State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 20 December 1977


Architectural Drawings As Historical Sources

On 27 April 1909 Percy Oakden, a senior architect, addressed the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects upon the subject ‘Early Records of Melbourne’. He urged especially that architects who had succeeded to older practices should sort out drawings and documents relating to older buildings and give them to the Institute or some other appropriate body. He also urged that all architects should arrange for drawings or photographs to record any building being demolished for the sake of new development.1
Oakden was in a particularly good position to take the lead in this matter. The earliest fully-fledged architectural practice in Melbourne, that of Charles Laing, had passed more or less unoffically to his former pupil and employee Leonard Terry. Terry himself had a very major practice specialising in banks and in work for the Anglican Church, and in 1874 Terry took the younger Percy Oakden into partnership. After Terry's death in 1884 Oakden continued the practice and in 1887 took in two employees in the partnership of Oakden, Addison and Kemp, which continued to do important work but did not survive the depression of the 1890s. Thus Oakden held the continuous records of a practice which was effectively the oldest and for a period of more than seventy years one of the most important in Melbourne.
Oakden was able to display plans and photographs of a number of works by Laing and Terry, plans of Melbourne and suburbs dating back to the 1840s (for Laing was City Surveyor of Melbourne from 1845 to about 1849) and sections through the principal streets of the city. The buildings included the old Union Bank at the corner of Collins and Queen Streets, the old Oriental Bank (not by Terry but by Robertson and Hale) which had been replaced by Broken Hill Chambers on the site now occupied by a modern office building at 31 Queen Street, the Polytechnic Hall in Bourke Street on the site of the Salvation Army Barracks, and the Age office in Elizabeth Street. He drew particular attention to ‘a remarkable set of plans, prepared at the instance of a public committee in 1852, as a scheme for providing shelter for 2,000 houseless immigrants’.
This unrivalled collection of illustrations, upon which Oakden had lavished his care, no longer survives. Oakden entered partnership in 1900 with his employee Cedric Ballantyne, and after Oakden's death in 1917 Ballantyne continued in practice at first by himself, in partnership with the engineer-architect Henry Hare in 1921–6, alone again until 1933, briefly with his associates B. P. Sutton and G. H. Sneddon, then in partnership with Sneddon alone until 1939. The practice remained an important one and Ballantyne's works included, for example, the now controversial Regent Theatre in Collins Street. Employees of the practice still survive, in particular Mr. Keith Reid who can remember being instructed in about 1925, while a junior in the office, to go down to the vaults and sort out and destroy the older and now useless material.
This process of deliberate destruction has been typical of architectural offices generally, and has of course been supplemented by the ravages of fire, water and decay. Almost nothing survives of Laing's drawings except those of Coryule homestead near Drysdale, designed by Laing in 1849, which were acquired by the La Trobe Library in 1952, and his unsuccessful competition design for Melbourne Grammar School also in the Library. Some of the later work of Terry and Oakden practice is recorded in the rare book What to Build and How to Build It2 published by the firm in 1885 after Terry's death, and some other drawings survive, particularly in the possession of churches which were designed by the firm. Drawings also survive of one of Terry's most important houses, ‘Norwood’ near Maryborough designed for the squatter Alfred Joyce, who is well-known from the reminiscences and letters published in A Homestead History3
The ‘Norwood’ drawings are amongst about 3,600 sheets of design and working drawings in the Melbourne University Architectural

New Theatre Royal, Bourke Street, Melbourne, by George Browne 1872. Elevation to Bourke Street (The 16–33).

