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Kerr, Peter (1820–1912)

With the death of Mr. Peter Kerr, FRIBA, Victoria loses one who has given to the city of Melbourne the most dignified and impressive of its architectural features, the House of Parliament in Spring Street.

Mr Kerr learned architecture very young, and learned it in a good school. Born in Aberdeen of Scottish parents, on April 21 1820, he was articled at 14 years of age to Mr. Archibald Simpson, of that city. Upon his articles having expired, in 1842, he went to England and into the office of Mr. George Fowler Jones at York. He was invited by the Duke of Sutherland in 1843 to superintend alterations and additions to Dunrobin Castle for the reception of Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort, and there he stayed for some years. There he met Sir Charles Barry, architect of the new Westminster Houses of Parliament, and upon leaving Dunrobin in 1848, he went into the office of the famous architect, and so did a great deal of work upon the House of the "Mothers of Parliaments" by the Thames. When he came to Melbourne in 1852 he brought the plans of the Westminster Houses with him, and these afterwards helped him with the greatest of his works.

In 1853 Mr. Kerr entered into partnership in Melbourne with Messrs. Knight and Kemp. For a while he followed the pursuit of cattle raising on the Upper Yarra, but, not making much of a success of it he returned to Melbourne, and took on architecture again, amongst the buildings he designed being Goldsborough's Wool Store, the Port Phillip Club Hotel, and the old Connell, Hogarth building. In 1877 the Royal commission on the Parliamentary buildings appointed Mr. Kerr as the architect of Parliament House. Another building upon which Mr. Kerr was engaged was the Post-office from the ordonnance of the second floor of the older building and the ordonnance of the third floor of the clock tower. He also did some work upon the Law Courts, and designed a great deal of the detail of Government House. The Public Office, though designed by Mr. Egan, were carried out by Mr. Kerr. Mr. Kerr retired from the public service 20 years ago, and leaves a widow, two sons, and two daughters, Mrs. Friedman and Mrs. Gordon Heliers.

The eldest son, Mr. H. J. Kerr is a district architect in the Department of Public Works, and Mr. C. H. Kerr is in business in Fremantle. For the last 30 years Mr. Kerr lived at 12 Service Crescent, Albert Park.

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'Kerr, Peter (1820–1912)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/kerr-peter-558/text559, accessed 21 September 2017.

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