Samuel Hurst Seager CBE (1855-1933)
Samuel Hurst Seager was born in London, England, on 26 June in 1855. He emigrated, with his parents, to New Zealand in 1870. From 1879 to 1882 he studied at Canterbury College and worked in the offices of Benjamin Mountfort. In 1882 he returned to England and studied architecture at London University College, the Royal Academy of Arts, and at the Architectural Association. He became an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1884 and was made a fellow in 1907. 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. This award-winning design established Seager as one of Christchurch’s leading architects. In 1899 he designed Knox church in Pigeon Bay and in 1902 St David’s church in Belfast.
Seager was one of the earliest New Zealand architects to move away from historical styles and seek design with a New Zealand character. The Sign of the Kiwi and the Sign of the Bellbird illustrates this aspect of his work.
In 1894 Seager became a lecturer in architecture and decorative design at the Canterbury College School of Art and continued in this position until 1918. He served on the college’s board of governors from 1910 to 1919.
By 1900 Seager was recognised in New Zealand as a leading designer of private residences in the English Domestic Revival style, the best example being ‘Daresbury’ in Christchurch, built for George Humphreys between 1897 and 1901 and ‘Clarisford’ in 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).
Seager went into partnership with Cecil Wood from 1906 to 1912 and continued his work to develop a New Zealand architectural idiom. He also lectured widely on town planning and the need for appropriate legislation. In 1918 he was the Government representative at the second Australian Town-planning Conference and Exhibition, held in Brisbane, and he became the organising director of the first New Zealand Town-planning Conference and Exhibition, held in Wellington in 1919. The success of the conference, and the subsequent enactment of the Town-planning Act 1926, owed much to Seager’s foresight, commitment and energy. In recognition of his work he was appointed a CBE in 1926.
A vigorous promotor of professional organisation and standards, he was President of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1926 and a member of the council and chairman of the Canterbury branch at various times between 1911 and 1926. He was also a pioneering advocate for the preservation of historic buildings, and, as a writer and lecturer, promoted a wider understanding of architecture and its history.