Edwin Hubert Henderson Architect

This site is dedicated to the life and work of Edwin Hubert Henderson, architect (1885-1939). Henderson was Chief Architect of the Commonwealth of Australia from 1929-1939.

Studying Architecture in Newcastle

Armstrong Colleage c1906

Armstrong College c1892

What would Henderson’s professional education as an architect have been like at the beginning of the 20th century.


Rutter Carroll, a Newcastle-based architect and historian, has provided some useful guidance.

His architectural education would have been coordinated between his office and the Northern Architectural Association, (NAA). The NAA had developed architectural courses in conjunction with the RIBA and these were held in the School of Fine Art at Armstrong College in Newcastle, the forerunner of King’s College.

Like other schools of architecture based on the studio system of ‘years’ Newcastle has always had a tradition of face-to-face daily contact between teacher and student.

From the second half of the 19th Century, when the NAA began the educational process by holding evening classes for articled pupils, until the present full-time university school, there has developed a tradition which still continues. It is not known when formally organized courses of instruction began in Newcastle, but it seems probable that at the turn of the century, when the Architectural Association in London and Liverpool University started courses based on those at the Ecoles des Beaux Arts in Paris, a start was made in Newcastle in the already established School of Fine Art at Armstrong College.

There are no documentary records and all that is known about the School at that time is from tales handed down. Certainly the first instruction was concerned with teaching the historic styles of architecture and traditional craft methods of building. These were applied in drawing exercises, which took up the major part of the time in the classes.

This method of instruction had the virtue that it was closely geared to the practice of the time and followed the professional external examinations already established by the RIBA. The courses were taught by architects in local practice and produced people of almost identical mould.

The Northern Architectural Association (copied from here)

A key attribute of Newcastle’s architectural culture was the professional sensibility of its architects. The architectural profession in Newcastle represents a tradition reaching back to Dobson. This community formed itself into the Northern Architectural Association, which emerged in 1858 when a group of architects – including John Dobson, A.M. Dunn and R.J. Johnson – met in order to protest against the conditions of a competition held in South Shields. There was a close correspondence between the Northern Architectural Association and the Newcastle Society of Antiquarians; many of the city’s architects belonged to both, including A.M. Dunn, C.S. Errington, W.S. Hicks, R.J. Johnson, W.H. Knowles, A.B. Plummer and F.W. Rich.

Thomas Oliver Junior was a founder of the Northern Architectural Association and served as its Secretary and President for many years. Joseph Oswald joined the Association in 1876, becoming President for 1894-5. He was a member of the Society of Antiquaries and contributed several essays to its journal Archaeologia Aeliana. Oswald was also member of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland. W.S. Hicks published numerous essays as a member of the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries, including ‘Notes on the Chapel of Our Lady at Seaton Deleval’. Among the most active antiquarians was W.H. Knowles, a member of the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries who came to be regarded as ‘the father of the society’. He was also involved with the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland and the Victoria County History. He published numerous books and essays on the architecture and archaeology of the North East, including The Romano-British Site of Corstopitum (1907-14).

These bodies incubated a decidedly antiquarian spirit that was exemplified by the sensitive ecclesiastical restoration work of Thomas Austin, R.J. Johnson and others. The members read papers on a range of topics and visited notable buildings in Northumberland and County Durham, all of which helped to foster a unified approach. The Association, and similar artistic and antiquarian societies, fostered a strong community of architects and to some extent a unified model of practice. Individual tastes and preoccupations inevitably differed, but most Newcastle architects shared a respect for Northumberland’s ancient and medieval monuments, an aptitude for scholarly restoration work and a continued admiration of Grainger and Dobson. As the architect R. Norman MacKellar observed, reflecting on the history of the Association, ‘Few architects could have been more closely identified with the urban growth of their capital city for their nepotism decided not only how Newcastle was to be built but who was to build it.’



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