Born in England, Williamson was articled to WJ Lindsay Grant, Manchester, from 23 December 1908 where he remained until 23 December 1911, attending courses in design and construction at the Manchester School of Technology and School of Architecture. From 1912 to 1914 he attended part day and evening courses at the University of Liverpool School of Architecture and on completion of articles he was employed by WJ Collins in Liverpool. He enlisted during the First World War and served with the Royal Navy in Minesweepers from 1914 to 1918. After the war he travelled in France, Italy and Greece and visited Constantinople between 1918 and 1919; he was exempted from the final RIBA examination under the special war concession but returned to Liverpool and attended architectural courses under Professor Reilly who signed Williamson's RIBA papers (1920) noting: 'a good and hard working student with good abilities'. In 1920 Williamson spent a few months working with Reilly's preferred American architects, McKim, Mead & White, in New York.
In 1920 he came to South Africa and joined Frank EMLEY in partnership (cf. EMLEY & WILLIAMSON). Emley had recently won the competition for the main buildings at the University of the Witwatersrand. Owing to EMLEY's poor health, Williamson took over much of the responsibility of the firm's work, seeing to the execution of the Main University Building in association with COWIN & POWERS. According to his obituary in the South African Architectural Record Williamson was the one who was chiefly responsible for the introduction of cast concrete facing blocks which were used for the first time in Johannesburg in the University buildings.
From 1921 until 1925 Williamson lectured part-time in architectural design at the School of Architecture at the University of the Witwatersrand and was later one of the senior examiners there. GE PEARSE noted Williamson's 'loveable, though at times ... aggressive dogmatic disposition, so characteristic of the Navy' (SAAR Jan 1946:28). Williamson contracted malaria in 1932 and nearly died in Rustenburg Hospital. In the 1930s he was principally occupied with ongoing building at the University of the Witwatersrand, among the works at the time were the William Cullen library (1933-34), the Bernard Price Institute (1935) and the Wolf Hillman Engineering block (1939), in association with Cowin & Powers and other architects. According to Pearse, Williamson's early work in Johannesburg reflects the influence of the Liverpool School of Architecture and his American experience, both based on the study of classical architecture and that of the Italian Renaissance. This is evidenced by the University buildings but again the choice of style was conventional and preferred by the University Building Committee. It is interesting to compare the work with the contemporary Cape Town University buildings. Domestic work carried out by Williamson during the 1920s and 1930s was in the popular Spanish Mission style.
Elected Vice-Chairman of the Federal Council on Architectural Education; Editor of the SAAR in 1926; member of Council of ATA and TIA; President TPIA 1928; Vice-President-in-Chief ISAA 1933-34; MCQS; ARIBA 1920; ISAA 1927. (ARIBA nom papers (1920); Cumming-George 1934; Greig 1971; Herbert 1975; ISAA mem list; Pearse 1960; SAAR Mar 1925:30; SAAR Jun 1925:34-8; SAAR Jun 1926:35-7; SAAR Sep 1926:75-80; SAAR Sep 1927:59-60; SAAR Apr 1934; SAAR Jan 1946:28 obit; SAAR May 1953:15; SAAR May 1932:43)
Publ: Pretoria Technical College exhibition, SAAR Mar 1927:7-10
He is credited with the Shepherd & Baker Bldg (Van der Waal (1987) Shepherd & Barker store in Essanby House (1938); House: Dhulimiti Parktown (Van der Waal 1987:233) and Killarney, Johannesburg (1924)
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 WILLIAMSON
|ISAA. 1927. Register of Members the Institute of South African Architects. Johannesburg: ISAA (Unpublished Record). pp W16|