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SPICER, Harold Wolseley

Born: 1882 11 02
Died: 1964 07 13

Architect

SACA:
Reg No: 120
Year registered: 1927

Was born in Hertfordshire, England [Walker has recorded the year as possibly being 1883] where he was educated at Watford Grammar School, matriculating with distinctions in mathematics, geography, life drawing, antiques and design. He was a tall, athletic man, winning a number of medals for swimming. In 1899 he was articled to Sir Charles Pryor Ayres, FRIBA, and continued his studies at the Regent Street Polytechnic while studying at King's College, London; he won the Polytechnic Silver Medallion for Architectural Design. In 1903 he came to South Africa where he worked first in Natal where he was soon busy in the preparation of designs for various large building schemes in Durban; it is likely he was working for Stanley HUDSON, since Hudson wrote to the PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT recommending Spicer: 'he is a really good and astute draughtsman, with ideas and is always courteous and obliging' (NAD. PWD 3886/1908). He lectured at the Natal Technical College, and joined the PWD in Natal in 1908, transferring to Pretoria under the Union Government in 1910.

He continued his architectural studies in England and Paris in 1912 and returned to South Africa in 1913. According to his obituary in the Rand Daily Mail (14 July 1964:11) he worked 'with the famous Herbert BAKER' as a young man; this may have been around 1910/1912 in connection with the Union Buildings. He appears to have returned to work for the PWD until in 1917 he settled in Johannesburg and registered as a member of the Association of Transvaal Architects in 1918. In the same year he married Tina Bok, the daughter of Eduard Bok, the State Secretary to President Kruger. He also (1917?) passed the qualifying examination held at the School of Mines and Technology, Johannesburg which enabled him to practice as an architect. The two other candidates with him were MJ HEIR and WB Turner NEWHAM. Around 1919 he worked for SOLOMON & MARSHALL and while in this office won the competition for the Krugersdorp War Memorial which was unveiled in 1922 by Sir Abe Bailey. He exhibited a drawing of this at the 1923 South African Academy [of Arts] exhibition. By 1921 he began practice on his own account in Johannesburg. Howie (1977:750) states this was in 1918, and was commissioned to design a bronze war memorial plaque for the boardroom of the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Corporation head office in Fox Street in 1923. In 1924 Spicer exhibited a number of drawings at the South African Academy [of Arts] exhibition, including those for House H Goddart in Howick and a synagogue in Brakpan. In the early 1930s Spicer collaborated with Percy Rogers COOKE on a number of schemes, including several theatres, the most famous of these being the Colosseum Theatre in Johannesburg and the Playhouse in Durban. He visited America in 1937, apparently in order to study the acoustics of large auditoriums in connection with these theatres. Spicer was a popular designer of houses in the fashionable northern suburbs of Johannesburg, rivalling GEG LEITH. Like Leith, he made use of various fashionable architectural ideas such as the butterfly plan he used at House McLeod in Auckland Park (1925-1927). Unlike Leith, Spicer never seems to have worked in the popular Spanish Mission style, prefering symmetry and clear lines in his work: 'the Spicer touch', in domestic architecture included a preference for red-tiled roofs, teak in window frames and doors and for the corners of all rooms to be rounded to prevent dust accumulating' (Rand Daily Mail 14.7.1964:11).

According to Howie (1977:750), Spicer also designed House Polonsky called Normandy, Houghton in Johannesburg and racing stables for Len Oates in Germiston as well as the Hotel La Crete at Uvongo, Natal (now sadly demolished). He retired in 1954 on account of his declining health and died in Johannesburg. A portrait was made of him by W Gyngell.

(Building Sep 1918:194; Building Mar 1921:36; Building Jun 1923:45; DSAB III:750-51, article by WD Howie; Herbert 1975; ISAA mem list; RDM 14.7.1964:11 obit port; SAAR Jan 1934:2-8, xi-xii; SAWW 1927/8)

Publ: Architecture in its simplicity, Building Sep 1919:303-4; Current architecture, Building Sep 1923:105

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.

Books citing SPICER

Cumming-George, L. 1934. Architecture in South Africa - Volume Two. Cape Town: The Speciality Press of S.A. Ltd.. pp 92

HSRC. 1977. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume III. Pretoria: Tafelberg for The Human Sciences Research Council. pp 750-751

ISAA. 1959. The Yearbook of the Institute of South African Architects and Chapter of SA Quantity Surveyors 1958-1959 : Die Jaarboek van die Instituut van Suid-Afrikaanse Argitekte en Tak van Suid-Afrikaanse Bourekenaars 1958-1959. Johannesburg: ISAA. pp 97

ISAA. 1927. Register of Members the Institute of South African Architects. Johannesburg: ISAA (Unpublished Record). pp S21

Walker, Michael. 2013. The pioneer architects of Johannesburg and their buildings (1886 - 1899) with postcard illustrations. St James: The Kalk Bay Historical Assosiation. pp 30

Chapters in books citing SPICER

Howie, WD. Spicer, Harold Wolseley: in 1977. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume III: pp 750