Ernest Newton

Ernest Newton (right) was born in Bickley in 1856, the son of an estate manager. He was educated at Uppingham School, Rutland. He married Antoinette Hoyack in 1881, and they had three sons. He was resident again at Bickley in 1883 where he built his own house at Bird in Hand Lane, Bickley in 1884. Over the next 20 years he designed a large number of houses in the Bickley and Chislehurst area, many of which still exist.

Take a look at drawings of some of his houses here...

He was apprenticed to Richard Norman Shaw from 1873 to 1876, and remained for a further three years as an assistant, later Shaw’s chief assistant, acting as clerk of works on Shaw’s great house at Flete, South Devon.  He commenced private practice on his own account in London in February 1880, and became very influential in the design of the smaller country houses of his day.

Newton was a founder member of the Art Workers Guild in the 1880s, and was associated with the leading figures of the Arts and Crafts Movement of that time. He developed a career designing one-off houses largely in Bromley and Bickley and later moving into ‘high profile’ country home commissions across England. There was no Gothic gloom about Newton’s houses, and little of the romantic picturesque. The cheerful exteriors with white barge boards, white window frames and semicircular domed porches, the genial interiors with white-painted paneling and wide inglenooks containing sensible tile fireplaces, suited those with less money and more taste. As he himself 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.

Chislehurst HouseIn the 1890s he acted as consulting architect to William Willett, and later was chosen for important work in London and elsewhere including buildings in St James’s Street, and Nash’s Regent Street Quadrant (working with a panel of architects including Sir Aston Webb).

Newton was President of RIBA 1914-1917. In 1918 he received the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture. In 1919, he was elected a Royal Academician, and was awarded the CBE in 1920. His last piece of work was a war memorial at his former school at Uppingham.

He is one of the busiest architects in England and therefore represents the good principles of current thinking about the house in perhaps its most accessible form...” Hermann Muthesius The English House 1904.

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.

He published Sketches for Country Residences (1882), A Book of Houses (1890 ), and A Book of Country Houses (1903).

His son, William Godfrey Newton, (1885–1949), published The Work of Ernest Newton R.A. (1925).

His work in and around Chislehurst include: