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Henry Hardie Kemp (1859–1946)

by George Tibbits

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Henry Hardie Kemp (1859-1946), architect, was born on 10 March 1859 at Broughton, Lancashire, England, son of Alexander Kemp, woollen merchant, and his wife Mary, née Hardie, both from Scotland. He was educated privately at Bowden, at the Academy Fairfield and the Victoria University, Manchester, and the Royal Academy, London. From an early age he aimed to be an artist. In 1875 he was articled in the office of Manchester architects Corsen & Aitken, then in London with R. W. Edis and, just before his migration to Melbourne in 1886, with Paull & Bonella. Drawings from his student days show the development of his later architectural style — his interest in the half-timbered vernacular of Cheshire and Manchester, in Gothic work, and in that of the contemporary English architects E. Nesfield and R. N. Shaw. He gained many prizes, and after becoming travelling student and medallist of the Architectural Association, London, in 1881, made the first of a number of sketching tours of France.

In Melbourne he was chief assistant with the firm of Terry & Oakden, and in 1887 became a partner in the firm, restyled Oakden, Addison & Kemp. Before the financial collapse of 1892 greatly reduced the practice, Kemp was associated with a number of substantial projects: Queen's College, University of Melbourne; the Queen's Coffee Palace, Carlton (1889, demolished); the twelve-storey Australian Property and Investment Co. Building, corner of Elizabeth Street and Flinders Lane (1887, demolished); the Workingmen's College (1888); and Woodlands for Alexander McCracken, North Essendon (1888). He also designed three distinctive brick buildings: a manse, Highbury Grove, Kew, where on 12 December 1888 he married Charlotte Wilhelmina Harvey; a pair of residences at 117 Princess Street and 1 Fellows Street, Kew; and a bank, now the shire office, Kerang.

In 1895-97 Kemp is believed to have been in Sydney, but he returned to Melbourne where in 1899 he entered into a brilliant partnership with Beverley Ussher (1867-1908). The practice specialized in domestic work and their houses epitomize the Marseilles-tiled Queen Anne (or Federation style) houses characteristic of Melbourne, and considered now to be a truly distinctive Australian genre. At the time of their creation they were a break with the use of cement render, applied stucco ornament, cast iron, slates, and double hung windows. Their designs use red bricks, terracotta tiles and casement windows, avoid applied ornamentation and develop substantial timber details. The picturesque character of the houses results from a conscious attempt to express externally with gables, dormers, bays, roof axes, and chimneys, the functional variety of rooms within. Dalswraith for William Gibson, 99 Studley Park Road, Kew (1906) and a house for A. Norman, 7 Adeney Avenue, Kew (1908) are superb examples of his designs.

Ussher died in 1908 while Professional Chambers, Collins Street, was being built. Kemp continued alone in practice until 1911 when he joined George Charles Inskip in a partnership lasting until 1913. Between 1918 and 1929, when he retired, he was in partnership with his nephew. F. Bruce Kemp. A number of interesting designs survive from these years, including his own house, Heald Lawn, Kew (1913). An associate of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects, Kemp was a quiet, reserved man with a stern manner, an exacting and admired master devoted to architecture as an art and craft. He was a founder of the Fellowship Association of Victoria and an elder of the Presbyterian Church. He died at Kew on 22 April 1946, survived by his wife, four daughters and son. His estate was valued for probate at £41,216.

Select Bibliography

  • Historic Environment, 2 (1982), no 2, p 4
  • J. R. Ingram, H. H. Kemp, research essay, 1961, and A. Trollope, H. H. Kemp, research report, 1970 (Department of Architecture, University of Melbourne)
  • H. H. Kemp drawings (State Library of Victoria), and collection (privately held)
  • architectural index (University of Melbourne).

Citation details

George Tibbits, 'Kemp, Henry Hardie (1859–1946)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 20 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


10 March, 1859
Broughton, Lancashire, England


22 April, 1946 (aged 87)
Kew, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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