Henry Hunter (1832-1892) was a most prolific private architect of both ecclesiastical and lay buildings, dominating the architectural scene in Tasmania. He was much influenced by Augustus Pugin and followed his books extensively. Born in Nottingham, England in 1832, Hunter was the son of a builder. He studied at the Nottingham School of Design, before emigrated to Adelaide with his parents and sisters in 1848. Following the death of his parents, he went to Hobart in 1851. Henry soon went to the Bendigo goldfields and raised funds to pay his family’s debts in Adelaide.
On his return to Tasmania he worked at Port Esperance in the timber trade on his own account and as manager for John Balfe. He moved to Hobart probably to a stationer’s business but in 1856, encouraged by Bishop Robert Willson, he began to practise as an architect.
He was a zealous student and practitioner of the Gothic Revival Movement, applying the style to churches and schools. His treatment of this style gave a pleasing effect to even the smallest church while his use of local materials enabled him to blend a wide range of building stone in a delicate manner. He brought wide experience and mature judgment to his profession and was generous in sharing his knowledge with those who studied under his direction.
As a result of his Gothic Revival leanings, Hunter was awarded numerous commissions for both the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches throughout Tasmania. Hunter’s work was not limited to ecclesiastical buildings, and included many notable public buildings, schools and private residences.
His major public building was the Hobart Town Hall, commenced in 1862. Although his original plans for a Gothic style of construction were rejected in the competition, he was given the contract, and the fine Renaissance-style building was erected by J. Gowland. Porticoes have been added since and doorways closed off. Hunter also won the competition for the Hobart Museum, which was commenced in 1861 by H.W. Seabrook and Son.
Hunter was active in community affairs: being a property valuation commissioner, serving on the Hobart Board of Health, Tasmanian Board of Education, Board of Management of the Orphan Asylum, and was a Commissioner of the Government Asylum for the Insane at New Norfolk. He was appointed a magistrate in 1881. Hunter was also choirmaster at St Joseph’s Church, Macquarie Street, Hobart, for over thirty years.
On a visit to Queensland Hunter formed a partnership with his son, Walter, and former pupil, Leslie G. Corrie, and settled at Brisbane in 1888. Although specializing in domestic architecture his firm designed the Queensland Deposit Bank and All Hallows’ Convent.
Prominent in the Queensland Institute of Architects, he served on its council and was president in 1890 and vice-president in 1891. In 1856 at Melbourne Hunter had married Celia Georgina, daughter of Lieutenant John Robertson of the 70th Regiment, Bengal; she survived him with one son and three daughters of their seven children when he died in Brisbane on 17th October 1892.
Hobart Town Hall; Hunter prepared plans and was awarded first premium in a competition conducted by the Hobart Municipal Council for a town hall. His design was acclaimed a fine composition of unusual breadth and unity of line but was not accepted. The two-storey Italian Renaissance-style building is situated on one of the most important historic sites in the City of Hobart, being near the location where Lieutenant-Governor David Collins pitched his tent in February 1804. building completed in 1866.
The Town Hall features banded rustication to the ground floor, finely detailed pediments and cornices over upper level windows, quoins, cornice with both egg and dart and dentils, bracketed eaves and chimney caps. There is a three-bay entry porch, with Corinthian columns and side porticos. The richly decorated interior features a grand staircase.
Location: Cnr Elizabeth & Macquarie Streets, Hobart.
Ashleigh: One of many stately homes designed by Hunter, this mansion is one of his finest achievements. The home is highlighted by impressive ornate wide verandahs that overlook the gardens. The original ornate lace work and timber detail are stately and compliment the home. The entrance hallis light filled with impressive lead light windows and glazing. The grand stairs of timber and cast iron lead to the four upstairs bedrooms. The fireplaces and detail in the timber and plasterwork were created by the leading craftsman of the colony. Location: 289 Davey Street, South Hobart
Macquarie Manor, 172 Macquarie Street, Hobart. Designed by Henry Hunter and built by Hobart builder James Gregory in 1875, it was originally home to the surgeon Dr Richard Stonehewer Bright.
Among his earliest commissions was St Peter’s Hall, Lower Collins Street, and in the next thirty years he designed such ecclesiastical buildings as All Saints Church, Macquarie Street; the Church of the Apostles, Launceston; the Mariners’ Church, Franklin Wharf; Church of the Sacred Heart, New Town; the Presentation Convent, Hobart; the Deanery, Macquarie Street, and St David’s Sunday school. He was supervising architect for St David’s Cathedral, planned by Bodley & Garner, London.
Hunter’s design for the Hobart Museum won a competition in 1860 and construction began next year. Two years later he was commissioned to build municipal offices. He designed and built the Derwent and Tamar Assurance Offices, the Masonic Hall, Hobart, Stonehenge homestead near Oatlands, and the Australian Mutual Provident Society’s Building. He planned wards and other offices for the General Hospital and designed many schools for the Board of Education; warehouses, the Marine Office and a ‘picturesque grandstand’ at Elwick racecourse were among other buildings entrusted to his care. In 1876 he revised costs for capital works at two Hobart gaols.