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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Laing, Charles (1809–1857)

by J. L. O'Brien

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Charles Laing (1809?-1857), architect and surveyor, was born at Manchester, England, and appears to have been trained as an architect. He arrived in Melbourne in 1840 and after a brief period as a butcher set up practice in his profession. From 1845 to about 1850 he was city surveyor of Melbourne, without any interruption of his private practice. At least three maps of Melbourne drawn by Laing during that period are preserved.

His work as an architect ranged over ecclesiastical, institutional, domestic and business architecture and was fairly typical of the modest and unsophisticated style of the time. It included the still surviving stuccoed nave and tower of St Peter's, Eastern Hill (1846); a small church in Swanston Street, on the corner of Little Lonsdale Street, designed at half the usual fee for the penurious Free Presbyterian congregation (1847, demolished in 1863 to make way for the present church designed by Charles Webb); the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum in Victoria Street, North Melbourne (1850, now demolished); the English, Scottish and Australian Bank building on the corner of Elizabeth Street and Flinders Lane (1856, demolished in the 1880s, also attributed to Leonard Terry); a 31-room office block designed in 1856 for the solicitor Thomas Clark on the west side of Bank Place; the Royal Terrace for Hugh Glass in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy (1856, still standing with later accretions); and various other shops and houses in Melbourne and suburbs and in and round Geelong.

The best-preserved example of Laing's work is the house called Coryule, near Drysdale, in the Bellarine Peninsula. This was designed in 1849 for Miss Anne Drysdale and Miss Elizabeth Newcomb, after the fashion of the picturesque phase of the Gothic revival. Part of Laing's plans and specifications for this house are preserved in the State Library of Victoria. The plans and specifications of three small cottages at Brighton, designed for Thomas Clark, solicitor, also survive in private possession.

Laing died at Brighton on 29 September 1857, at the age of 48, leaving his professional equipment to his son James, and the rest of his estate, which did not exceed £1000, to his wife Isabella, née Glasgow.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Bate, A History of Brighton (Melb, 1962)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 17 Jan 1931.

Citation details

J. L. O'Brien, 'Laing, Charles (1809–1857)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 23 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

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