Why did Lawson at the height of his professional career in 1889, decide to
leave Dunedin and set up anew in Melbourne?
METHOD AND PROCEDURES
In attempting to trace the professional career of Lawson, the starting point is made with his personal diary written aboard the 'Tongataboo' when he sailed from London to Melbourne between the 13th of July and the 2nd of November 1854. Whilst he gives no specific reasons for emigrating to the other side of the world a comment written the first day aboard in London Docks perhaps gives a clue:
"I seemed to have been thrown into that position in life which pointed to this, as the means of satisfying a nameless craving ... "
Lawson was a pious young man but this did not prevent him from fully participating in shipboard life, and it was he who wrote a letter of thanks on behalf of the pasengers, to the captain and crew at the end of the voyage.
The first view of Melbourne on Wednesday 1 November 1854 seems to have been something of a disappointment although he was to spend the next seven years in Victoria. This period was not particularly fruitful in the architectural sense, but in 1861 a breakthrough came when Lawson, then 28 years of age won the design competition for the First Church of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
A considerable amount of information is available for the time Lawson spent in Dunedin, that is from 1862 until 1889, but other portions of his life remain relatively obscure. Such periods include his early years, his apprenticeship in Perth and Edinburgh, the time spent in Victorian goldfields, and latterly the years in Melbourne from 1889 to 1900. No family matters are mentioned throughout his long professional career and it is concluded that Lawson's professional life and his family affairs were separated into watertight compartments.
This thesis is not an attempt to cary out a detailed analysis of Lawson's architectural career but is a biographical sketch tracing various stages in his development as follows:
Victoria, Australia 1854-1861
Dunedin, New Zealand 1862-1889
Melbourne, Australia 1889-1900
Dunedin, New Zealand 1900-1902
SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS
The 'Seacliff Lunatic Asylum', the most ambitious of all Lawson's projects led in 1888 to a Government Commission of Inquiry and censure of the architect. It is felt that this, rather than a downturn in the economyu led to the departure of Lawson for Melbourne in 1889. His architectural career was not over but it was in decline. Finally he spent the last years from 1900 to 1902 in Dunedin, his professional life at this stage effectively over.||en_NZ