Collection, which in 1975–6 was lodged in the La Trobe Library on permanent loan from the University's Department of Architecture and Building. The collection also includes photographic prints and negatives, architectural specifications and other documents, and a large number of measured drawings of historic buildings prepared in recent years by undergraduate students. It represents as nearly as possible a response to Oakden's plea to the profession in 1909, and yet it was assembled almost by accident.
There are of course other holdings of architectural material in Victoria. Some major architectural firms, like Stephenson and Turner, have their own properly maintained collections in fireproof storage and under the care of trained curatorial staff. Other smaller firms, while lacking this sophistication, may yet be interested in their records and conscious of their value: a good example is the firm of L. H. Vernon and Associates of Ballarat, which has succeeded to a number of earlier practices in the district and has thus acquired a disproportionately large amount of material relating to the Ballarat area, some of it very important. Material from other firms is being lodged at the La Trobe Library. The papers, although not so far the drawings, of the important A. & K. Henderson practice have been deposited by Mr. Peter Staughton. Mr. Alex Henderson (no connection of A. & K. Henderson) has recently deposited the remarkably complete records of the practice to which he succeeded, and which was founded by Ward and Carleton in the 1890s.
The Library has made approaches to some other architects following a National Estate-funded survey which recently located and rough-indexed a number of private holdings, and simultaneously advised the owners of the possibility of transferring material to the La Trobe Library. There are of course many official drawings kept by the Public Records Office, and others still in Government Departments. One of the least explored categories so far is the drawings submitted for building approvals and still held by some municipalities, although in the case of Melbourne Mr. Winston Burchett has been indexing the names of architects from the written records of building applications. Another important collection is the Melbourne University Archives, which holds material from the practice founded by Joseph Reed in 1853 and which has now become Bates, Smart and McCutcheon; also the records of the builders Clements Langford, including a large number of drawings, and those of the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. which introduced the Monier system to Victoria under the guidance of the engineer John Monash.
Apart from the miscellaneous architectural material acquired over the years, there were two special acquisitions in 1973 which, with the Melbourne University Collection, give the Library a claim to have the leading or perhaps the only integrated and substantial collection of architectural material in Australia. Firstly, the records of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects — effectively the oldest such body in the country other than those which began and foundered again in the early years — were lodged with the Library, and secondly the architectural slide collection of the late Peter Willé was purchased following his death, and launched the library for the first time on the course of collecting colour slides. More importantly, it provided a coverage of contemporary and earlier twentieth century buildings, and helped to correct the nineteenth century bias of other holdings.
The measured drawings in the Melbourne University collection cover a range of buildings which have been thought historically or architecturally important, with special concentration on specific areas like Portland-Port Fairy, Bendigo and Maldon where students in a particular year were encouraged to concentrate their attention. Measured drawing is no longer a required subject in any of the architectural courses in Victoria, and in the normal course of events this important source of building records might have virtually dried up. In connection with the Matthew Flinders Bi-centenary, however, the Victorian Government sponsored a measured drawing competition, the subjects to be selected from a list of buildings chosen as being in need of recording. The drawings submitted in the competition are lodged

Design for the lodge at Southampton Cemetery and for the shields on the chimney piece of the Common Room, Pembroke College, Oxford, 1846 (drawn to full scale), both from the folio of Nathaniel Billing.

