Architect Francis Greenway | Tasstudent.com
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Francis Greenway

Francis Greenway Portrait

Francis Greenway Pencil Drawing

Francis Howard Greenway, (1777-1837) son of Francis and Ann Greenway was born in Mangotsfield, near Bristol, England and had a promising career as an architect in the Bristol area in private practice until the firm went bankrupt. In March, 1812, Greenway was found guilty of forgery. He was sentenced to death but the penalty was later commuted to transportation for fourteen years to the colony of New South Wales. While awaiting transportation, Greenway spent time in Bristol’s Newgate Prison. He arrived in Sydney in February 1814 in the transport General Hewitt and was followed in July by his wife Mary.

Greenway was allowed a lot of freedom after his arrival. He brought with him letters of recommendation and his portfolio which he sent to Governor Macquarie who granted him a ticket of leave. This enabled him to seek his own work to support his wife and children and allowed him opened a private practice immediately at 84 George Street, Sydney.

The following year, Governor Lachlan Macquarie asked Greenway to report on the Rum Hospital was being built for the government. He was very critical about the building resulting in the builders having to make costly alterations to the structure. Greenway had made the first of a long list of enemies who were to make his life difficult from that point on.

In March 1816 he was appointed civil architect and assistant engineer at a salary of 3 shillings a day, a house for himself and his family, a horse and forage. His first work for the government was the design of the lighthouse, known as the Macquarie Tower, on the south head of Port Jackson. The lighthouse was completed in November of 1818 and Macquarie was so pleased with it that he presented Greenway with conditional emancipation.

Greenway was kept busy with the design of many buildings, several of which remain and are considered valuable gems of early Australian Colonial architecture. By 1819 he had designed a large female factory at Parramatta and a large barracks and compound for male convicts in what is now Queen’s Square, Sydney. Macquarie opened the barracks with great ceremony and a special feast for the prisoners, and used the occasion to make Greenway’s pardon absolute. In the 1990s the building was restored and converted into a museum.

In 1817 Greenway began St Matthew’s Church, Windsor, probably his masterpiece. Its large bulk of brickwork still compels admiration with its commanding position overlooking the Hawkesbury River. St Luke’s Church, Liverpool, was begun in 1818 and his third church, St James’s, in King Street, Sydney, his most classical design and ranks among the finer Georgian buildings of its date.

The last building which Macquarie and Greenway supervised was the court-house at Windsor. Though only a minor building, it is beautifully restored and preserved, and is the nearest approach to a complete Greenway design that has survived.

Greenway’s career hit a turning point of 1819. He was an important citizen but unfortunately his arrogance made him misjudge his authority. He made many enemies, and he now fell out with Macquarie. Commissioner John Thomas Bigge cancelled many of Greenway’s projects as being too extravagant, and he interfered with others. Later he began to issue building directives to Greenway as though Governor Macquarie did not exist. In the tense atmosphere Greenway acted with his usual lack of tact, sometimes siding with the governor, sometimes with Bigge. In his report Bigge commented favourably on Greenway’s abilities and sought to put the blame for extravagant buildings on the governor rather than on the architect. The reverse was perhaps nearer the truth.

Macquarie’s successor, Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane, confirmed Greenway in his office, but imposing restrictions on his activities. He continued to design buildings: the Supreme Court in King Street, a version of Liverpool Hospital (now the Technical College), and stores at Parramatta and a police office in York Street, Sydney. By now, public servants and builders paid less and less attention to Greenway and would sometimes alter his designs without telling him. His position was becoming untenable and he could not have been surprised when he was dismissed from government service in November 1822. He displayed his usual stubbornness when he refused to give up the house, which was a benefit of his former office. The government tried to throw him out of the premises but he finally produced a document, (since thought to be a forgery), which gave him title to the house. The government did not recover the property until after his.

In office, Greenway produced some of the finest colonial buildings Australia ever had but, with his temperament, he could not have produced them alone. Macquarie’s protection provided the atmosphere in which the architect could give rein to his genius. Alone, his status soon crumbled away under the attacks of less competent men.

Macquarie had granted Greenway 800 acres on the right bank of the Hunter River. Greenway was not happy with this maintaining that he had been promised town land and not pastoral acres. His claims received little attention, for he had made many enemies inside as well as outside the service. He continued his private practice but his only considerable commission was to design a large house in Bligh Street, Sydney for Robert Campbell. This was a mansion with stables and barracks. Other small commissions came to Greenway’s office, such as the tomb for the government printer, George Howe, various cottages and alterations to existing buildings, but generally speaking his professional life seemed to have ended with the completion of Campbell’s house in 1828.

Greenway died in 1837 leaving his five sons and two daughters. He was buried in a small cemetery in a paddock outside East Maitland. There is no tombstone or marker over his grave. Greenway’s legacy lives on in some of Sydney’s finest colonial architecture. Francis Greenway was depicted on the $10 paper note from 1966 until it was replaced with the new plastic currency in 1988.

 

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