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Born: 1826 01 03
Died: 1910 03 24


Trained as a civil engineer. He was born in Oban and educated in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he married Charlotte Flack (d.1900). Paterson qualified as a civil engineer and became a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers. According to Leverton (DSAB III:667), Paterson, a lively looking man, was employed by the Barbados government to erect iron lighthouses there (two iron lighthouses were later erected at Greenpoint (Umkomaas) and at Scottsburgh in Natal). In 1855 he went to Grenada 'as surveyor of roads and government architect', leaving this post in 1860 on his transfer to Natal as Colonial Engineer, a post he retained until it was abolished in 1872. According to Kearney (1973:32) Paterson was regarded as 'the great incubus of the Colony by those who resented colonial expenditure at a time of financial hardship' and indeed he did undertake a large programme of road-building and of key buildings for the burgeoning colonial government, among them the Supreme Court building in Pietermaritzburg (1864-1875) and the Court House in Durban (1865-66). It was apparently partly due to his extensive and necessarily costly, building programme that the post of Colonial Engineer was abolished. Paterson's main work was boosting the development of Durban Harbour where he built the first lighthouse on the Bluff (from 1932 the Cooper Lighthouse) in 1867, and later assisted with the design and construction of the North Pier, Durban Harbour. As Colonial Engineer he accompanied Colonel JJ Bisset and PC SUTHERLAND to the area known as No Man's Land (later Alfred County) participating in an ongoing survey of the area with Sutherland during and after the annexation of the territory in 1866. On the loss of his post Paterson was appointed to the Magistracy of Inanda where he remained for about a year before being given the Magistracy of Estcourt, a post he held from 1874 until 1894. He was active in Estcourt in promoting a public library and various other civic matters. He was a commissioner on the Board of Enquiry into the Langalibalele Rebellion of 1873. Leverton points out that Paterson redesigned the Natal Coat of Arms in 1879 and was instrumental in raising a force of 1500 'loyal Bantu who took part in the Zulu War (1879)'. He died in Pietermaritzburg. His brother was Major-General Alexander Paterson.

(NAD MSCE 38/18/1910; NAD C108.30 port (port of his wife NAD C108.31); Ntl Almnc 1874; S v d Stel Bull 4 1962:16 ff)

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.

List of projects

With photographs
With notes

Court House - now Local History Museum: 1865. Durban, KwaZulu-Natal - Architect
Court House and Post Office (now the Tatham Art Gallery): 1864. Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal - Architect
Lighthouse, Bluff - Cooper Lighthouse: 1867. Durban, KwaZulu-Natal - Architect
Supreme Court Building: 1865-1875. Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal - Design Architect

Books citing PATERSON

Greig, Doreen. 1971. A Guide to Architecture in South Africa. Cape Town: Howard Timmins. pp 105, 177

HSRC. 1977. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume III. Pretoria: Tafelberg for The Human Sciences Research Council. pp 677

Kearney, Brian. 1973. Architecture in Natal from 1824 1893. Cape Town: Balkema. pp 32-34, 38, 39

Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1977. Victorian Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: AA Balkema. pp 48, 237, 238 (ill), 239, 254 (ill), 255, 298