in the Library, and it appears that this will become a regular event, so that in due course quite a comprehensive collection will be assembled.
The larger component of the Melbourne University collection consists of design and working drawings prepared by architects as a part of their normal practice, varying in scope from minor residential work to major commercial projects, and in date from the 1850s to the 1960s. The more recent drawings, of the 1950s and 1960s, are mainly dyeline prints of working drawings for major commercial and industrial buildings, and were collected for teaching purposes. The buildings concerned are no doubt important in their own right and will be of interest to future historians; however the dyeline prints are neither durable nor unique. For these reasons, and also because of the volume of building in the post-war period and the number of drawings prepared for each building are extremely large, it is not practicable to collect such records in any comprehensive fashion. The only way that the Library might consider building onto this segment of the collection would be in microfilm, and as major architectural practices are themselves resorting to microfilm this would in many cases be more or less superfluous.
The older drawings in the collection, by contrast, are mainly unique, of individually high quality, tolerably durable, and of considerable and immediate historical interest. They were acquired by the School of Architecture from various sources, partly at the initiative of David Saunders (now Professor of Architecture at Adelaide) and his successor George Tibbits. Some of them were transferred to the School together with the library collection of the now defunct Royal Victorian Institute of Architects. The Capitol Theatre drawings were discovered by students in the building itself when it was being remodelled to accommodate the present arcade. The very important records of the Pitt and Walkley practice appeared in rather mysterious circumstances at about the same time as the more obviously valuable of William Pitt's presentation drawings were put up for sale through an auctioneer. As the La Trobe Library bought six of these drawings at considerable expense it is pleasing to have them rejoined under the same roof by the great body of material from which they were plucked. Some other drawings were deliberately sought from their owners, and in some cases it is simply not known how they were acquired. The first group, out of the small selection which can be discussed here, falls into this last category.
In the collection is a large (845 × 590 mm) volume containing a collection of drawings which will be invaluable when a thorough and long overdue study of Nathaniel Billing (1821–1910) comes to be done. Billing was a competent Gothic revivalist who had been a pupil of Sir Gilbert Scott and claimed to have been in practice in Slough before he left England in 1853 to establish himself, somewhat inexplicably, at Belfast (or Port Fairy) in Victoria. From August 1853 to February 1855 he was the government clerk of works and he also developed a substantial practice in Port Fairy, Warrnambool and Portland, until in 1857 he departed to establish a practice in Melbourne. The book includes drawings of some of the private, ecclesiastical and government buildings designed by Billing while in Western Victoria, not all clearly identifiable, but including the Union Bank at Portland and the Bank of Victoria at Port Fairy; Christ Church at Warrnambool and St. John's Church at Port Fairy; Roman Catholic Schools at Warrnambool; and watchhouses at both Warrnambool and Port Fairy.
Together with these drawings are a number of others done in England before Billing's emigration, some dating back at least to 1844. Amongst them are sketches of architectural details from well-known Norman and Gothic works, such as Kilpeck Church in Hereford; others which may be drawn from works by contemporary architects which Billing thought it useful to record; and some which are certainly of work in which Billing himself was concerned. The date of 1844 appears on a detail for a staircase in an unidentified rectory, but the drawings of the more obvious interest are for various works at Pembroke College, Oxford. There are details for chimneypieces to the bursary and common room, including one drawing dated

St. John's Church, Belfast (Port Fairy), south elevation, from the folio of Nathaniel Billing.

1846, and these must form part of the work done on the north range of the Chapel Quadrangle by the architect John Hayward in 1844–46. In whatever capacity Billing may have been associated with the work it is clear that he was given some rein in the design of these elements. There are also drawings of a dining hall in the Perpendicular style, which must surely be the hall built by Hayward in 1848 at the west end of the same quadrangle.4
Another of Billing's drawings, for a villa at Hampton Wick, carries the name of H. W. Spratt, surveyor, of 95 York Road, Waterloo Bridge. Yet others are for an Episcopal and a Dissenting Chapel, of identical plan but in the Norman and the Early English styles respectively, and a Tudor gate lodge, all for Southampton Cemetery. Now the cemetery was laid out in 1846 by W. M. Rogers, but the gate lodge and chapels have never been definitely attributed to an architect, although Pevsner has tentatively suggested J. & J. Francis.5 We are left to wonder whether Billing was solely responsible for them, or whether he was employed by, say, J. & J. Francis, H. W. Spratt, or John Hayward.
Apart from his pupilage to Scott, little has until now been known of Billing's English antecedents, but there is now enough reason at least to doubt whether he was self-employed during his period at Slough as his obituary seems to imply. We do know of various Billings who practised in their own right and who may have been related: A. Billing and Son designed St. Martin's, East Wopdhay, as early as 1823; John Billing did various buildings in and around Oxford in the 1850s, and would seem to be a promising connection; and Arthur Billing designed a church at Kidmore End, Oxfordshire, but practised principally in London until at least 1879–80, when he did some restoration work at St. Sepulchre, Holborn Viaduct. It now remains for some researcher to establish the Billing family relationships and to explain buildings like those at Southampton.
Further research on Billing will be equally important from an Australian point of view. Too much attention has been lavished on William Wardell and his Roman Catholic connections as being the true apostles of the Gothic Revival in Victoria. Thomas Austin, another protege of Sir Gilbert Scott, reached Victoria in about 1865, but Billing had long preceded him, and was much more prolific. Billing claimed to be in direct line of descent from Scott, and as early as 1855 he designed St. John's Church at Port Fairy with what was alleged to be the first fully developed chancel in the colony, soon to be reported in the Illustrated London News and the London Builder.6 Not only is this church found in his volume of drawings, but also other interesting ecclesiastical works such as the chancel which he was called upon to add to his own Christ Church at Warrnambool in 1868, long after he had moved to Melbourne, and a particularly strident polychrome brick design for a church at Eltham which does not seem to have eventuated. All Saints, St. Kilda, which is perhaps the best of his later works, is not recorded in this collection. When he died, 57 years after his arrival in Australia, his obituary7 stated that he ‘belonged to a school which is now partly superseded, in which faithfulness to style was considered essential. His work was, like his character, distinguished by conscientious observance of correctness in detail.’ We are now able to trace this Gothicist's development back to the very sources from which he sketched in England.
Equal interest attaches for different reasons to some of the drawings of John James Clark (1838–1915), and particularly those for the Treasury building in Spring Street, which he is alleged to have designed between the ages of 19 and 21, while employed as a draftsman in the Public Works Department. We know at least that he signed drawings from December 1857 and that a contemporary report describes him as having ‘been engaged in designing the new Treasury’8, but his absence from Melbourne from about February to November 1858 makes one wonder whether he was responsible for the overall concept or only for its detailed development. The drawings we have at least demonstrate the high quality of his draftsmanship and illustrate in a most interesting way the designer's process of thought — whether or not Clark was the sole author.
One of Clark's drawings is the west elevation

