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GRADON, Henry Thomas

Born: 1855 04 07
Died: 1917 08 11


A Rand Pioneer architect in Johannesburg, where he was active from about 1889.

HT GRADON was born in Durham on 7 April 1855. His father, George, was a substantial builder in the city working on restorations of Durham Cathedral and Twizell Castle, Northumberland. GRADON was articled to C Hodgson Fowler in Durham, England from 1872 until 1876. The eldest son John continued the family firm and they often were the contractors for Henry's designs. He then spent a year in the office of James Fowler, FRIBA, in Louth before joining Wetherington & Oliver in Carlisle for a further year. In about 1879 he joined CJ Fergusson in Carlisle where he remained for two years before he commenced practice on his own account in Durham for six years. Henry's training with Hodgson Fowler meant that he was schooled almost entirely in ecclesiastical architecture and wholly in the Gothic Revival tradition, though he was from a Congregational background and he did no designs for the Church of England, probably because Fowler and Hicks & Charlewood who both had Anglican family connexions were already the favoured architects.

It was probably in about 1888 that he left for South Africa. He was first listed in Johannesburg in 1889/1890 working for the NZASM at Grosvenor Chambers, the same address at JW ALEXANDER. The two were in partnership for a short time in Johannesburg around 1889/1890 (cf ALEXANDER & GRADON). Neither was listed in the directories in Johannesburg after 1890 and not much further is currently known about GRADON in South Africa.

When he returned from South Africa GRADON conducted a general practice serving as architect to a school board and two poor law unions. His major commission was the Durham Miners' Association Hall, Offices and Officials' Houses, 1913-1915. Now not needed with the closure of all the local collieries, it has a splendid hall based on a nonconformist chapel with a sweeping auditorium of seating and a platform. Given the Methodist background of so many union officials it was entirely appropriate. He became ill while the building was under construction and his assistant Edwin Rutherford supervised the project. GRADON finally died on 11 August 1917.

He wrote a book with the terrible twee title of Ye Auntient Citie of Durham in Ye Olden Tyme, Durham, 1883.

Building News, 113, 15 August 1917, p.137. obituary
Durham Advertiser, 17 August 1917. obituary
RIBA Journal, 25, 1918, p.192. obituary

Additional history has been added by Graham Potts.

Books citing GRADON

Bakker, Karel A, Clarke, Nicholas J. 2014. Eclectic ZA Wilhelmiens : A shared Dutch built heritage in South Africa. Pretoria: Visual Books. pp 114