Sir Horace Jones

Sir Horace Jones was an English architect surveyor to the City of London, most famous for designing Tower Bridge. Discover the story of the man behind the Bridge as well as his other impressive achievements.

Image above: one of the original designs for Tower Bridge

Sir Horace Jones

Who was Sir Horace Jones?

Sir Horace Jones was born in 1819, in Bucklersbury, near Mansion House in the City of London. He began his architectural career with John Wallen, of Aldermanbury, and then went to study architecture in Italy and Greece from 1841 to 1842.  

Returning to London, Jones opened an architectural practice at Furnival's Inn, Holborn. Few of his projects from this time, such as Cardiff Town Hall, survive but Caversham Park, near Reading, did.   

Caversham Park was built for the ‘Iron King’, William Crawshay II, owner of Cyfarthfa Ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales. Fittingly, Jones constructed this vast stately home over an iron frame, a technique he used in many later buildings.

Jones also surveyed estates in Tufnell Park and Bethnal Green, but his life and career changed in 1864, when he was elected City of London Surveyor.  

At Guildhall, he constructed a new roof for the Great Hall in 1864–68, and then a new Library from 1870-72. The library survives, but the roof was destroyed during the Second World War.

Portrait of Sir Horace Jones by Walter William Ouless © Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London

What did Sir Horace Jones design?

In 1866, Jones also completed the wonderfully entitled City of London Pauper Lunatic Asylum in Dartford. 

As City Surveyor, Jones not only designed one of the most recognisable buildings on earth, but also a trio of London’s most spectacular markets, starting with Smithfield Market. 

This huge building, with its colourful decorative ironwork, was constructed in three stages over 17 years. Completed in 1883, Smithfield Market remains the last surviving wholesale market in the City and will become home to the Museum of London in 2024.  

Meanwhile, Jones also found time, in 1871, to convert Deptford Dockyard into a foreign cattle market and also build Billingsgate Market. A short distance upriver from Tower Bridge, it was the world’s largest fish market when completed in 1878. 

Lastly came Leadenhall Market, completed in 1881, where once again Jones displayed his love of ornate ironwork. There has been a market located there since 1377, when it was ‘for foreigners’ (meaning people from outside London). More recently, it has popped up in some Harry Potter movies

In 1880, Horace designed Temple Bar Memorial to mark the border between the Cities of London and Westminster. If you can avoid the traffic and reach the centre of the road, try to find Jones’ likeness on one of the brass plates. 

Jones was President of Royal Institute of British Architects from 1882–84, and knighted on 30 July 1886, but none of these achievements compare to the fame of his most recognisable work, the iconic symbol of London, Tower Bridge.  

The man behind Tower Bridge

Sir Horace Jones

A pen-and-ink drawing by Jones, from his 1884's design, which depicted the bascules closed for passage of road traffic. © London Metropolitan Archives, City of London (ref COL/SVD/PL/03/0293).

Parliament passed The Tower Bridge Act on 14 August 1885. Jones and his partner, John Wolfe Barry, were appointed to superintend construction, which began on 22 April 1886.  

Just over a year later, on 21 May 1887, Sir Horace Jones died, and never saw its completion.

Where is Sir Horace Jones buried?

His tomb in West Norwood Cemetery, South London, stands in complete contrast to his vast, ornately decorated buildings. It is a plain, austere, and understated memorial to this half-forgotten Londoner.