West elevations of the Treasury, Spring Street, Melbourne, attributed to J. J. Clark, before and after improvements (Pub 2–1 & 2–2).


Detail of the improved west elevation of the Treasury, attributed to J. J. Clark (Pub 2–3).


The lamp posts in front of the Treasury, attributed to J. J. Clark, without and with the flap folded down (Pub 2–6). Some divergence in the base of the lamps as executed, with the scrolls higher and the ring of acanthus leaves removed, may he attributable to reworking on a second flap which is missing, but of which the left hand end can he seen.

of a building of the same bulk as the Treasury building we know, and with the fine arcaded motif which is loosely reminiscent of Cockerell's Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. But the pavilion sections on either side of the arcade rise for the full height of the facade and are reflected in a break forward in the roof line, there are no attic windows in the lunettes of the arcade, and the upper windows of the side wings are more of the piano nobile character, with a full hooded rectangular surround. Roughly drawn over the three northernmost of these windows are arcs which indicate a proposed amendment to reduce them to the character of attic windows.
We may compare this early elevation to another which shows the final version, and more particularly with a very fine detail drawing of just one pavilion with a typical wing bay on one side and an arcade bay on the other — clearly the drawing on which the detail of the adopted scheme was finally worked out. Here we see an attic window with a segmental head, as indicated by the arcs added to the earlier drawing, and a simple architrave with pinned-back ears at top and bottom. A window of similar proportions appears in the formerly blind tympanum of the arcade bay, but the design is sensitively varied with each end of the architrave terminating in a scroll so as to better occupy the semi-circular space. A more substantial change has been made in the pavilion section itself, which has had its top storey eliminated so as to remove the uncomfortable break forward in the cornice of the building, and to allow the main form to speak with clarity. The new two-storey pavilion is capped with a pediment set against a block in the classical motif which derives ultimately from the Pantheon, and the attic window has been removed from the bay above.
All these modifications were notable improvements, and it is a joy to have the drawings which illuminate the process of thought. There are other detailed drawings for the cornice which were used in the contract itself, and which specify it in great detail, stone by stone; but of greater interest is a sketch for the lamps in front of the building. This sketch shows a central stem flanked by two lower brackets, all three carrying identical octagonal glasses of a fairly conventional form, but, just as in the main elevation, the hand of the improver has been at work to good effect. Pasted to the top of this sheet is a small flap which folds down, à la Humphry Repton, to superimpose three spherical glasses with perky iron finials on top and thus — hey presto! — the very delightful design of the lamps as we see them today.
Clark had a long career and did important work in other States, especially Queensland where he was Government Architect from 1883 to 1886. He returned to Melbourne in 1902 and practised almost until the Great War with his son Edward James Clark, designing the City Baths and substantial portions of the Women's and the Melbourne (now Queen Victoria) Hospitals. In this collection we have impressive designs for the Public Free Library at Sydney, the Public Offices and the Town Hall at Brisbane, the Courthouse at Christchurch, New Zealand, and (with E. J. Clark) the Town Hall at Auckland.
At the opposite end of the scale from the sophisticated work of Clark are the more vernacular designs of an unidentified architect for a hotel for one Matthew Murray. The building is a very simple and nearly square two-storey block flanked by two single-storey wings projecting forwards a little way on either side in the form of polygonal bays. Across the facade between these wings runs a verandah, and at the right hand side, which is a street corner, the bar door opens into the angle of the bay. There are four sheets, which have been signed as contract drawings by one George Anderson of Anderson, Lamb and Bruham and they have subsequently been used in a legal action for they are labelled as exhibits B, C, D and E in a case of Crawford and Another v. Murray, with a date of 23 September 1854 which provides a terminus ad quem for the drawings themselves.
