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COPE-CHRISTIE, James Alfred

Born: 1870 12 12
Died: 1953 01 02

Architect


Also known as CHRISTIE JAC

Mem ATA 1916; FRIBA 1925; President Rhod Soc Archts 1928, 1929; FRSA; OBE 1948

Was a Rhodesian (Zimbabwean) pioneer. He seems to have been born in England where he was educated privately in London, was articled to George Fellowes PRYNNE, FRIBA, in London and studied at the London Polytechnic where he won a Gold Medal in 1893. A sportsman, he also won many amateur cycle races while a member of the Old Finchley Harriers. According to Johnson (1987:365) Cope-Christie came to the Cape in 1893 although he himself gave the date of his arrival there as May 1894 and said he was then lucky in getting engaged by a well-known architect. He found this architect to be most unprofessional 'being an agent for Macfarlane's Castings and plate glass ... every building had these materials freely used in them ... old Charlie FREEMAN' (Cope-Christie 1944:1.) In about 1895/1896, still in South Africa, he won the competition for the Stock Exchange building in Fort Salisbury (Harare), Mashonaland and left on the overland journey for Fort Salisbury (Harare), abandoning the trip, however, owing to the Matabele uprising. He then took the sea route and arrived in Fort Salisbury (Harare) via Beira in May 1896. The Stock Exchange was never built. According to Sport and Sportsmen of South Africa and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) (1929:200) Cope-Christie settled in Umtali as architect to the Chartered Company and 'with Cecil Rhodes, Colonel Beal and Major Scott-Turner ... laid out the town which is in very truth a model township'. He was appointed sole architect for the government buildings in Umtali in about 1897, some twenty seven years later being appointed the architect for the Umtali post office, Government hostel for girls and the senior school there.

He served in the Mashonaland Rebellion (1896-1897) and for some years held rank as captain in the Southern Rhodesian Volunteers. During the 1914-18 War he served with the British Red Cross overseas. In 1899 he left on a visit to England where he remained until after the Anglo-Boer War, returning as the armistice was signed. The post-war depression led him unsuccessfully to apply for the post of architect to the Orange River Colony in 1903 with the PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT. He went instead to Johannesburg with some 'lucky introductions' and commenced practice there. Among his first jobs was the design of a Masonic Lodge in Johannesburg. However, his best-known building of this period remains a private house for CL Andersson, Dolobran, in Parktown (1905-c1906). At some point during 1905-1906 he was in partnership with CEH MAY (cf MAY & CHRISTIE) and, according to him, was responsible for a number of large private houses in Johannesburg (not yet identified) before his return to Salisbury (Harare) in 1908. His return was opportune, since, according to P Jackson (1986:23) he was in time for the 'tremendous building boom of 1910/11'. About 1910/1911 he entered into partnership with Thomas SLADDIN, who had also recently arrived from South Africa (cf. COPE-CHRISTIE & SLADDIN). The partnership lasted from 1910 to 1914 and on the outbreak of the First World War Cope-Christie chose to serve in the British Red Cross and the St John's Ambulance Service. On his return to Salisbury (Harare) he resumed practice and entered into partnership with S Austen Cowper in 1925.

Among his buildings in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) were the Queen Victoria Memorial Library and Museum (1902); Store Bros Building; Union Buildings; Standard Bank and Lonrho Buildings, all executed between 1910 and 1914 and which still (1986) stand in Salisbury (Harare). Latterly he was also responsible for the Telephone Exchange Building (1926) on the corner of Second St and Samora Machel Avenue (Jackson 1986a:23). Cope-Christie was a founder member of the Institute of South Rhodesian architects and, a watercolourist of some distinction, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Artists, exhibiting frequently at the Salisbury (Harare) Art Exhibition. A sportsman of renown, he was a past president of the Rhodesian Swimming Association, of the Mashonaland Amateur Boxing Association and of the Mashonaland Gun Club. He was vice-president of the Amateur Musical and Dramatic Society and director of the Tattersalls Club. He was a Freemason and President of the Rhodesian Society of Architects in 1928 and 1929. He married Ada Heywood in 1896.

Read an address, "Looking Back Over Fifty Years" given at a Rotary Club Meeting on 15 June 1944 by J.A. Cope-Christie. Read [3.3 MB].
(Published in Heritage of Zimbabwe 6, 1986: 1-14. Submitted by William MARTINSON)

(Aron 1972; E Finsen 1985; Longland's Tvl dir 1905; OFSAB CO 341/6951/03; RIBA Jnl Jan 1954:126; SAWW 1908, 1935; Sport and Sportsmen of SA and Rhod 1929:200 port 199); Van Der Waal 1987)

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 COPE-CHRISTIE

Barry, Margaret & Law, Nimmo. 1985. Magnates and Mansions - Johannesburg 1886-1914. Johannesburg: Lowry Publishers. pp 116-119

Jackson, Peter. 1986. Historic Buildings of Harare (1890-1940). Harare: Quest Publishing (Pvt) Ltd. pp 23-24

Johnson, Brian Andrew. 1987. Domestic architecture at the Cape, 1892-1912 : Herbert Baker, his associates and his contemporaries. Cape Town: Unpublished Thesis UNISA. pp

Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1989. Historical Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: Struikhof Publishers. pp 157

Richardson, Deidré. 2001. Historic Sites of South Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers. pp 198

SAWW & Donaldson, K. 1938. South African Who's Who (Social and Business) 1938. Cape Town: Ken Donaldson. pp 44

SAWW & Donaldson, K. 1944. South African Who's Who (Social and Business) 1944. Cape Town: Ken Donaldson. pp 121

van der Waal, Gerhard-Mark. 1987. From Mining Camp to Metropolis - The buildings of Johannesburg 1886-1940. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council. pp 161-163