Basic Biographical Details

Name: Peter Kerr
Born: 21 August 1820
Died: 31 March 1912
Bio Notes: Peter Kerr was born in Aberdeen on 21 August 1820, son of James Kerr, shipmaster and leather merchant, and his wife Helen Chesney. He served his articles with Archibald Simpson for four years from 1839, thereafter working in the office of George Fowler Jones in York. In 1845 he was engaged by the Duke of Sutherland to implement Sir Charles Barry's plans for the remodelling and extension of Dunrobin Castle. These had not fitted the site and the Duke twice revised them in collaboration with the Aberdeen architect and contractor William Leslie, under whom Kerr presumably acted as draughtsman. By 1848 Kerr had found a place in Barry's London office, and shortly after the end of the Palace of Westminster works in February 1852 Kerr emigrated to Melbourne, probably as a result of a recommendation from Barry to his former assistant Thomas Kemp, who was in partnership with John George Knight as Knight & Kemp, architects and engineers. Kerr tried his hand at cattle rearing for a time at Upper Yarra but returned to architecture in Melbourne.

In 1855 Kemp returned to England and Kerr was taken into partnership, the firm becoming Knight & Kerr. In 1858-59 Knight & Kerr designed the Melbourne Council and Assembly Chambers and the Library of the Houses of Parliament following the abandonment of the competition-winning scheme by Smith& Pritchard. The scheme was essentially Kerr's, Knight being an engineer. Knight was first president of the Victorian Institute of Architects and was admitted FRIBA on 21 January 1861, but shortly thereafter Kerr left the practice to become a pastoralist and tour other colonies, Knight closing the practice c.1865-66 to undertake exhibition work. On 20 October 1865 Kerr entered into a partnership with his former assistant W H Ellerker as Ellerker & Kerr, Queen Street, Brisbane, but within two years the partnership was closed and from 1866 Kerr served in the Victorian Public Works Department as an architect. He undertook the enlargement and completion of the Melbourne parliament building in 1877-92, and was also responsible for Government House, the Post Office, Custom House and parts of the Law Courts, all in Melbourne, prior to his retirement in 1892.

Kerr was one of the founders of the Victorian Institute of Architects in August 1856, and was made an honorary fellow when it received its Royal Charter in 1889. On 11 March of the same year he was admitted FRIBA, his proposers being George Chalmers Inskip, William Salway and Arthur Ebden Johnson, all of Melbourne.

Kerr died at South Melbourne on 31 March 1912, survived by his wife Harriette Bertrand and two sons and two daughters of their seven children.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this :
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 3Aberdeen, ScotlandBusiness18451848 
Item 2 of 3Melbourne, AustraliaBusinessc. 1852  
Item 3 of 315, Service Crescent, South Melbourne, AustraliaPrivate/businessBefore 1907After 1910 

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 6Archibald Simpson18391843Apprentice 
Item 2 of 6George Fowler Jones18431845Assistant(?) 
Item 3 of 6William LeslieAfter 1845c. 1848Draughtsman(?) 
Item 4 of 6(Sir) Charles Barryc. 1848c. 1852Assistant(?) 
Item 5 of 6Knight & Kemp, Architects and Engineersc. 1852(?)1855Assistant(?) 
Item 6 of 6Knight & Kerr18551861Partner 

Buildings and Designs

This 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 11 Chinese Court of Arbitration  MelbourneAustraliaDate unknown
Item 2 of 11 Government House  MelbourneAustraliaInvolved in design, detailing and execution; date unknown
Item 3 of 11 Harbour Trust Offices  MelbourneAustraliaDate unknown
Item 4 of 11 Melbourne General Post Office  MelbourneAustraliaExtensive additions - date unknown
Item 5 of 11 Melbourne Law Courts  MelbourneAustraliaInvolved in design, detailing and execution; date unknown
Item 6 of 11 Port Phillip Club Hotel  MelbourneAustraliaDate unknown
Item 7 of 11 Public Office  MelbourneAustraliaInvolved in design, detailing and execution; date unknown
Item 8 of 11 Registrar-General's Office  MelbourneAustraliaDate unknown
Item 9 of 111845Dunrobin CastleDunrobin SutherlandScotlandImplemented Barry's designs; perhaps worked for William Leslie
Item 10 of 111858Council and Assembly Chambers and the Library of the Houses of Parliament  MelbourneAustralia 
Item 11 of 111877Houses of Parliament  MelbourneAustraliaEnlargement and completion


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this :
Item 1 of 5APSD The Dictionary of Architectureed Wyatt PapworthThe Architectural Publication Society (8v 1852-1892) 
Item 2 of 5Australian Dictionary of Biography Australian Dictionary of Biography   
Item 3 of 5British Architectural Library, RIBA2001Directory of British Architects 1834-1914   
Item 4 of 5Jenkins, G H A Short History of the Parliament House, Melbourne   
Item 5 of 5Watson, Donald and McKay, Judith1994Queensland Architects of the 19th Century Brisbane: Queensland Museum 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this :
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 2RIBA Journal25 May 1912v19London: Royal Institute of British Architectsp531 - obituary
Item 2 of 2Royal Victorian Institute of Architects JournalJuly 1905  'Peter Kerr, (Hon Fellow) FRIBA'