From these drawings we may turn to the evidence of the directories, which list one M. P. Murray as a boarding-house keeper at 300 Elizabeth Street in 1853 and 1854 but
not afterwards, and hence to the remarkable Cole Collection in the manuscripts section of the La Trobe Library. Cole indicates that Matthew Murray built the Prince of Wales Hotel in Mount Alexander Road, Ascot Vale, at an unspecified date, but left it in 1860. A Matthew Murray also was licensee in 1853 of the Prince Albert Hotel at the corner of Victoria Street and Mount Alexander Road, Flemington. Referring now to a watercolor of Flemington by Samuel Brees, which is in the La Trobe Library, but which was also engraved and published in 1856 as ‘Off to the Diggings’, we find a hotel of strikingly similar form with a central rectangle flanked by projecting polygonal bays. It lacks the upper floor and it lacks the verandah, discrepancies which may well be the result of the very dispute which gave rise to the litigation; the corner bar door has been replaced by a window, which is within the normal bounds of artistic inaccuracy; and it is labelled the ‘Flemington Hotel’, which is harder to explain away. The Flemington Hotel appears to have been a distinct establishment licensed as early as 1848, but as the Cole material is not entirely unequivocal, and as the resemblance is too great to be coincidental we have at least a prima facie case for identifying the building in the drawings with the one illustrated by Brees.
The collection is as much a source of information upon technical matters as upon the finer points of design and upon questions of historical detail, and here not only the drawings but the specifications are helpful. Amongst the earliest is that by Thomas James Crouch (1833–1889) of 1857 for a Wesleyan Mission House for the Reverend Catteral at Kyneton. We learn for example that the partitions are quartered not in imported Baltic Pine or Oregon as might be the case in Melbourne (for timber imports were running at over $£100,000 per annum), but in ‘best dry gum’. The transition from crown glass to sheet glass is well exemplified — the bulk being ‘best 2nd Newcastle Crown glass’, but the fanlights in Chance's best thick sheet glass. The perennially vexed question of paint colours is illuminated: the window frames externally were to be white, the sashes black, the back door chocolate, and the front door ‘to be picked out in two such fancy colours as shall be directed’.
Others of the specifications when investigated will doubtless advance our knowledge of the introduction of the cavity wall. This has been claimed as an Australian invention of about 1885,9 the date when Oakden was advocating hollow walls in What to Build and How to Build It (though he may well have been referring not to the true cavity but to Silverlock's, Dearn's or some other system). In reality the true cavity wall was known in England in the 1840s and described in the London Builder in 185410, and the drawings of this collection, even without the specifications, advance the Australian threshold by a few years. For example, cavity walls are shown in the contract drawings for a house at number 17 St. Vincent's Place, South Melbourne, designed in 1879 for one Willms, probably by Edward Twentyman. Here the whole of the external walling is hollow with a 9-inch inner leaf on the ground floor and a 4 1/2-inch leaf on the upper floor, except for two exposed faces of solid 9-inch work on the back wing which contains the kitchen on the ground floor and the servant's room above.
In addition to the house in St. Vincent's Place the collection includes drawings for six other buildings by Twentyman and Askew, as well as two contracts and a specification. As a substantial quantity of photographs, office records and other material from this firm (the designers of the Block Arcade) was acquired by the Library in 1942, this is another case of a pleasing reunion of material which had been separated in this instance for more than thirty years.
It is difficult to single out works for particular mention from the great bulk of the collection. In view of a widespread belief that Melbourne's terrace houses were not designed by architects it is worth noting that a number are represented here, including one very elegant pair designed by Frederick Williams for A. Goldberg in Albert Street, East Melbourne. Peter Matthew's drawings for Parer's Cafe (for the family which produced the famous Damien Parer) in Bourke Street of 1885–6 are notable for the lush decoration in mirrors and carved timber. A single drawing

