Edmund Blacket

Edmund Blacket (1817 – 1883) architect
Edmund Blacket was an upright God-fearing man who shunned controversy, professional publicity and social acclaim. An exemplary husband and father he had been churchwarden and alderman, and was widely respected and admired for honesty, diligence, accuracy, fortitude and propriety. His architectural commissions included schools, colleges, banks, hospitals, commercial buildings and domestic work in addition to numerous Anglican churches that were his chief interest..

Although unproven, it is generally accepted that Blacket carried letters of introduction to Bishop William Grant Broughton and Charles Nicholson. By their influence he was appointed valuator to Bourke ward, Sydney, and inspector of teaching and building in Anglican schools. He assumed the role of architect and after seven years had established a modest practice, had been appointed diocesan architect and won respect for sound work and outstanding knowledge of Gothic styles. In 1849 he succeeded Mortimer Lewis as colonial architect; he held that position until 1854 when he resigned to accept an invitation by the Senate of the University of Sydney to design its first buildings. From that time his practice grew as vigorously as his reputation.

Commissions included schools, colleges, banks, hospitals, commercial buildings and domestic work in addition to numerous Anglican churches that were his chief interest. Many local architects, including W. E. Kemp, were trained in his office and others newly arrived in the colony, among them John Horbury Hunt, found employment with him.

When his wife died in 1869, Blacket was left with four sons and four daughters, Edith, Alice, Arthur, Marion, Owen, Hilda, Cyril and Horace. In 1880 Cyril joined the firm which was then known as Blacket & Son.

Edmund Blacket was an upright God-fearing man who shunned controversy, professional publicity and social acclaim. An exemplary husband and father he had been churchwarden and alderman, and was widely respected and admired for honesty, diligence, accuracy, fortitude and propriety. He had achieved an ambition to practise architecture and, above all, he had furnished the colony with many handsome Gothic churches.

In the first phase of his career in New South Wales Blacket was dominated by Bishop Broughton, an autocratic High Church Tractarian well informed on ecclesiological advances in Britain that affected church design. His young architect was thus at a professional disadvantage, made acute by obligation, social inferiority and inexperience. Other clerics and influential laymen demanded exact replicas of well-remembered English village churches. Under these pressures Blacket embarked on the completion of Christ Church St Lawrence, Sydney (1843); incorporated the abandoned work at St Andrew’s Cathedral into a new design (1847); designed St Mark’s, Darling Point, and St Paul’s, Redfern (1848), two rustic churches that illustrate piecemeal design; and St Philip’s, Sydney (1848), an outstanding highly-wrought exercise in antiquarian exactitude, a splendid town church with a fine interior of good form and detail. St John’s, Wollombi (1849) and St Paul’s, Carcoar (1845), demonstrate Blacket’s excellent command of small-scale architecture.

While serving as colonial architect Blacket withdrew from interfering amateurs. He remained as diocesan architect but treated the bishop, clerics and wealthy laymen with assurance and new-found professional detachment that stemmed from growing respect for his ability and official status. This second stage of his career was unproductive in terms of public buildings and when he resigned his achievements were assessed largely as contributions to routine maintenance and administration.

As had been foreshadowed at St Mary’s, West Maitland (1864), he reserved fourteenth-century Gothic for all but two of the large churches started or completed in New South Wales between 1870 and 1883. Among these are St Paul’s, Burwood (1872), St Stephen’s, Newtown (1874), All Saints’, Woollahra (1874), St Saviour’s, Goulburn (1874), and St Peter’s, East Maitland (1882). The exceptions are St Thomas’s, North Sydney (1881), outstanding among his larger churches, and St Stephen’s, Willoughby (1882), both in transitional Romanesque-Early English manner. Other works of note include simple, practical interpretations of Tudor Gothic in rectories such as those at Bega (1856) and Darling Point, Sydney (1858); like St Paul’s College, Sydney (1856); these are dignified, honest and discretely picturesque. Retford Hall, formerly at Darling Point (1865), was among the first copy-book attempts at Italianate villa style in Sydney, while the Bank of Australasia’s premises in George Street, Sydney (1857), are unequalled among local interpretations of astylar Italian Palazzo manner. Mort’s wool store, formerly at Circular Quay, Sydney (1866), David Cohen & Co.’s store at West Maitland (1865), and to a less extent both St John’s, Glebe (1868), and St Silas’s, Waterloo (1868), all display uncharacteristic ebullience and vigour that may safely be attributed to the influence of John Horbury Hunt, Blacket’s assistant at the time. The monumental work at the University of Sydney (1854) is disappointing. Details and form in south and east elevations lack control: both are heavily decorated but timidly articulated. The west elevation, as plain as St Paul’s College, is far superior, although the junction of tower and main roof is unhappy. The Great Hall, a reduced version of that at Westminster, is the best part.

Without doubt Edmund Blacket made important contributions to architecture in Australia not only by his works but also by his influence on others. He put tradition before innovation and in doing so rarely committed errors of taste. But for forty years he dominated ecclesiastical architecture in New South Wales to such an extent that the majority accepted church building as an entirely antiquarian endeavour. In consequence stylistic development was severely restricted; quality declined as other less dedicated practitioners exploited popular taste by substituting burlesque plagiarism for scholarly eclecticism; and, not least, attempts at adventurous High Victorian Gothic were almost unknown in the colony until the 1880s.

Complete article : http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A030165b.htm

Edmund Blacket
Edmund Thomas Blacket (25 August 1817 – 9 February 1883) was an Australian architect, best known for his designs for the University of Sydney, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney and St. Saviour’s Cathedral, Goulburn.

Arriving in Sydney from England in 1842, at a time when the city was rapidly expanding and new suburbs and towns were being established, Blacket was to become a pioneer of the revival styles of architecture, in particular Victorian Gothic. He was the most favoured architect of the Church of England in New South Wales for much of his career, and between late 1849 and 1854 was the official “Colonial Architect to New South Wales”.

Complete article : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Blacket

Sydney Architecture
On 1 December 1849, the Colonial Secretary wrote to Edmund Blacket…. “His Excellency, the Governor, having being pleased to appoint you to the office of Colonial Architect, I am directed to request that you will immediately assume the charge of the Department, and receive from Mr Lewis, all plans, specifications, contracts or other documents in that gentleman’s possession.”

The new Colonial Architect had arrived in Sydney in November 1842 as an emigrant settler from England. He was largely self taught in art, painting, sculpture, music and architecture.

Complete article :  http://www.sydneyarchitecture.com/ARCH/ARCH-Blacket.htm

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