Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Waterhouse, Bertrand James (1876–1965)

by Michael Waterhouse

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

Bertrand Waterhouse, 1926

Bertrand Waterhouse, 1926

photo supplied by Michael Waterhouse

Bertrand James Waterhouse (1876-1965), architect, was born on 8 February 1876 at Leeds, Yorkshire, England, son of James Waterhouse, grocer, and his wife Sarah, née Turner. Bertrand reached Sydney in the Gulf of Mexico with his mother and two sisters in March 1885 and was educated at Burwood. Known as 'B.J.', he studied architecture at Sydney Technical College while articled to John Spencer. On 6 July 1898 Waterhouse married 19-year-old Lilian Woodcock (d.1955) at Christ Church St Laurence. Joining the professional relieving staff of the Department of Public Works in March 1900, he worked in the harbours and rivers branch and became a relieving architectural draftsman.

In partnership with J. W. H. Lake from 1908, Waterhouse built up a substantial practice, particularly in the Cremorne-Neutral Bay area. In 1917-18 he served as assistant commissioner in the Australian Comforts Fund with the 1st Division, Australian Imperial Force, in France and Belgium. Until the mid-1920s his domestic architecture drew on the Arts and Crafts Movement, with steeply gabled roofs, extensive use of sandstone in the basements, shingle tiles and roughcast exterior wall surfaces. Thereafter his style showed a strong Mediterranean influence, a notable example being May Gibbs's house, Nutcote, with textured stucco walls and symmetrical, twelve-paned, shuttered windows. His non-residential designs included warehouses, churches, picture theatres and university buildings, some with Leslie Wilkinson; in the 1920s he produced the winning design for the Young Women's Christian Association's new premises in Liverpool Street. Most of his better-known work was completed before the Depression.

Active in the Institute of Architects of New South Wales, Waterhouse was vice-president seven times between 1913 and 1948. He was secretary and treasurer of the Federal Council of the Australian Institutes of Architects (1922-24), and councillor of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (1932-34) and of its New South Wales chapter (1934-48). President of the Board of Architects of New South Wales (1929-49), Waterhouse promoted architectural education, acting as examiner at Sydney Technical College and sitting on its advisory committee. Having taken a keen interest in town planning in Sydney, he was increasingly invited to advise the Federal Capital Commission on major projects in Canberra; in 1938 he was appointed to the National Capital Planning and Development Committee and later served as its chairman until 1958.

An excellent pencil draughtsman, Waterhouse had exhibited drawings at annual exhibitions of the (Royal) Art Society of New South Wales from 1902. He travelled through Europe in 1926 with Lionel Lindsay and Will Ashton, and in 1932 exhibited his drawings at the Macquarie Galleries, Sydney. A trustee of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales from 1922, Waterhouse was president in 1939-58; he was also State president of the Society of Arts and Crafts. He spoke extensively, advocating more orderly planning of Sydney and the preservation of parks and old buildings such as Hyde Park Barracks; in addition, he wrote articles on contemporary art and historical papers on European art and architecture. For relaxation, he sketched and played tennis.

A fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (1928) and of the R.A.I.A. (1931), Waterhouse was appointed O.B.E. in 1939 and received the King George V jubilee (1935), King George VI coronation (1937) and Queen Elizabeth II coronation (1953) medals. Survived by two sons and a daughter, he died on 21 December 1965 at his Neutral Bay home and was cremated with Anglican rites. His portrait by Mary Edwards (1940) is held by the R.A.I.A., Sydney, and another by William Dargie (1958) by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Select Bibliography

  • I. and M. Stapleton, Twentieth Century Buildings of Significance (Syd, 1979)
  • R. Irving et al, Fine Houses of Sydney (Syd, 1982)
  • Architecture in Australia, Feb 1921, July 1926, Feb 1927, July 1932, Oct 1943, July 1949, Jan 1966
  • Building (Sydney), Oct 1927
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3, 15 Aug 1929, 18 Jan 1966
  • Bulletin, 17 Apr 1940
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 15 Oct 1943
  • Canberra Times, 23 Dec 1965
  • R. E. Apperly, Sydney Houses: 1914-1939 (M.Arch thesis, University of New South Wales, 1972)
  • A. Ashton, B. J. Waterhouse: A Tribute (manuscript, 1965, privately held)
  • Trustees of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Annual Reports and Minutes of monthly meetings
  • Lionel Lindsay papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • National Trust of Australia (New South Wales), listings
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Michael Waterhouse, 'Waterhouse, Bertrand James (1876–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/waterhouse-bertrand-james-8990/text15825, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 26 October 2014.

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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Bertrand Waterhouse, 1926

Bertrand Waterhouse, 1926

photo supplied by Michael Waterhouse