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Fletcher, Sir Banister Flightlocked

(1866–1953)
  • H. V. M. Roberts
  • , revised by Catherine Gordon

Fletcher, Sir Banister Flight (1866–1953), architect and architectural historian, was born in Bloomsbury, London, on 15 February 1866, the elder son of the architect Banister Fletcher (1833–1899) and his wife, Eliza Jane (May) Phillips. He was educated at the Norfolk county school, and at King's College and University College, London, and entered his father's office in 1884 but continued to study architecture also at the Royal Academy Schools, the Architectural Association, and the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris. He became an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 1889 and a fellow in 1904. He was made a partner in his father's firm in 1889 and succeeded with his brother to the practice in 1899. During his early career he was regarded as a minor figure in the modernist movement; although little of his work was important, it did not lack character. It included a bank at Hythe, a church at Stratford East, flats in Harley Street and Wimpole Street, King's College School, Wimbledon Common (1899), and various shops, memorials, and houses. He also extended Morden College, Blackheath (1933). The firm continued under the style of Banister Fletcher & Sons after the death in 1916 of his brother H. Phillips Fletcher. Two large works done in later years were the Roan School, Greenwich (with Percy B. Dannatt, c.1926–8) and the Gillette factory, Osterley (c.1936). Fletcher was for many years surveyor to the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, and became its master in 1936. He was also director of its building crafts training school, St Marylebone.

Fletcher was much better known, however, as the author of A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method, which he published originally in 1896, jointly with his father. His wide travels provided the material and his knowledge of London in particular was extensive. The definitive edition during his lifetime was the sixth, published in 1921, with the text largely rewritten by Fletcher and his first wife, and with new plates brilliantly drawn by George G. Woodward and others. Major expansions and revisions have kept the book in continual demand; the twentieth edition was published in 1996. It has been translated into several languages. Fletcher also published the much criticized Andrea Palladio (1902) and several slighter studies. With his brother he produced two handbooks: Architectural Hygiene, or, Sanitary Science as Applied to Building (1899) and Carpentry and Joinery (1898), which were illustrated by his charming sketches. Other such sketches, in pencil and ink, are reproduced in the publication on his Architectural Work (1934).

On 30 July 1914 Fletcher married Alice Maud Mary, daughter of Edward Bretherton and widow of Sir John Bamford Slack. She died in 1932, and on 18 August 1933 he married Mary Louisa Hazell (1870/71–1949), a widow, daughter of Alfred Inman, a civil engineer. There were no children from either marriage. Fletcher was president of the RIBA (1929–31) and bore part of the cost of its library catalogue (2 vols., 1937–8). As a lecturer in his youth at King's College, following his father, and later on London University extension courses (1901–38), he did much to make his subject vivid and stimulating. Fletcher was called to the bar by the Inner Temple in 1908 and conducted arbitrations and advised on London Building Act disputes. He was for many years (1907–53) a common councillor of the City of London and the chairman at different times of the schools and library committees; in 1918–19 he was senior sheriff. He received a knighthood in 1919 and various foreign honours.

Fletcher was a man of great intellectual ability in certain fields, with a capacity for hard work and organizing acumen, but he was happier in his more historical activities. An autocrat, and patronizing even to his peers, he expected much of his staff and scenes were common, although he had, at heart, a kindly concern for their physical welfare. In manner and appearance he was 'sometimes genial, sometimes austere, but always dignified'. He died at his home, 4 Whitehall Court, Westminster, on 17 August 1953. He bequeathed much of his property (slides, lecture diagrams, and so on) and money to the University of London and the RIBA library, with the stipulation that the latter should be named the Sir Banister Fletcher Library.

Sources

Archives

  • BL, corresp. with Society of Authors, Add. MS 63240
  • LUL, corresp. and drawings
  • RIBA BAL, corresp. and drawings; nomination MSS; sketchbooks and notes
  • UCL, lecture notes

Likenesses

  • S. Lucas, oils, 1917, RIBA
  • G. H. Swinstead, oils, 1920, RIBA
  • W. Stoneman, photographs, 1940, NPG
  • G. Philpot, oils, RIBA
  • portrait, repro. in Architect and Building News, 238
  • portrait, repro. in The Builder, 310

Wealth at Death

£115,520 16s. 8d.: probate, 20 Oct 1953, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects
Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]