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PILKINGTON, Henry Lionel Gordon

Born: 1886
Died: 1968


Reg No: 310
Year registered: 1927

Commonly known as Gordon Pilkington, set great store on the artist's role in the profession. In about 1925/6 he stated: 'the commercial value of Beauty should come to be recognised ... {the architect should consider} the capacities and practice of a painter as an essential branch of his architectural profession and learning as did the great Masters of the past' (SAWW 1925/26:212). He was born in Sea Point, Cape Town and trained as a civil engineer in the office of I Stewart before being articled to Herbert BAKER (BAKER & MASEY) in Cape Town around 1903 at the time when FE MASEY ran that office. In 1905 Pilkington won the South African Architects and Builders open competition for students with a design for an elementary school, illustrated in the South African Architect's, Engineers' and Surveyor's Journal (Oct 1905:2-3), his name was spelt 'Gordon Lithington'. Pilkington went to Europe for further experience on completion of his articles, entering the Edinburgh office of Sir Robert Lorimer; he also worked in London in the offices of DUNN & WATSON and of William Flockhart. Having included a tour of Europe in his visit he returned to South Africa and seems to have returned to Baker & Masey's office in Cape Town. According to Berman (1983:334), while Pilkington was employed by the PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT in 1910 (on a temporary basis seemingly, his name does not appear in the Public Service Lists), his architectural talent attracted the attention of Baker who drew him into work on the Union Buildings. But a letter from Baker to Kendall (BLB 19:259) dated 1912, Baker seemed surprised that Pilkington had not stayed as expected in the Cape Town office, now run by KENDALL. Perhaps this break with Baker and Kendall was because of Pilkington's loyalty to Masey. He was critical of Baker's treatment of Masey, which emerged in Masey's obituary written by Pilkington for the African Architect (Oct 1912:69). As a pupil in Cape Town he had admired Masey and later wrote critically in the same journal (Nov 1913:281) of the Baker Scholarship. From these notes it appears that he had worked on the Union Buildings. In 1921 EAGLE, PILKINGTON & McQUEEN won the competition for the Durban War Memorial. The memorial took some time to reach completion and when it was unveiled in 1926 it was Pilkington's name which was attached to the design. Pilkington visited England in 1924 during its building 'the architect of Durban War Memorial has now returned from England and it is hoped that the erection of the memorial will now progress faster than it has done in the past' (SAB Aug 1924:31). The ceramicist John Adams was responsible for making the ceramics for the War Memorial, Durban described by Berman (1983:334) as 'the largest panel of Assyrian Faience in the world' and which sent the editor of the Architect, Builder & Engineer (then probably DELBRIDGE) into a frenzy of horror, pulling it to shreds with such criticisms as 'the blue {of the ceramics} clashes with the blue of Durban sky' (AB&E Oct 1926:2.) Pilkington worked in Durban from 1923 to 1925, concerned mostly with the completion of the memorial. In 1927 he registered with the Institute of South African Architects and became a member of the Natal Provincial Institute of Architects. In the same year he was living in France at Villa Bristol in Dieppe, while his business address was Cooper Lane, Bramley, England. He was listed as an absentee member of the ISAA 1931/2 living in Britain, and where, in about 1931/2, he made a series of sketches of perspectives of South Africa House in London which were published in a souvenir booklet commemorating the opening of the building in June 1933, the AB&E commenting that Pilkington was 'a very fine draughtsman, perhaps the one man in our profession today who can rival William Walcot in the romantic representation of architecture by brush and pen' (AB&E Sep 1933:8). A watercolour perspective by him of Barclay's Bank in Adderley Street, Cape Town (architects Sir H Baker and AT SCOTT, supervising architects, FORSYTH & PARKER) was illustrated in the Architect, Builder & Engineer in August (1933:13). He retuned to South Africa at some point: his address in 1937 was in Pretoria at the Residency Hotel. The remainder of his career is obscure. He retired in 1950 and returned to England. In 1959 he was recorded as an absentee member of the Transvaal Institute of address, "Shanet", The Bily, County Dublin, Ireland, resigning from the ISAA in 1964. He was married to Greeba Price and they had twin daughters. He died in London. His elder brother was the artist GW Pilkington.

(AB&E Dec 1921:11; AB&E Oct 1926:2; AB&E Apr 1926:14-15; AB&E Aug 1933: 13 ill; AB&E Sep 1933:8; BLB 19; Berman 1983; ISAA mem list; Jeppe 1964; SAAE&S Jnl Oct 1905:2-3; SAB & ATM 1937; SAWW 1925-6; The Solomons. s.a. (1987-8)

Publ: The late Francis Masey, FRIBA, Afr Archt Oct 1912:69; The Baker scholarship, Afr Archt Nov 1913: 281; The Baker Scholarship, Afr Archt Dec 1913: xiii

The portrait of PILKINGTON is from the South African Who's Who 1923-24 and was sent to us by William MARTINSON.

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 PILKINGTON

Berman, Esmé. 1983. Art and artists of South Africa: An illustrated biographical dictionary and historical survey of painters, sculptors and graphic artists since 1875. Cape Town : Balkema. pp 40, 128, 141, 243, 244, 334+ ill-335, 380, 488, 513, 514

HSRC. 1987. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume V. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council. pp 591-592

ISAA. 1959. The Yearbook of the Institute of South African Architects and Chapter of SA Quantity Surveyors 1958-1959 : Die Jaarboek van die Instituut van Suid-Afrikaanse Argitekte en Tak van Suid-Afrikaanse Bourekenaars 1958-1959. Johannesburg: ISAA. pp 95, 199

ISAA. 1927. Register of Members the Institute of South African Architects. Johannesburg: ISAA (Unpublished Record). pp P10

SAWW & Donaldson, K. 1926. South African Who's Who (Social and Business) 1925-1926 . Cape Town: Ken Donaldson. pp 211

Walker, Michael. 2010. A Statement In Stone. Cape Town: Privately published by Michael Walker. pp 49, 68, 83-85

Walker, Michael & Stuart-Findlay, Derek. 2011. St James, a place of dreams: Bicentenary Edition 1810-2010. St James: Kalk Bay Historical Association. pp 163-164