John Annesley Brownrigg was born on 5 May 1911 and was educated at Fernden School, Haslemere, and Charterhouse.
In September 1928, he entered the office of Mr H S Goodhart-Rendel, FRIBA, as a junior assistant and, in October 1929, went on to obtain the Bartlett Exhibition in Architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University of London. There, he took a full degree course in architecture while doing practical work in various offices during vacations, and he graduated as BA (Arch) Lond. in July 1934.
In April 1934, he was employed as an assistant in the London County Council’s Architect’s Department where he worked on maintenance of hospitals and Institutions. He then went on to become Assistant Art Director at Fox-British Films Ltd in September 1934, being involved in the design and construction of film sets.
In November 1935, Brownrigg took over the projects of his father, Annesley Harold Brownrigg FRIBA of Annesley Brownrigg and Hiscock, Chartered Architects, while the latter had surgery on a duodenal ulcer. Annesley Brownrigg died very shortly after and his son’s personal papers show that his father’s untimely death hit him very hard.
In November 1935, he set up in practice on his own account in Guildford, focusing mainly on domestic work. From September 1940 to March 1941, he worked as panel architect on War Damage Valuation for the War Damage Commission. He had to abandon his fledgling practice when he was called up to serve in the Royal Navy in March 1941. He progressed to Lieutenant, RNVR, and served on HMS Queen.
After demobilization in April 1946, Brownrigg met Newman Turner at the Architectural Association where they were both attending a refresher course and together they restarted the practice. Stephen Cruickshank, another AA graduate, joined the firm a few months later.
Although Duncan Scott had previously been in practice with Annesley Brownrigg, it was not until 1955 that he joined forces with Brownrigg and Turner to form the practice now known as Scott Brownrigg & Turner.
Brownrigg’s architecture had a predominantly local focus. A great number of his projects were in Guildford and the surrounding area and the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in the town marked a high point in his career.
A large part of Brownrigg’s portfolio consisted of residential projects. He designed numerous housing developments as well as private houses, including a London residence for Stirling Moss and a house in Manhattan, New York, for another private client.
One of Brownrigg’s major interests was in the possibilities and variations of new ways of providing residential accommodation and he was instrumental in the research and development of timber-framed pre-fabricated houses designed for Guildway.
Other commercial work included several offices and shops in the centre of Guildford as well as facilities for the Water Board at Shere.
Brownrigg was stimulated by natural habitats and materials, exemplified by the house he built for himself and family within a disused quarry in the centre of Guildford. He was also a natural and energetic teacher who regularly gave classes in Guildford until shortly before his death at the age of 91 in 2002.
John Brownrigg’s papers are held at Surrey History Centre.