Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Leonard Terry (1825–1884)

by Miles Lewis

This article was published:

Leonard Terry (1825-1884), architect, was born at Scarborough, Yorkshire, England, son of Leonard Terry, timber merchant, and his wife Margaret, née Walker. He reached Melbourne in 1853 and after six months was employed by C. Laing. Evidence suggests that he did not, as has been alleged, acquire sole control of Laing's practice in 1855; but by the end of 1856 he had his own practice in Collins Street West; after Laing's death next year Terry succeeded him as the principal designer of banks in Victoria and of buildings for the Anglican Church, of which he was appointed diocesan architect in 1860. His first-recorded commission, late in 1856, was the design of Sands and Kenny's printing house in Collins Street West, which he remodelled in 1864. Other commissions included a number of bluestone warehouses in central Melbourne, especially in 1857-58; the Melbourne Club of 1858; the works of the Victoria Sugar Co., Sandridge (Port Melbourne) of 1857-59 (burnt 1874); Alfred Joyce's house, Norwood, near Maryborough, of 1863-64; and the large James McEwan & Co. ironmongery warehouse of 1869.

Terry's first-known bank commission was for additions to the Union Bank in Melbourne in 1857. Next year he won a competition for the Melbourne office of the London Bank, and he later designed at least fifty branches for all the major banks, mainly in Victoria, but also in Tasmania, Western Australia and New Zealand. Lloyd Tayler became a serious rival in the late 1860s. In all this work Terry favoured a Renaissance palazzo mode, in which he designed even his bluestone warehouses: a fine example (1858) is the Cleve Bros building, in Lonsdale Street. His banks are best illustrated in Lydiard Street East, Ballarat, where the Bank of New South Wales of 1862, the Colonial of 1860, the three-storied National of 1862, and the Australasia at the corner of Sturt Street of 1864, stand in a row and harmonize well, though varying widely in design. This group continued originally on the opposite corner of Sturt Street with his London Chartered Bank of 1866, and a little further west is his Union Bank of 1863-64.

Even within Terry's Renaissance manner some developments can be traced, such as the introduction of segmental arches in about 1870. The James McEwan building of 1869 presented new problems because it was four storeys high; his solution was developed more strikingly in his remodelling of the Monster Clothing Co.'s building in Bourke Street in 1873, where the frontage was narrow enough for one large arch at first floor level to carry across the display windows below. This treatment is important because it is the antecedent of a whole school of brick Romanesque buildings in Melbourne of about 1890-1920, in which giant order piers carry through from ground level up to major arches in the upper storeys. The McEwan building was also of technical interest for its iron roller-shutters, fire proof partitions and hydraulic goods lift.

As diocesan architect, Terry not only designed many Anglican churches but also vetted designs and sometimes, it seems, called tenders from his Melbourne office on behalf of country architects. Thus it is often difficult to determine which buildings were Terry's own, though there is certainty in the case of St Paul's, Humffray Street, Ballarat, (a rebuilt school) of 1861-64; Holy Trinity, East Melbourne, of 1864 (burnt 1905) and its associated deanery of 1864 and parsonage of 1868 and 1875; St John's, Ballarat, of 1864-65 (extended by Terry and Oakden 1884); Christ Church, Birregurra, of 1867; and Holy Trinity, Williamstown, of 1870-74. Stylistic evidence suggests that he was in fact responsible for many other buildings with which his name is associated. He prepared a scheme for the Church of England Theological (Trinity) College, Parkville, of which only the principal's house (Leeper Wing) was built in 1869-72, the remainder being completed between 1877 and 1891 to designs by E. Blacket, J. Reed and others. Terry's churches were generally of bluestone, and in fairly austere Early English or Decorated Gothic and, with the exception of Birregurra, well composed and satisfying. In his parsonages, and at Norwood and Trinity College, he used a simple Tudor manor style with steep gables and banks of rectangular windows, generally given a sober and rugged character by the use of bluestone.

Terry also undertook commissions for the Roman Catholic Church, including major work in 1870, some of it probably in association with W. W. Wardell. This work occurred in a lull in Terry's practice, which seems to have begun in the late 1860s, and finished on 1 January 1874 when he took in as junior partner (with a one-third interest) the former Ballarat architect Percy Oakden, who brought in numerous Nonconformist church and school commissions: Terry continued to work for the Anglican and the Roman Catholic Churches. Generally the partners maintained distinct clienteles and distinctive styles, though Terry's output was now small. He was appointed supervising architect for St Paul's Cathedral and about 1879 visited England and consulted with the architect William Butterfield, although eventually much of the supervision was done by Oakden.

Terry was first married, at 30, on 26 June 1855 to Theodosia Mary Welch (d.1861), by whom he had six children including Marmaduke, who trained as a surveyor and entered his father's firm in 1880. Terry's second marriage, at 41, on 29 December 1866 was to Esther Hardwick Aspinall, who bore him three children and survived him when on 23 June 1884, at the age of 59, he died of a thoracic tumor in his last home, Campbellfield Lodge, Reilly (Alexandra) Parade, Collingwood. He left no real estate but other assets that were valued for probate at £12,000, including an interest by way of goodwill in the firm of Terry and Oakden, worth £4000. Gifted but reticent, in his lifetime he had received no personal publicity and only the minimum of attention for his works: his death went unremarked in the daily, the banking and the Anglican press. He was a conservative but competent and highly sensitive designer, who produced a greater number of noble buildings than more progressive contemporaries like Reed. His work is urbane by comparison with the coarse neo-classicism and picturesque Gothic of Laing, or the fussy polychromy of Oakden; Tayler was more of a kindred spirit, and described Terry as 'a man of much more than ordinary ability, and … modest, unassuming and gentlemanly manner'.

Select Bibliography

  • Terry and Oakden (firm), What to Build and How to Build It (Melb, 1885)
  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • L. Tayler, ‘Early and late Melbourne architects’, Building, Engineering and Mining Journal, 5 May 1900
  • H. Troppe, Leonard Terry and Some of his Banks (B. Arch. report, University of Melbourne, 1970)
  • H. Zuzowski, The Works of Leonard Terry (B. Arch. report, University of Melbourne, 1971).

Citation details

Miles Lewis, 'Terry, Leonard (1825–1884)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 28 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Scarborough, Yorkshire, England


23 June, 1884 (aged ~ 59)
Collingwood, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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.