It is fitting that a significant church with its tall spire rising above the Timaru townscape should be the work of James Turnbull. It remains a tribute to an extremely gifted and industrious architect.
Previous columns have recorded the local input of Flemish architect Maurice Duval and later Herbert Hall. It's fair to suggest that Hall's skill in the planning of a building – what goes where and how the important elements are connected – was learned from Duval. Likewise Turnbull's buildings are always well organised.
There are many families over several generations who have enjoyed growing up in a house by Turnbull or from the later partnership of Turnbull and Rule. These houses – typically of brick construction although some do use timber – are quite timeless and seldom justify alteration of the original wisdom.
James Turnbull was born in Timaru in 1864. After receiving tuition in Christchurch and Melbourne James returned to Timaru and established his practice, with significant commissions on record from the 1890's onwards. His projects included generous houses in town and country as well as commercial buildings during a period of growth in business and farming. Many buildings survive including a host of beautiful Edwardian houses with a touch of Arts and Crafts styling.
James Turnbull was elected a Fellow of the NZ Institute of Architects on its founding in 1905 and he formed a partnership with Percy Rule in 1919. Through to Turnbull's retirement in 1938 this talented pair created many of the buildings that today give Timaru its distinctive flavour. Future articles will look at some of these buildings in detail.