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Edmund Blacket and
By Una Wood.
Edmund Blacket, the architect for St. Andrew's Cathedral, had no archi- tectural training as a youth. He was on his way from London to New Zea
land in 1842 when Bishop Broughton and other important Sydney people to whom he had letters of introduction advised him to stay here.
Blacket was born in London on August 25. 1817. His father, a merchant, wanted him to go Into the business, but he had other ambitions. He hoped to become an architect, and to that end spent his leisure in studying and sketching English architecture. After working with the Stockton Darlington Rail- way Company he decided to emigrate with his young svlfe.
His first svork as an architect svas the build- ing of his own home in Old South Head Road. I There he began his career in 1845, using a
front room as an office. Having had no I architectural training, he had to rely on his
.sketch book and his memory for models. In 1850 he became Colonial Architect, at a salary of £300 a year. Gabo Island lighthouse svas planned by him during this time. While be svas Colonial Architect, he. continued his pri- vate practice, but, without accepting any re- muneration, it being against his principles to do so. His salary was inadequate, and he found it worth while to resign after being given the planning of Sydney University. The main building was begun In IRSfi, and completed
Liked and Respected.
In 1852 Blacket moved to The Glebe. At that. time, the thickly timbered district In which his home stood had such a bad name that he found it necessary to have an escort. The Glebe made rapid progress, in which he took an active part. He became a member of its first council, and svas an alderman for nine years.
From 1871 to 1882 Blacket, lived in Balmain, first in Darling Street, then In Booth Street. The house in Booth Street later hecame the Balmain Cottage Hospital. The site ti nosv occupied by portion of the Balmain and Dis- trict Hospital. He died on February 9. 1883, at Petersham, where he and his family had moved the year before. * \
Blacket had eight children, one son, Cyril, being associated with him in in» building of St. -Andrew's. Cyril Blacket was the first lecturer in architecture at, Sydney University
Photographs of Edmund Blacket, show a pleasing, intelligent face, with well-defined features. He svas liked and respected by all who knew him. His leisure hours were spent in reading the classics, listening to music (for svhich he had a great lovel, and In svood carving. He svas interested In the tuning of peals of bolls and in Ihe construction of organs. Before he left England he had built an organ for the Wesleyan Church at Stokes ley and a town clock that was In use for thirty years.
Although Blacket's buildings included banks, offices, and private houses (one' of which was "Grantham," Potts Point), he is best remem- bered for his ecclesiastical architecture. He built, over one hundred churches. Some of the best known are: St. Andrew's Cathedral; Goulburn Cathedral St. Phillip's, Church Hill; Christ Church. Sydney; St. Mark's, Dalling Point; All Saints', Woollahra; St. John's. Glebe; St. .John's. Darlinghurst; and St. Paul's. Redfern. It Is evident that, we are Indebted to him for many of Sydney's finest churches.
Sydney University is his masterpiece. II has been claimed that the Great Hall of the University is "the most distinguished example of Gothic architecture In Australia." Its noble stone, stained glass and tapestries, give it an impresslveness that few Australian build- ings possess. The other University building planned Wy Blacket was St. Paul's College, an attractis'e example of his work.
St. Andrew's Cathedral had been started be- fore he became its architect. On September 1, 181D, Governor Macquarie had laid the foun- dation stone on what is nosv George Street, and work was begun immediately. It was his Intention to build a large Cathedral even though Sydney had a.s yet no bishop. His actions on this and other matters proving unpopular, complaints wore mario to the Bri- tish Government, and Commissioner Bigge was sent out to investigate. He disapproved of a cathedral, and advispri thal parish churches should be built first.
When Archdeacon Broughton became the first bishop in 1836. thp position svas altered. He favouied the building of a cathedral. As the road hart encroached on the Church pro- perty, the foundation stone laid by Governor Macquarie sva.s taken up and rclaid by Governor Rourke on May 16, 1837. The de- sign .suggested had one tower and was quite .JifTercnt from the one later adopted.
A drought followed by a financial depres- sion, caused the svork to be left in abeyance for some time. A movement for completion of the cathedral led to the resumption of work in 1846. svith Blacket as architect. Ho impros'ed the entire plan. In 1868 St. Andrew's svas opened, although not yet finished. A picture of the cathedral In 1870 shows no towers. but by 1874 it was completed.
St. Andrew's is small for a cathedral. The total internal length Is only 157 feet, and the width 61 feet. It can accommodate only 1.300. or 2,000 in an emergency, and is. therefore, quite inadequate for a city of over a million people. Movements for its enlargement which began in the 'eighties, have culminated in the present scheme.
St. Andrew's Cathedral is built of Sydney sandstone. The stone used at first came from Flagstaff Hill, while later, stone was obtained from Pyrmont. The length of time taken In building-the walls stood unfinished for years -left its mark on the masonry. The "four main pillars of the Cathedral arc not exactly perpendicular, and the transepts appear too high for their width, which is only 14 feet 7 inches. The superstructure for which Blacket «as responsible, is at a disadvantage through these faults, but the detail is good and the jrouping effective. The building has a dignity which makes it representative of the best in
the Gothic revival.
Sydney people feel an affection for St. Andrew's, and would like to see It preserved as far as possible. This feeling was shown in the earnestness of the recent controversy now In progress. Whatever is decided with re ;ard to the Cathedral, New South Wales is indebted to Edmund Blacket for much work which, for artistic feeling, compare, with the beat done in England during the same period.