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Samuel Hurst Seager

Architect Samuel Hurst Seager was born in London in 1855 and emigrated to Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1870. After several years working as a builder, he became a draughtsman in the office of Benjamin W. Mountfort while also studying at Canterbury College. Seager also studied in London at University College, the National Art Training School, the Architectural Association and the Royal Academy of Arts between 1882 and 1883. In 1891, he and his wife Hester (née Connon) moved to Sydney where he practiced architecture. They relocated to Christchurch in 1894 and Seager took up a lecturing position at the Canterbury College School of Art. 

Samuel Hurst Seager in 1926

Among Seager’s more notable designs are the Christchurch Municipal Chambers (1885), the John Macmillan Brown cottage (Cashmere, 1899), the three Summit Road rest houses on the Christchurch Port Hills (1914–1917), and the completion of the Canterbury College campus (1913, now the Arts Centre of Christchurch). From the mid-1890s, he also began offering public lantern lectures on a range of art and architectural topics, a practice he would continue throughout his career.

Seager was interested in many architectural issues, particularly those that he felt could improve standards of design. He incorporated Arts and Crafts principles into his domestic designs, advocated for city beautifying and town planning measures, created a scientific method of lighting for art galleries, and worked to promote the development of the architectural profession in Australia and New Zealand. In 1926 he was awarded a C.B.E. for his commitment to town planning. His top-side lighting method was adopted at the Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui (1916), and the Robert McDougall Gallery, Christchurch (1928), and was also used in several European art galleries, including the Tate Gallery (Tate Britain) and the Louvre.

Seager’s designs for the five battlefield memorials were completed at the zenith of his career and demonstrate his prowess as a memorial architect. He was a vocal participant in many issues relating to war memorials and wrote a memorandum outlining the aesthetic approaches emerging in British designs. These ideas he unified with town planning principles in his 1919 suggestion of a national war memorial highway, stretching across the country from Auckland to Bluff to link the regional memorials together on a single route.

After completing work on the battle exploit memorials, Seager continued to give public lantern lectures on architectural subjects. He also worked on projects such as the memorial to Prime Minister William Massey (in conjunction with Gummer and Ford) and the Citizens’ War Memorial in Wellington (1926–1930). With his health beginning to decline, the Seagers moved to Sydney, where Samuel passed away in 1933.

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