House for R. Shann at ‘Mendip Hills’, North Preston, by L. J. Flannagan, 1887. Plans, elevation and section (Hou 172–3).


Watercolour view of Flemington by Samuel C. Brees, 1856, Historical Picture Collection, La Trobe Library.

Hotel for Matthew Murray, not later than 1854, architect unknown. Elevation (detail from Hot 15–3).

by the architect J. H. W. Pettitt of Sale (d. 1895) in 1888 shows a new house added to an existing structure, and incidentally once more exhibits a cavity wall. Pettitt had been a leading practitioner in the area since 1854, and there are Pettitt papers in the Mitchell Library, Sydney. Pettitt's wooden church at Taraville is one of the most delightful and least appreciated ecclesiastical works in Victoria.
Some mention shoud be made of the large number of drawings by John Flannagan (who began by calling himself O'Flannagan) and his son Leonard John Flannagan (1864–1946). Many are interesting, but we may single out a very ingeniously planned dwelling for Richard Shann on his extensive ‘Mendip Hills’ estate in North Preston. This house, now demolished, is one of the earliest known works of L. J. Flannagan.11 The plan is essentially a U with the centre filled by the entrance and stair well, and it was obviously designed so as to permit the extension which took place almost immediately, by the addition of a back wing to produce something more like a Y. The house is two-storied, and because one room opens off the stair which curves around inside the U, it is lower than the other bedrooms of the upper floor. This results in a lower ceiling at ground floor level and the kitchen is neatly placed below it, while the sitting and dining rooms occupy the two arms of the U on either side.
Drawings from the practice of William Pitt (1855–1918) from 1879, Pitt and Walkley, and subsequently Albion H. Walkley alone, amount to a very substantial proportion of the collection. Pitt, who had a rapid rise in practice and was for a time a member of parliament, was exceptionally successful in the late 1880s and early 1890s as a designer of office buildings such as Olderfleet, the Rialto, the Stock Exchange and even his own ‘Pitt's Buildings’.
The most interesting of Pitt's works are the theatres, and the collection brings with it the drawings of two earlier theatres by George Browne (better known as the architect of ‘Rupertswood’ near Sunbury), which passed to Pitt when he was commissioned to do alterations. There are nine sheets of Browne's drawings for the New Theatre Royal in Bourke Street, of 1872, and fourteen sheets for the Academy of Music at Ballarat. The theatres by Pitt include examples at Palmerston, Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand; Toowoomba in Queensland; Hobart, Adelaide and Sydney (both Queen's and Her Majesty's). Those in Melbourne are:
  • The Princess, Spring Street, 1886, plus the addition of the winter garden 1901 (9 sheets) Hoyts New Gaiety Theatre (Comedy), Russell Street, 1889 (25 sheets)
  • The Opera House (Tivoli), Bourke Street, 1900 (28 sheets)
  • The Alexandra (Her Majesty's), Exhibition Street, 1900–1914 (57 sheets)
  • Alterations to the Cyclorama, Little Collins Street, 1902 (1 sheet: it is unclear how this relates to joint work on the building by Pitt in conjunction with Lloyd Tayler and Fitts) Alterations to the New Theatre Royal, Bourke Street, 1904–1934 (26 sheets)
  • The Bijou, Bourke Street, 1905–6 (8 sheets) King's (Victoria) Theatre, Russell Street, and alterations 1907–1948 (30 sheets)
There is also in the collection some later theatre work by Albion Walkley, and a few other examples apparently unconnected with the Pitt practice: the New Vaudeville Theatre in Flinders Street by Nahum Barnet with Klingender and Alsop; Her Majesty's Opera House at Brisbane, by Addison and Corrie; and alterations to the Royal at Sydney by Kent, Budden and Greenwell. The Capitol in Melbourne and the Palais, St. Kilda, both involved W. B. Griffin and will be mentioned again below.
Pitt's office buildings are also well worth attention. He was a sensitive draftsman and a competent gothicist, who might well have been more at home in a less successful practice with more time to devote to his detail, and in an earlier period when the Gothic retained a little more credibility. His talents are well exhibited in a beautiful pencil drawing of an eight storey gothic office building which has been grouped with the Olderfleet drawings, but cannot belong with them because it has a frontage of only 56 feet (17m). We may surmise that it is either an unsuccessful competition entry for C. H. James's ‘Empire Buildings’ in Collins Street

