Latham Augustus Withall was resident in South Australia for less than 15 years, however his partnerships with Ernest Bayer and Alfred Wells resulted in a number of landmark buildings which have been included on the South Australian State Heritage Register.
Withall was born in early 1853 in Lambeth, London to surveyor and architect Richard Augustus Withall and his wife Letitia (England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837-1915; 1861 England Census). Latham was an articled pupil to Thomas Chatfield Clarke FRIBA from 1870 for five years. He attended Royal Academy Schools, South Kensington Museum and University College, London. He was a draughtsman with Messrs Lee Brothers & Pain in 1875 and subsequently travelled in England and on the Continent, before settling in Australia (Withall, Latham A, S355/88).
Withall married Louisa Margaret Reed in Adelaide on 18 April 1876. Louisa’s father was James Reed who may have been the architect in partnership with Edmund Wright in the 1880s (South Australian marriages index; Page 1986: 105). The couple had two daughters and three sons whilst here in South Australia. All were born in the Adelaide area except their second child, Richard, who was born in Port Augusta on 10 May 1879 (South Australian births index). Upon their return to England, they had two more daughters, the first in Putney, Surrey, in late 1889 (London, England, Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906).
In the early years after his return to London, Withall either joined or commenced a new partnership with Herbert Moates Ellis, nephew of conservative politician and former London Mayor Sir Whittaker Ellis, and Herbert Richard Burton. They practised as Withall and Ellis, Architects and Surveyors, and also as Auctioneers, Valuers and Estate Agents at Jewry House, 27 and 28 Old Jewry. Withall was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects on 10 June 1891 and also in that year, was elected a Fellow of the Surveyors’ Institute and a member of the Royal Institution of Great Britain (S355/88; ‘Anglo-Colonial Gossip’, 1891: 6). He was named in 1892 as a member of a Committee of Inspection which was to work alongside the Official Receiver and Liquidator in the winding up of the Great Eukaby Silver Field (South Australia) Limited (London Gazette, 1892: 4124). Ellis left the firm in 1893. The partnership between Withall and Burton, operating as Latham A. Withall, dissolved in 1898 (London Gazette 1893: 7478 and 1898: 1744). Withall applied for Freedom of the City of London in 1903 (London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1925).
It appears the Withall family may have returned to Australia to live in Western Australia, with Latham Augustus working for the Water Supply Department in Perth (‘Deaths’, 1925: 1; B2455, Richard Henry Withall). It is not clear when they returned but the State Records Office of Western Australia lists an L.A Withall, Surveyor, doing work for Metropolitan Sewerage. Wise’s Western Australian Post Office Directory has listings for L.A. Withall, farmer at Brookton, from 1905 to 1912. A Latham Augustus Withall of ‘Qualin’ via Brookton resigned as a Justice of the Peace in 1908 (Eastern Districts Chronicle, 1908: 3). There is an Electoral Roll record for a Latham A Withall, architect, living in South Fremantle, Western Australia in 1916, although Louisa Withall is not listed (Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980). During World War One, he and two of his sons, Latham (Geelong, Victoria) and Richard (gold miner, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia), enlisted. It appears that Withall senior falsified his age to being 50 when he was, in fact, in his early 60s, as he states he was born in London, apprenticed to Thomas Chatfield Clarke FRIBA and gave his work as architect, surveyor and civil engineer. He joined the AIF’s Field Company Engineers as a Lieutenant, embarking from Sydney on HMAT Vestalia on 11 July 1916 (First World War Embarkation Rolls). Rising to the rank of Temporary Major, Withall became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (Military) in 1919 (Honours and Awards).
It is likely that the Withalls and some of their family continued to live in England after the war, as a later address on his enlistment form is for Linden Avenue, Broadstairs, Kent. The Western Australian reported on 20 January 1921 that a T/Major Latham Augustus Withall and wife had sailed from England the previous December, and UK, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960, show that Latham Augustus Withall, Civil Engineer (68 years) and Louisa M Withall (61 years) returned to England on the Ceramic in 1922 (‘News and Notes’, 1921: 6).
Latham Augustus Withall died on 16 January 1925 in Hampstead, Middlesex, whilst his widow, Louisa, lived on at their Broadstairs home until her 96th year (England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966; England, Andrews Newspaper Index Cards, 1790-1976).
Notes held in the South Australian Architects and Their Works Research Collection (Architecture Museum) indicate that Withall was employed by the South Australian Government for three years which may account for some of the time between his wedding in 1876 and the formation of his partnership with Ernest Henry Bayer in December 1879. It is known that Withall was living in Port Augusta when his son, Richard, was born in 1879, and had been there long enough for the Port Augusta Dispatch in 1880 to recall ‘that Mr Withall was at one time a resident in this town, and won for himself great popularity for his genial temperament and excellent business qualities’ (Port Augusta Local Heritage Survey: 133). He maintained contact with the town through Bayer & Withall, and as a partner, briefly, in the Port Augusta brewing company, Perrers & Co. in 1881(Piper, Bakewell & Piper, BRG 73).
