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C.J. Dawson

Articles > People > A-D

Charles James Dawson 1850-1933
Distinguished Barking Architect

Bill George

In the last few years the centre of Barking has changed dramatically. Since I moved to Barking in 1982 the town centre has been altered virtually beyond recognition. For  example East Street has been pedestrianised, a gyratory has been created, the old swimming baths and fire station demolished, Marks and Spencers has closed, Vicarage Field developed, the Barking Learning Centre has grown out of the library, flats built  in the town centre, a new town square created and a bandstand opened. Change and decay, development and progress continue apace. This short note gives an account of Charles Dawson who gave more than 50 years service as surveyor and eminent architect to  Barking from 1883 until his death, aged 82, in 1933. He was responsible for many of the public buildings and spaces in Barking. His legacy survives in the Magistrates Court, Barking Park, Ripple Cemetery and many schools.

Family Matters:
His grandfather was Charles Greenwood Dawson (1795-1860), auctioneer and surveyor and secretary  to the first Barking Gas Company which was founded in 1839. He died aged 65, in April 1860. His parents, C.T. Dawson and Sarah Holmes married in the summer of 1847. Sarah’s father William Holmes, a bricklayer, died in 1866. Her mother died in 1867.  His father was Charles Thomas Dawson who was clerk to the first Local Board of Health.  He was also Registrar of Births and death. In 1853 he became clerk to the Barking Local Board of Health. He died on 23 rd  February 1858 leaving a widow and a leasehold house and premises at Heavy Waters, Barking, occupied by a Mrs. Ray. His effects were valued at under £200. The witnesses of his will were Joseph and Anne Frogley, the parents of the author of the fascinating  Frogley Manuscript partially published by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Libraries and edited by Tony Clifford and Bert Lockwood. Unusually his father was succeeded by C.J. Dawson’s grandfather, confusingly another Charles Dawson. His  mother Sarah Dawson died on 12 th July 1913 in her 86 th year. She was a strong character, did a great deal of  good work in the town and was very highly respected by all who knew her.

Children of Charles James Dawson and Hannah Maria Ford




Charles Ford Dawson


Alive 1934

Henry Holmes Dawson


Estate £1,933

Frank Holden Dawson



Ernest Greenwood Dawson



Reginald Dawson


Estate £297

Edmund Ainsworth Dawson


Estate £2,069

Kathleen Hannah Dawson


Estate £1,745

Douglas James Septimus Dawson


Estate £88

Winifred Dawson


Estate £1,450

Dorothy Norah Ellen Dawson


Estate £5,373

Eleanor Sarah Dawson



Agatha Martha Dawson


Buried 30th May 1895 aged 6 months

Edgar Octavius Dawson


Estate £19,183

Geoffrey Novem Dawson


Alive in 1976

Charles James Dawson was born in Barking on 21 st  August 1850. He married Hannah Maria Ford in 1875 at St. Saviours, Southwark. She was a daughter of an Aylesbury grocer who moved to Barking in 1842 (Frogley Manuscript page 337). They had fifteen children. Ten survived their parents. Details of some  of his children are listed above.

Charles James Dawson was, according to his obituary in the local paper, one of the greatest and most highly esteemed, of Barking’s citizens. He was a gifted architect and had a kindly, genial personality, and a delightful sense  of humour which made him very popular and well known in Barking and further a field. At his funeral, the Vicar Canon H.C. Robins, recalled that Dawson was a character marked by consideration for others by sterling integrity, and by incomparable devotion  to duty and to work. The Deputy Mayor, who had known Dawson for 60 years testified that he was a true type of the English gentleman who was well known for his generosity, kindness, and sympathy, and the great help he rendered to those in distress.

Dawson’s mother noted her son’s bent for drawing and articled him to Mr. S.J. Thacker, A.R.I.B.A., a London architect and surveyor. Dawson later spent several years working with the eminent firm of London Builders Messrs.  Holland and Hannen. He gained much experience which later fitted him to conduct a varied and extensive practise as an architect for 54 years. Dawson was elected the first surveyor of the Barking Town Local Board when it was formed in 1882. He started  on 1 st February 1883 and worked part time for the Board, with an annual salary of £80. In addition to his salary he received a percentage upon all undertakings by the Board. Frogley  observed "thus in consequence of the costly improvements that took place yearly, his appointment rapidly advanced him" (Frogley Manuscript page 253). In April 1888 Dawson submitted plans for improvements to Longbridge Road, which included the planting  of trees (Frogley Manuscript page 464). In 1889 C.J. Dawson was paid £3.63p fees out of Sir Charles Fanshawe’s charity. This annoyed Frogley because the costs of the charity outweighed the income and as a result no money was able to be paid  to the deserving poor (Frogley Manuscript page 141). In 1893 Dawson was appointed architect for the Ilford School Board. From 1895 until 1899 he worked for the District Council. In March 1896 his son Charles Ford Dawson was appointed Assistant Surveyor  under his father at £90 per annum. Later Dawson senior resigned as surveyor and his eldest son Charles Ford Dawson succeeded him as surveyor to the council.

