Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Frank Emery Hurren (1899–1982)

by Bill Stacy

This article was published:

Frank Emery Hurren (1899-1982), structural engineer, was born on 18 December 1899 at Birkenhead, South Australia, youngest of four children of Charles Hurren, clerk, and his wife Amy Catherine, née Emery. Educated at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries, Frank left home at 16 to take employment with Stone & Siddeley Ltd, Sydney-based consulting engineers and pioneers in the use of reinforced concrete. He returned to Adelaide in 1916 with Edward Stone who was supervising construction of the Glenelg breakwater, destroyed in a storm before completion. In 1922 he joined M. S. Stanley, a Sydney consulting engineer, as a draughtsman. On 10 May 1926 at St Paul’s Church of England, Port Adelaide, he married Selina Muriel Wallace, a typist. Next year he travelled to the United States of America and Europe to investigate developments in the use of gypsum and, on his return to Adelaide, established a partnership in Gawler Place with W. W. Langman early in 1928.

Responsible for the structural frameworks of many large buildings in Adelaide, including the offices of the Shell Co. of Australia Ltd, the Australian Mutual Provident Society, the Bank of New South Wales and the Savings Bank of South Australia, the partners developed strong bonds of trust. The early years of practice involved hard work, with frequent interstate travel. As the number of commissions increased in the mid-1930s they concentrated on local projects and took in another partner, W. H. James. Hurren, Langman & James became the pre-eminent consulting structural engineering firm in Adelaide, recognised for the high quality of its work and for innovations such as the development of the pier-and-beam foundation system to reduce cracking in houses built on Adelaide’s reactive clay soils. Hurren served on advisory committees, including the parliamentary by-laws and standards committee, and lectured at the School of Mines.

Hurren established the first modern sustained structural engineering consultancy in Adelaide and was influential in the acceptance of reinforced concrete as a structural material in South Australia. In 1936 his health broke down because of pressure of work, and next year he took his family to the USA. After his return difficulties gradually emerged between the partners and on 30 June 1956 their partnership was dissolved. Hurren retired and never again practised engineering, devoting his time instead to other interests and to charitable work.

Remarkably self-motivated, driven and obsessional, Hurren was also generous, trusting and loyal. Although socially awkward he made many close friends. He was an excellent host, a good correspondent and a man of diverse interests including art, theatre, shipping, travel and conservation. In March 1951 he helped to organise the meeting that led to the formation that year of the National Trust for South Australia. He was a devout Anglican. Survived by his wife and their son and daughter, he died on 8 August 1982 at Stirling and was buried in the local cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • D. A. Cumming and G. C. Moxham, They Built South Australia (1986)
  • B. Stacy, '“A Mad Scramble”', Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, no 33, 2005, p 87
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 10 Aug 1982, p 6
  • Hurren, Langman & James records (Louis Laybourne Smith School of Architecture Archive, University of South Australia Library)
  • private information.

Citation details

Bill Stacy, 'Hurren, Frank Emery (1899–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 16 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


18 December, 1899
Port Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


8 August, 1982 (aged 82)
Stirling, South Australia, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.