George Klewitz Soward was a leading architect in South Australia for over 50 years, known particularly for his grand houses. His practice was one of the two which combined to form what is now South Australia’s oldest continuous architectural firm.
George K Soward was born at Norwood, Adelaide on 27 August 1857. He was the only son of George Soward and his second wife, Bertha, née Klewitz. They also had two daughters, Bertha and Emma, both born at Finnisbrook. George and his previous wife, Eliza Maria, who had died in 1855, had had six children (Statton, 1986). George senior was a timber merchant, iron monger, Clerk of Works (1856) in the Colonial Architect’s Department and then Supervisor (1860) of Public Works (Morgan and Gilbert 1969; Gilbert in Pike 1972). He also acted as Colonial Architect for six months after Edward Hamilton’s resignation from the post in 1860 (Page 1986).
G.K. Soward attended St Peter’s College from 1867 to c.1874, winning the Prankerd Scholarship for the study of a foreign language in 1872. An old scholars listing for 1875 has his occupation as clerk (St. Peter’s College Archives). He married Emmy Lucy Charlotte Beare on 7 April 1880 at St Barnabas Church, Clare. They lived at 62 The Mall (now Moseley Street) Glenelg and had two daughters, Helen Daisy and Marjorie, and a son, Lewis Douglas (South Australian marriage/birth registers).
Leading an active public life, Soward was chairman of the Charitable Funds Commission, a governor of the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of South Australia, president of the Glenelg Institute and Glenelg Cricket Club and mayor of Glenelg from 1895 to 1898. From 1902 to 1905 he represented Torrens as a conservative in the South Australian House of Assembly. In addition, he was a director of City Permanent Building & Investment Society and the Glenelg Railway Company and a member of the Adelaide Club. Soward compiled Glenelg Illustrated (1896) and wrote amongst other works, a novel, The Mirthful Mutineer, published in the Australian Women’s Mirror (Sydney). He died on 21 February 1941 and was buried at St Jude’s Anglican Church, Brighton (Gilbert in Pike 1972).
At the time Soward was working as a clerk (1875), he won £1 10s for his pen and ink drawing of Corinthian and Doric orders of architecture in an exhibition held under the auspices of the Chamber of Manufacturers. In the architectural section of the 1877 Exhibition, he was among those who entered works. No award was granted on the grounds of unoriginality of design. Soward wrote to the Register in protest. This would appear to have been a valid response as notable architects of the day, R.G. Thomas, E.J. Woods, Henry Thompson, G.T. Light and Rowland Rees, also sent a letter to the paper suggesting that although Soward’s design was too ambitious, it was perhaps worthy of a £2 prize (Jensen and Jensen 1980).
Soward was articled to Thomas English, architect and former builder, in 1877. He would have managed the business in 1878 when English left the colony for an extended visit to England (‘Death of the Hon. Thomas English’ 1884). In 1880 they formed English & Soward, practising from Albion Chambers, Waymouth Street, then Barnard Chambers, Currie Street, Adelaide. This partnership lasted until English’s death in 1884. Soward then made English’s son, Joseph, who had also been articled to the firm, a partner. In 1895 they were practising from 20-22 Cowra Chambers, Grenfell Street (designed by the practice but demolished in the 1970s for the Grenfell Centre), which remained the case until at least 1935 (Sands & McDougall). This partnership proved successful and continued until Joseph’s death in 1927 (ADB Online; Collins and Garnaut 2002). The practice had also taken on Soward’s son Lewis in 1921, but he was to die in 1924, aged 42 (Gilbert in Pike 1972). James Irwin did his articles with the firm before joining Woods, Bagot, Jory and Laybourne Smith. In addition they had made Herbert Montefiore Jackman, who joined the firm in 1919, a partner in 1926. These partnerships, along with those initiated by Daniel Garlick, were the forerunners of the current practice JPE (formerly Jackman Parken Evans), now the oldest surviving continuous practice in South Australia (Collins and Garnaut 2002). Soward retired in 1936 (Gilbert in Pike 1972).
Soward was an inaugural member of the South Australian Institute of Architects (SAIA) in 1886. As the Institute was not to be used for personal gain or to suppress others’ work, Soward resigned when he became aware that Joseph English, who was not a member of the Institute, was charging former clients of his father less than that recommended by the professional body. This fee was what English senior had always charged and was, in fact, only half of one percent. These clients were not part of the practice, however Soward felt ‘unfit to take his place amongst honourable men’ (Freeeland 1971: 99). He did, in time, rejoin. Willis (1998) lists him as a member in 1924 and as a Fellow in 1934. Page (1986) suggests that he was not popular with other SAIA members, being forceful in his views.
A strong interest in history, including that of the built environment, is evident in Soward’s 1936 article ‘One Hundred Years of Building’ for the South Australian Homes and Gardens. He wrote, ‘It is our History written in timber walls, in mud wall, in cut stone, in ordinary masonry, in brick, in old slate roofs, an indelible handwriting as building ever is’ (27). He lamented the loss of some early buildings, doubting ‘that the Historic Sense exists among us’ (28). He must also have been struggling with architectural change when he asserted, ‘to the regret of many grey-haired citizens, the great cornice with its light and shadow is, in today’s workshop of the perpendicular, no longer a sought-after feature, while grouped and shapely chimneys have been a thing of the past’ (76).
Soward’s particular specialty was large houses, often in the Gothic style, although the practice widened its repertoire to include commercial premises, shops, church and sporting facilities (Page 1986; Collins and Garnaut 2002).
According to Gilbert (in Pike 1972: 23), ‘for the first thirty years his [Soward’s] houses were usually constructed of stone, with brick dressings and gabled roof of unpainted iron; they were two-storied and frequently had pointed arches in the manner of A.W. Pugin’. Despite the popularity of cast-iron lace work at that time, he was sparing in its use. Early works showed some confusion in style with the 1881 Culver House in Walkerville having its ‘Italianate bones…dressed in Tudor detail’ (Gilbert in Pike 1972: 23). A number of his homes feature on the South Australian State Heritage Register (SHR) including ‘Stormont’, South Esplanade, Glenelg (built 1886, SHR 12559), ‘Boston House’, Lincoln Highway, Port Lincoln (built 1886, SHR 10217) and St Corantyn (built 1892 and now a clinic, SHR 13460), East Terrace, Adelaide.
In the centre of Adelaide there are notable commercial buildings still extant: Tavistock Building, 228-240 Rundle Street (built 1885, SHR 13379), Beehive Corner, Rundle Mall and King William Street (built 1896), Gawler Chambers, 188 North Terrace (built 1913, SHR 13104) and the Epworth Building, Pirie Street (built 1927).
Soward was architect to the South Australian Jockey club and as such designed a grandstand for the Morphettville Racecourse (built 1913, SHR 14396). Other grandstands were built at the Oakbank Racecourse (1922) and the Glenelg Oval (1933). English and Soward were honorary architects for the pavilion designed and built in 1909 for the University of Adelaide oval adjacent to War Memorial Drive. It is still in use and features red brick quoins and half-timbered gables characteristic of English and Soward’s work (Collins and Garnaut 2002). They had also previously provided their professional services gratis for a benevolent housing project, the ‘Vosz Homes’, at St. Ann’s Terrace, St Leonards in 1891 (Soward 1896).
McDougall, Alison, ‘Soward, George Klewitz’, Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, 2014, Architects of South Australia: [http://www.architectsdatabase.unisa.edu.au/arch_full.asp?Arch_ID=66]