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Henderson, Kingsley Anketell (1883–1942)

by Susan M. Balderstone

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Kingsley Anketell Henderson (1883-1942), architect, was born on 15 December 1883 at Brighton, Melbourne, son of Anketell Matthew Henderson (1853-1922), architect, and his wife Mary Louisa, née Andrew, from England. A. M. Henderson was born on 3 March 1853 at Cork, Ireland, son of an Independent clergyman, and came to Victoria at the age of 10 with his family. After education at Scotch College, Melbourne, he completed the University of Melbourne's engineering certificate course (1872) while articled to Reed & Barnes. The partnership of Reed, Henderson & Smart was formed in 1883 and lasted until 1890, during which time Henderson was responsible for work for the Bank of Australasia and for the university. He retained the bank work when he set up on his own, practising in 1890-1906 as Anketell Henderson, architect, licensed surveyor and sanitary engineer, at 352 Collins Street. In 1890 he was appointed co-examiner in architecture for the university's engineering course and in 1891-1903 and 1905-16 was lecturer in architecture; he continued in an honorary capacity for a few years.

In 1897, 1910 and 1913 he was president of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects. As lecturer in architecture for almost thirty years he was a major influence on students and staff alike both in matters of practice and design theory. His preference for the classical styles was well known, as was his insistence on the practical use of learning. The R.V.I.A.'s eventual support of the teaching of architecture at the university was achieved mainly by his endeavour. A diabetic, he died on 15 November 1922, survived by his wife, whom he had married on 8 January 1880, two sons and two daughters.

Kingsley Anketell Henderson was educated at Cumloden, East St Kilda. He studied architecture at the university and the Melbourne Technical College while articled to his father from 1901. When he joined his father as a partner in 1906 the firm became known as Anketell and K. Henderson. In 1913 he visited the United States of America. In 1920-24 the partnership included Rodney Alsop and M. W. Martin. The firm won several competitions during the 1920s and in 1931 was awarded the R.V.I.A. Victorian Street Architecture medal for Lyric House, Collins Street, and in 1935 for Shell Corner, William Street. The work of the practice was carried out in all States of Australia and in New Zealand and its clients included notables such as Essington Lewis, (Sir) Robert Menzies and (Dame) Enid Lyons, banks and insurance companies, hospitals and universities.

Kingsley Henderson was largely responsible for the success of the practice after 1922. He placed great emphasis on the functional and commercial aspect of city office planning, being especially adept at achieving the maximum natural light and space to let. He gave a paper on the subject to a meeting of the R.V.I.A. in November 1928. Another paper to the institute, in August 1930, was on 'Supervision and the relationship of contracting parties' and after a trip to England, Europe and America in 1935-36 inspecting hospitals, he spoke on hospital design.

Henderson's understanding of the functional requirements of commercial office development undoubtedly put the practice at the forefront of the profession in this type of work. He made a major contribution to the architecture of Melbourne, particularly in Collins Street which at one time boasted seven A. & K. Henderson buildings. In most cases, however, the design of the façades of the buildings is attributable to other members of the firm such as John Freeman and R. Jack Wilson. These façades were representative of the full range of architectural stylistic expression employed by Melbourne's architects generally over the period of the practice, beginning with the classical revival of the early banks, particularly the National Bank head office in Collins Street, and encompassing variations of 'art modern', 'neo-Gothic' and 'vertical modern' before settling for the restrained modernistic of the Trustees, Executors & Agency Co. building in Queen Street.

Henderson was a fellow of both the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 1921-24 he was president and in 1934-35 vice-president of the council of the R.V.I.A.; he was president of the federal council of the institute in 1924-25 and 1930-31 and in 1937 of the Architects' Registration Board. In 1927-30 he served on the Committee of Public Taste, Federal Capital Commission. He was appointed C.M.G. in 1938.

Well known as a businessman, Henderson was a director of companies including Were's, National Reliance and Capel Court (Aust) Ltd investment trusts, Chevron Ltd, Eagle Star Insurance Co. (Australian board) and the Argus and Australasian Ltd, of which he was chairman in 1940. From 1917 to 1922 he was a member of the Malvern City Council. Early in 1931, with Staniforth Ricketson, Sir John Higgins, (Sir) Robert Menzies and others, he had much to do with persuading Joe Lyons to leave the Labor Party and accept leadership of the non-Labor forces. After working in the All for Australia League, in May Henderson became chairman of the central council of the United Australia Party in Victoria; he resigned in November. Lyons became a close friend.

Henderson was a member of the Savage, Melbourne and Athenaeum clubs and a founder of the Toc H boys' home. At Christ Church, South Yarra, on 10 December 1909 he had married Ruve Cutts Poolman who survived him on his sudden death at Portsea on 6 April 1942; he was buried in St Kilda cemetery. They had no children. His estate was valued for probate at £72,564. The practice was carried on by R. Cedric Staughton as principal with associates W. H. Lacey and L. C. Pillar until the early 1960s.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Lyons, So We Take Comfort (Lond, 1965)
  • Labour History, 1970, no 17, p 44
  • Royal Victorian Institute of Architects, Journal, Sept 1925, Nov 1928, Sept 1930, Sept 1931, Jan 1932, July 1933, Nov 1935, May, June, July, Aug, Sept 1936, Sept 1937
  • Building (Sydney), Jan 1928, Jan, Aug 1929, Jan, Mar 1932
  • Australian Home Beautiful, Aug, Oct 1929, Aug 1930
  • A. & K. Henderson papers (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

Susan M. Balderstone, 'Henderson, Kingsley Anketell (1883–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/henderson-kingsley-anketell-6634/text11405, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 19 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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