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Born: 1860
Died: 1938 03 09


Was born in London. His mother was the sister of Holman Hunt, the pre-Raphaelite painter. He was educated either at Cheltenham Grammar School or at Cheltenham College and was apprenticed to Raingir & Wilson, builders, of Cheltenham and later studied to be an architect. According to a note on Wilson (Building, March 1924:1-2), his father insisted on a period devoted to the practical side of the building trade, which he said later he found very valuable. He was apprenticed to a firm of architects in Cheltenham and practised with them. His early works are said to have been in Cheltenham and the Cotswold district and later in Middlesex (Uxbridge, West Drayton and the Thames valley, extending to Kennington). The Church at Isleworth of stone and snapped flint was by him (c1888). In 1888 he joined the Monmouth Artillery and was serving with cavalry and infantry brigades at Aldershot at the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War. Shortly afterwards he came to South Africa in command of a section of the Royal Irish Mounted Cavalry and remained in South Africa. Wilson appears to have remained close to military matters too; he was a founder member of the Transvaal Horse Artillery but was 'too old to fight' in the First World War. A note in Building adds that he was a 'bachelor, fond of children and animals and played a good game of golf'. Wilson was a staunch supporter of the profession in the Transvaal and a Pioneer architect on the Rand, his practice centred on Johannesburg; according to JN COWIN (SAAR June 1953:4), he was the first private architect who was allowed by the PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT to design government buildings. In 1917 he won the competition for the Standard Bank, Eloff Street, completed 1923, a prestigious head office for which job many others competed. Drawings for this building were accepted and displayed in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of 1921 in London. In 1922 he was joined in practice by DR LYNE (as an associate). Wilson designed the Brakpan Mines Memorial in 1923 which was in memory of certain mines officials and police officers who were taken out and shot during the 1922 disturbances and buried behind the Mine Offices. He came second in the competition for the Town Hall at Pietersburg. His interest was in architectural education and donated journals (fifteen volumes of Country Life) to the library of the University of the Witwatersrand in 1933.

He designed the Johannesburg Municipal Offices, known as the ‘Tin Temple’, which was later used for Technical School and University purposes and where the first Wits School of Architecture was located.

His designs for warehouses and the Standard Bank are reserved, grave buildings built in local granite, their predominantly plain surfaces articulated by arched window openings decorated with the plainest of keystones and by either Corinthian columns or pilaster strips. The stonework expresses the architect's intention that these buildings should be dignified and functional additions to the most important commercial centre of the Union.

In contrast to his commercial buildings, his best-known house, Percival Tracy's Beauvais in Observatory, Johannesburg, is light and serene, the three storeys held together visually by the chimneys in the manner of the Arts and Crafts style of Philip Webb. His design is notable for its harmony, balance and appropriateness.

LRIBA 1911 Jhb; FSA; FRIBA; Pres Soc of Archts (Lon) SA branch 1922; Pres ATA 1924; Freemason; Turf Club; Rand Club. (Building Jun 1921:466; Building Mar 1924:1-2; Herbert 1975; Norwich 1985; ISAA mem list; Jnl ATA Dec 1917:112-13; Picton-Seymour 1977; SAAE&S Jnl Feb 1907:80; SAAE&S Jnl Dec 107:80; SAAR Jun 1925:49-52; SAAR Jan 1933:15; SAAR Mar 1938:99 obit; SAAR Jun 1953:41; SAWW 1908; UWA see LEITH Archive)

Publ: Valedictory address, SAAR Mar 1925:2-5

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

Danziger Bros Warehouse: 1920. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Elephant Trading Building: 1919-1923. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
High School: 1926. Klerksdorp, North West - Architect
Hindu Crematorium: 1918. Brixton, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House Harold Jeppe: 1925. Auckland Park, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House Tracy, Beauvais: 1907. Observatory, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Jaff & Co., bldg for Katzenellenbogen: 1916. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
M Bloch & Co, Warehouse: 1923. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Municipal Offices, known as the 'Tin Temple': 1903. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Queen Victoria Hospital - First: 1906. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Race Course Grandstand - Eastern District Sports Club: 1934. Dunswart, Benoni, Gauteng - Architect
Standard Bank: 1917. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Synagogue: 1922. Yeoville, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Synagogue,add: 1924. Tshwane (Pretoria), Gauteng - Architect
Tin Temple: 1903. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
WM Cuthbert and Co Factory: 1932. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect

Books citing WILSON

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

Walker, Michael. 2013. The pioneer architects of Johannesburg and their buildings (1886 - 1899) with postcard illustrations. St James: The Kalk Bay Historical Association. pp 55