Edward Hamilton only lived in South Australia for twenty-two years but during this time made a significant contribution to the development and appearance of Adelaide through his work as Colonial Architect, designing mainly in the Italianate style.
Edward Angus Hamilton was the son of civil engineer, George Ernest Hamilton (Sherrin 1985: 24). He arrived in the young colony of South Australia on 5 December 1849 (Angas 1982). He began his Government service in April 1852 at the Assay Office where he gained promotion. He remained there until June 1853 when he was appointed to the position of Assistant to the Colonial Architect, William Bennett Hays. By January 1854 he had been appointed to the position of Assistant Architect in the Colonial Architect’s Office (Angas 1982). After the departure of Hays for England at the end of 1854, Hamilton was placed in charge. Despite censure in 1855 for not reporting an attempt to bribe him, Hamilton was appointed as Colonial Architect and Supervisor of Works in July 1856, following Hays’ dismissal (Morgan and Gilbert 1969: 147). He married Ellen Seymour in 1856.
Charles E. Owen Smyth who served as Superintendent of Public Buildings from 1886-1920 ‘wrote of Hamilton that his correspondence showed him to be ‘decidedly economical in his recommendations’ and that he had ‘quite a wide knowledge of other matters in his public works duties’ (Page 1986: 33). Hamilton worked in the role of Colonial Architect until June 1860 when he retired from the position. Architect George Soward acted temporarily as Colonial Architect for six months after Hamilton’s resignation (Page 1986: 33). While he was Colonial Architect Hamilton continued to accept private commissions and enter architectural competitions.
Following his resignation Hamilton went into private practice with his brother George Ernest Hamilton as Architects and Surveyors (Morgan and Gilbert 1969: 147). This partnership lasted until 1866 when, on its dissolution, Edward Hamilton became a partner with Edmund Wright and Edward Woods, forming the practice known as Wright, Woods and Hamilton. He continued in this partnership until 1871 when he left the colony of South Australia, for South America (Angas 1982; Sherrin 1985: 26) or California (Coxon et al 1986: 94).
Hamilton was an active member of Adelaide society whilst in South Australia. He became a foundation member of the Adelaide Philosophical Society in 1853 (Cumming 1986: 80). In September 1858 Hamilton attended the formation meeting of the South Australian Society of Architects, Engineers and Surveyors at Greens Exchange (Jensen and Jensen 1980: 184) and was made a Vice-President of the Society. At their November meeting he read a paper on the iron ores to be found in the colony (Jensen and Jensen 1980: 186). He became a foundation member of the Adelaide Club in July 1863, a move which paid dividends to him later in terms of finding clients for his private work: ‘The businessmen and pastoralists who founded the Adelaide Club gave the commission for their clubhouse to Hamilton’s firm in 1863’ (Page 1986: 64). Hamilton ‘served as Chairman of the Walkerville Council for two years’ (Sherrin 1985: 26). On 5 April 1870 Hamilton was elected as the member for Light in the House of Assembly and on 12 May 1870 he was appointed as the Treasurer. However by 30 May 1870 he had resigned as Treasurer although he stayed on as the sitting member for Light until 28 July 1871 when he resigned to leave the colony.
As with many government employed architects attribution of buildings to an individual is difficult. As Colonial Architect between 1856 and 1860 Hamilton’s works included both significant public buildings and the more ordinary practical facilities that it was necessary for the Government to provide for the development of the colony. Hamilton designed the 1855 extension to Government House while he was working as Assistant Architect. ‘Constructed of local stone in the Italianate style, it was stuccoed to blend with the Regency section and comprises entrance portico, state dining room, Adelaide room, the Governor’s study, a ballroom and the south hall’ (Fischer and Seamark 2005: 42).
He designed or supervised the design of many police stations and gaols including: Redruth Gaol, near Burra, built of stone in 1856; Dry Creek Labour Prison (now Yatala Prison) built between 1857 and 1860; Strathalbyn Court House and Police Station, 1858; and Goolwa Court House and Police Station, 1859. Hamilton also designed the combined Police Station and Court House on Commercial Road, Port Adelaide, in 1860. Fearing the proposed buildings might sink into the soft soil at Port Adelaide, he ‘devised what was then a unique system of footings; a raft of baulks of red gum cross-sections and longitudinals, embedded in and then covered with lime concrete’ (Page 1986: 63). The design of the buildings was in the Italianate style with a symmetrical colonnade and the court house featured a dome (now removed).
Hamilton was responsible for telegraph stations, post offices and lighthouses including Gawler Telegraph Station of 1860; these types of buildings have been described as ‘neat four-roomed telegraph stations’ (Page 1986: 34) with Gawler ‘probably the best example’ (Sherrin 1985: 25). He designed the Cape Borda Lighthouse and cottage between 1856 and 1858 and the Cape Northumberland lighthouse from 1856 to 1859. The importance of ‘sea traffic’ facilitated the design and construction of five jetties during Hamilton’s time as Colonial Architect, including Glenelg Jetty of 1857-9 (Sherrin 1985: 25).
