Architects Contemporary with Edwin Lutyens

Sir Guy Dawber (1861-1938)

Although a fairly close contemporary of Edwin Lutyens, Dawber, like so many architects of the time, is now largely overlooked, save by a few architectural historians. However, he was highly regarded in his day being President of the Architectural Association (1904-1906), President of the RIBA (1925-1927), winner of the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture (1928), one of two Founders of what was then the Council for the Preservation of Rural England (1926) and a Royal Academician (1935). He was Knighted in 1936, shortly before he died.

Dawber was born and trained in King’s Lynn. He moved to Dublin in 1881 before returning to London a year later owing to political troubles. He entered the office of Sir Ernest George, where he would have known the young Lutyens. His first major job for George was acting as site architect at Batsford Park, the large house that was being built in the Cotswolds for Algernon Freeman Mitford, later Lord Redesdale.

Dawber set up on his own in 1889, was soon practising from an office in London and he was to remain London-based for the rest of his life. He is largely known for his country house work, particularly in the Cotswolds and the Home Counties. But he did much other work, including a church (St John’s Chapel at Matlock), Enfield Crematorium and the Foord Almshouses at Rochester. Perhaps his largest commission was a series of buildings at Lord Wandsworth College at Long Sutton, Hampshire, where he won a competition assessed by Reginald Blomfield.

These last three projects are all neo-Georgian brick, although perhaps his most satisfying work is in the use of stone. He was a very sensitive architect when altering old buildings, particularly those in stone. It is often difficult to see where new meets old.

Another large and late work was the building of Dutton Homestall (now Stoke Brunswick School) near East Grinstead for John Dewar of whisky fame. This involved the moving of a large timber building, Dutton Hall in Cheshire, and reerecting it alongside an old stone cottage, The Homestall. The whole was encased in local Sussex stone and is one of Dawber’s most satisfying works, although he appears to have fallen out with the Dewars over his fees.

Perhaps Dawber’s lasting memorial is the founding of the CPRE. He was passionate about the despoliation of towns and the countryside and he fought for their survival throughout his life.

Laurie Kinney