Bayer and Withall were first listed as Architects and Surveyors at Insurance Chambers, Pirie Street Adelaide, later moving to Grenfell Chambers, Grenfell Street in 1883 (‘Public Notices’, 1879; Sands & McDougall Directory 1883: 21). A Public Notice in the South Australian Register on 3 January 1885, formally announced that the partnership of Bayer and Withall was dissolved by mutual consent on 31 December 1884, as well as stating that Withall had taken Alfred Wells into a partnership located at Register Chambers, Grenfell Street (‘Public Notices’, 1885: 2). A number of architects-in-the making worked for the Bayer Withall partnership or with Bayer, and Alfred Wells had been their head draughtsman. J Quinton Bruce undertook his articles with the partnership and was Bayer’s chief draughtsman until 1894 (McDougall, 2008).
From 1886, Withall & Wells, Architects and Surveyors, had premises at 6 Rundle Street. In that same year, they were elected Fellows of the newly formed South Australian Institute of Architects (Sands & McDougall Directory, 1887: 768). They opened a branch office in Argent Street, Broken Hill, NSW in 1888, with Mr Farrer, Civil Engineer and Architect, as their representative (‘Professional Card’, 1888: 2). From 1886 until 1889, when the Withalls moved back to England, the family lived on Childers Street, North Adelaide. The firm continued to be called Withall and Wells until 1896, when it became solely Alfred Wells (Sands & McDougall Directories; Sullivan 2008).
In Withall’s application to join the Royal Institute of British Architects, most of the buildings cited in his experience were in South Australia, including ‘large private residences’ for Mr Ayers, Mr Marshall, W. Taylor and W. Mofflin; the Largs Bay Hotel; small hotels for the Hindmarsh Brewery Company and the Port Augusta Brewery; the Church of England at Grange; Weslyan chapels at Port Adelaide and Goodwood; a Grandstand at Adelaide Race Course [Victoria Park]; the Royal Arcade in Rundle Street; ‘Large shope Premises’ for McLeay Bros, Peter Gay and Martin & Coy; the Exhibition Buildings ‘Won in Competition’; Town Halls in Norwood, Hindmarsh, Goodwood and Thebarton, ‘all won in Competitions’ (S355/88).
Many of Withall’s listings on the South Australian State Heritage Register come from the time of his partnership with Ernest Bayer. Bayer had designed the western section of the Christian Brothers College, Wakefield Street, Adelaide, in 1878, while the south wing fronting Wakefield Street was undertaken by the partnership in 1880 (Marsden et al. 1990). Bayer and Withall were recognised for their high level of detailing in a range of styles. The Cathedral Hotel, North Adelaide (1880), which has also been attributed to English & Soward (Jensen and Jensen 1980), is ‘typical in form of a hotel built during the boom period with stuccoed dressings and chamfered corner’ (Stark 1984: 115). McDougall & Vines (1998: 54) believe that Korra Weera in Marden is likely to have been designed by Bayer and Withall. Complete with Italianate tower, they regard it as ‘an outstanding example of an 1880s Adelaide villa’. The land was bought in 1882, a tender notice for the residence appeared in October 1884 and it was completed in early 1885 (McDougall and Vines 1998). Other Bayer and Withall commissions include Estcourt House, Tennyson (1882), in the Palladian style and the classical ‘Italian’ Largs Bay Pier Hotel (1882) (State Heritage Register Report, 1988; Peake 1982; Danvers Architects 1994; Jensen and Jensen 1980). The Grandstand at Victoria Park Racecourse (1882) showcases cast iron work in a non-domestic situation (City of Adelaide Heritage Study 1982). The Norwood Town Hall, Wellington Hotel (North Adelaide) and the row of houses at Grange known as The Marines are also listed on the State Heritage Register (McDougall, 2008).
Withall & Wells are particularly remembered for two prominent city buildings both of which were domed and featured cast iron for structural and ornamental purposes. The Adelaide Arcade (1885), Rundle Street, built for the Adelaide Arcade Company and which continues to serve as a speciality shopping arcade, was welcomed as a boost during the depressed economic conditions of the day (‘The Adelaide Arcade’ 1885: 6).
The ‘greatly admired’ Jubilee Exhibition Building (1887) on North Terrace (Page 1986: 117) was constructed for the Adelaide Jubilee International Exhibition of 1887 and named in honour of Queen Victoria’s fiftieth year on the throne and South Australia’s fiftieth birthday (Sullivan 2008). Some controversy surrounded the competition as the original winner E.A Scott was put aside in favour of an initially disqualified design by Withall and Wells (Scott had been articled to Bayer and Withall). Despite demands from other contestants to hold another competition (‘Jubilee Exhibition Plans’ 1885: 3), the building committee eventually opted to purchase Withall and Wells’ design, even though its estimated cost was £27,000, £5000 outside of the £22,000 set down in the competition rules (Jensen 1980: 803 in Rymill, M, 2009). It housed exhibits that showcased local, national and international industrial, technological, manufacturing and cultural achievements: ‘for months the exhibition was the great meeting place for not [only] the people of the city but [also] of Australians generally and hosts of visitors from the outside world’ (‘The Exhibition Building’). The Exhibition Building was turned to numerous other public and institutional uses for a further seven decades before being demolished in the 1960s to make way for the Napier building and adjacent car park and plaza at the University of Adelaide (Sullivan 2008).
McDougall, Alison, 'Withall, Latham Augustus’, Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, 2008, Architects of South Australia: [http://www.architectsdatabase.unisa.edu.au/arch_full.asp?Arch_ID=125]