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MELVILL, John W

Born: 1787 06 10
Died: 1852 08 06

Architect


MELVILL, whose name is sometimes found spelt MELVILLE, was born in London and arrived at the Cape in 1799 where he worked as assistant and trainee under LM THIBAULT. In 1811 he was appointed assistant government surveyor, still working for THIBAULT. He was made Inspector of Buildings (Works) and Land Surveyor to the Cape government in November 1815 on THIBAULT's death, a post he held until 1822. As Inspector of Works he planned a housing development at Simon's Town, which was not carried out, but in 1815 his plan for the front of a church (chapel) at Mamre for the United Brethren (Moravians) was accepted and, according to Langham-Carter (DSAB IV: 357), MELVILL eventually designed the whole building, now a National Monument: 'an interesting attempt at a German double-ended church by an Englishman, it has a character reminiscent of Puritan churches in England and North America' (Lewcock 1963:76; SESA 7:327). Again according to Langham-Carter, MELVILL accompanied the missionary CI Latrobe, on part of his journey to the Eastern Cape in 1816 and later apparently executed some work for Newlands House in Cape Town where he was involved with discussions about its repair circa 1818. In about 1820 MELVILL was responsible for two unexecuted designs for a 'neo-classical monument to be erected on the Parade in Cape Town and the other for an Anglican Church in Simonstown' (DSAB IV:357). In 1822 he resigned from office and became a government agent at Klaarwater, his aim being to help the distressed Griqua people. He was by then a deacon of the Independent Church. He resigned this government post in 1826 but remained as a missionary at Klaarwater. According to both Kesting and De Waal, MELVILL designed the first Dutch Reformed Church building at Colesberg in the Cape, by which time it seems he was a missionary at a settlement now known as Philippolis, being there seven years before moving to Hankey where he stayed for a further seven years (1831-38). After more difficulties, having become almost blind by 1846, MELVILL moved to George where he died. Langham-Carter states that THIBAULT had been disappointed in MELVILL, considering him ungrateful for his training and to have slyly received work which THIBAULT felt he himself should have been given. MELVILL married in 1812 in the Lutheran Church in Cape Town. He was the father of a large family of thirteen children.

Books citing MELVILL

De Puyfontaine, Huguette Roy. 1972. Louis Michel Thibault 1750-1815 : his official life at the Cape of Good Hope. Cape Town: Tafelberg. pp

De Waal, Lydia M. 1978. Europees Historiese vormaalelemente in die Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerkargitektuur van die Groot Karoo. Bloemfontein: UOVS, MA Fakulteit van lettere en Wysbegeerte, Dept Kuns en Beeld. Kunste. pp

Fransen, Hans. 2004. The old buildings of the Cape. A survey of extant architecture from before c1910 in the area of Cape Town - Calvinia - Colesberg - Uitenhage. Johannesburg & Cape Town: Jonathan Ball Publishers. pp 333

Fransen, Hans & Cook, Mary Alexander. 1965. The old houses of the Cape : a survey of the existing buildings in the traditional style of architecture of the Dutch-settled regions of the Cape of Good Hope. Cape Town: AA Balkema. pp

Greig, Doreen. 1971. A Guide to Architecture in South Africa. Cape Town: Howard Timmins. pp 46

HSRC. 1981. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume IV. Pretoria: Butterworth & Co (SA) for Human Sciences Research Council. pp 357-358

Kesting, DP. 1978. Afrikaans Protestantse kerkbou : erfenis en uitdaging. Port Elizabeth: Unpublished PhD. pp

Langham-Carter, RR. 1979. Nineteenth century architects etc. in the Western Cape. Cape Town: Unpublished MS, UCT Library. pp

Lewcock, Ronald. 1963. Early Nineteenth Century Architecture in South Africa : a study of the interaction of two cultures, 1795-1837. Cape Town: AA Balkema. pp 76, 94, 254, 259-261, 385, 444

Potgieter, DJ (Editor-in-chief). 1972. Standard Encyclopaedia of South Africa [SESA] Volume 7 Lit-Mus. Cape Town: Nasou. pp 327

Chapters in books citing MELVILL

Langham-Carter, RR. Melvill, John: in 1981. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume IV: pp 357

Lewcock, EBF [sic, RB?]. MELVILL, John: in 1972. Standard Encyclopaedia of South Africa [SESA] Volume 7 Lit-Mus: pp 327

Anonymous. MAMRE: in 1972. Standard Encyclopaedia of South Africa [SESA] Volume 7 Lit-Mus: pp 164