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PRYNNE, George Halford Fellowes

Born: 1853 04 02
Died: 1927 05 07


Also referred to as FELLOWES PRYNNE, George Halford.

Was educated in Chard, Somerset and at Haileybury College. In 1871 he went to Canada to farm but turned to architecture and studied under RC Windyer in Toronto. Prynne's first two and a half years as a student of architecture were spent in Canada, after which he returned to Britain and worked in the offices of several distinguished architects: GE Street, A Waterhouse, R Withers and ER Robson. He set up independent practice in about 1879 and was elected an Associate member of the RIBA in 1881.

Prynne's connection with South Africa was as a designer of church buildings for the Church of the Province of South Africa, more specifically the designer of St Mary's Church and hall in Johannesburg (1904-5); he never visited the country. PE TREEBY visited England in 1903 with the specific aim of finding a suitable British architect for the project (ABURROW & TREEBY were appointed supervising architects). Prynne, who had perhaps had some experience in church design while working for GE Street, was recommended to him by the President of the RIBA who was then Sir Aston Webb. Ultimately only the hall was built, money being insufficient to carry out both proposed structures.

Prynne designed for his South African clients from his office in London, insufficiently briefed about costs, climate and materials then available in the country. St Mary's Hall was the only building designed and built to Prynne's plans in South Africa. It was demolished in 1933: the Reverend WA Palmer mentioned 'that when he had first come to the diocese twenty-two years ago, Bishop Furze and Bishop Seaton had declared that one day St Mary's Hall would present a tremendous problem' (AB&E Oct 1933:41-2). When there was more money, around 1911, it was suggested that Prynne carry out a new design for the proposed new Anglican Cathedral in Johannesburg. This was overruled, partly because of the great cost of the design. The last word seems to have gone to Herbert Baker who eventually designed this cathedral, who remarked in a letter 'Mr Prynne, on the other hand, if I may judge by his work here - has little understood the architectural demands of South Africa' (BLB 19: 38, Mar 1911). Prynne was also asked to supply plans and working drawings for the projected Anglican cathedral at Umtata. When, after a considerable wait, these had not appeared, the Church Council began building with advice from a priest of the SSJE at St Cuthbert's Mission, Tsolo, who had designed their mission church. The building was already well advanced when Prynne's plans arrived, with no working drawings. The fee for the drawings was £1,300 out of a total budget of £500. The church council managed to obtain a reduction of £300 on the grounds of no working drawings. The designs were preserved and were on display at Umtata Museum in 1984. Prynne practised for most of his career in London, living in Ealing.

ARIBA 1881. (ARIBA nom papers (1881) vol 7 1880-2:45; BLB 19; RIBA Jnl May 1927:494-95 obit; RIBA biog file; SAAE&S Jnl May 1906: 113; SAB Nov 1935:39; Welz 1984)

For more information see "a brief biography" and "Architect of St. Wilfrid's Church".

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

Cathedral of St John the Evangelist: 1901. Mthatha, Eastern Cape - Architect
St Mary's Hall: 1904. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect

Books citing PRYNNE

Dixon, Roger & Muthesius, Stefan. 1978. Victorian Architecture. London: Thames & Hudson. pp

Gray, Alexander Stuart, Breach, Nicholas. 1985. Edwardian architecture: a biographical dictionary. London: Duckworth. pp 297-8

Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1977. Victorian Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: AA Balkema. pp

Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1989. Historical Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: Struikhof Publishers. pp 149, 157