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Eclecticism in the Work of Queensland Colonial Architect F.D.G. Stanley, 1871 - 1881

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 16:38 authored by Stuart KingStuart King

Scotsman Francis Drummond Greville Stanley (1839-1897) occupies an ambivalent position in the history of Queensland and Australian architecture. His works constitute the largest volume of public buildings designed under the stewardship of a single Colonial Architect in Queensland. Stanley's career is outlined in Donald Watson and Judith McKay biographical dictionary Queensland Architects of the 19th Century. Many of his key buildings survive and have been documented in individual heritage assessments and the occasional thesis. His contribution to Queensland's heritage of public buildings is also acknowledged by the current day F.D.G. Stanley Award for Public Buildings. offered by the Queensland Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects. Yet despite this commendation of the architectural profession, there has been limited critical analysis of Stanley's work and his contribution to the development of public architecture in Queensland or Australia more generally.

Whilst documenting the contexts and key works of F.D.G. Stanley's career in the Office of the Queensland Colonial Architect this paper has two primary objectives. Firstly, it aims to use the Queensland case study to complicate our understanding of the idea of British' colonial architecture' in Australia. As observed by Philip Goad and Julie Willis, the former Australian settler colonies, present a particular circumstance for the understanding of colonial architecture due to the relative lack of strongly competing indigenous built culture or other settler groups affecting the urban architectural production. Within these settler societies British migrants were the dominant settler group, yet this is not to assume culturally homogenous societies. In the early 1860s, the Colony of Queensland was observed by Governor Bowen to be developing a cosmopolitan culture, through the assimilation of a broad mix of settlers from Britain, Ireland and continental Europe. Nonetheless, Raymond Evans has argued that the Queensland Government acted to legislate for the self-conscious creation of a New Britannia. European migration was officially discouraged with no continental immigration agent appointed by the government for the period 1864-70 (and later for the period 1874-75). In 1864, a disproportionately large quota of Irish Catholic immigrants was addressed by the Queensland Colonial Government's Immigration Act (1864), which sought to replicate the ethnic. mix of the British Isles with ethnic quotas of English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish settlers, to re-instate a Protestant majority. Yet such policies were not to secure a singular cultural majority to subsequently support a straightforward positioning of Queensland architecture as English, or even British. Irrespective of no European agents, Germans immigrants represented 20% of white settlers arriving to Queensland throughout the 1870s, underscoring the diversity of the colony's settler population. Importantly for the discussion of the Scottish emigre's role in Queensland, is that even the English, Welsh and Scots remained largely separate cultures within the construct of Britain and, by extension, the British Empire.

A detailed consideration of the public, commercial and ecclesiastical architecture of F.D.G. Stanley in Queensland during the 1870S is thus useful in highlighting one aspect of the cultural diversity of the Australian colonies: the impact of different British ethnicities and cultures that have shaped Australia's nineteenth-century urban environments. At stake in the paper is the influence of Stanley's background and professional training in Edinburgh in the 1850S on the building of the Queensland colonial capital in the 1870s. While attempting to build a more nuanced understanding of nineteenth century Queensland architecture in relation to the cultural ethnicities that constituted the colony, linking the development of Brisbane to Edinburgh - a very specific part of Britain - also raises the need for nuanced and multi-faceted contextual interpretations of British architecture abroad.

The second objective of the paper is to expand recent discussions about stylistic eclecticism in Queensland architecture, which is often allied to discourses of place. It seeks an alternative explanation in a specific instance of eclecticism in Stanley's architecture by focussing upon his professional background in Scotland. To construct the argument about Scottish influence in Queensland, this paper does not rely upon issues of representation of an 'other' place or culture that have underpinned examples of earlier Scottish influence in Australia. Rather, it interprets a mid-nineteenth century eclectic Scots mode translated within the specific context of colonial Queensland.

With Paul Walker, I have documented elsewhere a tendency within the historiography of Queensland architecture to construe the interpretation of architectural styles in relation to contemporary discourses of place. This phenomena is most apparent in instances of eclecticism, and specifically G.M.H. Addison's Queensland Exhibition Building, Brisbane (designed in 1888), in which descriptors including 'Indo-Saracenic' suggested potentially anachronistic associations to the tropicality of colonial India. Whilst Addison engaged in debates about future stylistic prospects for Queensland architecture and identified climatic response as a part thereof, in the case of the Queensland Exhibition Building,stylistic details similar to T.E. Colcutt's design for the Imperial Institute, London, highlight a more sophisticated un-packing oflocal, regional and global connections. In subsequent work by Deborah van der Plaat, Addison's eclectic method has been positioned in terms of Victorian theories of cosmopolitanism, arguing a debt to the design reform movement of the South Kensington School of Art and the writings of Owen Jones, and further complicating formerly simplistic readings about architectural responses to the conditions of place.

Stanley's work predates (and overlaps) the progressive eclecticism of Addison, as well as a subsequent generation of designers in Queensland including John Smith Murdoch and Robin Dods. It also represents an earlier strain of eclecticism in which different styles were deployed for different projects, typically determined by a matrix of associative and contextual factors. At times, plural styles were combined in individual projects, but without the level of synthesis seen in the work oflater nineteenth century designers such as Addison, marking an important distinction. In Stanley's designs, codified individual elements retained their autonomy. A consideration of Stanley's eclecticism thus raises important questions regarding nineteenth century approaches to the use of architectural style with particular intellectual pedigrees.

To achieve these dual goals, the paper discusses Stanley's training in Edinburgh, his arrival in Brisbane and local professional discourses which framed his practice in Queensland. What follows, is a discussion of the scope and a selection of designs from within Stanley's public works oeuvre, with an emphasis on interpreting the rationale of a learnt eclectic mode.


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School of Architecture and Design


University of Queensland Press

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St Lucia, Qld

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Copyright SAHANZ & Stuart King

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