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

Architect Personal Details



First name

Francis Hedley (Frank)








Frank Counsell worked as an architect in various government departments before establishing his own practice in Adelaide in 1903. He is best known for his pioneering use of reinforced concrete in the local setting in the early twentieth century.

Francis Hedley Counsell (known as Frank) was born on 14 May 1864 at Somerton. His father was James Counsell a well-known merchant in Adelaide, and partner of Whyte, Counsell, & Company (Burgess 1907: 543). In 1900 Frank Counsell married Ellen Florence Moody and they had two daughters; Ruth Elma (Trevorrow) (b.1904) and Gwenneth H. (b.1906). Counsell died on 4 February 1933 aged 68 (SLSA Family History Database).

Counsell was educated at Glenelg Grammar School and later at Prince Alfred College, matriculating at the age of sixteen. After a short stint as a clerk in the Bank of Adelaide, he changed professions, moving from finance to architecture. He was articled for four years with the well-known Adelaide architect, James Cummings (Burgess 1907: 543). Counsell also undertook academic subjects such as design and history at the School of Design, passing them in 1884 (Jensen 1980: 771, note 105).

After Counsell completed his article training, he travelled to Victoria where he worked as a draftsman for several architects. He went on to work for the Victorian Railway Department where he designed not only metropolitan stations but also rural stations at Maryborough and Ballarat. Two and a half years later, he decided it was time to return to Adelaide where he was employed by architects Edward Davies and Cavanagh. It was not long, in fact only fourteen months, before he left Adelaide again and moved to Perth. He took up a position with the Western Australian Government and designed the majority of metropolitan railway stations near Perth. In addition he worked on a number of ‘water-conservation schemes’ and jetties (Burgess 1907: 543). In 1898, after gaining substantial interstate experience, he returned to Adelaide and secured employment with the Engineer-in-Chief. Over the next four years ‘he was very materially associated with some most important works then in course of construction’ (Burgess 1907: 543), in particular the Adelaide Railway Station – for which he was suitably qualified. In June 1903 he established his own architectural practice. From 1904-25 the practice of F.H. Counsell advertised in the South Australian Sands and McDougall Directory (Willis 1998). From 1926-34 this changed to Davies, Wooldridge & Counsell. Counsell had joined the practice of Davies & Wooldridge which had been established in 1922 by his former employer Davies, and C.W. Wooldridge (Willis 1998). As mentioned Counsell died in 1933, and shortly after the practice ceased to exist.

In the professional setting, Counsell was an active member of the South Australian Institute of Architects. In 1907 he was a Fellow and Member of Council (Burgess 1907: 537). Later, in 1914, he became Honorary Treasurer, a position he held for two years (The Salon Feb. 1914: 462) (The Salon Dec. 1914: 266) (The Salon Feb. 1916: 22).

Counsell’s contribution to architectural scholarship was limited. In 1913 he published an article on salt damp in the architectural journal The Salon. In 1921 he was profiled in the local newspaper The Critic (The Critic 1921: 5). This was part of a series which showcased other architects including F. Kenneth Milne. The article on Counsell gave the public an insight into his personal life, noting his ‘Club’ as ‘The Eucalypts’ and bowls as his favourite recreational activity.

Counsell played an important role in the local architectural profession. In addition to the Adelaide Railway Station, he designed a substantial factory for D. & J. Fowler Limited, known for their ‘Lion’ brand, on North Terrace. The Factory was designed and constructed c.1905-06 (Marsden 1996: 71). In 1907 his additions to the offices of the newspaper company The Advertiser received a special mention in The Cyclopedia of South Australia. Counsell used a reinforced concrete floor for the top storey. It was ‘designed on the Hennebique principle, and ... was the first example of reinforced concrete in South Australia’ (Burgess 1907: 543). Counsell continued to design reinforced concrete buildings in Adelaide. In 1924 he was commissioned to design the seven storey Liberal Club building on North Terrace. ‘The Builder, 17 September 1924, described the building under construction as a skeleton and floors of reinforced concrete filled in with brick. ‘A building of such height, surrounding other tall buildings, requires special treatment for light and air. In this case the demand for light is met by six light areas, and by glazed partition walls …’ The architect had ensured equable temperature in the rooms by means of cavity walls and a super roof so that concrete ceilings over the top storey would not be chilled by rain nor heated by the sun’ (Marsden 1996: 111). The building was completed in 1925. Although Counsell worked on a range of architectural projects over his career including residential, industrial, educational and commercial, he is best known for being ‘the first architect to introduce Re-inforced Concrete construction to Adelaide’ as The Critic newspaper pointed out in 1921 (The Critic 1921: 5).

Susan Collins

Citation details
Collins, Susan, ‘Counsell, Francis Hedley', Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, 2008, Architects of South Australia: []




Architectural works in South Australia

Name Suburb Year Designed
Adelaide Railway Station
D. & J. Fowler Limited Factory Adelaide 1905
The Advertiser Offices
Liberal Club Building Adelaide
Boucaut Residence New Gelenelg 1911

Firms or Professional Partnerships

Name Dates Worked
F.H. Counsell 1903-1925 
Davies, Wooldridge & Counsell 1926-1934 

Bibliographic Sources


Burgess, H.T. (1907) The Cyclopedia of South Australia in two volumes: an historical and commercial review, descriptive and biographical facts, figures and illustrations: an epitome of progress, volume one.
Jensen, Elfrida and Jensen, Rolf (1980) Colonial Architecture in South Australia: a definitive chronicle of development 1836-1890 and the social history of the times, Rigby Publishers Ltd. Adelaide.
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.
Page, M (1986) Sculptors in Space: South Australian Architects 1836-1986, RAIA (SA), Adelaide.

Counsell, Frank H. (1913) ‘Damp Walls and Salt Damp’, The Salon, December 1913, pp.343-344.
‘Members of the South Australian Institute of Architects’, The Salon, February 1914, p.462.
‘Officers and Members of the South Australian Institute of Architects – Members of the Council, 1914-1915’, The Salon, December 1914, p.266.
‘Officers and Members of the South Australian Institute of Architects – Members of the Council, 1915-1916’, The Salon, February 1916, p.22.

‘Who’s Who in Adelaide’, The Critic, 23 November 1921, p.5.
'Births, Marriages and Deaths' (Marriages), South Australian Register, 8 August 1900, p.7, viewed 21 May 2014,

State Library of South Australia (SLSA) Family History Database, ‘SA Births 1842-1906’, ‘SA Deaths 1916-1972’, ‘SA Marriages 1842-1916’ and ‘Biographical Index of South Australians 1836-1885’, accessed online 8 July 2008 at SLSA.
Willis, Julie (1998) South Australian Architects Biography Project CD Rom, University of South Australia, (LLSAM).

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