SULMAN, Sir John (1849-1934)

SULMAN, Sir John (1849-1934)
son of John Sulman of Addiscombe, Croydon, England, was born at Greenwich, on 29 August 1849. He was educated at the Greenwich proprietary school and the royal institute of British architects, of which he was Pugin travelling scholar in 1871. After travelling through England and western Europe Sulman began practising as an architect in London and designed among other buildings a large number of churches. In 1885 he went to Sydney, and as a partner in the firm of Sulman and Power was associated in the designing of many of the finest buildings in Sydney and other capital cities. These included the Thomas Walker convalescent hospital, Sydney, the A.M.P. buildings in Melbourne and Brisbane, the Mutual Life Association building, Sydney, afterwards known as New Zealand Chambers, the Sydney Stock Exchange and several suburban churches. Between 1887 and 1912 Sulman was P. N. Russell lecturer in architecture at the university of Sydney. After 1908 he retired from active practice to some extent to develop his interest in town-planning. In 1908 a series of his newspaper articles led to the creation of the city improvement commission, and in 1909 another series of articles, afterwards reprinted as a pamphlet, dealt with the problem of the designing of the federal capital. He was for some years chairman of the town planning advisory board, and from 1916-27 Vernon lecturer in town planning at the university of Sydney. In 1921 he published his An Introduction to the Study of Town Planning in Australia. From 1921 to 1924 he was chairman of the federal capital advisory board, and during these three years gave practically all his time, without pay, working out a progressive scheme for the construction of the city. In 1927 he gave a commission to Sir William Reid Dick, R.A., for one of the exterior bas-relief panels for the national gallery building at Sydney. He retired as an architect in 1928 and after a vigorous old age died at Sydney on 18 August 1934. He was knighted in 1924. He was married twice (1) to Sarah Clark, daughter of T. J. Redgate, and (2) to Annie Elizabeth, daughter of G. R. Masefield, who survived him with sons and daughters of both marriages. One of the daughters, Florence Sulman, was author of A Popular Guide to Wild Flowers of New South Wales, published in two volumes in 1914.
Sulman in his youth was a friend of William Morris and many of the artists of his time. He was appointed a trustee of the national art gallery of New South Wales in 1899 and, was its president from 1919, doing excellent work in that position. He was a good architect and his work in town-planning and in particular in connexion with the federal capital had great value. He created a fund from which is provided the John Sulman medal, awarded by the Institute of Architects for the designing of a building of exceptional merit. He also endowed a lectureship in aeronautics at the university of Sydney in memory of a son killed during the 1914-18 war while serving with the Flying Corps. After his death his family founded a prize of about £100 annually known as "the Sir John Sulman prize" for the best subject painting or mural decoration by artists resident in Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 August 1934; The Times, 20 August 1934; Burke's Peerage etc., 1934; Information from Director, National Art Gallery of New South Wales; Calendar of the University of Sydney, 1940.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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