Frederick Settle Barff
He is best known as a chemist, having invented several important preservation methods for a range of materials, including iron, stone, wood and foodstuffs. Several of his stained glass windows still survive throughout Ireland and the north of England.
A portrait photograph of Barff appears in The History of St Stanislaus College, Beaumont, published in 1911.
Born in Hackney, London, the son of a doctor, Barff was educated at Christ's College, Cambridge, where he earned a BA in 1844, followed by an MA in 1847. After graduating, he was ordained at Peterborough and started work as an Anglican curate in Hull. He also served as curate of St Nicholas' Church, Leicester, before, in 1852, converting to Catholicism.
By the mid-1850s, Barff established Mssrs. F.S. Barff & Co., an ecclesiatical decorating company, in Liverpool.
He supervised the interior decoration of St Patrick's Church, Liverpool and painted the frescoes at Stonyhurst College. The firm also decorated the churches of St Wilfrid's, Preston and St Mary's, Chelsea.[notes 2]
By 1858 Barff's company had moved to Dublin, possibly influenced by his contemporary and fellow convert John Hungerford Pollen, where most of the work was undertaken for Catholic churches.
Works executed in Ireland:
|St Johnstown||St Baithen's Church||1860||Stained glass, high altar and side altar|
|Gargary||St Patrick's Church||1860ca||Altar and tabernacle.|
|Newtowncunningham||Church||1860ca||Stained glass in chancel and W gable|
|Letterkenny||Loreto Convent||1861||Stained-glass window in chapel.|
|Glenvar||Church of St Mary Star of the Sea||1862||Altar and reredos panels filled with enamel work|
|Galway||Congretational Church||1862||Stained glass window|
|Monaghan||St Patrick's Church||1862||Lord Rossmore testimonial window.[notes 3]|
|Dublin||St Catherine's Church||1862||High altar window, stereochromic painting|
|Dublin||St Paul's Church||1862–1863||Decoration|
|Dublin||St Patrick's Cathedral||1862 & 1863||Ascension window in S. transept, 1862.[notes 4] Window in N transept. Celtic Revival clerestory windows, 1863.|
|Mullagh||Church||1862ca||Caen stone altar.|
|Dublin||Shop(?) No. 93-94, Ryan Bros||1863||Decoration.|
|Ballinasloe||St Michael's Church[notes 5]||?||Stained glass window in apse.|
|Carlow||St Patrick's College||?||Chapel decoration|
|Dublin||St Mary's Pro-Cathedral||?||Decoration|
|Ardcath||St Mary's Church||?||High altar.|
During this period, Barff gave a lecture on Decorative Art to the Dublin Mechanics Institute[notes 6] and successfully patented several processes associated with his work, one of which won honourable mention during the 1862 International Exhibition.
|Oct. 1860||Improvements in the production of artificial stone, which improvements are also applicable to the preservation of stone, bricks, tiles, and other analogous substances and materials.|
|Oct. 1860||An improved self-acting apparatus for extinguishing candles in lamps or otherwise.|
|July 1861||A new or improved process for the induration and preservation of stone and other analogous absorbent substances or materials, which process is also applicable for the production of artificial stone.|
|June 1863||An improved means of protecting, preserving, and hardening surfaces of brick, cement, stone, stucco, and other analogous substances, which invention is also applicable to the preservation of timber.|
The company continued to operate until 1864, when it went bankrupt, at which time Barff returned to England.
On his return, Barff became a teacher at Beaumont College, a Jesuit school in Windsor, before moving to University College, London as assistant professor of chemistry. He later became professor of chemistry at the Royal Academy of Arts for eight years and also at the Catholic University College, Kensington, a position for which he was nominated by Cardinal Manning, as well as at the Beaumont College.
Society of Arts lectures
Barff delivered three series of Cantor Lectures to the Society of Arts: in 1870, on artistic colours and pigments; in 1872, on the treatment of carbon compounds for heating and lighting purposes; and a further series on Silicates, Silicides, Glass, and Glass Painting.
He also delivered the juvenile lectures, for 1878, on the subject of Coal and its Compounds.
Barff was awarded two Art Society's medals: one for a paper on Zinc White as Paint, and the Treatment of Iron for the Prevention of Corrosion and the other for his paper on A New Antiseptic Compound, the latter of which he presented to the society in March 1882.
- An Introduction to scientific chemistry, 1869.
- An introduction to scientific chemistry: designed for the use of schools, 1869
- Elementary chemistry, 1875.
Society of Arts publications
- On silicates, silicides, glass and glass painting, 1872
- Carbon & certain compounds of carbon, treated principally in reference to heating and illuminating purposes 1874
- The treatment of iron for the prevention of corrosion, 1877
Design and inventions
Barff is most widely remembered for his invention of a method of rust proofing cast iron, named after him. The method used superheated steam to form a layer of tri-iron tetroxide(Fe3O4), which proved much cheaper than traditional galvanisation. The method was subsequently improved by George Bower, after which the process became known as the Bower–Barff process. The Bower-Barff Rustless Iron Co. had works in Southwark and New York, the latter supplying cast-iron for many of the city's landmark buildings.
He also created an antiseptic compound, Boro glycerine, primarily for the preservation of meats but which subsequently found many medical uses. It is still used in some parts of the world as an oral antiseptic in the treatment of mouth ulcers. A caricature of Barff, contemplating a barrel of boro glycerine, appeared in an 1882 edition of Punch as No.84 of the Fancy Portraits series.
Barff was an early exponent of the use of hydrocarbons as fuel, starting Sim & Barff's Patent Mineral Oil Steam Fuel Company, for the purpose of developing heating, power and lighting systems which could operate on liquid hydrocarbons. At a time when experiments in the field appeared to show little promise of success, Barff believed that
...these oils are doubtless destined to form the marine steam fuel of the future.
Barff's design experiments to remove noxious elements from the exhaust products of combustion in locomotives and similar furnaces, a precursor to the catalytic converter, were met with some ridicule as the weight of reagents needed were almost equal to the weight of fuel burned.
|October 1869||A method by which the products of combustion evolved from locomotive engines and other furnaces (are) passed through vessels containing chemical reagents, the object being to fix the sulphurous acid and carbonic acid forming part of the gaseous products by causing them to form non-volatile compounds.|
|1876||A process by which iron is preserved from rusting (forerunner to the Bower–Barff process)|
- 1823 in his obituary.
- The Tablet, 13 Oct 1854(or 1855), 647 quoted in Irish Architectural Archive
- To a design chosen in competition.
- Not executed
- As illustrated.
- Presented in 1860.
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