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RALSTON, John

Born: 1878
Died: 1955

Architect


Year registered: 1927

A Scots architect born in Dumbarton, the son of John Ralston, cabinetmaker and his wife Robina. He studied at the Royal Technical College, Ralston and was was articled to JM Crawford, architect in Dumbarton. In 1901 he was still living with his parents and siblings in Dumbarton. He came to South Africa, sailing from Liverpool on the 'Persic' on 15 January 1903. He disembarked in Cape Town and it is possible that he worked first there since, according to a note in the Architect, Builder & Engineer (Apr 1935:27), he was 'formerly of Cape Town and Pretoria and now of Johannesburg'. Ralston had also at one time been in the office of Baker, Masey & Sloper' (SAMBF Jnl Nov 1906:23). No dates are currently available for either situation. Men of the Times (Transvaal) (1905:306) gives Ralston's date of arrival in Pretoria as 1902, while 1903 was given as the date of his arrival in the Transvaal by the South African Who's Who (1908). By the end of 1906 Ralston had been able to set up independent practice having won several competitions, at least two of these in 1906. Among these the most celebrated was his winning the competition for the first town hall in Pretoria (1905-1906) (demolished in 1973), perhaps among the earliest buildings in Pretoria to adopt Bakerisms used at Government House, for example its gables and colonnaded portico. It had a number of later counterparts in Pretoria, among which was the Central Fire Station in Bosman St (1912). Other competitions he won were for St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Pretoria (1906) and also for the Johannesburg High School and the Jeppestown High School (Jeppe Boys' High School) in Johannesburg, for the Public Works Department (1906). The South African Architect, Engineer and Surveyor's Journal (Oct 1906:3) suggested that one man winning so many competitions in so short a time was something of a record in South Africa. Ralston's career after 1911 appears to have been based in Johannesburg. There is currently a gap in his known work from about 1911 to about 1925. Around 1917/18 Ralston worked in association with JC COOK of Boksburg and Benoni, with whom he won the competition for the extensions to Ladysmith Town Hall (1917) and entered, unsuccessfully, for the Benoni Town Hall competition (1918) (cf. COOK & RALSTON). In about 1931 he worked in association with PR COOKE on the Capitol Theatre, Pretoria. The Victoria Hotel in Plein St, Johannesburg is his last known work. Ralston retired from the Transvaal Provincial Institute of Architects, and probably from architecture, in 1954/1955.

(See also his entry on Dictionary of Scottish Architects.)

(Afr Archt 1911: iii; ISAA mem list; Men Tvl 1905:306; Picton-Seymour 1977; SAAE&S Jnl Oct 1906:3; SAAR Aug 1955:44 death notice; SAB Apr 1935: lxxxv; SAMBF Jnl Nov 1906:23; SAWW 1908)

These notes were last edited on 2020 08 03

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

List of projects

With photographs
With notes


Capitol Theatre: 1931. Pretoria, Gauteng - Architect
Jeppe High School for Boys: 1906. Jeppestown, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Jeppestown High School (Jeppe Boys' High School): 1906. Jeppestown, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Johannesburg Central Property & Trust Bldg: 1925. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Johannesburg High School: 1906. Pretoria, Gauteng - Architect
Shops, offices, flats for B Owen Jones: 1935. Benoni, Gauteng - Architect
St Andrew's Presbyterian Church: 1906. Pretoria, Gauteng - Architect
Town Hall: 1905. Pretoria, Gauteng - Architect
Victoria Hotel: 1935. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Wembley House: 1926. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect

Books citing RALSTON

ISAA. 1927. Register of Members the Institute of South African Architects. Johannesburg: ISAA (Unpublished Record). pp R3

Transvaal Publishing Co. 1905. Men of the Times : Pioneers of the Transvaal and glimpses of South Africa . Johannesburg, Cape Town and London: The Transvaal Publishing Co. pp 306