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Hollinshed, Charles Neville (Nev) (1899–1993)

by Robin Grow

This article was published online in 2017

Charles Neville Hollinshed (1899–1993), architect and author, was born on 8 June 1899 at Fulham, London, the first child of Charles Frederick Hollinshed, jeweller, and his New Zealand-born second wife Edith Marion, née Simmonds. By 1901 the family had settled in Brisbane. Nev was educated at Eagle Junction State and Brisbane Grammar schools. Unsettled as a youth, he took up fruit farming before becoming an apprentice motor mechanic. In 1916 he was articled to the architects Chambers & Powell and he began studying architecture at the Central Technical College, Brisbane.

On 19 December 1917 Hollinshed enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Selected as an air mechanic in the Australian Flying Corps, he did not embark for England until October 1918. Writing to his mother en route, he was determined to ‘justify the trouble’ that she had taken with him by seeking a discharge in England to ‘get down to my studies again’ (SLV MS 11265). On arrival he was granted six months leave to study with the Architectural Association, London. He returned to Australia in October 1919 and was discharged from the AIF that month. Moving to New South Wales, he studied at the newly established School of Architecture at the University of Sydney (BArch, 1922). In 1922 he joined the firm of Stephenson & Meldrum in Melbourne. Like many young Australian architects of his generation, he gained professional experience by working in London (1924) and New York (1925).

Returning to Melbourne, Hollinshed set up practice in Collins Street. On 1 December 1927 at St John’s Church, Toorak, he married Janet Evelyn Tait. His father-in-law, John Henry Tait, was a concert promoter who, with his brothers, managed the theatrical business of J. C. Williamson Ltd. Hollinshed became the major architect for the company. From late 1926 he had worked with the experienced theatre designer Albion Walkley on Williamson’s Comedy Theatre (1928). This project was followed by his design (with Richard Gailey Jr) of the Regent Theatre, Brisbane (1929): a cinema and live theatre finished in a palatial style with a classical revival facade. Again with Walkley, he was commissioned to remodel and upgrade the fire-damaged interior of His Majesty’s Theatre in Exhibition Street, Melbourne (1934). Showcasing contemporary art deco-moderne style, he decorated its auditorium and foyers using rich Australian timbers in preference to plaster and casts.

In 1934 Hollinshed redesigned the Auditorium in Collins Street to accommodate moving pictures for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. As the medium of film boomed, he was commissioned to design cinemas across Melbourne’s suburbs, including the Regent, Fitzroy (1929); the Village, Toorak (1936); and the Maling, Canterbury (1941). Further afield, he was architect of the Regent, Palmerston North, New Zealand (1930); the Corio, Geelong, Victoria (1938); and the stylish art deco Princess Theatre, Launceston, Tasmania (1940). In addition to theatres, he took on a range of work from factories to domestic houses, including his own house in Canterbury. Among his more important commissions was the Horsham Town Hall (1939). Regarded as one of the finest municipal complexes outside Melbourne, it was praised in a lavishly illustrated spread in the Journal of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects.

Hollinshed was an early and tireless advocate for the establishment of a city square in Melbourne. From 1935 to 1961 he campaigned for the development of a square by roofing the railway yards adjacent to Flinders Street. Although his plans were unsuccessful, some forty years later the site was developed as Federation Square. While advocating modern changes to Melbourne’s streetscape, he was also active in preserving the past. He was a long-standing member of the council of the (Royal) Historical Society of Victoria and he served as one of its vice-presidents (1952–59). In 1956 he became a founding member of the Victorian branch of the National Trust of Australia, and chaired the management committee (1959–73) of its property Como in South Yarra. On his retirement to Sorrento, he co-authored a history of the Mornington Peninsula, built a sailing boat, and continued to design houses and extensions locally.

In 1985, when Hollinshed resigned from the Architects’ Registration Board of Victoria, he was acknowledged as an architect who brought to the profession ‘outstanding work which has improved the quality of life in our cities and towns’ (Blogg 1985, 17). Survived by his wife and two daughters, he died on 14 December 1993 at Forest Hill, Melbourne, and was cremated.

Research edited by Nicole McLennan

Select Bibliography

  • Blogg, Judith. ‘Neville Hollinshed.’ Architect, no. 3 (July 1985): 16–17
  • Hollinshed, Charles N., E. C. F. Bird and Noel Goss. Lime Land Leisure: Peninsular History in the Shire of Flinders. Rosebud, Vic.: Shire of Flinders, 1982
  • Journal of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects. ‘The Horsham Town Hall.’ July 1939, 138–49
  • National Archives of Australia. B2455, Hollinshed, C. N., 3502
  • Owen, Gail. Personal communication
  • Public Records Office of Victoria. VPRS8838/P1 Individual Architects Registration Files, Unit 7, membership file for Charles Neville Hollinshed
  • State Library of Victoria. MS 11265, Hollinshed, Charles N. Papers, 1864–1919
  • State Library of Victoria. MS 13877, Hollinshed, Charles N. Papers, c. 1928–c. 1978

Additional Resources

Citation details

Robin Grow, 'Hollinshed, Charles Neville (Nev) (1899–1993)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hollinshed-charles-neville-nev-17859/text29446, published online 2017, accessed online 22 August 2019.

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