Edwin T Hall (1851-1923) by Ian McInnes
Edwin Thomas Hall, not to be confused with his son Edwin Stanley Hall, also a noted architect, was a local resident and the architect of the Old Library at Dulwich College, built in 1902 to commemorate the Boer War. He published the well known ‘Dulwich History & Romance’ in 1917 and lived at ‘Hillcote’ in West Dulwich.
Born in 1851, the son of an architect, George Hall, he began practice in 1875, and was best known for most of his life as a major designer of hospitals. He won the 1894 competition for the design of Hither Green Infectious Diseases Hospital but his most important work was the Manchester Royal Infirmary, a competition he won in 1908. He also designed two hospitals in Leeds, the Homeopathic Hospital in Queen’s Square and several hospitals in Sussex and, closer to home, the St Giles Hospital in Peckham and the Camberwell Infirmary.
His practice was large and other projects included factories, offices, churches, houses and flats - the latter including Sloane Mansions in Sloane Square and the St Ermins Hotel in Victoria. However, his best known work today was the one he carried out towards the end of his life, in conjunction with his son, the design of Liberty’s, the store in Regent Street. Captain Stewart Liberty, the store’s owner, had long cherished the desire to build a larger than life-size Elizabethan style building in Regents Street and had purchased three old wooden ships to provide the timber. The Crown Estate, the landowner, refused to consider such a proposal and insisted that any building fronting Regent Street should be stone faced. Hall acquiesced but built the gloriously esoteric black and white timber framed building behind.
He was a vice-president of the Royal Institute of British Architects and was an active participant in drawing up the Institute’s charter in 1887. He was known as ‘Bye law Hall’ not only because of his incisive legal mind but for the major part he played in drafting the updating of the London Building Acts in the 1890s.
Edwin Hall was a Dulwich Estates Governor for 22 years and chairman in 1908-10. As well as the Old Library, his local projects included the Camberwell Public Library and Council Offices, and the completion of the British Home for Incurables at Crown Point in Streatham - when its original architect died just as building started. Perhaps his most important local project, however, was the Sunray Gardens Estate. Although in the end that estate was partially redesigned and built by others, his was the initial concept and, had it been built, it would have been a model for future housing in this country - with its garden city layout and innovative integral community facilities. At the end of his life he was also involved in the design and development of Roseway in Turney Road.
His obituary in the RIBA Journal noted that ‘his life at Dulwich was one round of public duty very cheerfully undertaken and very carefully performed’. He was an active member of the Dulwich & Sydenham Golf Club, a Governor of Dulwich College and a trustee for the Charity Commissioners of Dulwich College Chapel. He was also a vicar’s warden at the old Emmanuel Church in South Croxted Road for 30 years and a master of the No. 5 Masons Lodge and a grand steward of Grand Lodge. One of his daughters married the vicar of St Stephen’s.