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Peter Leggett Reynolds (1931–2019)

by Mari Metzke

RAHS members will be saddened to hear of the death of well-known architectural and local historian, Dr Peter Reynolds on 14 September 2019. Peter had been a member of the Royal Australian Historical Society since 1969 and served as an RAHS Councillor from 1993 to 2009. He was made a Fellow of the Society in 2009.

He was also a long-standing member and chair of the RAHS Building Committee.

He started his working life as a carpenter, before moving into architecture and then academia. He spent the 1970s and 1980s at the University of NSW in the School of Architecture and the Graduate School of Built Environment. His initial carpentry work gave him a good understanding of the building process and therefore he was better equipped than many to appreciate the built heritage of his locality.

During this time Peter collaborated with Richard Apperly and Bob Irving to publish the monumental handbook, A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture: Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present (published by Allen & Unwin, 1989).

Maybe it was Peter’s work on this book that resulted in his lifelong passion for the work of architect John Horbury Hunt. The Horbury Hunt Club was formed that year and Peter took on the mantle of Master of the Hunt. Friendships forged under the name of Horbury Hunt are still strong today.

When the Historic Houses Trust of NSW agreed to mount an extensive exhibition on the work of John Horbury Hunt, Peter, along with fellow Horbury Hunt member Lesley Muir and historian Joy Hughes, wrote a book to accompany the exhibition. At the 2002 launch, Hunt’s skill as a ‘radical architect’ was finally given public recognition. That year, Peter was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his service to history and heritage.

Peter was a Balmain boy through and through and in the 1970s the Balmain Association published Balmain in Time, which he wrote with Bob Irving, and Half a Thousand Acres, a study of the original land grant to William Balmain, which he co-authored with Paul Flottmann. In 1971 he edited and published the first twenty-five editions of the Leichhardt Historical Journal and, in 1997, Peter teamed up with Max Solling to write a social history of the Leichhardt Municipality.

It was Peter’s skill as a researcher at the Land Titles Office at Queen’s Square in Sydney that elevated his publications to another level. Rarely could you go to the LTO and not bump into him. He helped many with useful advice and continued to work on the files of the LTO as long as his health permitted. He never lost his zeal for life in general, and for architecture and heritage in particular.

At home, family surrounded him till the end. Peter was the dearly loved father of Jane, David (deceased), Kathryn and Rebecca and loved father-in-law of John. His grandchildren, Paddy, Jack, Joe and Sylvie, children of Kathryn and John, who lived nearby and visited him often, adored him.

* This obituary is based on Dr Ian Jack’s citation in support of Peter’s nomination as a Fellow of the RAHS, Bob Irving’s funeral notes and my personal memories.

Original publication

View the list of ADB articles written by Peter Leggett Reynolds

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Mari Metzke, 'Reynolds, Peter Leggett (1931–2019)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 June 2024.

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