Training and early work
After serving an apprenticeship of seven years with John Powning of Exeter, he went to London in 1814, and entered the office of David Laing, where he assisted him on the designs for the Custom House. He then set up his own practice, working from an address in Great Ormond Street, and then, from 1830, at 1, Gordon Square.
Fowler generally worked in a classical style, often freely interpreted. Thomas Leverton Donaldson described him as "gifted with a practical rather than an imaginative turn of mind.". His first work of importance was the court of bankruptcy in Basinghall Street, finished in 1821. This was a substantial brick building, raised over a granite basement and stuccoed in imitation of rusticated stonework. It had a courtyard, two sides of which had open arcades, supported on square granite columns.
In 1822 Fowler entered the competition to design the new London Bridge, and won first prize, with a proposal for five-arched bridge. However, the scheme was rejected by a committee of the House of Commons, and the commission awarded to John Rennie. Four years later he rebuilt the bridge across the River Dart at Totnes in his native Devon.
At some time around 1826, Fowler was commissioned by the Duke of Bedford to construct buildings to house the market in the Piazza at Covent Garden, until then accommodated in sheds and hovels. There as elsewhere he used Haytor granite, partly for its strength and partly out of a desire to encourage a Devon industry. He went on to build Hungerford Market in London, the site of which is now occupied by Charing Cross station. He had been asked to survey the site as early as 1824, but the act allowing the work and incorporating the company was not enacted until May 1830. Fowler's new building was opened in 1833. Donaldson praised the way in which Fowler exploited the complex, multi-level site, describing the "playful picturesqueness of the group, where court rose above court, galleries above galleries, and where the series of roofs outtopped each other." In this building, Fowler demonstrated his preference for lightweight construction. He later added an iron roof over the main courtyard. He also designed markets at Gravesend and Tavistock, and the Lower Market at Exeter where. he supervised the construction of the Higher Market, following the death of its designer.
Conservatory at Syon House
In 1827 he designed and built a Conservatory at Syon House for the Duke of Northumberland. It was an ambitious building, composed of glasshouses of varying width and height, with a total frontage of 230 feet; with a central tropical house is in the form of a Greek cross, with a glass dome 38 feet in diameter.
At Honiton, Devon, he built the church of St Mary (1837-8 ) in what Nikolaus Pevsner described as "the Norman style, or at least with plenty of Norman motifs", where he used an experimental roof design involving cast-iron ribs supporting a cement and tile covering. This however had to be replaced due to the amount of condensation it collected. His other ecclesiastical work included a chapel at Kilburn, St. John's Church, Paddington; a church at Charmouth; and the rebuilding and enlargement of the church at Bickleigh, Devon (1838). All except the chapel at Kilburn were in the Gothic style.
In around 1842, after winning a competition, Fowler built the Devon County Lunatic Asylum, designed on a radial plan of the panopticon type pioneered at Millbank Prison. He was also responsible for the London Fever Hospital. in Liverpool Road, Islington. This commission he received due to the influence of the Earl of Devon. The circumstances caused some controversy: a competition had been held to choose a design, and one by David Mocatta had been formally decided upon by the committee, but it was set aside and Fowler was brought in to carry out the work.
He entered many architectural competitions, coming third in the contest for the Nelson monument in Trafalgar Square with a proposal submitted jointly with the sculptor R.W. Sievier. He was architect and surveyor to the Amicable Society, and to the West of England Fire and Life Insurance Office. He was employed by Sir Ralph Lopes, the Bishop of Exeter, and the Courteney family for whom he executed considerable alterations and additions to Powderham Castle.
Institute of British Architects
He exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1825 and 1847.
He retired from his profession in 1853, and died at Great Marlow, Bucks, on the 26th of September 1867.
- Donaldson, TL (1867). "Memoir of the Late Charles Fowler, Fellow". Papers Read at the Royal Institute of British Architects: 1–15.
- Graves, Algernon (1905). The Royal Academy: A Complete Dictionary of Contributors from its Foundations in 1769 to 1904 3. London: Henry Graves. p. 149.
- Allen, Thomas; Wright, Thomas (1839). The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark and Parts Adjacent 3. London: George Virtue. p. 108.
- "New Hungerford Market". Gentleman's Magazine: 201–3. 1832.
- G. H. Gater and E. P. Wheeler (editors) (1937). "Hungerford Market and the site of Charing Cross railway station". Survey of London: volume 18: St Martin-in-the-Fields II: The Strand. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
- Pevsner, Nikolaus (1952). South Devon. The Buildings of England. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. p. 183.
- "Buildings for Public Purposes". The British Almanac: 239. 1849.
- Mace, Rodney (1975). Trafalgar Square:Emblem of Empire. London: Lawrence & Wishart. p. 63. ISBN 0-85315-367-1.
- The West of England Fire and Life Insurance Company was acquired in 1894 by Commercial Union Assurance Company, which in 1998 merged with General Accident to form CGU. In 2000 Norwich Union merged with CGU.
- Jeremy Taylor, "Charles Fowler (1792-1867): A Centenary Memoir", Architectural History, 11 (1968), pp. 57–74+108-112 doi:10.2307/1568322