Our History

The Tooley & Foster Partnership has a long history and has been in continuous practice since 1892 – last year we celebrated our 125th Anniversary and are now one of the longest-standing Practices in the UK. We have always been based in Buckhurst Hill, Essex, as well as having, at different times, branch offices in the West End and France.

It is a credit to the many Partners who have been involved that the Practice has survived two World Wars and several recessions. Architecture and the construction industry are always the hardest hit in history when there is a downturn in the economy, and the present Partners have survived recent difficult times by keeping abreast of new technologies, adopting a hands-on approach and continuing to provide a high level of service to our clients.

The Practice was originally set up by Herbert Tooley, who moved to the area from Sheffield when he married, and at the outset designed, among many diverse projects, a number of interesting local houses, many of which are still in existence today. In 1900, Rex Foster became his articled pupil and he spent nine years with the Practice while qualifying, before leaving to set up on his own. However, he found work very hard to come by and in 1910 was asked to return - it was then that the name Tooley & Foster was established.

Work grew steadily up to the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914, was virtually non-existent during it, and blossomed again from 1919 onwards when Rex Foster returned from service with the Royal Engineers. In 1922, Herbert Tooley retired early, tired from the war and unable to keep up with Rex Foster's new found energy in the post-war era!

The next decade was very busy for the Practice - undertaking large sewage schemes, extensions to hospitals and work at a number of schools - until the onset of the depression at the beginning of the 1930s when there was another serious downturn in work. Rex Foster's nephew, Bob Foster, joined him in 1936 before enlisting in the RAF after the outbreak of the Second World War, when the Practice had once again only a skeleton staff.

The post Second World War period under the new Labour Government was an exciting one, with the rapid growth of public sector work including a massive nationwide school building programme, the birth of the NHS and a drive to build as many new houses as possible. The Practice grew in size from small to medium with a staff of approximately 25 throughout the 1950s. It further increased in size and workload throughout the 1960s with the range of work expanding to include commercial projects, large prefabricated housing estates, the start of specialist housing and more school work.

Metrication brought changes to the way the Practice worked, and at the same time there was a move to provide additional services to complement the core discipline of Architecture: by the end of the 1970s this included Structural and Electrical Engineering, Landscape Architecture and Building Supervision. In 1962, the Practice moved into Warwick House where, courtesy of a number of refurbishments and extensions over the years, we are still located.

Our Centenary Anniversary in 1992 (featured in Building Design) coincided with one of the worst recessions in the Construction Industry and a project of two Multi-Storey Car Parks at Lakeside Shopping Centre effectively 'saved' the Practice at the beginning of 1993 - a planning application was made only three weeks after being appointed - and this was the start of slow but steady growth again throughout the 1990s.

The start of this century saw the trend continuing. By now the Practice had gone back to its core discipline of Architecture with associated Interior Design, and the size, range and quality of projects increased, including new buildings and refurbishments for prestigious clients such as Grosvenor Estate, Capital Shopping Centres, Clerical Medical, Local Authority and Public Schools, as well as many projects for different Housing Associations, for which we have won a number of national awards.

The main thrust of our current work includes Care and Extra Care Homes, Educational projects and buildings where sustainability, in which the Practice now has a professional specialism, is paramount.

To see our Timeline showing our 125 year history, please click here