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   George Townsend Andrews

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George Townsend Andrews (1805-55) occupies an interesting position in the early development of railway architecture as a specialised field. A close friend and confidante of the first Railway King, George Hudson (1800-71), Andrews enjoyed a remarkable degree of freedom when it came to railway designs and this aspect of his work, largely confined to the decade 1839-49, gives us an interesting picture of the evolution of these building types. Andrews is probably best known for his country-town stations, such as Filey and Pocklington, whose Italianate dress and hipped trainsheds provide a recognisable house style. Contrasting with these is his vigorous gothic terminus at Richmond (Yorkshire) while Scarborough Station (1845), with its two-span trainshed, gives us one of the best opportunities left to experience the flavour of a larger terminus of that age.

Andrews was involved with a range of work outside the railway field, including churches, housing, and head offices for a number of York businesses, including two banks and the Yorkshire Insurance Company. He also encompassed hotels, such as Harrogate's White Hart, and that town's Montpellier Baths, one of the relatively few of his buildings to have been demolished.

Andrews was born on 19 December 1804, the grandson of a canon of St. Paul's Cathedral and a Jamaican sugar planter. He trained with Peter Frederick Robinson (1776-1858), a keen exponent of the 'Picturesque', and came to York at the age of 21 to supervise the most important commission of Robinson's career: the enlargement of the County Prison at York Castle. Andrews established a branch practice there, initially in partnership with Robinson, and designed his early buildings under the banner of 'Robinson & Andrews'. He also became involved in a number of business enterprises. His venture as a promoter of York's first railway, the York & North Midland, was a great success. His involvement with the Durham County Coal Company, which he was rash enough to chair for a time, proved a disaster.

The eighteen-forties were a particularly busy period when, besides numerous railway buildings, he was designing a number of prominent York landmarks: the Yorkshire Insurance Building, the De Grey Rooms and the original premises of York St. John University, as well as undertaking a sensitive restoration of the medieval Lendal Tower. Railway work included the Hull Station Hotel, one of the largest outside London at the time, as well as the terminus itself. Hudson was also responsible for a 'new town' development on Whitby's West Cliff, in which Andrews was both architect and a prominent investor. Meanwhile, the proceeds of a flourishing career were ploughed into building up a collection of over a hundred paintings by contemporary artists, in which York's own William Etty - a friend of Andrews - featured prominently.

Railway development in the mid eighteen-forties was fuelled by a speculative boom, the Railway Mania, which collapsed with the financial crisis which began to take hold from August 1847. Hudson had maintained high dividends on many of the railways he chaired by milking the capital raised to build new lines. With money in short supply he could no longer do so, and in 1849 his practices were exposed and he fell from grace. Railway share prices had been on the slide since 1847, due to declining revenues, but the revelation of Hudson's misdeeds dealt a further blow to investors' confidence. Andrews saw the value of his investments fall badly but reacted by some unwise share speculation. The end result was that he had to realise his assets, including the art collection, which was auctioned at Christie's in May 1851.

By then, railway commissions had virtually dried up, though he was still consulted in respect of York Station, where his last significant work was the Station Hotel, opened in February 1853. With the economy generally in a weak condition, other commercial clients were hard to find, and the works of Andrews' final years appear to consist largely of housing, leavened by a number of churches and schools. He died at his home in York's Peckitt Street on the morning of 29 December 1855.


Bill Fawcett, George Townsend Andrews of York: 'The Railway Architect', Yorkshire Architectural & York Archaeological Society and North Eastern Railway Association, 2011. ISBN 978 1 873513 76 7 (For further details see G T Andrews Biography)

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© W. Fawcett, 2011