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EMLEY, Frank

Born: 1861 11 15
Died: 1938 11 10

Architect


He was born on 15 November 1861 and was the fifth son of Thomas Emley who ran a firm of monumental masons based in Newcastle. The firm did much carving on fittings in churches especially for WS Hicks for whom Frank was chief assistant. They also produced many war memorials after WWI and became installers of heating systems in churches. Frank was always intended for an artistic career as part of his education was at a Moravian school in Switzerland which had a broad curriculum and provided many opportunities for artistic activity.

Corbridge Town Hall is his only project in England that is recorded. It is a very pretty termination to the main street with oriel windows and details derived from Norman SHAW. It is now in commercial use.

Robert Baden Powell was godfather to Ernest Douglas Emley, the youngest son, after they had become friends on the voyage to South Africa.

He was a pioneer architect in Johannesburg and principal in the well-known Johannesburg practices of LECK & EMLEY and EMLEY & WILLIAMSON. He was born in Gateshead, County Durham in England and served articles with Oliver & Leeson of Newcastle-on-Tyne, afterwards working for Hodgson Fowler of Durham before becoming principal assistant to WS Hicks of Newsastle-upon-Tyne. During his pupilage he visited France and Belgium. On completion of articles (nd) he was fortunate in winning a competition for a small town hall at Corbridge-on-Tyne (c1887), which enabled him to set up practice in Newcastle-on-Tyne on his own account. Indifferent health from which he suffered throughout his life brought him to South Africa in 1888. He appears to have come straight to the Transvaal Republic (ZAR) since by 1889 he was listed in partnership with RM CAMPBELL at work on the Pretoria Club designs (cf. CAMPBELL & EMLEY) - at some point the firm became CAMPBELL, EMLEY & DICKSON.

By 1893 Emley was recorded working with F SCOTT, their names occurred listed together in the Johannesburg directory for 1893 (cf. EMLEY & SCOTT). With Scott he designed the old Standard Bank building on Church Square in Pretoria; the National Bank Chambers building on Church Square is attributed to the partners. EMLEY also designed the Grand Hotel in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) sometime before 1904, perhaps around 1898. Lionel Phillips was one of EMLEY's first patrons and according to Gutsche (1966) he commissioned EMLEY to design a house for him in Parktown. The house, known as Hohenheim was built for Phillips by his firm, Eckstein's Company and was begun in 1892, completed in 1894 (in 1898 it was given to Sir Percy Fitzpatrick who lived there until 1908) and was one of the first houses to be built in Parktown. It is usually found attributed to William LECK but is not mentioned in LECK's FRIBA nom papers (1904). But it is mentioned in EMLEY's nomination papers (1904). Hohenheim, now demolished, became the Otto Beit Nursing Home for a time.

Mining magnate Phillips was closely involved with the building of the first Chamber of Mines (1894-1895) in Market Street, Johannesburg, a job which was also given to EMLEY and carried out by the partnership of EMLEY & SCOTT in Flemish Renaissance style. In about 1898 EMLEY entered into partnership with William LECK (cf. LECK & EMLEY) and during this period several notable buildings were executed, among them the third Rand Club, the Corner House and the third Stock Exchange buildings in Johannesburg. In 1904 EMLEY, in a home-made document signed by BAKER, applied for Fellowship of the RIBA and was elected. LECK was elected the same year. GAH DICKSON joined the partnership in about 1907 at about the time of LECK's death. The partnership continued as LECK, EMLEY & DICKSON until 1913. In 1908 the partners entered, unsuccessfully, for both the Pretoria railway station competition and the Pretoria post office competition.

Although DICKSON continued to share a post office box number with EMLEY, his name was not included in the partnership after 1913, having enlisted for active service in the Great War (First World War). EMLEY wrote DICKSON's obituary (1918) and sharply noted DICKSON's preference for a life of glamour and of squandering his talent on military matters.

