Sydney Smirke, architect and younger brother of Sir Robert Smirke, was born in London on 14th January 1798. He was a pupil of his brother Robert, whom he greatly assisted in his later commissions and gained great experience. In 1819 he was awarded the gold medal at the Royal Academy. He then visited Sicily and mainland Italy for several years. His undertook approximately eighty commissions including country houses, ecclesiastical buildings including York Minster, as well as his most famous project, the reading room at the British Museum. Smirke died at Frant, near Tunbridge Wells, on 8th December 1877.