Architect Personal DetailsArchitectural works in South Australia
Firms or Professional PartnershipsBibliographic Sources

Architect Personal Details



First name

George Thomas








During the time George Light was Government Architect in South Australia he contributed to some of Adelaide’s well-known public buildings.

George Thomas Light was born in 1838. According to C.E. Owen Smyth, ‘G.T. Light, ... was by trade a musical instrument maker – in Bristol … and afterwards was a draftsman in a foundry’ (Page 1986: 38) before his arrival in the colony of South Australia in about 1854. He was a man ‘of small stature, one of the quietest men I’ve ever known, very methodical, fond of music’ wrote W.G. Randall of him in 1924 (Parker n.d.: 2). Light died in 1911 after living a long retirement with residences on South Terrace, Adelaide and then at Glenelg.

Following his arrival in Adelaide, Light gained employment as a temporary draughtsman in the Colonial Architect’s office on 10 July 1856, he was the appointed as a draftsman on 1 January 1857 (Morgan and Gilbert 1969: 151). In April 1873 he was appointed Assistant Government Architect (Jensen and Jensen 1980: 439), and on 1 January 1874, Architect and acting head of the architectural division, when the department was placed under the control of the Engineer-in-Chief’s office. Light was demoted to Assistant Architect in 1878 when Edward John Woods was appointed as head of the re-formed Architect-in-Chief’s Department. In 1879 Light took J.A. Hornabrook into private partnership, practising from offices in Santo’s Buildings (Register 6 October 1879 cited in Jensen and Jensen 1980: 582). Light took leave of absence from his position with the government in October 1880 and in 1883 he was retrenched from this position (Morgan and Gilbert 1969: 151). In 1884 a practice named Light and Holwell is listed as being based at 4 Old Exchange, concurrently Holwell is also listed solely at that address (Jensen and Jensen 1980: 781).

Light was organist at St Andrews Church, Walkerville (Jensen and Jensen 1980: 105) and at Christ Church, North Adelaide (Jensen and Jensen 1980: 343). On retirement of architect George Abbott from the public service in 1864 George Light and William Hanson both gave valedictory speeches for Abbott (Jensen and Jensen 1980: 263).Light attained membership of the Society of Engineers as a foreign member in December 1869 (Jensen and Jensen 1980: 343).

As with many government employed architects attribution of buildings to the individual is difficult. In 1858 the Treasury building was designed by Colonial Architect Edward A. Hamilton with the ornamental royal coat of arms designed by Light (Jensen and Jensen 1980: 193). Following this, in 1859, the Court House and Police station at Goolwa have been attributed to Light (Jensen and Jensen 1980: 148). He is also credited with the Auburn Police Station (Jensen and Jensen 1980: 304).

In 1873 Light had drawn up plans for a new House of Assembly for the South Australian Parliament from a sketch by George Strickland Kingston. These were rejected and a competition was announced to find a new proposal (Jensen and Jensen 1980: 427). Light was a member of the select committee appointed to judge the designs (Jensen and Jensen 1980: 428).

During his time in office as Architect and head of the Architectural Division of the Engineer-in-Chiefs office between 1874 and 1878, public works included: in 1874, the Guard House, the central block of the Treasury Buildings and the enlargement of the House of Assembly Chamber, North Terrace, Adelaide; in 1875 the General Post Office Clock and the south centre block of the Treasury Buildings and in 1876 the west wing of the South Australian Institute on North Terrace, Adelaide to be used for the Library and Museum.

