Probably born in Britain, was articled to the architect JS Alder from November 1890 until November 1893 whilst also attending classes in the Science and Art Department at the South Kensington Schools, London from 1890 until 1892. On completion of his articles he was employed in a private practice in Kent of which there are currently no details. About 1893/1894 he came to South Africa, working first in John PARKER's office in Cape Town before leaving for Johannesburg where he worked in the office of William LECK. It is not certain how long he remained with Leck but, having left Johannesburg, he 'travelled up country for while' (Hillebrand 1975:167) before settling in Natal. According to the Natal Civil Service List (1903:184) he was appointed clerk and assistant draughtsman in the office of the chief engineer, PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT, on 1 December 1897, which probably means he was there slightly earlier than this date. In 1899 he was appointed Clerk of Works on the new Legislative Council Buildings in Pietermaritzburg and, according to Hillebrand (1975:167), obtained leave to go on active service on the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War, returning 'from the front' four days later. About this time Dainton put in a request to be allowed to submit competitive designs for the new post office and telegraph offices in Pietermaritzburg and Durban. In January 1900 he took four months unpaid leave and left for England where he apparently had business, returning only in 1901. Returning to the Public Works Department in Pietermaritzburg he was promoted to the post of architect (1 August 1901), a post he held until 1908 when he and others were retrenched owing to the depression. What happened to him after retrenchment is as yet uncertain. Hillebrand notes he 'appears, rather unexpectedly, in the trade directory in 1906-7', as AE Dainton, PWD, 231 Pietermaritz St - as did his colleague HF DADSWELL. Dainton was elected to the Council of the Natal Institute of Architects in 1904 and was re-elected in 1905.
Among other buildings executed by or under Dainton were a number of Provincial schools which are notable for the Arts and Crafts nature of their design and for the fine quality of the drawings.
He was conscious also of the Natal climate 'Mr Dainton ... explained that he makes a feature of arranging his buildings to avoid the sun' Natal Witness Oct 7, 1905:9), evident at the Model Infants' School in Clarence Road in Durban (c1905) modelled on the 'Ben Jonson' school type (classrooms leading into a central hall), developed by the London School Board circa 1872 and unchanged in principle until 1907. The Clarence Road school was the prototype for the schools at Ladysmith, Newcastle and Dundee. The King's House in Durban gave Dainton a chance to exhibit his ability to design a large scale official residence.
Pietermaritzburg has several examples of his work, carried out in local brick. Among these are the old Native High Court in College Road on which he was assisted by G St John COTTRILL, and sections of the Longmarket St Girls' School. Both buildings are notable for their fine brickwork, steeply pitched roofs, broad-arched windows and use of chubby dwarf columns characteristic of the Arts and Crafts style. (Ntl CSL 1903:184, 1905, 1906, 1907; Daniel & Brusse 1979; Hillebrand 1975:166-8; Kearney 1973; Picton-Seymour 1977; PWD 2/71 PWD 48/1900; PWD 2/67 PWD 3369/1899; PWD 2/87 PWD 4719/1900; SAMBF Jnl Oct 1904)
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.