Pencil sketch of a partial elevation, possibly for the new Stock Exchange, Collins Street, Melbourne, from the practice of William Pitt (Off 1–20).


New Theatre Royal, Bourke Street, alterations by William Pitt, probably of 1904. Cross-section of auditorium, showing the proscenium arch (The 16–16).


The Olderfleet, Collins Street, Melbourne for P. K. McCaughan by William Pitt, 1889–90. Plan, section and alternative elevations of the fleche (Off 1–3) and detail of pinnacle as drawn to full scale, 10 June 1890 (Off 1–5).

with a frontage of 57 ft 8 in (for which T. J. Crouch's design was selected) or, more probably, the first proposal for the Stock Exchange Building, the frontage of which would have been about 53 feet. Pitt's final scheme for the Stock Exchange of 1888–89 not only fronts Collins Street but wraps in an L-shape around Wardell's E. S. & A. (now A.N.Z.) Bank, to produce a Gothic office-block on Queen Street. A single sheet of kitchen fittings for the latter scheme is the only identifiable record in the collection.
Pitt's gems are of course the Olderfleet and the Rialto, which stand a few doors apart in Collins Street and were both built for P. K. McCaughan in 1889–90. The collection includes the principal drawings for both buildings, and there are structural details of the ironwork no less interesting than the elaborate facades. Just as in the case of Clark's drawings for the Treasury it is interesting to see the design process in action. The fleche which surmounts the Olderfleet is shown in two versions: one with only four gablets around the base of the octagonal spire, as actually built, and the other with eight, or one on each face, which is what Pitt did on a larger scale for the corner tower of the Rialto. This is just one detail from a mass of drawings both for these and for other office buildings.
Pitt was active in other important fields. From 1883 to 1890 he was architect for G. S. Coppin's model tenements in Little Lonsdale Street, known in recent years as Gordon House, and with Charles A. D'Ebro in 1890 he designed the Sir Charles Hotham Hotel at the corner of Spencer and Flinders Streets. The drawings of both are in the collection. From about 1888 Pitt began to obtain commissions for grandstands and sporting buildings, the first being the grandstand of the Mentone Racing Club, in conjunction with William Salway, followed in 1892 by a grandstand for the Victoria Park Football Club at Collingwood. Drawings of these early examples are not found in the collection, but this aspect of the practice burgeoned after the depression, and there are numerous drawings for works at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (1904–1913), and the Williamstown (1909–34), Flemington (1913–18) and Caulfield (1914–26) racecourses, as well as similar works elsewhere. This sporting work was to become a staple of the later practices of Pitt and Walkley and Albion Walkley.
We have selected only a few drawings from a handful of the practices represented in the collection. It should at least be mentioned that there is some important and as yet uncatalogued material from the practice of Henry Kemp (1859–1946) and a mass of material from the practices in which Walter R. Butler (1864–1949) was concerned (Butler and Ussher, Walter R. Butler, Inskip and Butler, Butler and Bradshaw, Walter and R. R. Butler, W. R. Butler and Pettitt), which includes some of the most influential residential work from the 1890s to the 1930s. Some other significant firms which are represented are Gawler and Drummond, Grainger Little Barlow and Hawkins, George Johnson, William Pritchard, Joseph Plottel, Smith and Johnson, Frank Stapley, and H. W. and F. B. Tompkins. Inevitably, though, special interest attaches to the drawings of Walter Burley Griffin.
The enormous quantity of documentation for the Capitol Theatre in Swanston Street, in which Griffin was associated with Peck and Kempter, (successors to the original practice of Nathaniel Billing), is in a sense disappointing. It consists principally of structural and other mundane details, which are not without significance in the development of reinforced concrete construction in Victoria, but shed little light on such striking aspects of the design as the famous ceiling. The drawings for the Palais (1926–27) in which Griffin was associated with Henry E. White are scarcely more helpful. But there is some treasure for Griffophiles in the form of five elegant presentation drawings on green paper for The Cloisters’, an unexecuted flat project for the corner of Clendon and Orrong Roads, Toorak, commissioned by Mrs. Mary Williams in 1927. Two of these were reproduced by James Birrell some years ago, but they do not appear in D. L. Johnson's recent work on Griffin, and they are well worthy of attention.12
Some general observations are appropriate at this point. The study of architectural history is an occupation which has only

