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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Walker, Alan Cameron (1864–1931)

by Brendan Lennard and Caroline Miley

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Alan Cameron Walker (1864-1931), architect and craftsman, was born on 27 August 1864 in Hobart Town, fourth son of Robert Walker, merchant, and his wife Emma Jane, née Cameron; he was a grandson of John Walker. Educated at The Hutchins School, Hobart, Alan was articled in 1882 to the architect Henry Hunter, studied under Professor Roger Smith in 1887-88 at University College, London, and recorded buildings for (Sir) Banister Fletcher. In 1888 he was admitted as an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Arriving in Melbourne in November, Walker practised with Ellerker & Kilburn, and subsequently on his own. He served on the Council of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects and led a breakaway group of progressives. His published papers on architectural subjects included an address to the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science in 1892.

Having married Mabel Marianne Robertson (d.1918) on 5 June 1889 at St Andrew's Anglican Church, Brighton, in 1895 Walker brought his family to Hobart where he had built a fashionable home, Huonden. He went into practice with Douglas Salier in 1901 and formed a partnership with Archibald Johnston in 1911. President of the Tasmanian Association of Architects (1906-07, 1915-16 and 1923-25), Walker was first chairman of the Board of Architects of Tasmania in 1930. He also helped to prepare the architectural syllabus for the Hobart Technical College where he lectured.

Thoroughly grounded in Classical and Gothic Revival architecture, as well as being acquainted with the work of Richard Norman Shaw and C. F. A. Voysey, Walker reflected English and American trends in his Hobart buildings. The influence of Henry Hobson Richardson's Romanesque Revival style is evident in Walker's execution of the National Mutual Life Building (1906). The General Post Office (1901) and Public Library (1904-06) are free interpretations of the Classical Revival, while the cloisters (1929) and tower (1931) of St David's Cathedral display his understanding of the Gothic. Walker's exploration of materials is expressed in these buildings, as well as in St Raphael's Church, Fern Tree (timber, 1892), and Werndee, for Sir Elliott Lewis, (polychrome brick, 1902-03). In 1926 several of Walker's designs were included in an exhibition in London of Dominion architecture.

Walker had also served on the Council of the Art Society of Tasmania in 1897-1900. A keen metalworker who had studied enamelling in England, he exhibited in various media and brought the ideas of the English Arts and Crafts Movement to Tasmania. He provided the impetus for the establishment of the Arts and Crafts Society of Tasmania, becoming its first president in 1903.

On 11 March 1922 he married Daisy May Hook at St Columba's Anglican Church, Hawthorn, Adelaide. Tall, well-built and invariably well-dressed, he was 'the image of a country gentleman'. By nature he was unassuming, approachable and energetic, and had a genuine concern for the underprivileged. Survived by his wife, and by the son and daughter of his first marriage, he died suddenly of valvular heart disease on 12 December 1931 at his Fern Tree home and was buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Art, Antique and Historical Exhibition, catalogue (Hob, 1931)
  • J. M. Freeland, The Making of a Profession (Syd, 1971)
  • Royal Australian Institute of Architects (Tasmania), An Architectural Guide to the City, Hobart (Hob, 1984)
  • C. Miley, Beautiful and Useful (Launc, 1987)
  • Building and Engineering Journal, 22 Dec 1888
  • Tribune (Hobart), 6 Sept 1876
  • Mercury (Hobart), 18 June 1929, 14, 15 Dec 1931
  • Tasmanian Association of Architects and Tasmanian Chapter of Architects, minute books
  • The Hutchins School archives
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Brendan Lennard and Caroline Miley, 'Walker, Alan Cameron (1864–1931)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 22 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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