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University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Howard Memorial College
Durban, KwaZulu-Natal

William HIRST: Architect

Date:1929 - 1931
Type:College
Status:Extant

 


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Coordinates:
29°52'03.36" S 30°58'51.45" E

TBF Davis funded the building in memory of his son Howard who had been killed in the First World War, aged twenty-one, in the Battle of the Somme. Hirst was commissioned to design the building while studying at the the Architectural Association in London. He wrote to Narbeth, the Principal of the Technical College, in March 1929 that Davis had approved the outlined plan: 'the building was planned around two internal courtyards with open arcaded corridors, and that a small hall divided the courtyards and was situated behind a circular entrance hall' (Rees 1957:205.) The plans were apparently worked oInterestingly, TBF Davis, the donor of the commission, had been persuaded to use an architect by the Principal of the Technical College, BM Narbeth, an ardent promoter of Natal University education, who apparently reminded Davis about Cecil Rhodes' gesture in employing a young architect to design Groote Schuur for him (Rees 1957:205). Davis funded the building in memory of his son Howard who had been killed in the First World War, aged twenty-one, in the Battle of the Somme. The present entrance hall to Howard College is a remarkable blend of formal hall and emotive memorial. Hirst was, according to HARBER, allowed to submit the design of the College for his thesis at the AA: 'It was agreed that Hirst should remain in London until March, 1929 in order to complete his studies, after which he would return to Durban and prepare his plans so that construction might start in October. The sugar baron Sir Charles Smith, who had founded the Emma Smith Scholarships was immensely gratified by the news of Hirst's appointment' (Rees 1957:205). Hirst wrote to Narbeth in March 1929 that Davis had approved the outlined plan: 'the building was planned around two internal courtyards with open arcaded corridors, and that a small hall divided the courtyards and was situated behind a circular entrance hall' (Rees 1957:205.) The plans were apparently worked on during the voyage home and the foundation stone laid in February 1930. The building, to house 250 engineering students, was officially opened in August 1931. The original drawings for the building shows a less Lutyensesque design for the dome than that on the present building, unsurmounted by the famous golden ball (globe).

Foundation stone:

HOWARD DAVIS UNIVERSITY COLLEGE
TO THE GLORY OF GOD
AND
IN MEMORY OF HOWARD DAVIS
WHO AT THE AGE OF 21 GAVE HIS LIFE FOR HIS
KING
AT THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME IN THE GREAT WAR
THIS STONE WAS LAID BY MRS T.B.F. DAVIS,
HOWARD'S MOTHER.
2ND DAY FEBRUARY 1930.

Inauguration stone:

HOWARD DAVIS UNIVERSITY COLLEGE
OPENED BY THE GOVERNOR GENERAL
LORD CLARENDON P.C. G.C.M.G.
AS REPRESENTING
HIS MAJESTY
KING GEORGE. V.
AUGUST 1ST 1931.
THIS COLLEGE WAS PRESENTED BY MR T.B.F. DAVIS
HOWARD'S FATHER

(OD 406a-b; SAB Feb 1933:15 ill; Ntl Advertiser Sep 13 1929 ill; Ntl convoc news 5; Rees 1957:205)

These notes were last edited on 2020 10 12

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


Writings about this entry

Rees, W. 1957. The NTC (Natal Technical College), 1907 1957: a jubilee history. Natal: University of Natal Press. pg 205