Richard Barry Parker

Architect Town Planner
Place of Birth
Buxton London

Richard Barry Parker was born in Chesterfield on 18 November 1867, the son of Robert Parker, the branch manager of the Sheffield Bank. He was educated at Park Hurst, Buxton and studied at T C Simmonds Atelier of Art, Derby 1887-89 from which he took external examinations of the South Kensington Schools, having moved to London and spent some three months there. In the latter year he was articled to George Faulkner Armitage of Altrincham whose studio embraced furniture and textile workshops as well as architecture. Barry Parker was articled to Faulkner between 1887 and 1892 and remained with him, acting as Clerk of Works 1892-1894 at Brockhampton Court, Herefordshire and Caerleon, Monmouthshire, before leaving to set up his own practice. In 1891 Barry Parker's father had been transferred to Buxton for health reasons and it was to Buxton that Parker returned to care for his ailing father.

At Buxton Parker designed three large houses for his father and it was from one of these newly-built houses, Moorlands, the Park, Buxton, that Parker commenced practice. In 1896 Raymond Unwin joined Parker in partnership at Buxton. Unwin was both Parker’s second cousin and his brother-in-law, having married Parker’s sister Ethel in 1893. The partnership continued until 1915 when Raymond Unwin was appointed

Parker and Unwin especially were inspired by the ideals of Ruskin and Morris and the Utopian community ideas of Edward Carpenter. Unwin became convinced that Arts and Crafts principles should be applied to working-class housing, and in 1898-1899 Parker and Unwin published designs for co-operative housing, Unwin also writing an important paper 'Co-operation in Building'. This was followed by ‘The Art of Building A Home’ published in 1901 and by a second paper by Unwin given at the Garden City Association conference in Bournville in September 1901 which brought the commission for the garden village of New Earswick from the Quaker cocoa refiners Joseph and Seebohm Rowntree.

In 1903 the founder of the Garden City Movement, Ebenezer Howard invited Parker and Unwin to advise on the site for Letchworth Garden City and in February 1904 Unwin won the limited competition for its layout. This in turn brought the commission for Hampstead Garden Suburb from Henrietta Barnett in February 1905 in which they worked in association with Edwin Landseer Lutyens.

In 1908-09 Unwin wrote ‘Town Planning in Practice,’ Together with his advocacy of town planning legislation from 1902 onwards, it made him an international authority on housing and town planning. and his time became increasingly taken up with public work. Unwin toured North America including Chicago and Montreal and, on his return, he became a lecturer at the University of Birmingham with an endowment from George Cadbury. Although these activities brought the partnership much new business, they left Parker almost wholly responsible for its management and the first steps towards dissolution were taken in 1914. The practice became Parker’s in May of the following year, Unwin having been appointed Town Planning Adviser to the Central Government Board in December 1914.

Barry Parker moved to Letchworth in 1906-1907, designing and building his own office in the form of a thatched Mediaeval Hall house. The Hall became the drawing office and the Solar the private office, with a discreet window through which to keep an eye on the assistants. He remained for forty years as consulting architect to the First Garden City (Letchworth) Limited until his retirement in 1943. From 1927 to 1941 he acted in a similar capacity with Manchester Corporation in connection with the Wythenshawe scheme, drawing up the general design for the estate and taking an active part in its development. In addition to his work as architect and advisor to many municipalities in Britain, he was responsible for town planning schemes in Oporto, Portugal (1915); San Paolo, Brazil, (1917-1919); Belgium and Canada. He was a former president of the Town Planning Institute and was awarded the Howard Memorial Medal of the Town and Country Planning Association for his work.

Parker and Unwin’s work and philosophy attracted much interest in America, Parker publishing a series of twenty-eight articles on the Modern English Home in Gustav Stickey’s magazine ‘The Craftsmen’ published in New York between 1910 and 1912.

Barry Parker died at Letchworth on 21 February 1947. “Age had whitened his shock of hair but had not bent his back or diminished his courtesy or his delight of simple things” noted the Manchester Guardian.

1896        R B Parker “Moorlands” Buxton – (RA Exhibitor). Parker’s House and office
1897-1904    Parker and Unwin, The Quadrant, Buxton
1907        Norton Way, Letchworth, Hertfordshire - Parker's office

Obituary        Manchester Guardian 22 February 1947 page 3



Name Designation Formed Dissolved Location
Parker and Unwin architects town planners 1896 1915 Buxton Letchworth