Ernest Newton

Place of Birth

  • Born:     12 September 1856
  • RIBA      1914-1917 President
  • RIBA      1918 RIBA Gold Medal
  • Died:     25 January 1922

Ernest Newton was born on 12 September 1856 in Bickley the son of an estate manager and was educated at Blackheath and at Uppingham School. He was a pupil in the office of Richard Norman Shaw from 1873 to 1876 and remained for a further three years as chief assistant. While in Shaw’s office he came into contact with E S Prior, Mervyn Macarthey, Gerald Horsley and later W R Lethaby and from this group emerged the Art Workers Guild He commenced practice on his own account in London in February 1880 and he worked in partnership with William West Neve from 1882.

In the 1880s Newton was a founder member of the Art Workers Guild and was an early member of the Arts and Crafts Society with W R Lethaby and Mervyn Macarthy. He developed a career designing one-off houses largely in Bromley and Bickley and later moving into ‘high profile’ country home commissions across England. In 1890 he wrote: “..a small house is in many ways more difficult to design than a large one, for while every part must be minutely schemed, nothing should be cramped or mean looking, the whole house should be conceived broadly and simply, and with an air of repose, the stamp of home.” Ernest Newton, A Book of Houses.

Newton designed four known buildings in the Manchester / Cheshire area. They were all vicarages and the commissions came about through the influence of one person – the Rev Reginald Edmund Broughton, vicar of Prestbury. The parishes in which they were built all came within his jurisdiction. Why he chose Newton as the architect is not known – perhaps there was a family connection, perhaps he had a recommendation from a friend or colleague, or perhaps he had looked through Newton’s 1890 book “A Book of Houses” and liked what he saw. It seems that a friendship developed between the two families, because in 1926, four years after Newton’s death, his youngest son William Godfrey Newton (also an architect) married Broughton’s daughter, Mary Dagmar Broughton, at Prestbury parish church. The four buildings are markedly different in style, reflecting the neighbourhoods in which they are located.

Ernest Newton died on 25 January 1922.  One obituary noted “His eminence as an architect of unexcelled skill in a class of work that constitutes England’s chief or sole claim to supremacy – the capture and apt embodiment of the very spirit of the home...” Obituary, Architect’s Journal; 1 February 1922, p187. The obituary went on to attack the Government’s failure to properly recognise his efforts during the war, for which he had been awarded a CBE in 1920.

1882 14, Hart Street, Bloomsbury Square, London,
1894-1914 4 Raymond Buildings, Gray's Inn, London