Meet our president from a century ago

Howard Chatfeild Clarke FRICS FRIBA, our President in 1914-15, was born in 1860 into a family of surveyors and architects.

Gresham's School. Holt, Norfolk

Read 'Meet our president from a century ago: John Henry Hanson FRICS'

Closely related to Joseph Chamberlain, he was the son of Thomas Chatfeild- Clarke (1829-95), an architect, surveyor and estate agent on the Isle of Wight. His father also had the distinction of being a past president of the Surveyors’ Institution (in 1894).

Howard was educated at Brighton & Clifton College and, though a ‘sickly’ child, travelled extensively in Europe and Australia as a young man. By 1879 Howard was ready to settle down to become an apprentice in his father’s practice, T Chatfeild Clarke & Son, followed by a partnership in 1884. At this time he became an Associate of the Surveyors’ Institution, rising to Fellowship in 1886.

While his father’s firm was known for specialising in schools and public buildings, Howard was as much a surveyor as an architect and became an authority on party walls and light and air cases; later adding skills as a valuer and arbitrator. He became a Fellow of RIBA in 1912.

Cordwainers Hall, Bishopsgate, LondonChatfeild Clarke & Son are credited with designing many buildings including:

  • Cordwainers Hall (City of London)
  • 63 Bishopsgate St (his business address)
  • 6 Kensington Gardens (1905)
  • 102 Bishopsgate (1914) – his own home
  • Martineau Memorial Hall Norwich (1907)
  • St James Church Gunnersbury (1885-1888)
  • 125-129 Mount St (1891-1900)
  • Central Foundation School For Girls, Spital Square (1891)
  • Gresham School, Holt, Norwich (1912) – erected for the Fishmongers Company.

Howard was invested as President of the Surveyors’ Institution at the AGM of Monday 25 May 1914.

In his inaugural speech he started by paying his respects to the past president Mr E Woolley who had passed away suddenly within months of passing on the presidency. He went on to praise members who had enrolled or mobilised at the onset of war, including the three clerical and one Hall member of RICS staff who had enlisted. Staff were assured that their places would be kept open until their return.

The speech then touched on the housing crisis in London. With the population of the city increasing from  4,766,001 in 1881 to 7,252,963 in 1911, it was felt that there were insufficient low value houses to accommodate the population. The effect of the Finance Act 1910, along with the rating burden was considered to blame for making investment in building less desirable. He called for cheaper methods of construction, so that housing could be economically ‘scrapped’ when it became out of date.

Finally, he touched on the problem of congestion in the streets of London, suggesting that there was a lack of foresight in town planning and that the sinking of roads below street level should be considered.

At the time Mr Chatfeild Clarke became president, the Surveyors’ Institution had a membership of 5,418 and membership cost £1 S1 d0 for Students, £2 S2 d0 for Associates and Professional Associates and £3 S3 for Fellows. On top of this an investment of five guineas (eight if you were a Fellow) was required as an initial subscription and there was a requirement to deliver an original paper on a subject connected with the profession to the council (failing this a donation to the library or collection was required).

Howard was reported to be ‘thorough’, of sound judgement and to have a courteous, genial and unselfish nature. Professionally he was surveyor to the Cordwainers and Fishmongers Co, acted for the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway Co, and worked with Insurance and Banking Associations. During the war he acted as an advisor to the Ministry of Munitions, helping with disputes and advising on valuation issues in connection with the war. This involved a lot of travel within the UK, which ultimately impacted on his weak health.

He died in July 1917, aged 57 after a long illness attributed to overwork. He left a wife, three daughters and three sons.

Of associated interest is Howard Chatfeild Clarke’s brother, Edgar Chatfeild-Clarke, who was a Liberal MP for the Isle of Wight in 1922. Edgar (knighted in 1913) introduced a private members bill to the House of Commons on behalf of the Surveyors’ Institution for the ‘registration  of  profession and protection of the public from employing unqualified personnel as surveyors, land agents or auctioneers’. This bill failed to pass, but is seen as sowing the seed of future regulation!

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