Basic Biographical Details

Name: Davidson & Henderson
Designation: Architectural practice
Started: Late 1869
Ended: April 1876
Bio Notes: Alexander Davidson was born on 17 May 1839, the son of Samuel Davidson of 9 Rose Street, Edinburgh and later of 6 William Street, Edinburgh and of Mary Kennedy. An RSA student, he was recommended to the Trustees' Academy by Walter Carmichael. He entered on 23 June 1856 and left on 30 June in the same year. He was articled to John Henderson in whose office he met and befriended Henderson's son, George. George Henderson was born in Edinburgh on 3 October 1846 and was educated at the Royal High School in Edinburgh from 1858 to 1861 before joining his father as an articled clerk.

After John Henderson's early death in 1862 his son George Henderson moved to the office of David Cousin to complete his apprenticeship. Davidson was persuaded by Rev John Cooper, related by marriage to the Davidson family, then on a visit to Edinburgh in mid-1864, to emigrate to Australia to undertake work there for Cooper's congregation. Davidson, accompanied by his young cousin and future wife, Eugenia Cooper Davidson, departed for Australia in the autumn of the same year. Within a few months he designed a church for Cooper's Presbyterian congregation at Rokewood in Victoria. After a dispute with his congregation over the payment of his stipend, Cooper left Rokewood, though Davidson remained there, gaining the patronage of local families, in particular Scottish émigrés.

In May 1867 George Henderson arrived in Australia, presumably persuaded by his friend Davidson and by the promise of colonial work. At first he acted as an unpaid associate to Davidson, though before long both Henderson and Davidson were able to send money home to assist their respective families, a number of large commissions coming their way in late 1868 and in early 1869 when the practice moved to Geelong in Victoria. A partnership was formalised in late 1869, with Davidson receiving 2/3 of the profit and the younger partner 1/3. In early 1870 the partners won the important commission of Geelong College in Newtown and in line with stylistic developments in Britain used for the first time 'constructional polychromy'. A venture in the field of speculative building in Geelong was however not a success and a series of unfortunate episodes of losing jobs to other architects and disputes with contractors (relating to a clause written by the practice in their terms of agreement about their right to be the sole judge of quality without arbitration) caused them financial difficulties. Moreover in the early 1870s there was a short depression in the wool industry and some sources of work temporarily dried up.

The first partnership ended in December 1873. Although a new one was formalised in July 1874 with Davidson now receiving 5/9 of the profits, by this time Henderson, who had lived with Davidson and his wife since his arrival in Australia, found this arrangement a strain. Moreover he was becoming disillusioned with the work. Henderson largely fulfilled the role of office manager and was responsible for the costing of the jobs. It is unclear how much hand he had in design work. Only occasionally did he make site visits. In December 1875 he received an offer of work from William Hay in Edinburgh and the Davidson-Henderson partnership was terminated on less than friendly terms in April 1876, Henderson sailing home later that year.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architectural practice:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 2Rokewood, Victoria, AustraliaBusiness1868  
Item 2 of 232, Malop Street, Geelong, Victoria, AustraliaBusiness1869  

Employment and Training

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architectural practice (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 2George HendersonLate 1869April 1876Partner 
Item 2 of 2Alexander DavidsonLate 1869April 1876Partner 

Buildings and Designs

This architectural practice was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 491869Barwon ParkWinchelsea VictoriaAustralia 
Item 2 of 491869Episcopal ChurchColac VictoriaAustralia 
Item 3 of 491869Homestead EilyerLake Bolac VictoriaAustralia 
Item 4 of 491869National Insurance Company BuildingGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 5 of 491869Victoria Woollen and Cloth Manfacturing CoGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 6 of 491869Wesleyan ParsonageAshby VictoriaAustralia 
Item 7 of 491870BellevilleGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 8 of 491870Geelong College, Newtown HallGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 9 of 491870Honddu double villasGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 10 of 491870Oddfellows HallColac VictoriaAustralia 
Item 11 of 491870Presbyterian ChurchCeres VictoriaAustralia 
Item 12 of 491870Residence, Myer StreetGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 13 of 491870Titanga Residence and Station BuildingsLismore VictoriaAustralia 
Item 14 of 491871Erskine ChurchCarlton VictoriaAustralia 
Item 15 of 491871Grandstand for Geelong Racing ClubGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 16 of 491871Mooleric ResidenceMount Gellibrand VictoriaAustralia 
Item 17 of 491871Presbyterian ManseShelford VictoriaAustralia 
Item 18 of 491871Prsebyterian ChurchSkipton VictoriaAustralia 
Item 19 of 491872Excell Lonargon & Co warehouseGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 20 of 491872Geelong Hospital, Lunatic WardsGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 21 of 491872Larra Homestead, stable and officesLismore VictoriaAustralia 
Item 22 of 491872Monument to Thomas AustinGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 23 of 491872Narrepumelap HomesteadWickliffe VictoriaAustralia 
Item 24 of 491872Presbyterian ManseLismore VictoriaAustralia 
Item 25 of 491872Residence, Mount MercerMount Mercer VictoriaAustralia 
Item 26 of 491872Sydney HotelGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 27 of 491873Dwelling House, Myers and Fenwick Street cornerGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 28 of 491873Eastern Cemetery, lodge and gatesGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 29 of 491873EurackMount Hesse VictoriaAustralia 
Item 30 of 491873Geelong Infirmary and Benevolent AsylumGeelong VictoriaAustraliaArcaded verandahs
Item 31 of 491873Mooramong HomesteadSkipton VictoriaAustralia 
Item 32 of 491873Residence, Cooinda Elliots HillBellarine VictoriaAustralia 
Item 33 of 491873Residence, Newtown HillGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 34 of 491873Residence, Victoria ParadeGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 35 of 491873United Methodist Free ChurchGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 36 of 491873Yeo HomesreadColac VictoriaAustralia 
Item 37 of 491874Barwon Woollen MillGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 38 of 491874George Street WoolstoresGeelong VictoriaAustraliaNew store
Item 39 of 491874Glen AlvieColac VictoriaAustralia 
Item 40 of 491874Synnot and Co Wool WarehouseGellong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 41 of 491875Geelong Free LibraryGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 42 of 491875Victoria HotelGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 43 of 491875Wesleyan ParsonageChilwell VictoriaAustralia 
Item 44 of 491876Fernside Villa and stablesGeelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 45 of 491876Homestead EilyerLake Bolac VictoriaAustraliaAdditions
Item 46 of 491876Mountside HomesteadMount Hesse VictoriaAustralia 
Item 47 of 491876Tuppal Station BuildingsDeniliquin VictoriaAustralia 
Item 48 of 491876Two storey hotelSouth Geelong VictoriaAustralia 
Item 49 of 491876Wesleyan ChurchNewtown VictoriaAustralia 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architectural practice:
Item 1 of 2Bailey, Rebecca M1996Scottish architects' papers: a source book Edinburgh: The Rutland Pressp212
Item 2 of 2Willingham, Allan1983Two Scots in Victoria: the architecture of Davidson and Henderson  Willingham draws on letters formerly in the possession of Mrs Elizabeth Stella Philliips, since destroyed by her executors.

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architectural practice:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1National Monuments Record of Scotland/NMRS, RCAHMSHay and Henderson Collection