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LECK, William

Born: 1852
Died: 1907 08 09


Was among the early architects in Johannesburg who had received a solid architectural training in Britain. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, entering a five-year apprenticeship with Francis Stirrat in Belfast in 1870; he worked as an assistant to Thomson & Turnbull. Leck subsequently worked in the offices of John Burnet & Sons in Glasgow and of Fred Wheeler, before going to London to work first for William Young and then for Ernest George & Peto as managing assistant where he met Herbert BAKER who later proposed Leck's FRIBA membership and commented on Leck's works in Johannesburg as being 'of real architectural quality. The best here, quite' (Leck's FRIBA nom papers 1904).

Before coming to South Africa in 1889, Leck travelled for three months on the continent, visiting Paris, the Netherlands and Belgium and studied at the Royal Academy Schools in London.

On his arrival in the Transvaal Republic he opened an office in Pretoria but after a time left for Johannesburg (EJ WELLMAN was employed in Leck's office at this time (1894-1899)). In about 1898 Leck entered into partnership with Frank EMLEY (cf. LECK & EMLEY). In about 1906/1907 GAH DICKSON joined Leck & Emley in partnership (cf. LECK, EMLEY & DICKSON). Leck was resident architect for TH SMITH'S Carlton Hotel (1903-1906).

In 1903 Leck was elected president of the Transvaal Institute of Architects and was a respected figure in professional circles. His professional advice was sought on many occasions. He was consulted, as president of the Society of Architects (South African branch) and as vice-president of the Transvaal Institute of Architects, for his opinion on holding an architectural competition for the proposed Pretoria Post Office. His advice is contained in the correspondence concerning this job.

His sudden death from pneumonia while on a trip to Durban in 1907 was considered a great loss to the profession.

Among Leck's best-known public buildings was the old library building in Kerk St, Johannesburg (opened September 1898) which was remembered affectionately by Herman Charles Bosman in a later essay on the building. The design was based on 'the English Palladianism of the second half of the 18th century' (Van der Waal 1987:61).

There is also a listing of this practitioner on the Dictionary of Scottish Architects.

FRIBA 1904; Pres TIA 1903; Pres Soc of Archts SA branch 1907; Vice-Pres TIA 1907; Hon Examiner in History of Architecture, Tvl Univ College; Mem Caledonian Soc; SA Assn Advancement of Science; SA Assn of Eng & Archts 1892. (Benjamin 1979:13; Bosman 1965; Praagh 1906; Picton-Seymour 1977; FRIBA nom papers (1904); RIBA Jnl 19 Oct 1907:712 obit; SAAE&S Jnl Jul 1906:138; SAAE&S Jnl Jan 1907:58, 74; SAAE&S Jnl Aug 1907:192-93; SAWW 1908)

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

Anglo Austrian Building: 1896. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Barnato Buildings: 1890 : 1892. Central, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Carlton Hotel - First: 1906 : 1935 : 1960s. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Project Architect
Deutsche Schule - German School: 1897. Hillbrow, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Eckstein's Buildings - Corner House: 1902. Central, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
EW Tarry Bldg: 1896. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
German School: 1897. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Glencairn Buildings: n.d.. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Henwood Bldg: 1893. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House Beecher: 1893. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House Frederick Eckstein: Hildasheim: 1896. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House FW Stokes: 1892. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House Jeppe - Friedenheim: 1896. Jeppestown, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House L Phillips - Hohenheim: 1892-1894. Parktown, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House RH Spence: 1895. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House T Reunert: Windybrow: 1896. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
National Bank: 1892. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
New Club: 1897. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Public Library: 1898. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Trust Buildings: 1897. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect

Books citing LECK

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 26, 28-34