In about 1918 EMLEY took the young Gerard MOERDYK under his wing, fostering and encouraging MOERDYK's emerging interest in an indigenous style and helped him obtain a bursary for a study visit to the Cape. EMLEY and MOERDYK collaborated on the Nederduitse Gerformeerde Kerk building at Bothaville (1918), one of MOERDYK's first buildings (cf EMLEY & MOERDYK). EMLEY was committed to the arts in general, having an early and high regard for Anton VAN WOUW. He also acted as one of the judges in the Arts & Crafts Exhibition at Milner Park in about 1905, the first show of its kind in Johannesburg, organised by Sir Lionel Phillips's wife, Lady Florence Phillips. EMLEY was one of the five members of the committee of the African Art Journal (1907). Building illustrated EMLEY's design submitted in a limited competition for a shop/warehouse, 'chosen unanimously by the journal committee as a subject for illustration of current architecture as it was considered to be a highly cultured treatment of a shop/warehouse' (Building Mar 1918:148-9).

In 1920 EMLEY entered into partnership with F WILLIAMSON having won the competition for the design of the main building of the University of the Witwatersrand (cf EMLEY & WILLIAMSON) with a proposal for a block with a large, high central dome above a large circular hall dominating the plan. COWIN & POWERS came second. In spite of protests, the university committee appointed COWIN & POWERS joint architects with EMLEY & WILLIAMSON. The decision to appoint joint architects to the scheme was probably made in view of the disastrously heavy work-load on JM SOLOMON, appointed sole architect of the University of Cape Town buildings, which delayed the start of the building and culminated in August 1920 in SOLOMON's death, exhaustion being a contributing factor. EMLEY & WILLIAMSON's final design for the Main Building at the University of the Witwatersrand was severely neo-classical and among the designs selected for display at the exhibition of Dominion and Colonial Architecture held in London at the RIBA headquarters from October to November 1926. At this exhibition the design was under EMLEY's name. The partners executed a number of other buildings for the University.

EMLEY's failing health caused him to rely on WILLIAMSON during the latter years of the partnership and he finally returned to England to live at 2 Bath Terrace in Tynemouth in Northumberland. He died at Fairfield, Harwold, Bedford having sold the business and its goodwill to WILLIAMSON.

Mem Provisional Council for Registration of Architects Bill 1911. FRIBA 1904; ISAA 1927; Soc of Archts (Lon) SA Branch. (AB&E Aug 1920:9; AB&E Sep 1920:9; AB&E Oct 1920:5; Afr Archt Jun 1911:21; Afr Archt Dec 1912:96; Aron 1972; Building Sep 1920:380-6; Commercial & industrial Tvl 1905:216; Dominion & Colonial arch, exhib cat 1926; FRIBA nom papers (1904); Longlands Jhb dir 1893; Gutsche 1966, 1970; The Afr Archt Jnl Jul 1907; SAB Jan 1923:14; SAWW 1908; TAD PWD 122/3253; RIBA biog file (Miss C Emley, Oxfordshire 1981); TAD MHG 3300/39) Publ: South African cottages, Afr Archt Feb 1914:314, 317, ill; Sketching, Building Mar 1918:141

[Information on early life in England supplied by Graham Potts from: G Dickinson, Corbridge: The Last 2000 Years, 2000, p.92-8]

All truncated references not cited and linked below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

Writings about EMLEY, Frank

Gutsche, Thelma. 1966. No Ordinary Woman: The life and times of Florence Phillips. Cape Town: Howard Timmins. pp 71, 88, 92, 93, 96, 103, 201, 238, 245, 247
Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1989. Historical Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: Struikhof Publishers. pp 153, 154, 155

List of buildings:

Eckstein's Buildings - Corner House: 1902. Johannesburg, Gauteng
House Hennen Jennings: Sunnyside, later Milner's HQ: 1895. Parktown, Johannesburg, Gauteng
House HM Tarberer: Emoyen: 1913. Parktown, Johannesburg, Gauteng
Joscelyn, shop/warehouse front: c1918. Johannesburg, Gauteng
Polliack Bldgs: n.d.. Johannesburg, Gauteng
Pollock Mansions: c1897. Johannesburg, Gauteng
Sauers Bldgs: 1903. Johannesburg, Gauteng
Standard Bank: n.d.. Pretoria, Gauteng
State Bank and Mint: 1893. Central, Pretoria, Gauteng
University of the Witwatersrand, competition design: 1920. Johannesburg, Gauteng