and More Horbury Hunt



John Horbury Hunt: Radical Architect 1838 1904
Authors Peter Reynolds | Lesley Muir | Joy Hughes.
John Horbury Hunt: Radical Architect 1838-1904, was published to accompany an exhibition at the Museum of Sydney on the site of first Government House celebrating the life and work of architect John Horbury Hunt.

It is the most comprehensive publication on the architect in the last 30 years and confirms Hunt’s place in history as an architect of enduring significance and originality. Canadian-born, Boston-trained architect John Horbury Hunt rightfully deserves to be recognised for his outstanding contribution to the development of modern architecture in Australia. He arrived in Sydney in 1863 and for the next 40 years was renowned for the distinctive and radical architecture he introduced to the fledgling city and rural New South Wales.

237mm x 300mm | Paper back | 176 pages

Architect extraordinary : the life and work of John Horbury Hunt, 1838-1904

Architect extraordinary : the life and work of John Horbury Hunt, 1838-1904

Author: Freeland, J. M. (John Maxwell), 1920-1983

[Melbourne] : Cassell Australia, [1970]
246 p., [52] p. of plates ; 25 cm.


  • Hunt, John Horbury, 1838-1904.
  • Convent of the Sisters of Good Shepherd (Balmain, N.S.W.)
  • Hospital For Sick Children (Glebe, N.S.W.)
  • Architecture — Australia — History.

Index., Notes
Includes bibliographical reference

From National Centre of Biography Australian National University

Hunt, John Horbury (1838–1904)

by J. M. Freeland
John Horbury Hunt (1838-1904), architect, was born in October 1838 at St John, New Brunswick, the eldest son of William Hunt and his wife Frances, née Horbury. His father, a sixth-generation North American, was a carpenter and builder in Waltham, near Boston, before moving to Canada in 1853. In 1856 Hunt began training as an architect under Charles F. Sleeper of Roxbury, near Boston. He soon transferred to Edward Clarke Cabot who closed his office when the American civil war broke out.

Hunt decided to migrate to India. He sailed in the Tropic and arrived on 5 January 1863 at Sydney. He met the acting colonial architect, James Barnet, who persuaded him to settle. Hunt joined the staff of Edmund Blacket, the colony’s leading architect. His sound training and knowledge of construction were important acquisitions to the office and by 1865 he was Blacket’s chief assistant, supervising and designing many country commissions. His unusual ideas and forceful personality so influenced the character of work emerging from Blacket’s office that his seven years there became known as Blacket’s ‘queer period’.

In May 1869 Hunt left Blacket and went into partnership with John Frederick Hilly. Ten weeks later it was dissolved and Hunt set up his own practice. The buildings that began to flow from his office had freshness, vitality and originality. For thirty years he produced highly-individual buildings, mostly ahead of their time. His architecture was marked by power, character and the use of revealed ‘natural’ materials. His skill with timber and brickwork was particularly outstanding and he was a master of complexity of form and asymmetrical balance. He also found wealthy clients who were interested in quality regardless of cost.

  • Among the best ecclesiastical buildings Hunt designed were St Matthias’s Church, Denman (1871), St John’s, Branxton (1873), St Luke’s Osborne Memorial Church, Dapto (1882), the Anglican Cathedrals at Armidale (1871) and Grafton (1880) and the Chapel of the Sacred Heart Convent at Rose Bay (1896).
  • His best domestic work included Cloncorrick at Darling Point (1884), Booloominbah at Armidale (1888), Camelot at Narellan (1888), Pibrac at Warrawee (1888) and Highlands at Wahroonga and Tudor House at Moss Vale (1891).

Quick-tempered, energetic and constantly embroiled in public and private arguments, Hunt was a renowned eccentric. His lack of love for his fellows was balanced by an inordinate love of animals and he was an active member and vice-president of the Animals Protection Society. From 1895 his fortunes deteriorated: his practice collapsed in the depression and never revived. His wife Elizabeth, née Kidd, whom he had married on 4 September 1867 at St James’s Church, Sydney, died on 10 March 1895.

His enthusiasm was replaced by lethargy from the onset of Bright’s disease and he became a recluse. Insolvent in 1897 he sold his home, Cranbrook Cottage, Rose Bay, in 1902 to pay his debts. He died in a charity ward at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown, on 27 December 1904. He was saved from a pauper’s funeral by two old friends and with Presbyterian rites was buried beside his wife in the Anglican section of South Head cemetery.


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