The Cloisters, flats for Mrs. Mary Williams at Clendon and Orrong Roads, Toorak, by W. B. Griffin, 1927. Perspective of 3 August 1927 (Hou 124–4).

Proposed ticket box for the Theatre Royal, Bourke Street, Melbourne, 1924, by William Pitt and Walkley (The 16–33).

recently begun to aspire to normal standards of scholarship and objectivity, and the demand for this source material will certainly increase. Because of legal controls over the demolition of buildings, some of these drawings are now becoming critical evidence in legal cases which may involve quite large sums of money. There is every reason not merely to maintain but to expand the collection, for the forces of destruction have not paused in their attacks on private holdings of architectural material. Nor are the forces of destruction yet halted in the collection already assembled. The Library has already faced a major task of sorting the material and placing batches of drawings in plastic bags for protection; but many are so large that they cannot be stored in this way without the ends projecting or the edges being bent. Others are in such a delicate state that each sheet should be given a separate bag, and perhaps should be photographed before it deteriorates further. Ideally the catalogue will be completed, the existing catalogue improved and corrected, and work done to identify some of the buildings which are not labelled. Such a massive effort is difficult to justify for a collection which the Library holds only on loan, and perhaps some external funding is needed to support it. Who will doubt that this is warranted by the historical value of the material?
Reproduction of the illustrations to this article has been assisted by a grant from the Research Committee, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Town and Regional Planning, University of Melbourne.
Miles Lewis


Percy Oakden, ‘Early Records of Melbourne’, Royal Victorian Institute of Architects Journal, VII (May 1905), pp. 42–45.


Terry & Oakden (firm), What to build and how to build it, Melbourne 1885.


G. F. James (ed), A Homestead History, Melbourne 1949.


Jennifer Sherwood & Nikolaus Pevsner, Oxfordshire (Buildings of England), Harmondsworth 1974, p. 183.


Nikolaus Pevsner & David Lloyd, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (Buildings of England), Harmondsworth 1967, p. 575.


Illustrated London News, 13 August 1855, p. 172; Builder, XIII (15 December 1855), p. 613.


Royal Victorian Institute of Architects Journal, VIII (March 1910), pp. 25–26.


Australian Builder, 5 March 1859, p. 69.


J. M. Freeland, Architecture in Australia — a History, Melbourne 1968, pp. 188–190.


Builder, XII, 583 (8 April 1854), p. 190.


J. D. Taylor ‘Leonard John Flannagan’, B. Arch. Report, University of Melbourne 1969.


James Birrell, Walter Burley Griffin, Brisbane, 1964, pp. 154–5; D. L. Johnson, The Architecture of Walter Burley Griffin, Melbourne 1977.