In his short time as an architect in South Australia, the well regarded and well patronised Henry Stuckey designed buildings important to the educational and religious life of the colony.
Stuckey was a nephew of the pioneer South Australian pastoralist John Stuckey and had grown up in Somerset, living in part of what had been the Benedictine Abby of Muchelney (Tregenza 1996). It would appear that Henry and his wife Agnes Jane Stuckey (née Rippingville) arrived in South Australia from England in 1848. In the next three years they suffered the tragic loss of their first two children, Agnes Rippingville, born on 17 September 1848 and William Allen, born on 7 September 1849, at five months and six weeks of age respectively (South Australian births register 1997).
The Stuckeys lived at 26 Palmer Place, North Adelaide, (bought by architect Gavin Walkley in 1947 and demolished in 1956/7). Morgan and Gilbert (1969) suggest that Stuckey or Edmund Wright designed the house while Page (1986) indicates that it was an existing dwelling which the family rented. At the time of Stuckey’s death on 31 May 1851, he and his wife had another child, a four month old daughter, Agnes Madeline. Tregenza (1996: 50) notes that the cause of death, ‘a depression of the brain, … was not a term regularly used by doctors in the mid nineteenth century to describe a cause of death, and may have been a “tactful way of hiding the fact of suicide”’. His obituary refers to ‘a delicacy of feeling – a sensitiveness we may almost say, too fine for his own mental comfort amid the jarring circumstances of hard every-day life’ (‘The Late Henry Stuckey, Architect’ 1851: 4c). Agnes subsequently married the architect Edmund Wright in October 1852. Wright had advertised in June 1851 that he would finish Stuckey’s uncompleted work ‘for the benefit of his widow and child’ (Page 1986: 54; Howard 2005).
Stuckey commenced practice as an architect in Gawler Place, Adelaide, in 1848, later moving to Peacock’s Building, Hindley Street, Adelaide, and went on to have three extremely busy years (Jensen and Jensen 1980). He advertised his skills through the South Australian on 1 September that year, claiming to have ‘been engaged for a considerable period in designing and superintending the erection of various buildings for noblemen in England from whom he brings most satisfactory testimonials’ (Morgan and Gilbert 1969: 153-4). A brief search by the Royal Institute of British Architects Library’s Information Centre did not find any reference to Stuckey in the Directory of British Architects 1834-1914 or in Howard Colvin’s Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840.
According to Langmead (1994: 194), ‘the well patronised’ Stuckey, along with contemporaries William Weir and William Hancock, produced buildings of average quality. He also suggested that the first two ‘gained commissions for political or religious reasons rather than upon performance’. Bagot referred to Stuckey as ‘one of the most talented of the early architects’ (‘Some Nineteenth Century Adelaide Architects’ 1957: 17).
Following his arrival in the colony in 1847, Bishop Augustus Short embarked on a vigorous building program for the Church of England. This included the foundation of the Collegiate School of St Peter, for which Captain William Allen acted as guarantor (note Stuckey’s son had the second name of Allen). The architect Brabazon Forsayth was originally engaged but this was to change in 1849. Stuckey’s obituary in The Observer asserts that ‘it is due to the liberality and discernment of Capt. Allen to state that Mr. Stuckey was selected as architect of the Collegiate School of St. Peter chiefly through the influence of that benefactor’ (‘The Late Henry Stuckey, Architect’ 1851: 4c). Stuckey produced general elevations within a fortnight of being engaged, the result being a building in Tudor Gothic style, rather than the Romanesque structure proposed by Forsayth. Featuring ‘heavily detailed dormers’ and a principal façade of ‘finely faced squared coursed freestone’ (Page 1986: 51), Tregenza (1996) remarked on its resemblance to St John’s College, Oxford, as well as its lack of suitability for the local climate.
Writing in the South Australian Institute of Architects (SAIA) Bulletin of July-September 1957, well-known South Australian architect Walter Hervey Bagot claimed that Stuckey would not have lived to see the Old School House far advanced. However he later wrote to Gavin Walkley, Director of the Department of Architecture, South Australia School of Mines and Industries, revising this view based on references in the 1852 Annals of the Colonial Church: Diocese of Adelaide by William Norris. Bagot then claimed ‘it is quite probable that he lived to detail and to supervise the erection of the whole of the masonry’ (Bagot to Walkley 1958, Walkley Collection).
Stuckey was also commissioned to design what was once known as the Big School Room at the Collegiate School of St Peter. Built between October 1849 and January 1850 it accommodated the first pupils since the main building was not finished in time. Edmund Wright supervised the remainder of the main building. A stained glass window, dedicated to the memory of Henry Stuckey and made by the firm of William Wailes of Newcastle-on-Tyne, was installed in the school’s chapel in 1864 (Tregenza 1996).
During the few years Stuckey was active in the colony, he designed a number of churches for the Church of England, his obituary listing ones at Hindmarsh, Port Lincoln, [St Barnabas] Clare, [St Mark’s] Penwortham and [St Paul’s] Port Adelaide. Page (1986) also lists Beaumont Rectory, Walkerville Rectory and St Peter’s Church at Glenelg as Stuckey commissions. He is represented on the South Australian State Heritage Register with Christ Church Rectory (built 1850) and Bishop’s Court and former Stables (1852) at Palmer Place, North Adelaide. Stark (1984: 144B) cites Goodhugh (1852) as attributing these buildings to Stuckey but is not conclusive in his findings, stating ‘it would appear that Stuckey at least acted in the capacity of supervising architect’. According to Stark (1984), Morgan and Gilbert’s attribution of the design of Christ Church to Stuckey in their work Early Adelaide Architecture 1836-1886 is incorrect.
Stuckey was responsible for designing and supervising the Gothic styled Pirie Street Methodist chapel, which was built by Messrs. Perryman and Son, North Adelaide. The author of an article which appeared in the Register on 18 October 1851, whilst referring to the building as ‘most handsome’ was equivocal, maintaining, ‘we know it is easy to criticise, but a difficult thing in practice to ensure a good and pleasing exterior, and at the same time to avoid many incongruities in interior arrangement, which must depend in a great measure upon laws of external proportion’ (‘The new Wesleyan Chapel in Pirie Street’ 1851: 3e). It was demolished in 1976 with some of its stained glass windows, internal fittings and organ being transferred to what is now known as Pilgrim Uniting Church, Flinders Street (An Historical and Architectural Guide nd).
Stuckey also had commissions in the domestic market. Along with Edmund Wright, he became one of the surveyors for the Union Building Society (Page 1986) and Beaumont House, Beaumont, which is owned by the National Trust of Australia (SA Branch), is attributed to Stuckey (Jensen and Jensen 1980; Page 1986).
McDougall, Alison, 'Stuckey, Henry’, Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, 2008, Architects of South Australia: [http://www.architectsdatabase.unisa.edu.au/arch_full.asp?Arch_ID=36]