Architect Biographies: Thomas Austin
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Architect Biographies: Thomas Austin

Thomas Austin was born on 17 October 1822 at Haughton-le-Skerne. He was the eldest son of the Reverend Thomas Austin MA, Rector of Redmarshall in County Durham.

Thomas Austin was born on 17 October 1822 at Haughton-le-Skerne.  He was the eldest son of the Reverend Thomas Austin MA, Rector of Redmarshall in County Durham.  From c.1839-1846 he received architectural training in the office of Edmund Sharpe of Lancaster, whose practice was mainly ecclesiastical.  Here he encountered E.G. Paley and together they executed drawings for Sharpe's Architectural Parallels of Abbeys in Yorkshire.  When Sharpe retired in 1851, Paley made an offer of partnership, but Austin declined and began to practise in Newcastle in 1852.  Ten years later he entered partnership with R.J. Johnson.  He also trained his half brother H.J. Austin (1841-1915) from 1860-4 and founded the important partnership of Paley and Austin in Lancaster.  Austin and Johnson purchased the practice of the late John Dobson in 1865 (Dobson's son had been killed in the fire of 1856), and they saw some of Dobson's projects through to completion.  It seems that Johnson played the leading role in the partnership because of Austin's poor health.  Austin was based at 15 New Bridge Street in 1868.  He was among the founders of the Northern Architectural Association.  He read the first paper to the Association (entitled 'English Architecture in the Latter Half of the 12th Century') and served as the first Treasurer (1859-62) and later as Vice President.  However, he never joined the RIBA.  Austin was a prominent antiquarian and joined the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle in 1854.  Perhaps his best known work was his sensitive restoration of Brinkburn Priory, which he re-roofed in a way that was in keeping with the archaeological remains.  At his father’s expense he restored the church of Redmarshall and added a new rectory.  Austin began to suffer from ill health and travelled to Australia in order to recover.  However, he died on the return voyage on 24 March 1867.  The firm was continued by R.J. Johnson under the style of Austin and Johnson.  W.S. Hicks joined the partnership in 1885, whereupon the firm became Austin, Johnson and Hicks. 


The Priory Church of St. Peter and St. Paul at Brenkburn in Northumberland: Twelve oblong plates measured and drawn by T. Austin, 1857.

'English Architecture in the Latter Half of the 12th Century'. Paper given to the Northern Architectural Association, c. 1859.

‘The Minstrels' Gallery, Raby Castle’ in Archaeologia Aeliana, new series, vol.2, 1861-5, pp214-5.

This article incorporates research by my colleague Graham Potts.

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Comments (3)

I was interested in Thomas Austin so Googled his name to see what else I could find and this article came up on the first page. Good job. :)

Ranked #11 in Architecture

Looking forward to architect biographies, well done Michael.

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Thanks Pat and Ron.