Background to the Firm of Francis Johnson and Partners, Architects (1937-Present)
This firm of architects was established by local architect Francis Johnson in 1937. Based in Bridlington, the office was originally in Manor Street before being moved to its permanent location at Craven House, 16 High Street, in 1940.
In the early years there was just Francis and a secretary working at the firm. In 1947 a draughtsman, Brian Smith, was appointed by Francis to help him cope with an increasing workload. The first architect to be appointed was Clive Barnby in 1953 and he remained with the firm until 1971. Tim Pool was the next architect to be appointed, he was with the firm from 1961 until 1967. In 1963 a third architect, Malcolm D. McKie, was appointed and his business acumen proved indispensable to the running of the firm. Malcolm McKie remained at the firm until his retirement. The 1970s and 1980s saw a massive increase in work for the firm, and in 1989 Digby Harris was appointed as the firm's newest architect. Upon Francis' death in 1995 the leadership of the firm passed to Digby Harris. Other employees of the firm have included Roger J.M. Goldthorpe, V. Kemp-Webster and Malcolm G. Stather.
As would be expected, most of the firm's work was located in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Staple commissions tended to be located in Bridlington, Driffield, Filey and the surrounding villages. North Yorkshire also provided the firm with a large number of commissions centred round York itself, Malton, Whitby and Scarborough. Teesside, County Durham and Northumberland provided a fairly substantial number of commissions, particularly as a result of the firm's connection with the Raby Estate, the Hospital of God at Greatham, and the University of Durham. In addition to these counties, the firm also undertook work on landed estates in Lincolnshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire and Cumbria.
The firm is best known for its classical style and work on historical properties in the Georgian style. These commissions included restoration work, conversions and extensions. Notable commissions in this area include Fairfax House, York, Maister House, Hull, Burton Agnes Hall and Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire. Involvement in such projects brought connections to the county's landed gentry and led to further projects. Indeed, the firm received a number of commissions for new country and rural residences in the Georgian style within this context, notably Strathconon House in Ross-shire. Such connections, as well as involvement with War Damage claims in the firm's early years, also produced a lasting connection with the ecclesiastical authorities.
Through this connection the firm came to be appointed as church architect to many of Church of England buildings in the East and North Ridings of Yorkshire. Again, this work consisted of both restoration and new build commissions, notably they worked on St Margaret's at Hilston, York Minster, Bridlington Priory Church, Beverley Minster and Hull Holy Trinity.
The character of the Yorkshire region led to a great number of commissions to work on rural properties and agricultural buildings including many barn and stable conversions. These were usually a result, again, of the firm's connection to the local gentry and their landed estates. In particular, the firm undertook a significant amount of rural and agricultural work for the Garrowby, Mulgrave and Raby Estate offices.
The location of the firm's offices in Bridlington brought many staple commissions to work on town houses, shops, offices, restaurants, hotels and garages in Bridlington itself as well as in the nearby areas of Driffield and Filey.
A final area in which the firm received building design commissions was that of bulk housing development. Over the years the firm worked on many of the Barratt (York) Ltd and Barratt (Hull) Ltd developments. They also worked on a number of housing projects for D. Dunks (Builders) Ltd and Marshall's Builders Ltd.
In addition to the above, the firm also received commissions to design furniture and fittings such as tables, wardrobes, book cases, chimney pieces, lights and candlesticks. Such commissions were usually for the large country houses. Furniture and fittings such as alter rails, bishops' chairs, alter crosses, chalices and silverware were also designed for many of the churches the firm worked on. Indeed, the reputation for furniture design led to very prestigious commissions for the British embassies in Tokyo, Oslo and Washington, as well as for use at Sandringham by HRH the Queen.
Background to Francis Johnson, Architect (1911-1995)
Francis Frederick Johnson was born 18 April 1911 to James Frederick B. Johnson (1880-1938) and Ethel daughter of Francis S. Smith. His father's family were well established corn merchants, whilst his mother's father had been a senior traveller for the Hull paint manufacturers Blundell Spence & Co. His parents married in Bridlington in 1909 but Ethel tragically died just a few days after Francis was born.
His father had lived in Wellington Road, Bridlington, but upon his marriage he moved to 6 (now 8) Swanland Avenue, Bridlington, and it was there that Francis was born. Ten months after his birth Francis' father remarried Mabel, a daughter of John Easton, and had five children by her. In 1914 his father had 'Kernside', 154 Cardigan Road, built and the family lived there for a few months before WWI. During WWI the family lived at Harrogate and then Sharrow Lane in Sheffield. On moving back to Bridlington at the end of the war Francis' father purchased Medina House, Quay Road, where the family remained for ten years. In 1929, with some persuasion from Francis, his father purchased 'The Toft', 43 High Street.
Francis began his schooling at a small private day school in Bridlington before being sent as a full boarder to Marton Hall Preparatory School for two years. He fell ill whilst attending this school and was removed to Bridlington Grammar where he spent the remainder of his school years. In 1927 he started attending the School of Architecture at Leeds, then part of the College of Art. Whilst studying for his exams in 1929 Francis took lodgings in Leeds where he shared a room in a YMCA hostel in Clarendon Road known as Woodsley House. In 1926 and 1929 he undertook visits to France with acquaintances from Bridlington Grammar school. He won two Royal Society of Art prizes for design in 1930 and 1931. In 1931 he received a travelling scholarship from Leeds School of Architecture which allowed him to undertake a tour of the continent. During these visits, Francis developed his architectural interests and skills. He kept detailed illustrated journals documenting the places he visited and the buildings he saw. In 1932 he finished at Leeds and he returned to Bridlington.
