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.
In 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:
- 1882 Alterations to The Firs, Bickley Park Road
- 1883 Sitka, South Wood Hill, Chislehurst
- 1883 St John’s Parish Halls, Freelands Grove, Bromley
- 1884 Lyndhurst, 8 Bird in Hand lane, Bickley
- 1884 Stables and Cottage at Bullers Wood, Chislehurst
- 1885 Redcourt, 5 Hawthorne Road, Bickley
- 1885 Beechcroft, 19 Bickley Road, Bickley
- 1886 Alterations to Sunnydale, Bickley Park Road
- 1886 Alterations to Nutwood, Bickley Park Road
- 1887 Parish Room at St George’s Church, Bickley Park Road
- 1888 Mission Church, Widmore, Bromley
- 1888 Works at Willow Grove, Chislehurst
- 1888 Alterations to Swallowfield, Southlands Grove, Bickley
- 1888 Ashton, Mead Road,Chislehurst
- 1888 Alterations to Lingdale, Oldfield Road, Bickley
- 1889 Remodelling of Bullers Wood, Logs Hill, Chislehurst
- 1889 Elm Bank, Camden Park Road, Chislehurst
- 1891 St Luke’s Institute, Raglan Road, Bromley Common
- 1891 238 Southlands Road, Bickley
- 1891 Stables at Beechcroft, 17 Bickley Road, Bickley
- 1892 Stables and Cowsheds, Bickley Hall, Bickley Park Road
- 1893 Alterations to Bickley Vicarage, Bickley Park Road
- 1893 Alterations to Amesbury House, Page Heath Lane, Bickley
- 1893 Billiard Room at Camden Wood, Chislehurst
- 1894 Alterations to Oakdell, 5 Pageheath Lane, Bickley
- 1896 Alterations to a House at West Chislehurst (not known)
- 1896 Type House for William Willett (88 Camden Park Road?)
- 1898 Martins Bank, 181 – 183 High Street, Bromley
- 1898 Shop, 179 High Street, Bromley
- 1898 The Royal Bell Hotel, High Street Bromley
- 1898 Alterations to Farrants, Bickley Park Road
- 1898 Alterations to Calderwood, St Pauls Cray Road, Chislehurst
- 1899 Molescroft, Widmore, Bromley
- 1890 House at Chislehurst (Derwent House, Camden Park Road?)
- 1901 Alterations to Martins Bank, Summer Hill, Chislehurst
- 1901 Alterations to Elmhurst, Bickley Park Road, Bickley
- 1902 Nos 21 and 23 Page Heath Lane, Bickley
- 1902 Alterations to Bickley hall, Chislehurst Rd, Bickley (now demolished)
- 1903 Alterations to Bromley Palace, Widmore Road, Bromley
- 1904 House, Bickley Park Estate (36 Chislehurst Road)
- 1904 House, Bickley Park Estate (38 Chislehurst Road)
- 1904 23 Garden Road, Sundridge Park, Bromley
- 1904 Spire, St Georges Church, Bickley Park Road, Bickley 
- 1904 St Mary’s Church Buildings, Farwig Lane, Bromley (now demolished)
- 1905 Alterations to Hawthorne, Hawthorne Road, Bickley
- 1910 Alterations to Avonhurst, 76 Camden Park Road, Chislehurst
- 1911 Swimming Bath at Amesbury School, Page Heath Lane, Bickley
- 1920 Alterations to Bromley Palace, Widmore Road, Bromley
He was instrumental in helping improve the village of Overbury, under Bredon Hill in Worcestershire. Some of the work was done when he was chief clerk for Richard Norman Shaw but his own later work at Overbury was done when he broke away from Shaw’s office. Overbury (with its improvements) is considered by Andrew Saint (and others) as one of the most charming of Cotswold villages.