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ST LEGER, Charles Douglas

Born: 1890 06 22
Died: 1968 10 27

Architect

SACA:
Reg No: 642
Year registered: 1936

Was born in England and educated at Reed's School, Watford. According to his FRIBA nomination papers (1936) he was articled in 1908 to an as yet unidentified architect, perhaps in England although the Dictionary of South African Biography (IV:619) claims he came to South Africa in 1907 'where he worked with Sir Herbert BAKER, in particular on the Union Buildings'. In his FRIBA nomination papers (1986) St Leger states he 'worked in Herbert Baker's office from 1912'. It is possible that St Leger worked for the PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT on the Union Buildings on a temporary basis earlier than 1912 but quite as likely that he was part of the team from 1912. Again according to the Dictionary of South African Biography, he returned to Britain with Baker when the latter left to work on the designs for New Delhi in 1912/1913, although Baker himself writes in St Leger's FRIBA nomination papers (1936) that 'after two years study at the Architectural Association and in Italy he returned to me and has been with me ever since in the position of a very trusted assistant and in later years I have left him very much in charge of my buildings such as the War Memorials at Harrow School and Haileybury College; Downing College, Cambridge, buildings at Lord's Cricket Ground, (and the) Ninth Church of Christ Scientist, London. His especial gifts lie in art and craftsmanship side of architecture and I think that his election would strengthen those ideals among the Fellows of the Institute.' In his FRIBA nomination papers, St Leger mentions his visits to Italy, Malta, France and Germany in 1914. During the war he served in the Hampshire Regiment and in the Machine Gun Corps, was awarded the MC and achieved the rank of major. In 1919 he visited Belgium, Holland and Spain. His attendance at the Architectural Association was probably during the years 1919 and 1920 since in 1920 he was elected an Associate member of the RIBA. He spent nine months studying at the British School at Rome, apparently on Baker's awarding him a bursary (Radford states that St Leger was awarded a Baker Scholarship (DSAB IV:61), although this was not the official Baker Scholarship); St Leger also mentioned his work with the Imperial War Graves Commission, in particular the Delville Wood Memorial, the Winchester College Memorial and Rhodes House, Oxford.

He returned to South Africa in 1936. Before his return he had drawn the attention of the University of the Witwatersrand to The Colonists, a mural by Colin Gill which had been painted for the apse of the Basilica at Wembley for the British Empire Exhibition of 1924; this was duly bought (n.d.) anonymously and presented to the University by the donor. It is now in the Sir William Cullen Library at the University of the Witwatersrand. According to the South African Architectural Record, 'it is probably the first great mural painting in South Africa' (SAAR Apr 1938:88). St Leger subsequently set up practice in Johannesburg, interrupted by the Second World War in which he served. Before the war, however, he designed, according to Radford (DSAB IV:619), 'a number of office blocks on the Rand and a pavilion for the Rand Easter Show. He was also responsible for several churches, among them St Andrew's, Kensington; St Francis's, Parkview, and St Dunstan's in Benoni'. After the war St Leger moved to Cape Town where he recommenced practice in partnership with CP WALGATE in 1947, apparently at the recommendation of his friend Bishop Clayton of Johannesburg, who became Archbishop of Cape Town (n.d.). In about 1948 St Leger was appointed consulting architect of St George's Cathedral, Cape Town. Radford (DSAB IV:620) points out that it was here that St Leger 'did perhaps the most important work of his whole career', much of the present building being built to his designs although 'as far as possible he followed the blue prints which Baker had drawn up some sixty years before.' This work includes the 'south transept, most of the nave and aisles, the Lady Chapel (1965), the Archbishop's office, the choir vestry, and the muniments room' (DSAB IV:620).

St Leger was a proficient watercolourist, particularly of landscapes, his work being exhibited at the South African Academy [of Arts] Exhibitions in Johannesburg. Throughout his career he advocated that painting, sculpture and the applied arts should be incorporated into a building wherever possible; in London he several times worked with Sir Charles Wheeler on Baker jobs and their friendship continued after St Leger's return to South Africa. Wheeler executed a number of works for St George's Cathedral, Cape Town, and his bronze head of St Leger, executed in London about 1925, was installed in St George's as a memorial to St Leger in April 1979. St Leger's Papers are conserved in the Cape Archives and the University of Cape Town Library. St Leger was the nephew of Frederick St Leger, founder of the Cape Times so his name was not unknown in Cape Town circles. He married twice and a son was killed in the Second World War. St Leger died at Sea Point, Cape Town, in his house at Camps Bay which he is said to have designed.

ARIBA 1920; FRIBA 1936; ISAA 1936. (Archt & Bldr Aug 1979:23; DSAB IV:619-620; FRIBA nom papers (1936) 3360; ISAA mem list; RIBA Kals 1937/8, 1938/9; SAAR Apr 1934:88; CAD. St Leger papers; UCT MSS Libraries)

The 'Cape Times Peninsular Directory with Street maps 1965-66', published by the Cape & Transvaal Printers, lists Major C.D. St Leger as practicing from C.T.C Building in Plein St. and records his residential address as 'Claire', Avenue St. Clair, Sea Point.

Submitted by William MARTINSON.

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 ST LEGER

HSRC. 1981. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume IV. Pretoria: Butterworth & Co (SA) for Human Sciences Research Council. pp 619-620

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, 210

Chapters in books by ST LEGER

St Leger, CD. Plate 16. The Burgher Watch House, Cape Town. (Details of Ornamental Plasterwork) (C. D. St Leger Delt): in 1957. Eighteenth century architecture in South Africa: pp 66

Chapters in books citing ST LEGER

Langham-Carter, RR. St Leger, Charles Douglas: in 1981. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume IV: pp 619