Architect Personal DetailsArchitectural works in South Australia
Firms or Professional PartnershipsBibliographic Sources

Architect Personal Details



First name

Alfred Edward








As government architect, Alfred Simpson designed and supervised works to some of the state’s most prominent public buildings including the Magistrates Court, the Art Gallery of South Australia and Parliament House.

Alfred Edward Simpson was born on 29 June 1868 at Woodville to Edward Robert Simpson and Jane Mossman (nee Davie). His father ‘held a prominent position in the service of the South Australian Company’ (Cheesman Collection S209/2/20/1). He was an only child. Simpson married Frances Isabella Kell on 7 September 1898 at St Augustines Church, Unley (SLSA Family History Database). In 1903 they had a daughter Dorothy Mary Kell (Mollie) Simpson. In 1945 Dorothy married Rev. (later Canon) Horace Percy Finnis. Dorothy Finnis became one of South Australia’s pioneering physiotherapists (Australian Dictionary of Biography – Online Edition). Around 1905 the Simpsons had another daughter Bessie Hope Kell Simpson. In 1935 she married Eric Alfred Burden at St Augustines, Unley where her parents had been married almost four decades earlier (Ancestors of Eric Alfred Burden). Alfred Simpson died at his home in Toorak Gardens at the age of 72 on 9 September 1940 (SLSA Family History Database).

Simpson was educated at Prince Alfred College, a private school in Adelaide. He went on to study at the University of Adelaide. He was articled to the prominent Adelaide architects Messrs D. Garlick & Sons (Cheesman Collection S209/2/20/1).

On 17 March 1890 Simpson began working at the Office of the Superintendent of Public Buildings, under C. E. Owen Smyth who held the position of Superintendent. In November 1917 Simpson was appointed Deputy Superintendent and later, in February 1920, Acting Superintendent. After Owen Smyth retired, Simpson was appointed Architect-in-Chief in November 1920. He held this position for eighteen years (Cheesman Collection S209/2/20/1). In 1936 Simpson was awarded a Companion of the Imperial Service Order; an award which recognised civil servants of the British Empire who had been long-standing employees (Cheesman Collection S209/2/20/1). Among those who worked under Simpson was architect George Gavin Lawson who held the position of Assistant Chief Draftsman c.1920s (Page 1986: 141). In 1933-34 it appears that Simpson also undertook private architectural commissions from an address in Unley Park (Willis 1998).

Simpson was a Fellow of the South Australian Institute of Architects (The Salon Feb. 1914: 462) (Sands & McDougall 1940: 42). He was also a Fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects.

One of Simpson’s earliest buildings was the multi-storey Education Block previously located on the corner of Flinders Street and Gawler Place, Adelaide. This building was reviewed in the national architectural journal The Salon in 1916 (The Salon June 1916: 121). After his appointment as Architect-in-Chief, Simpson worked on the extensions to the Magistrates Court in Victoria Square. In 1921 the building was enlarged by a two storey extension to the rear. The extension accommodated the ‘state’s newly appointed women police’ (Marsden 1996: 179). Simpson undertook a further addition to the Magistrates Court in 1933-34. It took the form of a three storey extension which allowed the building to be accessed from King William Street. Simpson supervised the extension of the Art Gallery of South Australia on North Terrace. In 1936, to celebrate the state’s centenary, Alexander Melrose made a substantial bequest which assisted with the construction of not only a new wing – the Melrose Wing but also a new Classical façade and entrance vestibule. These additions were opened in 1937 (Marsden 1996: 265).

Simpson is perhaps best known for completing the 1889 Parliament House – one of the state’s most significant buildings. He supervised the construction of the east wing which had been made possible through a sizeable donation from Sir Langdon Bonython. The east wing was also built to commemorate the state’s 1936 centenary but was not opened until 1939 - fifty years after the completion of the original building (Marsden 1996: 249). ‘On reaching the ordinary retiring age of 65, [Simpson’s] ... term as Architect-in-Chief was extended four times to allow him to complete work on the Parliament House building. He retired in June 1938 at the age of 70 and died two years later (Cheesman Collection S209/2/20/1).

Susan Collins

Citation details
Collins, Susan, 'Simpson, Alfred Edward’, Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, 2008, Architects of South Australia: []




Architectural works in South Australia

Name Suburb Year Designed
Education Block Adelaide
Magistrates Court Adelaide
Art Gallery of South Australia Adelaide
Parliament House Adelaide

Firms or Professional Partnerships

Name Dates Worked
A.E. Simpson 1933-1934 

Bibliographic Sources


Page, M (1986) Sculptors in Space: South Australian Architects 1836-1986, RAIA (SA), Adelaide.
MacMahon, B., Finnerty, A. and Dupain, M. (2001) The Architecture of East Australia: An Architectural History in 432 Individual Presentations, Edition Axel Menges, Stuttgart.
Marsden, S., Stark, P. and Sumerling, P, (1990, second imprint 1996) Heritage of the City of Adelaide: An illustrated guide, Corporation of the City of Adelaide, Adelaide.
Sands & McDougall, South Australian Directory 1940, p.42.

‘Members of the South Australian Institute of Architects’, The Salon, February 1914, p.462
Fuller, H. E. (1916) ‘Education Block, New Flinders St’, The Salon, June 1916, p.121.
Fuller, H. E. (1916) ‘Junior School, Unley, SA’, The Salon, June 1916, p.121.

Photograph of A.E. Simpson, Image No. B 6554, State Library of South Australia.
‘Biographical Notes – Alfred Edward Simpson’ by Robert Burden 12 November 1984, History of South Australian Architects 1986, including biographical notes on South Australian Architects, Cheesman Collection S209/2/20/1, LLSAM.

Ancestors of Eric Alfred Burden, accessed online 11 August 2008 at
Australian Heritage Places Inventory, accessed online 10 September 2007 at
Gibberd, Joyce, 'Dorothy Mary Kell (Mollie) Finnis (1903-1970)' Australian Dictionary of Biography accessed online 11 August 2008 at

State Library of South Australia (SLSA) Family History Database, ‘SA Births 1842-1906’, ‘SA Marriages 1842-1916’ and ‘SA Deaths 1916-1972’, accessed online 8 July 2008 at SLSA.
Willis, Julie (1998) South Australian Architects Biography Project CD Rom, University of South Australia, (LLSAM).

Home Page | Close Window