Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Phipps, Charles John

PHIPPS, CHARLES JOHN (1835–1897), architect, son of John Rashleigh Phipps and his wife Elizabeth Ruth Neate, was born at Lansdowne, near Bath, in 1835, and was articled in the office of Wilcox & Fuller of that city, with whom he remained till 1857. After a year's travel he opened practice in Bath, and was successful in 1862 with a design for the reconstruction of the Bath Theatre, which was completed in 1863, and which marked the direction of a future career, at variance both with the wishes of his parents, who disapproved of theatres, and with his training, which was Gothic and ecclesiastical. Phipps's early designs for buildings and furniture may be classed with the school of Godwin and Burges, whereas the theatrical works which rapidly followed his first success were naturally conceived in the more appropriate classic manner.

On transferring his office to London Phipps became recognised as an authority on theatre construction, and erected or altered more than a score of playhouses in London alone. The Gaiety was the first in date, and it was followed by the construction or alteration of the Queen's, Long Acre (since destroyed), Vaudeville, Strand, Sadler's Wells, Variety (Hoxton), Haymarket, Savoy, Princess's, Prince of Wales's, Shaftesbury (1888), Lyric (1889), Hengler's Cirque (subsequently altered by Phipps to serve as a skating palace), the theatre of the Lvric Club, and finally, his principal work (completed in 1897), Her Majesty's Theatre, Haymarket. He reconstructed the stage and auditorium of the Lyceum, Comedy, St. James's, and Globe, and superintended the erection of the Garrick in 1889 and the Tivoli in 1890. Phipps was associated with Mr. T. E. Knightley in the planning of the Queen's Hall, Langham Place, but the elevations are attributable to the latter (see Builder, 1897, lxxii. 519). Outside London Phipps designed the Theatres Royal at Plymouth, Torquay, Brighton, Eastbourne, Swansea, Worcester, Nottingham, Sheffield, South Shields, Darlington, and Portsmouth, at which last he also designed the Empire Palace. For Bristol he constructed the Prince's Theatre ; for Hastings the Gaiety ; for Wolverhampton and Dover the Grand and the Tivoli respectively ; and for Liverpool he both built the Rotunda and remodelled the Alexandra. Phipps designed the opera houses at Leicester, Northampton, and Leamington, and there are further specimens of his theatre work in Scotland at Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dumfries, and Aberdeen, in Ireland at Dublin, Belfast, Londonderry, and Cork. He twice rebuilt (1873 and 1883) the Theatre Royal at Glasgow, and also twice rebuilt (1880, 1895) the theatre of the same name at Edinburgh, where he also carried out the Lyceum. His works at Dublin are the Gaiety and the Leinster Hall. Phipps's principal designs of a non-theatrical character were the Devonshire Club, St. James's Street ; the Carlton Hotel, Haymarket, part of the same design as Her Majesty's Theatre, which was carried out and modified after his death; the Lyric Club, Lyric Chambers, and flats in Shaftesbury Avenue ; various business premises in the Strand, Ludgate Hill, and Moorgate Street ; the Savoy Turkish Baths and the militia barracks at Bath. For fifteen years he was advising architect to Drury Lane Theatre, and was consulted by committees of the House of Commons and by colonial governments on questions of theatre construction and acoustics. He was a fellow (1866) of the Royal Institute of British Architects, serving on its council in 1875-6, and also of the Society of Antiquaries. He died at 26 Mecklenburgh Square on 25 May 1897.

Phipps married on 10 April 1860 Miss Honnor Hicks, by whom he had issue two sons and three daughters. For some time previous to his death he had been associated in partnership with his son-in-law, Mr. Arthur Blomfield Jackson.

[R.I.B.A. Journal, 1897, iv. 380; Builder, 1897, lxxii. 488; Biograph.iv. 399-402; private information.]

P. W.