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Walter Hervey Bagot (1880–1963)

by Dean W. Berry

This article was published:

Walter Hervey Bagot (1880-1963), architect, was born on 17 March 1880 at North Adelaide, son of John Bagot, pastoralist, and his wife Lucy Josephine, née Ayers. His grandfathers Charles Hervey Bagot and Sir Henry Ayers had been pioneer settlers in South Australia. He was educated at the Collegiate School of St Peter and apprenticed to the architect E. J. Woods for four years. In 1902 Bagot went to England where he studied architecture at King's College, University of London, won the silver medal of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters and in 1904 gained associateship of the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 1905 he returned to Adelaide and formed the firm of Woods & Bagot (later Woods, Bagot, Laybourne-Smith & Irwin). He also lectured in architectural history at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries for five years. On 18 November 1908 at St Peter's Cathedral he married Josephine Margaret Barritt.

Bagot's architectural preference was for classical and traditional designs: he saw 'the striving for novelty as one of the great dangers of modernism' and came to hate 'the glasshouses of the modern architect'. He was architect for St Peter's Cathedral in 1907-45 and for the Roman Catholic archdiocese in 1905-26; for the latter he designed the chapel of the Convent of Mercy and additions to St Francis Xavier's Cathedral. As architect to the University of Adelaide in 1910-45 he designed the Bonython Hall, completed in 1936, and the Georgian style Barr-Smith Library and associated structures. As the university grew he battled for congruity in its buildings.

In 1924 the Adelaide City Council had appointed him a referee under the Building Act, 1923. Bagot believed that the simplicity of Italian domestic architecture and of English Georgian offered the best models for South Australia's Mediterranean climate. He considered that buildings needed 'the caressing of trees to temper their hardness': the Italianate garden of his summer home in the hills was planted with exotic conifers and he was a governor of the Botanic Garden and a commissioner of the National Park, Belair. A supporter of plans to beautify Adelaide's park lands, he was a sponsor of the National Trust of South Australia.

Bagot was a passionate traveller in Europe and Italy and lectured on Italian painting at the National Gallery of South Australia. In 1962 he was made a knight of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic for his work with the Australian-Italian Association. He was president of the South Australian Institute of Architects in 1917-19, and he was made a life fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects on his retirement in 1960.

Bagot was said to have had a facility for developing excellent relations with workmen engaged on his projects. In 1948-50 he was president of the Adelaide Club, of whose founders he wrote a history (1957), and he belonged to the Pioneers' Association of South Australia. His wife described him as moving 'perfectly among the great ones'; the Bagots were concerned to show that in Adelaide 'some of us knew the way to do things as well as any citizen of the world'. Predeceased by his wife and survived by two daughters and a son, he died at North Adelaide on 27 July 1963. His estate was sworn for probate at £212,837. A portrait by Ivor Hele is held by the family.

Select Bibliography

  • J. M. Bagot, Reveries in Retrospect (Adel, 1946)
  • Architecture in Australia, Dec 1963
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 9 July 1960, 30 July 1963
  • records of principal architectural works executed by E. J. Woods and W. H. Bagot 1886-1944 (State Records of South Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Dean W. Berry, 'Bagot, Walter Hervey (1880–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 21 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

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