Other public buildings completed during his time as Colonial Architect include the Lunatic Asylum (1856-9), the Agricultural and Horticultural Society Exhibition Building (1859-60), and the Colonial Store (1857-8) (behind the present Art Gallery). Hamilton also designed the prominent South Australian Institute building on North Terrace, Adelaide (1858-9) in Victorian Renaissance style, which demonstrated ‘his knowledge of the classical form’ (Langmead 1994: 194). He is associated with the Treasury Buildings, on the corner of King William Street and Victoria Square (1858-60), in Italianate style. This complex was to house public offices building and replaced George Strickland Kingston’s original 1839 block. In Hamilton’s design ‘complex architectural composition and the informed detailing point to specialised professional training’ (Langmead 1994: 194). It was described at the time as being ‘in style a combination of the Venetian and Grecian orders of architecture … There is a harmony of proportion and a classical stamp about the whole structure which enables it to be regarded as an architectural gem and which render it a great ornament to the city.’ (Register cited in Sherrin 1985: 25). Hamilton designed the summer retreat for the Governor at Belair as a cottage residence, it is now known as ‘Old Government House’ (Sherrin 1985: 24).
During his time as Colonial Architect Hamilton continued to work on private commissions. He worked as a sole practitioner, mainly on ecclesiastical architecture including St George’s Church at Gawler, and Hamilton Church at Hamilton both in 1858. In 1859, in conjunction with Edmund Wright, he submitted an entry in a competition for the Congregational Church, Brougham Place, North Adelaide which they won. ‘Thomas Frost the builder and his Congregational colleagues had secured a magnificent site on the eastern side of Brougham Place and they planned to build a great new temple of faith. They advertised an architectural competition for the design, specifying that the church must be in the Grecian or Graeco-Italian style, built of best hard stone from Dry Creek or Glen Osmond, and capable of seating 600 worshippers on a ground floor to be built over a basement containing schoolrooms’ (Page 1986: 65). This winning design has been said to be ‘continuing a tradition begun in Wren’s London churches’ (Langmead p.194-5).
When Hamilton joined with his brother, George, between 1861 and 1865 as G. & E. Hamilton Architects they designed the copper smelters in the Copper Triangle of Wallaroo-Moonta-Kadina on Yorke Peninsula, the Chapel Building for the Destitute Asylum, Kintore Avenue, (1861), the National Bank at Burra, (1861), St Peter’s College Chapel, Hackney (1861), the Black Bull Hotel, Hindley Street, Adelaide, (1861-2) and the Adelaide Club (1864). The Adelaide Club on North Terrace, Adelaide was a club for South Australia’s newly established gentry. It was ‘built of Dry Creek stone with brick dressings and exquisite apricot marble on the front steps’ and ‘shows classic balance with the windows slightly decreasing in size with each storey. Its cantilevered balcony originally extended right across the building’s façade’ (Fisher and Seamark 2005: 8).
‘Hamilton’s association with the ‘pastoral aristocracy’ is exemplified by two of his commissions in the 1860s. One was the design for St Michael’s Church at Bungaree, near Clare, and the other for Karatta House at Robe’ (Page 1986: 64). For George Hawker at Bungaree, Hamilton designed a Gothic church with a double pitch profile tower and windows of the attenuated lancet type constructed of the golden stone matching the rest of the Bungaree buildings, ‘with quoins and surrounds to openings of squared finely-finished sandstone, all set over a bevel-topped plinth’ (Page 1986: 65).
The Adelaide General Post Office competition attracted many entries ‘including one from Edward Hamilton. When the results were announced in March 1866, the entrants learned that Wright & Wood had won the first prize … Wright & Woods asked Edward Hamilton to join them in the execution of the work, perhaps because their firms was so busy with other commissions’ (Page 1986: 75).
Between 1866 and 1871 as Wright, Woods and Hamilton the practice designed many large buildings for South Australia. These included a store for Messrs. Wills and Co., Rundle St, Adelaide (1866), a Flour Mill for Mr J. Dunn, Port Adelaide (1866), Catholic Churches at Wallaroo, Blumberg (now Birdwood), Macclesfield, and National Banks at Port Adelaide, Mt Barker, Moonta, Strathalbyn. The also completed Stow Memorial Church Manse (1868), St Peter’s College school rooms (1867-8) and the school masters house (1869). The firm superintended St Peter’s Cathedral construction 1869 and finished off Hamilton’s earlier work by placing a tower on to the Congregational Church at Brougham Place in 1871.
Collins, Julie, 'Hamilton, Edward Angus', Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, 2008, Architects of South Australia: [http://www.architectsdatabase.unisa.edu.au/arch_full.asp?Arch_ID=42]