Architect and surveyor, of London, Liverpool and Dublin, active from the 1840s until the 1860s. William Raffles Brown, who was born in the parish of St Pancras, London, on 20 October 1822, was a son of James Baldwin Brown, a barrister, high court judge and writer, and a brother of the Rev. James Baldwin Brown, a well-known Congregational minister. He was also he uncle of Gerard Baldwin Brown, Watson Gordon Professor of Fine Art at Edinburgh, for fifty years. William's uncle by marriage was the Rev. Thomas Raffles, independent minister at the Newington Chapel, Liverpool, at which he was baptised on 1 July 1823.
William Raffles Brown was living in Liverpool by 1848, when he designed the Unitarian chapel in Hope Street with Thomas Denville Barry. In the 1851 census for Liverpool he is described as a twenty-eight-year-old architect, living with his wife, Mary, at the house of his mother-in-law, Elizabeth Stott, a widow and bootmaker. Between 1849 and 1854 he entered at least nine architectural competitions in England, winning first place in five of them. He designed two further churches in Liverpool - St Chrysostom, Everton, and St John the Divine, Holly Road - both erected in 1852. He had moved to London by 1854, when he exhibited three designs for a new church at Old Brentford, Middlesex at the Royal Academy but in 1856 he appeared before Lancaster Insolvency Court. The following year he entered the competition for the new markets in Dundalk, Co. Louth; he was not successful but in the same year he won the competition for the Mechanics' Institute, at Lurgan, Co. Armagh. It may have been this success which brought him to live in Ireland. Once in Ireland he moved from address to address in Derry, Belfast and Dublin, where he was arrested for bankruptcy in March 1861. He worked for some time for JOHN SKIPTON MULVANY in Dublin; in the summer of 1862 he submitted perspectives of designs by Mulvany for exhibition at the RHA 'in a less complete state than might have been desired', and his address is given in December 1864 as 50 Lower Sackville Street, where Mulvany had his office. In Mulvany's obituary in the Irish Builder of 15 May 1870 it is noted that 'for a lengthened period' he secured 'the efficient services of 'the late talented Raffles Brown'.
Briown appears to have spent the final years of his short life back in England, dying on 27 September 1867 at the seaside town of Portishead, near Bristol. He was married three times, first to Mary (née Stott), second to Caroline, who died at Clontarf on on 8 July 1863 and finally, on 20 October 1864, to Annie, daughter of Henry Evans, of Portishead. J.A. Picton, in his Memorials of Liverpool (1875) recalled him as an erratic genius, whose 'power of sketching and combining beautiful forms and effective grouping was something remarkable'. However 'a settled, steady life was irksome to him; and after a chequered career of a few short years, he sank into an early grave, his life an incomplete problem, an unfinished sketch'.
RIAI: elected fellow, 15 December 1864; admitted, 16 February 1865.
Addresses: 14 Piccadilly, London, 1854; Donegall Place, Belfast, 1859; Baymount Cottage, Dollymount, Clontarf, Dublin, 1863; 50 Lower Sackville Street, 1864; 14 North Earl Street, 1864-1866; Rathgar Cottage, Rathgar Road, Rathgar, 1865-1866; Portishead, Somerset, at time of death.
See WORKS, for Irish work only.
All information not otherwise attributed, including the dates of Brown's birth and death and details of his family, were kindly supplied by Dr Malcolm A. Cooper, author of a doctoral thesis for Edinburgh University on Gerard Baldwin Brown, of Irthington, Carlisle, Oct 2016.
J.A. Picton, Memorials of Liverpool (1875), II, 255-6 (information kindly supplied by Joseph Sharples, Liverpool). ( 2) Picton, loc. cit., above.
Roger H. Harper, Victorian Architectural Competitions (1983), 90,195, and B 15, 8 Aug 1857, 448.
Picton, loc,. cit., above.
Graves, I, 312; the exhibits were nos. 1177,1181 and 1212.
Manchester Courier, and Lancashire General Advertiser, 7 Jun, 1856 (information from Dr Malcolm A. Cooper, as above).
B 15, 8 Aug 1857, 448.
B 15, 18 Jul 1857, 409.
Irish Times, 23 Mar 1861, which lists all his addresses.
DB 4, 15 Jul 1862, 175.
RIAI council meeting minutes, 15 Nov 1864, 24.
IB 22, 15 May 1870, 114.
Bristol Times and Mirror, 4 Oct 1867 (information from Dr Malcolm A. Cooper, as above). .
Information from Joseph Sharples, Liverpool (Sep 2009).
Morning Advertiser, 26 Oct 1864 (information from Dr Malcolm A. Cooper, as above).
Picton, loc. cit.
RIAI general meeting minutes, 15 Dec 1864, 152, and 16 Feb 1865, 158.
From Jones's transcripts from Thom's directories, unless otherwise attributed.
See note 5, above.
DB 1, 1 Apr 1859, 44.
See note 11, above.