Charles Brett

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Sir Charles Edward Bainbridge Brett
Born 30 October 1928
Holywood, County Down, Northern Ireland
Died 19 December 2005
Northern Ireland
Nationality UK
Other names C.E.B. Brett; Charles E.B. Brett; Charlie Brett
Occupation Solicitor
Known for Irish historic building publications, heritage activism, politics; first chairman of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society; Awarded CBE and KBE

Sir Charles Edward Bainbridge Brett CBE (30 October 1928 - 19 December 2005). Born in Holywood, County Down, was a Northern Irish solicitor, journalist, author and founding member, and first chairman, of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS). He was known to many simply as Charlie Brett.

Early life and education[edit]

Sir Charles was born into a long line of solicitors, the family firm being L'Estrange and Brett, based in Belfast, he was a partner there from 1954 until 1994. He was educated at Aysgarth School, Rugby School and New College, Oxford; where he was President of the Poetry Society and a friend of Dylan Thomas and attended lectures by Lord Clark.[1]


Between 1949 and 1950 he worked in France as a journalist with the Continental Daily Mail, where he is said to have mixed in anarchist and Trotskyite circles.

In 1956, the Earl of Antrim invited Charlie Brett to join the Northern Ireland Committee of the National Trust, on finding there were no books written to prepare himself for this to this Sir Charles resolved to write the necessary volumes. In 1957 he became the first chairman of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, founded alongside, amongst others Lady Dunleath. Brett served as chairman for ten years and then as President from 1979 until his death.

With the National Trust he put his legal skill to use in order to establish a public footpath along the cliffs of the North Coast of Ulster.

He also sat on the board of the Irish Architectural Archive in Dublin.

Later life[edit]

In 1971, he was appointed to the board of the newly created Northern Ireland Housing Executive. He served as Chairman for five years from 1979, during which time 50,000 dwellings were built. He was asked to compile a list of historic buildings in Jersey in 1975. In 1986, Sir Charles became the first chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, established to encourage investment in Ireland.

Sir Charles was also involved in Northern Irish politics, being chairman of the Northern Ireland Labour Party for a time

In 1981 he received a CBE, this was followed by a Knighthood in 1990.

St. Mary's Church of Ireland

Sir Charles was married and had three sons, and seven grandchildren. His church memorial is located along those of his family in the Comber Church of Ireland Parish Church of St. Mary, in Comber, North County Down.

Interior of St. Mary's Church of Ireland

Published works[edit]

His volumes, published as C E B Brett included books on the local architecture of the buildings of County Armagh, County Antrim and North County Down.

In 1974, the National Trust of Guernsey invited Brett to carry out a similar architectural survey of St Peter Port, Guernsey, to mark European Architectural Heritage year in 1975, resulting in the publication of Buildings in the Town and Parish of St Peter Port. The successful result was repeated for the island of Alderney in 1976, and St Helier, Jersey in 1977.

He wrote one satirical volume under the pen name: "Albert Rechts", which was an anagram of his name.

He also wrote a volume titled Long Shadows Cast Before , incorporating family history, political commentary and autobiography.


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