Charles Lancelot oldham
Born: 22 September 1865, Ballarat, Victoria
Died: 20 March 1920, Peppermint Grove, Western Australia
Occupation: Builder, Architect
Hometown: Ballarat, Victoria, and Perth, Western Australia
Charles Lancelot Oldham was born in and grew up in Ballarat, Victoria. A keen student, he studied architecture at Ballarat (now Ballarat Clarendon) College and served his articles in the Ballarat office of Tappin & Gilbert. In 1890 he became an Associate of the Royal Institute of Victorian Architects and went into partnership with prominent architecture firm Kempson & Connolly as their Ballarat representative.
With depressed economic conditions in Victoria, Charles came to Western Australia in 1896; lured by the prospect of a booming building economy on the back of the new gold boom. Here, he went into a building and architecture partnership with J Herbert Eales in Fremantle from 1897 to 1901. During those four years they won a competition for their design of the Fremantle Markets (1897) and designed the distinctive P & O Building in Phillimore Street, Fremantle.
On 20 November 1901 at St John’s Church, Fremantle, Charles (36) married Susan ‘Dolly’ Russell (23), daughter of Commander Charles Russell RN, Chief Harbourmaster of Western Australia. Their first home was on the corner of View and Irvine Streets, Peppermint Grove, and Dorothy, the first of nine children, was born the following year.
Charles practiced alone until entering into partnership with Alfred Cox in 1905. Oldham & Cox were subsequently responsible for the design of many beautiful buildings, hotels and residences in Perth, Fremantle and surrounds including Geraldton Town Hall, 1910 additions to Perth's Esplanade Hotel, the Emanuel building (and residence in Mount Street), the eastern side of Perth’s Howard Street and their most significant, in 1912, AMP Chambers at 140 St George’s Terrace on the corner of William Street.
In 1918 Oldham and Cox amicably dissolved their partnership; both practicing alone for a few years. Around that time Charles and his family moved to Forrest Street, Peppermint Grove, next to ‘Unalla’ which Charles had designed for Henry and Bessie Rischbieth in 1904; still one of Western Australia’s most significant homes.
Suddenly, on the night of 17 March 1920, Charles was taken ill. His condition serious, he was removed to hospital where he underwent surgery. To the immense shock of his family and friends, he died three days later, aged just 54. His enormous funeral was well-attended by all of Perth’s society, including his friends and former partners, J Herbert Eales and Alfred Cox.
Susan, just 41, now faced rearing their seven surviving children alone. Ranging in age from 18 months to 17 years, most were still at local private schools, or would be in future. Charles had been so well-liked and respected, his friends all privately arranged to fund their children’s education; the boys at Guildford Grammar School and the girls at Presbyterian Ladies’ College.
At the request of Oldham’s executor, Harold Boas continued Charles’ practice in conjunction with his own, under the name Oldham and Boas. In 1923 young Colin Ednie-Brown, who had been articled to Charles when he died, joined the partnership and the firm became the widely-known and well-remembered Oldham Boas & Ednie-Brown.