Some Buildings designed by Charles James Dawson 1850-1933


Building or Scheme


Rippleside Cemetery Chapel, Barking


Barking Church (windows) and 1907


Gascoigne School, Barking


Public Officers (now Magistrates' Court - closed)


Church Infants School North Street


North Street School (now Northbury)


Rippleside School, Barking


Cleveland Road School, Ilford


Barking Park (with C.F. Dawson)


Denmark Arms, East Ham (extension, interior and entrances)


Westbury School, Barking


Highlands School, Ilford


St. Clement's Church, Park Avenue, Ilford


Friends Meeting House (now Gurdwara Singh Sabha)


Walthamstow High School for Girls, Church Hill


Ripple School


399 High Street, Stratford - London and South Western Bank


Barclays Bank, 80-81 Fleet Street, London (with partners)


Memorial Hall King George V Hospital Ilford (with partners)


New Park Hall Evangelical Church, Axe Street (with partners)


King George Hospital, Ilford (with partners)


Cambell,  Erkenwald, Roding and Monteagle Schools


Woodward Library, Woodward Road, Barking (with partners)

C.J. Dawson was simultaneously appointed consulting architect to Barking Borough Council at £50 per annum (Frogley  Manuscript page 261). C.F. Dawson held the post for 24 years before he left Barking to become City Estates Surveyor and Valuer to the City and County of Bristol 1923-1934.  In 1907 C.J. Dawson was paid £250 by the Council for offices he had occupied  for 15 years in East Street. Frogley (manuscript page 439) was rather suspicious of this deal. C.J. Dawson temporarily resumed the office of surveyor to the Council during the Great War whilst his son served in the Forces. During his employment C.J. Dawson  designed the public offices, public baths, fire station as well as the park and boating lake. Dawson left many public and private buildings in Barking, Ilford, London and numerous other places. His greatest success was as a school architect in Barking  and Ilford. His firm was responsible for Eastbury, Cambell, Erkenwald, Roding, Dawson and Monteagle Schools. The King George Hospital, Ilford opened by the King and Queen in 1931 was the work of his firm associated with T.A. Pole.  He became a F.R.I.B.A.  in 1889. He was one of the senior members of the Institute of Municipal and County Engineers having been elected in 1884. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Sanitary Institute. In 1896 Dawson was a witness in the Byfords Wharf case and gave evidence that  he could remember the pathway about 40 years previously and had used it (Frogley Manuscript page 318). In 1920 he took his second son, Henry Holmes Dawson (1878-1964) into partnership with him and Henry William Allardyce (1867-1953) who had been his chief  assistant for some years. The practice of Messrs C.J. Dawson, Son and Allardyce had offices at the Clock House Chambers, Barking and Gracechurch Street, London. Dawson was obviously proud of his family's long period of service to Barking. In the Book of Barking A.D. 43 - A.D. 1931 it is recorded (page 19) " Mr. Chas. J. Dawson is to present to the Town a Panel showing the names of the first Local Board of Health, to which his late father was first Clerk, and the second Local Board of Health, to which he himself acted as Surveyor".  He completed 50 years continuous service to the Council shortly before he died.

Death & Wealth: Charles James Dawson died suddenly on Monday afternoon at his property, Wykeham House, Queens  Road, Barking on 24 th July 1933. He had been in poor health for some time but was working at the time of his death studying plans when he suddenly fell forward and died almost immediately.  Two of his daughters were with him at the time. His wife had died only 12 days before him after. They had been married for 58 years. His funeral took place "amid widespread demonstration of respect and sympathy. A service was held at St. Margaret's church. The church and Town Hall flags were flown at half mast. The hymns "All people that on earth do dwell" and "Rock of Ages" were sung. He was buried in Ripple Cemetery in Plot D50 near the chapel. The funeral was attended by many members of the  Dawson family as well as local dignitaries including the Mayor, Alderman, Councillors, town clerk and other council officers,  Kenneth Glenny, the Hewetts, Colonel Loftus, F.J. Brand and Mr. F. Frogley. A beautiful bunch of lilies was sent from the Dawson  Infants School.



Rippleside Cemetery Chapel: Designed by C.J. Dawson 1886

Rippleside Cemetery Chapel: Designed by C.J. Dawson 1886


The funeral arrangements were carried out by Messrs. J. Cooper and Son, Barking.  His estate was valued at £27,610-6-4d.  His will dated 16 th  November 1930 stipulated that his estate was to be equally divided between his children. The grandchildren of any deceased children were to share their parent’s portion.

Dawson was a prodigious architect who changed the face of Barking with his Jacobean and Georgian style buildings. Probably his most important contribution to Barking was the  large number of new schools he designed. A proper full scale account of life and work is long overdue.


Anon. 1933. Death of Mr. C.J. Dawson, of Barking. Remarkable Record of Public Service. And a peaceful ending. Barking, East Ham & Ilford Advertiser. Saturday 29 th  July 1933.

Anon. 1933. Charles James Dawson 1850-1933. Obituary. Builder Vol. 145 (1933) 28 th July 1933. page 136.

Anon. 1933. Charles James Dawson 1850-1933. Obituary. Journal Institute of British Architects Vol. 40 (1932/3) page 815.

Anon. 1964. Henry Holmes Dawson 1878-1964. Obituary. Building Vol. 206 (1964) page 696.

Cherry, Bridget. 2005. London 5: East. The Buildings of England. 864 pages. ISBN 0 300 10701 3.

Dawson, C.J. 1932. The Development of School Design in The Schools of Barking by Sir Henry Hadow. Pages 23-40.

Glenny, K. 1978. Dawsonia – the End of an Era. In Some Notes on Barking & Dagenham History: selected from the pages of the Newsletter of the Barking Historical Society 1970-1979. Barking Historical Society. 1978. 10 pence.
 Report based on notes made during the talk.

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