Arnold Machin

From humble beginnings as a potteries apprentice Arnold Machin rose to become an acclaimed sculptor creating the iconic bas-relief portrait of Her Majesty the Queen used on all Royal Mail definitive issue stamps.

Patricia Machin

Patricia Machin was born in 1921 and studied painting at Goldsmith's where her tutor was Leonard Applebee. Finding inspiration from the Old Masters and still-life, she was an established painter, illustrator, designer and author.

Francis Machin

Architect, sculptor, businessman and painter, Francis Machin was a talented designer responsible for a range of conservatories and garden buildings still seen throughout the United Kingdom, United States and Europe.

Architect, sculptor and painter, Francis Machin also drew with an Ardizzone touch. He sketched out bird’s-eye views of buildings and gardens as he talked at dazzling speed. His artistic eye showed too in his many photographs, stemming from acute powers of observation. Francis Machin was born in 1949. His father, Arnold Machin, RA, was best known for his classic heads of the Queen on postage stamps and coins. Francis’s mother, Patricia (née Newton), was a talented painter, particularly of gardens and flowers. 

Machin studied architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture (1968-73) in London, where he was taught by Sir Terry Farrell, who considered him one of his most talented pupils. His first job was in the office of the commercial architect, Colonel Richard Seifert. There he and a fellow student, Malcolm Elliot, designed an office building – which stands beside Covent Garden Tube station – before they had even qualified.

His interest in garden buildings led him to his best-known venture, Machin Conservatories. His were built of aluminium with a distinctive ogee (flame-headed) silhouette and were soon to be seen attached to smart houses and hotels in London and the country. Establishing a factory near Stone he won the Queen’s Award for Industry in 1989. The largest of his conservatories was designed for the first International Garden Festival at Liverpool in 1984.

From his late twenties Machin showed a passionate interest in preserving and adapting old buildings, often in innovative ways. He joined with gusto in the campaign to save Mentmore Towers, drawing posters and postcards for the SAVE Britain’s Heritage campaign. For SAVE he drew an inspired series of schemes – published as Bright Futures – showing how derelict industrial buildings could be reused and the blighted landscapes around them transformed by imaginative planting.

Most recently his lively drawings of South Kensington Tube station, as it is and as it could be, helped to avert demolition and secure the station’s listing.

His biggest scheme of this kind was the first of the Battersea riverside conversions at Ransome’s Dock – a group of warehouses built for the ice-cream manufacturer Carlo Gatti. Working with the entrepreneur Paul Cooke, Machin created a lively complex of shops, restaurant and offices. He also designed two stylish, split-level penthouses, one for himself, as well as building a rooftop conservatory. This led in turn to a penthouse (with swimming pool) on the roof of Abbot’s House in Kensington and one of the first warehouse conversions in Smithfield, Denmark House, with a shop below and flats above.

One quality of Machin’s architecture was his bold use of natural materials, particularly wood and stone. He used these in adventurous ways, notably in broad spiral staircases with jazzy balustrades.


Source: This article is an edited version of an appreciation by Marcus Binney , the distinguished architectural historian, and the orginal full article was published in The Times Newspaper. Marcus Binney and Francis Machin collaborated on several projects including a book Bright Future: The Reuse of Industrial Buildings .

The original text was used with kind permission of The Times.