009); (15 July 2009) · Architects' Journal (13 July 2009) · Daily Telegraph (28 July 2009) · The Independent (10 Oct 2009) · WW (2009) · personal knowledge (2013) · private information (2013) · b. cert. [Henry Thomas Cadbury-Brown] · m. cert. · d. certs.

Archives  

RIBA, drawings, papers

 

SOUND

 

BL NSA, interview recording


Likenesses  

Lenare, portraits, paper negatives, 1943, NPG · E. McCabe, photograph, 2007, priv. coll.; repro. in RA Magazine, 94 (2007) [see illus.]

Wealth at death  

£558,779: probate, 12 April 2010, CGPLA Eng. & Wales