Frederick Gibberd

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Frederick Ernest Gibberd
Coventry, England
Buildings1933–1936, Pullman Court, Streatham, London
ProjectsHarlow New Town, The Gibberd Garden, London Central Mosque

Sir Frederick Ernest Gibberd RA (7 January 1908 – 9 January 1984) was an English architect, town planner and landscape designer. He is particularly known for his work in Harlow, Essex, and for the BISF house, a design for a prefabricated council house that was widely adopted in post-war Britain.


Gibberd was born in Coventry, the eldest of the five children of a local tailor, and was educated at the city's King Henry VIII School. In 1925 he was articled to a firm of architects in Birmingham and studied architecture under William Bidlake at the Birmingham School of Art, where his roommate was F. R. S. Yorke.[1]

A good friend of Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, Gibberd's work was influenced by Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and F. R. S. Yorke. He set up in practice in 1930, designing Pullman Court, Streatham Hill, London (1934–36), a housing development which launched his career. With the success of this scheme, Gibberd became established as the 'flat' architect and went on to build several other schemes including Park Court, Sydenham, London (1936) and Ellington Court, Southgate, London (1936) continuing to practise until the outbreak of the Second World War.

Gibberd and Yorke collaborated on a number of publications including the influential book The Modern Flat, which was published in 1937 and featured the then newly completed Pullman Court and Park Court, as well as many other European examples. He also designed the BISF house, a prefabricated form of council housing sponsored by the British Iron and Steel Federation and widely adopted by local authorities in Britain in the post-war period.[2]

He was consultant architect planner for the Harlow development and spent the rest of his life living in the town he had designed. His most notable works here include The Lawn, Britain's first modern-style point block, consisting of nine storeys arranged in a butterfly design on an area of open ground surrounded by oak trees; a trompe-l'oeil pair of curved terraces facing a cricket green at Orchard Croft, which won a British Housing Award in 1951; the pioneering broken-silhouette flats in Morley Grove; and much of the housing in Mark Hall neighbourhood, which is in its entirety a conservation area. The Harvey Centre lacks architectural distinction, but is notable as an early British example of a large purpose-built indoor shopping mall. His similarly pioneering Sports Centre has been demolished, as has the original town hall. The Water Gardens, although listed by English Heritage, have been spoilt by the abutment of a car park and shopping centre. The garden of his personal home at Marsh Lane (Gibberd Garden), on the outskirts of Harlow, a mixture of formal and informal design, contains architectural elements salvaged from his reconstruction of Coutts Bank in London.[3]

A further achievement by Gibberd in planning Harlow is his incorporation of works by many leading architects of the post-war years, such as FRS Yorke, Powell & Moya, Graham Dawbarn, John Poulson, Maxwell Fry & Jane Drew, Michael Neylan, William Crabtree, Leonard Manasseh, ECP Monson, Gerard Goalen, Gerald Lacoste, Richard Sheppard and H. T. Cadbury-Brown. A substantial collection of public sculptures is visible around the town, including works by Henry Moore, Elisabeth Frink, Auguste Rodin and Barbara Hepworth.

Gibberd wrote Harlow: The story of a New Town in collaboration with Len White and Ben Hyde Harvey. In 1953 he published Town Design a book on the forms, processes, and history of the subject.

His architectural firm, Frederick Gibberd Partnership, continues to practise in London.[4]

Personal life[edit]

He married first Dorothy Phillips, with whom he had one son and two daughters. She died in 1970.[5] He then married Mrs Patricia Fox-Edwards on 30 March 1972.[6] They remained married until his death.[7]

Gibberd was made a CBE in 1954 and knighted in 1967.[5]

Notable buildings[edit]

A view from the front the wigwam-shaped cathedral showing steps leading up to the entrance.
Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral
Ellington Court, Southgate
Nuneaton Library
A list of buildings by Frederick Gibberd
Homer House, Monson Street, Lincoln 1973
  • 1973, Homer House, Monson Street, Lincoln, England. Described by Pevsner as Two staggered wings of offices either side of a service block. Red brick with an emphatic chamfering of angles and a strong vertical accent of load-bearing buttress piers dividing the main elevations into seven and eight bays. The overall impact is of somewhat fortress-like austerity.[10]
  • 1973-1974. Thomas Cooper Memorial Chapel, High Street, Lincoln, England.[11]
  • 1980, The Harvey Centre, Harlow, Essex, England

Selected publications[edit]

  • The Architecture of England: from Norman Times to the Present Day. Architectural Press. 1938
  • Built in Furniture in Great Britain. Alec Tiranti, 1948.
  • Harlow: The story of a New Town (With Len White and Ben Hyde Harvey). 1980.
  • Town Design a book on the forms, processes, and history of the subject. 1953.


  1. ^ Richards, J. M.; Cox, Alan (2004). "Gibberd, Sir Frederick Ernest (1908–1984)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Online ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/31144. Retrieved 22 May 2008.
  2. ^ Wilkinson, Damon (23 January 2022). "Wythenshawe's Tin Town has the city's rarest homes - and a special story to tell". Manchester Evening News.
  3. ^ Wilson, Andrew (2002), Influential Gardners: The Designers who Shaped 20th-Century Garden Style, London: Mitchell Beazley, p. 186, ISBN 1-84533-179-6
  4. ^ "About us". Gibberd. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Sir Frederick Gibberd". The Times. 10 January 1984.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "Marriages". The Times. 30 March 1972.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "Lives in Brief". The Times. 24 October 2006.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ "Kingsgate Estate". Modernism in Metro-Land. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  9. ^ "Geograph:: 10 Spring Gardens (C) Stephen Richards". Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  10. ^ Antram N (revised), Pevsner N & Harris J, (1989), The Buildings of England: Lincolnshire, Yale University Press. pg 525
  11. ^ Antram N (revised), Pevsner N & Harris J, (1989), The Buildings of England: Lincolnshire, Yale University Press. pg 502

External links[edit]