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Smith, Roy Sharrington (1892–1971)

by Barbara Valentine

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Roy Sharrington Smith (1892-1971), architect, was born on 24 November 1892 at Launceston, Tasmania, third of six children of Sydney Herbert Smith, commercial traveller, and his wife Grace, née Spong. Roy was educated at The Friends' School, Hobart. Indentured in 1909 to Robert Ricards of Ricards & Heyward, architects, he attended (from 1915) evening-classes under Lucien Dechaineux at the Hobart Technical School. In 1917 he was admitted to the Tasmanian Institute of Architects. At Holy Trinity Church, Hobart, on 23 August 1922 he married with Anglican rites Isobel Vera Stuart (d.1969), a nursing sister.

After working for a number of local architects, Smith served as an assistant-architect (1925-30) with the Federal Capital Commission, Canberra. In 1930-32 he practised successively in Sydney, London and Dublin. Returning to Launceston, he was invited to form a partnership with Hubert East; Gordon Willing, Jack Newman and Denys Green later joined the firm. With his partners, Smith ran a general practice and designed numerous schools, churches, houses and commercial buildings in northern Tasmania. He and East designed Holyman House in Launceston. His houses were often in a refined vernacular style with Georgian references; his commercial buildings exhibited a restrained Art Deco.

Smith sat for many years on the council of the T.I.A. and was president of the Tasmanian chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 1938-40. A founder (1929) of the R.A.I.A., he was a councillor for fourteen years, vice-president (1938-39, 1942-44) and president (1944-46). In 1947 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects; in 1966 he was made a life fellow of the R.A.I.A.

An active parishioner of St Aidan's Anglican Church, Launceston, Smith became involved in community organizations. For more than twenty years he served on the committees of the (Glenara) Northern Tasmanian Home for Boys (president 1961-68) and the Society for the Care of Crippled Children (vice-president 1966-71): he was responsible for the design of additions and alterations to their buildings. A council-member and chairman (1954-56) of the northern branch of the Royal Society of Tasmania, he also belonged to the Rotary Club of Launceston.

In 1960 Smith helped to found the Tasmanian branch of the National Trust of Australia. For the rest of his life he was its senior architect. His firm carried out restorations on some of Australia's finest colonial houses, among them Franklin House and Staffordshire House, at Launceston, Clarendon, at Evandale, Malahide, at Fingal, Mount Morriston, at Ross, and Fairfield, at Epping Forest. He revealed his love of the State's architectural heritage in his books, John Lee Archer, Tasmanian Architect and Engineer (1962), and Early Tasmanian Bridges (1969). Smith was a man of fastidious taste and a skilled photographer; he had gained much from his earlier association with Frank Heyward and East, both of whom appreciated a historical approach to architecture. Survived by his son, he died on 13 September 1971 at his Launceston home and was cremated; his estate was sworn for probate at $54,478. In 1973 the National Trust established a biennial lecture in honour of Smith, Isabella Mead and Karl von Stieglitz.

Select Bibliography

  • J. M. Freeland, The Making of a Profession (Syd, 1971)
  • National Trust of Australia (Tasmania) Newsletter, 32, Dec 1971, p 1
  • Examiner (Launceston), 14 Sept 1971
  • Smith papers (Launceston Library)
  • private information.

Citation details

Barbara Valentine, 'Smith, Roy Sharrington (1892–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/smith-roy-sharrington-11724/text20959, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 2 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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