Henry Vaughen Lanchester (1863-1953) - architect of Kingswood House

Professor Henry Vaughen Lanchester FRIBA received the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Royal Gold Medal for architecture in 1934 and in his address at the award ceremony he generously noted that “I feel not exactly a fraud in receiving this gold medal, but I feel I am more or less representative of a group, rather than myself, because my partners,... did so much towards the designs... My own work was of course very definite in character; it was the initial conception of the general idea of a building, but I was never permitted, at all events in Rickard’s days, to do anything towards the absolute completion of that conception.”

Born in London on 9 August 1863, the son of architect Henry Jones Lanchester, his three younger brothers, Frederick, George and Frank, were later the inventors and manufacturers of the Lanchester Motor Car.

He was articled to his father in 1879 but then, to gain wider experience, worked as an assistant in the offices of architects Frederick Eadle, Thomas Cutler and George Sherrin. He took classes at the Royal Academy Schools and the Architectural Association, winning the Aldwinckle Travelling Studentship, and, in 1889-90, the Owen Jones Studentship. He joined the RIBA in 18 November 1889.

His first major client was Bovril tycoon John Lawson Johnston. His work at Kingswood House, carried out 1891-93, was done at the same time as he was building Messrs Bovril’s office and warehouse premises in Golden Lane and Old Street. Now demolished, it was an interesting early use of a concrete frame.

In 1896 he went into partnership with James Stewart and E A Rickards, both of whom he had met in George Sherrin’s office. They entered various architectural competitions and their first success was the third premium in the Edinburgh North British competition in 1897. In the following year, they won the Cardiff City Hall and Law Courts competition - the first intentionally planned civic centre in the Country. They continued to win competitions including Godalming Town Hall (1899 & not built) Deptford Town Hall (1903) and the Hull Art School (1903).

Stewart died in 1904 but Lanchester and Rickards continued their partnership and, in 1905, won the competition for the Wesleyan Central Convocation Hall, more generally known now as the Westminster Central Hall.

In 1912 Lanchester was asked to report on options for the site of New Delhi, the proposed new capital of India and, while there, he also prepared plans for Madras (now Chennai) and other cities. He set up a successful branch office whose projects included the Post Office at Lucknow, the Birkmyre Hotel in Calcutta, and later, in the 1920s & 30s the stunning art deco style Umaid Bhawan Palace for the Maharajah of Jodhpur - a lavish monument to royal living which was apparently built as a public relief and employment project during a long period of drought.

Rickards died in 1919 and Lanchester then went into partnership with T A Lodge. Later successes included competition wins for Beckenham Town Hall (now demolished) and Leeds University. He was editor of the ‘The Builder’ between 1910-12 and, later, Professor of Architecture at University College, London.

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