After a few months of unemployment, his father's friend Colonel C. Donald Allderidge gave Francis employment in his own practice of Allderidge & Clark, Architects, Hull. During the first eighteen months he travelled from Bridlington to Hull every day and proved himself to be very competent. He was made a partner in 1934 and put in charge of an office above a shop in Manor Street, Bridlington. In 1937 he moved to lodgings at 26 Market Place and, following the break-up of the partnership of Alldridge & Clarke, established his own practice. He retained his Manor Street office in Bridlington and continued to build a name for himself. A legacy from his aunt Lucy Smith had enabled Francis to purchase Craven house, 16 High Street, Bridlington, in 1935. In 1938 he and his partner Edward Ingram moved into Craven House. He spent the late 1930s and early 1940s restoring the property to its original Georgian character.
After the destruction of the Manor Street office during an air raid in August 1940 Craven House also became Francis' office. Over the next few years Francis continued to build his practice and it soon became impractical to maintain his office and home in one building. In November 1952 Francis and Edward moved from Craven House to former village school Leys House at Sewerby. Francis had purchased the house in 1951 when it needed much restoration which he carried out. They remained at Leys House for fifteen years. However, as Sewerby became a tourist destination, Francis desired a more secluded residence and so purchased Reighton Hall near Filey in July 1966. He had the place restored and in November 1966 both he and Edward moved in. They were to remain at Reighton Hall for the rest of their lives, along with Edward's sister Dorothy (d.1988).
Francis was prominent in the realm of civic life in Bridlington. He was a staunch Tory throughout his life and became involved in politics through his campaigning to preserve the character of Bridlington's 'Old Town'. He served as an independent town councillor for fourteen years (1936-1950). He was elected one of the Lords Feoffees of the Manor of Bridlington for life in 1940 and served as Chief Lord on five occasions. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1952 and served in this capacity for twenty nine years until 1981, after which he remained on the supplementary list.
Francis was a member of various local societies in Bridlington, including the Literary and Philosophical Society, the Madrigal Society and the Augustinian Society. It was through attendance at meetings of the latter society in December 1936 that Francis met his life-long partner Edward Ingram, a teacher in Bridlington who was originally from Hull and who had studied at the University College of Hull in its early years. From the late 1930s both Francis and Edward (aka Jim and Ted) became very much involved in campaigns to protect Bridlington's 'Old Town'. Through this work Francis came to the notice of Rupert Alec-Smith, founder of the Georgian Society for East Yorkshire. He was invited to become part of the Georgian Society and this started a life-long association with both Alec-Smith and the Georgian Society.
Through connections formed as a result of his professional and civic life he was invited to be a member of the York Civic Trust and served in various positions on its Board of Trustees. He was admitted a member of the York Merchant Adventurers Company in 1961 and the Merchant Taylors Company in 1970. A friendship with Dean of York Eric Milner-White led to his appointment as consultant architect to the York Diocese, his membership of the York Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches (1956-1983), and his appointment to the Central Council for the Care of Churches (1964-1972).
Because of his occupation, Francis spent WWII as a draughtsman. In May 1940 he took a civilian post as a draughtsman with the Royal Engineers in South Wales based mostly at Pen-clawdd on the Gower Peninsula. He was only in post for a few months before returning to Bridlington after being dismissed. He resumed his council business and became chairman of the Bridlington Air Raid Precaution Committee. He became a member of the Home Guard in 1942 and was responsible for scheduling iron gates and railings to be requisitioned for the war effort. He was finally called up in June 1943 and was sent to Fulwood Barracks, Preston, before being sent to Aldershot. He was then sent to Orkney in March 1944 as Lance Corporal Johnson, and after four months was moved to Titchfield, Hampshire. Here he was attached to the Lands Branch of the War Department and was charged with assessing compensation for damage done to War Office property.
He was released in June 1946 and resumed his practice in the hard financial times of the late 1940s. Off the back of his War Office work, he was asked to compile the first Ministry of Local Government lists of buildings of special architectural or historical interest for Beverley and Hull. He completed the Beverley lists August 1946-January 1947, and the Hull lists were finished by July 1947.
Throughout his life, Francis' work won him various accolades and awards including one presented by the Civic Trust and Goldsmiths' Company for the long gallery restoration at Burton Agnes Hall during European Architectural Heritage Year 1972. It also led to him receiving a number of honours. These honours included being made a Fellow of the Society of Antiquities (1955), the receipt of an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Hull (1983) and being awarded the CBE (1991).
In 2001 Francis Johnson was the subject of a major exhibition at the RIBA and a substantial architectural biography entitled ''Francis Johnson Architect: A Classical Statement'' by John Martin Robinson and David Neave. He died in hospital at Leeds on the 29 September 1995. Highly respected in his field, he was renowned for his traditional and classical work. Many of his clients had become life-long friends because of his genuine nature and respected advice. His packed funeral was held at Bridlington's Priory Church on 5 October 1995 and he was then buried in Reighton Churchyard. Edward survived him by two years but died in a nursing home on 19 December 1997. They have a joint gravestone which simply reads 'Francis Frederick Johnson Architect' and below 'Mallard Edward Ingram Historian'.