Dulwich Architects - Edwin Stanley Hall MA PPRIBA (1881-1940)
by Ian McInnes
Edwin S Hall was ‘school captain’ of Dulwich College in 1899 and was also one of the joint editors that year of The Alleynian - with P G Wodehouse. Following a scholarship to New College Oxford (where he won half-blue for lacrosse), he attended the Architectural Association Schools and was articled to his father, E T Hall in 1905 – the latter being best known as the architect of the Old Library, at Dulwich College, built in memory of those old boys who fell in the Boer War. He travelled abroad as far as India and Ceylon and qualified in 1910.
His first work in Dulwich was at the Dulwich Picture Gallery for Henry Yates Thompson, the then Chairman of Trustees. Between 1909 and 1915 he designed and built four additional rooms on the east side, galleries 10, 11, 12 and what is now the shop (gallery 13 dates from 1936). The arched brick elevations that we see from the cloisters were his idea.
In 1912 Hall leased a site in College Road next to Sydenham Hill Station with the aim of building a house for himself and his prospective new wife. Construction work started in April 1913 but within the first few days the builder discovered two drains running across the site serving St Stephen’s Church and the Vicarage. The Estate Surveyor said “how it comes to be laid on land not belonging to the Church I cannot tell. I may say also, that my surveying assistant, Mr Griffiths, who had a very intimate knowledge of the Estate for over 40 years, has no knowledge of the matter either”.
Things went from bad to worse. Hall returned from a short holiday and suddenly noticed that, with the trees removed, the smoke from the trains entering Penge Tunnel below at Sydenham Hill Station, blew straight across the site of his new house. What with the smoke, the drains, and difficulties with the LCC over the building line, he had had enough and offered to buy the plot on the other side of College Road instead. The Governors agreed and No 109 College Road, on the corner of Low Cross Wood Lane, was completed in 1914.
Following service during WW1 in the fifth battalion of the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, his career progressed rapidly. He became a partner in his father’s practice in 1920 and worked on Liberty’s in Regent Street, alterations to the Ashmolean Museum Oxford, and several hospitals. In the late 1920s he set up a practice with J Murray Easton and Howard Robertson, architects of the Royal Horticultural Hall in Vincent Square, and won the 1936 RIBA London Architecture Medal for his design of the Great Ormond Street Hospital Nurses’ House. Other projects included work at Bourneville, Caius College Cambridge and the Oxford University Press.
He was heavily involved in the Royal Institute of British Architects, being Hon Secretary 1925-28, Vice President in 1928-30 and again in 1935-37 and finally President in 1939-40.
His other projects in Dulwich included a house for his mother at No 102 College Road (the site above the old St Stephens Vicarage), and the new St Stephen’s Vicarage itself at No. 111 College Road, next door to his own house. Following his first wife’s death he remarried in 1923 and moved to Ewell in Surrey.
After his death his firm was responsible for the design the Dulwich College Junior School, built in 1945-46, and was involved in the early 1960s with the initial proposals to rebuild what is now the Christisson Hall.