The Architectural Division of the Engineer-in-Chiefs office supervised construction of the imported German Palm House designed by Gustav Runge at the Botanic Gardens, Adelaide. Comprised of prefabricated glass and iron and described as an ‘elegant structure’ (Bagot, 1964: 14) the department supervised the fitting of the ironwork (Marsden et al 1990: 262) and the thousands of panes of glass. It opened in 1877. Also in 1877 the Department designed the North Adelaide Primary School, Tynte Street in the Gothic style with bluestone walls, arched windows and decorative timberwork (Marsden et al 1990)

The south-west section of Government House was probably designed by Light in 1878 (Morgan and Gilbert 1969: 13) as well as the Jervois Wing of the State Library of South Australia on North Terrace, Adelaide. The latter was built between 1879 and 1884 in the French Renaissance style and featured a mansard roof, and octagonal tower. When opened it housed the state’s Public Library and Art Gallery. The Norwood Police Station, constructed in 1880, has been attributed to Light. It is in the classical revival style, constructed of bluestone and features a central pediment (Parker n.d.).

Julie Collins

Citation details
Collins, Julie, 'Light, George Thomas’, Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, 2008, Architects of South Australia: []




Architectural works in South Australia

Name Suburb Year Designed
Goolwa Court House Goolwa 1859
Goolwa Police Station Goolwa 1859
Auburn Police Station Auburn
Guard House 1874
Treasury Buildings central block Adelaide 1874
House of Assembly Chamber enlargement Adelaide 1874
General Post Office Clock Adelaide 1875
Treasury Buildings south central block Adelaide 1875
South Australian Institute west wing Adelaide 1876
Palm House erection supervision Adelaide Botanic Gardens
North Adelaide Primary School North Adelaide 1877
Government House south west section 1878
Jervois Wing State Library of South Australia Adelaide 1878
Norwood Police Station Norwood

Firms or Professional Partnerships

Name Dates Worked
Colonial Architect's Office Draughtsman 1856-1879 
Light and Hornabrook 1879- 
Light and Holwell 1884- 
Colonial Architect 1874-1878 

Bibliographic Sources


Collins, J. (2012) 'Light, George Thomas' in Goad, P. and Willis, J. (eds) The encyclopaedia of Australian architecture, Cambridge University Press: 411.
Fisher, P. and Seamark, K. (2005) Vintage Adelaide, East Street Publications, Bowden.
Jensen, Elfrida and Jensen, Rolf (1980) Colonial Architecture in South Australia: a definitive chronicle of development 1836-1890 and the social history of the times, Rigby Publishers Ltd. Adelaide.
Langmead, Donald (1994) Accidental Architect: The Life and Times of George Strickland Kingston, Crossing Press, Sydney.
Marsden, S., Stark, P. and Sumerling, P. (1990) Heritage of the City of Adelaide: An illustrated guide, Corporation of the City of Adelaide, Adelaide.
Morgan, E.J.R. and Gilbert, S.H. (1969) Early Adelaide Architecture, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
Page, M. (1986) Sculptors in Space: South Australian Architects 1836-1986, RAIA (SA), Adelaide.

Bagot, Walter (1964) Early Adelaide Architecture, SAIA Bulletin 1964, Langmead collection S220/1/18A 35-45, Architecture Museum, Louis Laybourne Smith School of Architecture and Design, University of South Australia (LLSAM).
Selby, Johnathon (1991) ‘Palmhouses in the Park’, Heritage Australia, vol.10, no.1, Autumn: 44-47.

‘Secret History of Public Buildings - Mr Owen Smyth's reminiscences’, Register, 1 January 1920: 7b.
‘Secret History of Public Buildings - Mr Owen Smyth's reminiscences’, Register, 14 January 1920: 7b.
‘Secret History of Public Buildings - Mr Owen Smyth's reminiscences’, Observer, 10 January 1920: 44a.
Owen Smyth, C.E., (1924) ‘Digging up the Past’, Register, series of articles November 1924.
Randall, W.G. (1924) ‘The Service Personalities Recalled’, Register, 2 December 1924.

Jolly, Bridget (2000) Preliminary listing for the Database of Australasian Architects and Associated Professionals, unpublished report, LLSAM.
Parker, Deidre (n.d.) An Analysis: Norwood Police Station 1880, unpublished student work, SA Institute of Technology, held at University of SA Library.

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