Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: September 23, 2019
Webpage updated: January 04, 2020



HENRY JOHN SNELL (1843-1924)

Although John Foulston is Plymouth's most celebrated architect there are in fact more buildings designed by Mr  H J Snell surviving in the City.

Henry John Snell was born in East Stonehouse in 1843.  (His father was Mr Samuel Furse Snell, a carver and gilder, originally from Great Torrington, Devon).  At the age of 7 he attended the Lyceum Academy in Westwell Street, a school run by a Mr Baker.   He left there at the age of 13 and entered the Plymouth Public Free Schools in Cobourg Street.  His talent for drawing was spotted by the master, Mr George Jago, who offered him every encouragement and one year chose him to make the pen and ink drawing which was annually presented to the school's president.

Upon leaving school in March 1859, he joined the business of Messrs Damant and Reid, architects, who were the successors to Mr George Wightwick (1802-1872).   He remained for five years, which was presumably an apprenticeship, before becoming an assistant architect.  In March 1867 he started his owner practice but only nine months later went into partnership with another well-known local architect, Mr Ambrose.

On January 15th 1868 he married Miss Amelia Mary Ann Clarke at Charles Church.  His sister, Miss Mary Fanny Snell, also married at Charles Church, on September 18th 1870.  She married Mr Walter Bishop.

When Mr Ambrose died, in about 1874, Mr Snell carried on the business on his own right up until he retired in 1904.

For the whole of that period Mr Henry John Snell was at the forefront of all the local building enterprises.  He worked throughout the South West of England but within Plymouth alone he designed:

He also laid out the Seven Trees building estate (Baring Street, Mildmay Street, Whitefield Terrace, and including the South Devon and East Cornwall Hospital); the Lockyer building estate (Lockyer Road, Wilderness Road and Townsend Crescent); and the Whiteford estate (Whiteford Road, Thornhill Road and Vapron Road).   Mr Snell was also responsible for designing numerous shops, warehouses, factories, mills, and residences, 27 other churches and chapels, 8 Sunday Schools and many other Board Schools.

Even in retirement, Mr Snell kept himself busy.  His most lasting service to Plymouth during that period was the care with which he catalogued the entire collection of books, pictures and engravings that made up the Cottonian Library in Cornwall Street in preparation for its transfer to the City Museum and Art Gallery in Tavistock Road.

Mr Henry John Snell died at his home, Grimstone House, Houndiscombe Road, Plymouth, on Thursday September 11th 1924.

His funeral service was held on Tuesday September 16th 1924 at Saint Matthias' Church and was attended by all the important municipal and business people of the day.  Among the family mourners were his nieces, Miss Fanny Bishop and Miss Annie Bishop, who as children had been living with him and his wife at the time of the 1881 census.  He was buried at what is today the Ford Park Cemetery.

The Snells had no children of their own so they helped his sister, Mrs Mary Fanny Bishop, to bring up hers, who were: Miss Fanny Amelia Bishop; Miss Annie Bishop; Miss Louise Bishop; Mr Walter Snell Bishop; Mr Samuel George Bishop; Miss Florence Bishop; and Mr Henry John Snell Bishop.  It is worth mentioning that Miss Fanny married an architect, Mr Albert Victor Rooke, and that 86-years-old Miss Florence sadly got burned to death on July 4th 1965, when Grimstone House was destroyed in a fire.  The youngest son emigrated to New Zealand and joined the New Zealand army in the Great War.  


  With acknowledgement to Maryanne Butler, in Australia, who had carried out research in to the Snell family for a relative in New Zealand;
and to the Devon Family History Society.