|John and Benjamin Green were versatile and prolific builders, engineers and architects at a crucial time in the industrial and architectural development of Newcastle and the surrounding area. The talk will review the extraordinary variety of their achievements and how they fitted into the separate categories of engineer and architect that were emerging at the time, the Institution of Civil Engineers being founded in 1818, the Institute of British Architects in 1834.
John Green began work for his father who was an agricultural engineer in the Tyne valley and later a general builder. Larger farm buildings were needed to suit improved methods of husbandry based on new types of ploughs and threshing machines. John Green was in the right place to design these farms. He moved to Newcastle in 1820 and designed the Literary and Philosophical Society Library in the Greek Revival style in 1822. He was a competent architect and became an outstanding engineer. His bridges encompass arch structures in masonry, suspension bridges (very early examples of the type in wrought iron) and highly innovative laminated timber railway bridges.
John’s son Benjamin, after studying as a pupil of Augustus Charles Pugin in London, became a partner with his father. It becomes difficult to separate the work of father and son. Benjamin was the architect for several of the landmark buildings in Newcastle, as it developed under the direction of Richard Grainger, such as the Theatre Royal and the Grey Monument. He was also architect for many churches and the railway stations on the new line north of Newcastle. He could work in Classical, Gothic and Tudor styles. He was the architect of the Greek Temple inspired Penshaw Monument that dominates a large part of County Durham.
The Greens were successful businessmen operating at a time when Tyneside was rapidly developing. They have not had as much attention paid to them as the eminent engineers of the era, such as the Stephensons, or architects such as John Dobson. This was a time when the separate professions of architect and engineer were diverging and the Greens provide an example of how architects and engineers operated in the first half of the nineteenth century.
Paul Bell is a consulting structural engineer with a longstanding interest in old buildings, having worked on many. He has published papers on The Structure of Georgian London Houses, Structural Innovation in the Construction of English Churches and 19th Century Laminated Timber Roofs in England. He is registered with CARE.