Canterbury College

Learning by Design: Building Canterbury College in the City 1873-1973. An illustrated history based on the Armson Collins Architectural Drawings Collection

Samuel Hurst Seager (1858-1933)

Portrait of Samuel Hurst Seager, undated.

Samuel Hurst Seager was born in London in 1858, and came to Lyttelton with his parents in 1870. His father Samuel Seager was a master builder. S.H. Seager studied at Canterbury University College, and worked in the offices of Benjamin Mountfort. In 1882 he returned to England and studied at London University College, the Royal Academy, and at the Architectural Association, where he passed his examinations as an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects. By 1884 Seager had returned to New Zealand and established his architectural practice. His first major design was for the Christchurch Municipal Offices (1885-1886) built in Queen Anne Revival style. In 1887 Samuel Seager married Hester Connon, the sister of Helen Connon.

Samuel Hurst Seager is well remembered as an influential teacher, having joined the staff of Canterbury College School of Art as a lecturer in Architecture and Decorative Design from 1893 to 1903. However, he is most well known for his architectural practice, where he specialized in the design of private residences such as Daresbury (1900) and Clarisford (1914). In contrast to these, Seager also designed smaller cottages for relaxed informal living. Examples of his work include his own cottage in Cranmer Square (1899) and the Macmillan Brown Cottage in Cashmere (1901). The cottages were the physical expression of Seager’s belief that there was a need to create a distinctly New Zealand style of architecture, which responded to local conditions and materials. In a paper on the subject published in 1900 he wrote that architecture in New Zealand at that time was “chiefly made up of architectural quotations, more or less grammatical.”

Samuel Hurst Seager's design for the New Zealand Memorial at Messines, c.1924.

Seager went into partnership with Cecil Wood from 1906 until 1912 and continued his work to develop a New Zealand architectural idiom. The partnership designed workers cottage and displayed the concept at the 1906–1907 New Zealand International Exhibition in Christchurch. Later in his career, Seager became intensely involved in urban-planning, lecturing on the issue, and joining the Christchurch Beautifying Association and the Summit Road Association. He also attended the first New Zealand Town Planning Conference in 1919. His papers on the subject included ones such as The Disfigurement of Towns with Placards and Advertisements and Architects Responsibilities in Relation Thereto. Like his colleagues in Armson and Collins, he was also a member of the New Zealand Institute of Architects.

Over the course of his long career, Samuel Hurst Seager was to develop close links to Canterbury College. He was not only a graduate of the College, but was also a staff member and later served on the Board of Governors. His extensive design skills and knowledge of planning meant that Seager was to have a significant impact on the architectural development of the College town site.

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