GREENWAY, Francis Howard (c. 1777-1837)


GREENWAY, Francis Howard (c. 1777-1837)
architect
was born about 1777. Little is known of his education or early life. He was practising as an architect "of some eminence" at the beginning of the nineteenth century in Bristol and Bath, but in 1811 was made insolvent. In 1812 he was in desperate straits as he was charged with forging part of a building contract and, pleading guilty "under the advice of his friends", was sentenced to death. The sentence was afterwards commuted to transportation for 14 years. Why he pleaded guilty is not now ascertainable; he may have been told it was the only way to save his life. He had been friendly with Admiral Phillip (q.v.) who was living in retirement at Bath, and Phillip wrote to Macquarie (q.v.) recommending Greenway to him. He arrived in Sydney in February 1814, was soon afterwards granted a ticket of leave, and immediately began designing for Macquarie.
In January 1816 Greenway, as acting civil architect, was a member of a committee appointed to report on the recently completed secretary's house and offices in Macquarie Place. Greenway was of opinion that it could have been built for one third of the amount spent. This was the beginning of his struggle against the corruption commonly practised by the contractors of the period. In April of the same year, in a memorandum full of wisdom, he urged on Macquarie the necessity of a proper plan of Sydney being made, with provision for fresh water and drainage. In April 1817 his name appears in the "List of Names of Persons holding Civil and Military Appointments" as acting civil architect at a salary of £54 13s. a year. In addition "himself and family" were victualled. In the same month Macquarie writing to Lord Bathurst, mentions that Greenway "is extremely useful and has already rendered very essential service to government in his capacity of civil architect". Again, in a similar dispatch written in March 1819, Macquarie takes occasion to speak in the highest terms of his ability as an architect, and made an unsuccessful appeal for an increase in his salary. In September 1820 Mr Commissioner Bigge (q.v.) sent a long list of public buildings required in the colony to Greenway who must at this period have been a very busy officer. He had been emancipated in December 1817 . His name appeared in the "List of Persons holding Civil and Military Employment" dated 30 November 1821. He unfortunately now became engaged in controversy with Macquarie, who had promised that he would make up for the smallness of his salary by giving him a grant of 800 acres of land and some cattle. Greenway held that he had been promised more than that and his pertinacity turned Macquarie against him. Macquarie's final report probably led to Greenway's dismissal by the new governor, Brisbane (q.v.), on 15 November 1822. He continued to follow his profession with little success, but he got his grant of land, though he does not appear to have received the promised cattle. In 1835 he advertised that "Francis Howard Greenway, arising from circumstances of a singular nature is induced again to solicit the patronage of his friends and the public". The exact date of his death is not known, but he was buried at Maitland on 25 September 1837. He married and had a numerous family of which at least two survived him. A son was afterwards well known as a clergyman in New South Wales. A self portrait is at the Mitchell library, Sydney.
The mystery of how Greenway became a convict has not been cleared up. He was essentially honest, and at the time of his conviction the Bristol Journal pointed out "the singularity of the forgery is that it is impossible to trace the motive which could have actuated the prisoner to commit it; for had any fraud been effected the amount would have gone to his creditors and not to himself, and these creditors had already given him his certificate". Possibly there was a miscarriage of justice. As government civil architect Greenway saved the colony thousands of pounds for which he was miserably rewarded. His plans were stolen, his designs were mutilated, his far-seeing views of what Sydney might become were not appreciated. But he had far too independent a spirit to be entirely subdued, and, in spite of all obstacles, he succeeded in doing much beautiful work which gives him a distinguished and honoured place on the roll of Australian architects. Among his buildings may be mentioned St Matthew's church, Windsor (1817-22), The Barracks, Queens Square, Sydney (1817), and St James church, Sydney (1819-22).
George Mackaness, Admiral Arthur Phillip, p. 452; Historical Records of Australia, vols. IX, XX; W. L. Havard, Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. XXII, pp. 138-89; A. W. Jose, Builders and Pioneers of Australia; W. Hardy Wilson, The Macquarie Book; W, Moore, The Story of Australian Art.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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