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POWERS, Ernest Marston

Born: 1877 08 09
Died: 1956 08 07


Was born at Dudley, Staffordshire, England and educated at King Edward VI School, Birmingham. He was articled to JW Allen of West Bromwich, studying architectural design and building construction at West Bromwich Technical School, and joined HW Lloyd's office in Birmingham as an assistant (1897 to 1903). He continued his architectural studies in Birmingham and became a member of the Birmingham Architectural Association. Powers came to South Africa in 1903, entering the office of William BLACK in Cape Town as an assistant. According to FW POWERS, Powers was an assistant in Cape Town (1905-7) to Herbert BLACK; he was possibly assistant to both since by 1905 Herbert Black had been admitted into partnership with his brother William Black. Powers returned to England 'three years later [in 1906?] and in 1907 married Olive Starkey in Birmingham' (SAAR Apr 1957:44 obit). Around 1907/8 they went to Australia where he worked for two years in the Public Works Department in Melbourne (1908-10), sitting the (Colonial) examination which qualified him for Associate membership of the RIBA in 1909. In 1910 they returned to South Africa. Powers joined the PWD in Pretoria just before Union. The same year he won the competition for the Headquarters of the Fire Brigade in Pretoria in collaboration with NT COWIN and entered into partnership with Cowin (cf. COWIN & POWERS), (Hillebrand 1986:470) gives the date of partnership with Cowin as being 1912. Powers moved to Johannesburg in 1915 to open an office there for the partnership. In 1922 TG ELLIS joined the firm working in the Pretoria office (cf. COWIN, POWERS & ELLIS) and Powers visited England with his family, returning three months later.

In 1925 the partners opened an office in Durban which Powers ran. He resigned from the Association of Transvaal Architects and from the editorship of the South African Architectural Record, of which he had edited the first edition. He had also, since 1918, been the editor of the Record's forerunner the Journal of the Association of Transvaal Architects. In 1932 Cowin, Powers & Ellis won the competition for the Black hospital in Durban (the Edward VIII Hospital in Umbilo): it was among Powers's last works with the firm. In 1935 he decided to set up partnership on his own account and to take his younger son, FW POWERS, into partnership. The firm of Cowin, Powers & Ellis was dissolved by mutual agreement in 1935. ES POWERS, Powers's eldest son, also joined POWERS & POWERS and the firm continued to practise in Durban. A devout member of the Church of the province of South Africa, Powers designed the Church of St Martin in the Fields, Chelsea Road, Durban North in 1945 and was its first Churchwarden, his association with the church is commemorated in a memorial plaque in the building. He died in Durban in 1956. During his career Powers had devoted much time to the welfare of the profession, and participated in the drafting of the Architects and Quantity Surveyors Private Act, becoming chairman of the Inaugural Board; President, Association of Transvaal Architects (1921); President, Natal Provincial Institute of Architects; he was elected President of the Association of Transvaal; Honorary Secretary, Royal Institute of British Architects in South Africa (1922); member of the Federal Council of Education, representing the RIBA (1925); Corresponding member of the Board of Architectural Education (1926); President-in-Chief, Institute of South African Architects (1937-38).

ARIBA Melbourne 1909; FRIBA Johannesburg 1920; ISAA 1927. (AB&E Nov 1926:21; ARIBA nom papers (1909) 150; Building Sep 1922:86; FRIBA nom papers (1700) 1920, no detail; Powers 1985; ISAA mem list; Ntl Mercury Sep 17, 1956:9 obit; NWW 1933; SAAR Sep 1922:75-80; SAAR Sep 1925: 82-3; SAAR May 1935:131; SAAR Dec 1935:376; SAAR Apr 1957:44, obit; SA Archt Sep 1940:220, 221, port; UTD 1915)

Publ: The African Architect, architectural competition, corres, Afr Archt Nov 1913; Uniform conditions of contracts, Jnl ATA Jun 1917: 76-77; The Late Lance Corporal James Buchanan PENTLAND-SMITH, obit, Jnl ATA Jun 1917:80; Architects: official and practising, Jnl ATA Sep 1917 48-49; Architects, registration bill and competitions, Jun 1918:155; Tower, Dutch Reformed Church, Building Jun 1918:158-59; The late Mr Francis BLACK, obit, Building Jun 1918:160; The Rand's new industry - the Hume pipe, Building Mar 1919:241-42; A retrospect, Building Sep 1919:288-89; New premises, Sauer and Marshall Sts, Building Sep 1919:302; Valedictory address, Building Mar 1922:3-6; Milton High School, Bulawayo, assessor's report, SAAR Dec 1925:89-95; Durban war memorial, SAAR Jun 1926:42-3; The war memorial, SAAR Jun 1926:42-3; Durban notes: an architectural lecture on the evolution of South African domestic architecture, SAAR Dec 1926: 105-7, see also in AB&E Nov 1926:21; The late Edwin Osman PAYNE, SAAR Jun 1927:55; Durban notes, SAAR Dec 1927:105; Durban notes: Theo Schloss Building, monument to Durban's progress, SAAR Dec 1930:127-28; Town planning and the architect, SAAR Jun 1932:148-54.

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

King Edward VIII Hospital - Victoria Mxenge Hospital: 1932 : 1939. Congella, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal - Design Architect 1932
St Martin in the Fields: 1945. Durban, KwaZulu-Natal - Architect

Books citing POWERS

Brown, SM. 1969. Architects and others: an annotated list of people of South African interest appearing in the RIBA Journal 1880-1925. Johannesburg: Unpublished dissertation, University of the Witwatersrand. pp

Herbert, Gilbert. 1975. Martienssen & the international style: The modern movement in South African architecture. Cape Town - Rotterdam: AA Balkema. pp

Hillebrand, Melanie. 1975. Aspects of architecture in Natal, 1880 1914. Pietermaritzburg: Unpublished MA. Dept Fine Art and History of Art, University of Natal. pp

Hillebrand, Melanie. 1986. Art and architecture in Natal, 1910-1940. Pietermaritzburg: Unpublished Ph.D. Dept Fine Art and History of Art, University of Natal. pp

ISAA. 1927. Register of Members the Institute of South African Architects. Johannesburg: ISAA (Unpublished Record). pp P11