ARVIA 1888; FRVIA 1890; FRIBA 1902
William Black was the senior partner in the well-known Cape Town partnership of BLACK & FAGG and active in Cape Town in the period from about 1893 until 1922. Born in Victoria, Australia, the third son of Captain Edward Black. Edward Black’s first marriage was to Isabel (or Isobel) Hutton on 11 April 1863 at Christ Church, South Yarra Victoria. They had three boys: Edward Murphy 1864, James George 1865, William Patrick Henry (1867). William was born at 35 Bank street east, Emerald Hill on 15 July 1867. Isabel died in her 28 year on 3 August 1867 possibly as a result of the earlier childbirth. Five years later, Edward Black (41) married Isabel's sister, Helena Silvestra (Sylvestra) Hutton, then 25 years old, on 19 Nov 1872. Edward and Helena had two children Anne Mary and Herbert (born 1 December 1875) BLACK. William trained as a civil engineer and architect in Melbourne and London; he was articled to Albert Purchas, a civil engineer and a past president of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects who had his offices in Melbourne. During his pupilage Black won several prizes offered by the RVIA, among them the Royal Victoria Institute of Architects' award in December 1885 for his entry in a student competition for an Episcopal church. He also won the President's prize (n.d.) as well as a 'gold medal for Gothic Architecture' (SAA&B May 1905:156-7). In 1888 he was elected an associate of the RVIA. A keen student of the Gothic style, Black left Australia on a study tour of Europe at about this time, 'collecting sketches and photographs of the best examples of ancient and modern architecture' (SAA&B May 1905:156). The visit seems to have occurred between 1888 and 1890. Black returned to Australia and worked there for the next three years, being elected a Fellow of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects in 1890.
He left for South Africa in 1893. The South African who's who (1908) in its entry for Black gave the date of Black's arrival in South Africa as 1890, but according to a note in the RVIA Minutes of Council (1890-1895, 9 May 1893 (p.241) Black notified the Institute that he was about to leave for South Africa, thus making a date in 1893 feasible.
Black set up on his own account immediately on his arrival in Cape Town, arriving a few months after H BAKER. In 1895 he employed WG FAGG who had trained in Tasmania and who later became Black's partner. Black was elected a Fellow of the RIBA in 1902, his papers being signed by GM ALEXANDER, Alexander Graham (?) and BAKER. In the same year he travelled to America at the invitation of the Directors of the New York Mutual Insr Co as winner of the first and second premiums in the competition for the Mutual Life Insurance Co of New York. He shared second premium with JW ALLEN. In 1904 he married Sydney Cathcart, perhaps one of the Cathcart family for whom he designed a house in 1898 - it is interesting to note that the architect William D'Arcy CATHCART had been articled to Black and had worked in his office until about 1910/11. Black invited WG Fagg and H BLACK into partnership (cf BLACK & FAGG) in 1904 and travelled to Australia the same year.
The firm branched out into the Transvaal for a brief period in about 1907-1908, probably in connection with the Potchefstroom Town Hall, won in competition (1907). Black & Fagg were first listed in Johannesburg in the United Transvaal Directory in 1907.
Black was successful in a number of other competitions before 1904. He was placed first in four of them: the Cape of Good Hope Savings Bank; Wynberg Town Hall; proposed Dutch Reformed Church, Sea Point; and St Lukes's Anglican Church, all in Cape Town.
Black travelled to Australia again in 1910, the ship in which he was travelling, the Pericles, being wrecked off the Australian coast, but Black survived. In 1912 he travelled to the East but no details of this trip have yet emerged. Black founded what became one of the largest offices and best-known practices in Cape Town and one in which a number of architects worked before setting off on their own. He was concerned with social welfare and was a member of the City Council of Cape Town for several years. He was a 'keen student of Town Planning and housing schemes' (RIBA Jnl 1922-3:25 obit). He died of double pneumonia while on a business trip upcountry and was buried in Cape Town. It seems that he had a son, Elwyn Leighton BLACK, who also became an architect.
(his nomination papers have gone astray.)
(AB&E Aug 1922:2 obit,port; AB&E Jul 1923:20 death notice; Afr Archt Jul 1911:33; Afr Archt May 1914:339; Building Sep 1922:98 obit; Brown 1969; FRIBA nom papers (1902) 48; Johnson 1979; Johnson 1987; Lantern 4 1984; Lewis 1986; Picton-Seymour 1977; Radford 1979; Rennie 1978; SAA&B Mar 1904:101; SAA&B May 1905:156-7; SAAE&S Jnl Oct 1906:2; SAWW 1908, 1909, 1910)
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.