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Eric Phillipps Dancker 

(25/12/1889 - 12/5/1953)

Eric Phillipps Dancker, an noted Adelaide architect who worked closely with his father Frederick William Dancker for several decades, was largely recognized in the years between 1913 and the Second World War for his fine residential work and articles on architecture and civic planning in popular press.[1]

 

Born on Christmas Day 1889[2], Eric Phillipps Dancker was educated at Queen's School, Barton Terrace, North Adelaide, and subsequently at St Peters College. Eric joined his father’s practice as an articled pupil in 1906 and was made partner of the newly formed practice of F. W. Dancker & Son in 1913. E. P. Dancker’s career, like the latter part of his father's career, was largely concerned with fine residential work for well-to-do clientele. Eric was equally adept at more modest designs, examples including the Adelaide Workmen’s residences at Hilton (1928) and six residences at Maxwell Terrace, Glengowrie (1937). His later career largely utilizes ‘Arts and Crafts’ English vernacular and Latin influences, achieving a “fine domestic quality through well-resolved proportions, good craftsmanship and accomplished detailing.”[3]

 

Eric Phillipps Dancker was prominent in Adelaide society as honourary Vice Consul for Spain from approximately 1922 to 1937. a position possibly attained though the diplomatic connections of his prominent uncle Sir William Herbert Phillipps, who was Consul for Belgium from approximately 1897 to 1922 [4]. Dancker appears to have adopted his mother's maiden name and uncle's surname around this time. Eric regularly attended state functions at Government House and was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit by the King of Spain in 1929, authorized by King George V in 1930. Listed in the 1921-22 edition of ‘Who’s Who in Adelaide’ a caricature of E. P. Dancker as a bullfighter lists the architect’s hobbies (see image above). Involved in fashionable charity events, Eric was set designer for numerous plays, fairs and fundraising events. He wrote extensively on home design, interior decoration and planning arrangements for architectural journals, with numerous opinion articles on town planning and civic design in Adelaide’s popular press throughout the 1920s-30s.[5] A member of the South Australian Historical Society, Dancker strongly supported the establishment of a Colonial Historical Society and the protection of South Australia's Colonial built heritage. In a 1995 PhD document titled 'The Growth of Amateur History in South Australia,' author Kerrie Round described Eric Phillipps Dancker as "...the first South Australian to suggest the formation of an organisation to preserve built heritage and to realise that buildings were important as documents and other relics as records of the past. But he was before his time and received little support." [6]

 

A high-profile lawsuit in 1944 brought a sudden end to Dancker’s career, charged and convicted as “having committed, or been party to the commission of, an act of gross indecency with an 18-year-old member of the R.A.A.F.”[7] Homosexual activity was still an illegal offence in South Australia at this time and the widely-publicized lawsuit, reported as far abroad as Papua New Guinea,[6] resulted in a twelve-month gaol sentence, destroying the reputation of the former Vice-Consul for Spain. Upon completion of his gaol sentence, it is believed that Eric never practiced as an architect again. It is likely he spent his remaining years caring for his sister Gladys, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, at their home at Giles Street, Toorak Gardens.[8] Eric Phillipps Dancker died of complications relating to a duodenal ulcer at Calvary Memorial Hospital in 1953.[9] His fine collection of architectural books was posthumously donated to the Flinders University Art Museum and have subsequently been donated to UniSA’s Architecture Museum. The Flinders University Library currently retains a large amount of architectural material compiled by Eric Phillipps Dancker during his lifetime, comprising the entirety of the Library’s Architecture Collection. This Collection consists of architectural drawings, magazine cuttings and photographs from the 20th century on various international architectural styles, divided into ten boxes and several folders. An extensive collection of drawings, illustrations, woodblock prints and other material by Eric Phillipps Dancker was recently donated to UniSA's Architecture Museum. 

Further investigation into the works of Eric Phillipps Dancker; a high-quality body of work deliberately overlooked and subsequently forgotten due to ‘shameful’ associations with the architect’s sexuality during his lifetime,[9] are recommended by the author as both worthy and indeed long overdue for future study for their contributions to early 20th century South Australian architectural history.

[1] Schenk, John, ‘Dancker, Eric Phillips’, Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, 2013, Architects of South Australia:
http://www.architectsdatabase.unisa.edu.au/arch_full.asp?Arch_ID=123, accessed 16/1/19.

[2] Previous biographies have listed Eric Phillipp Dancker's birthday as 25/12/1890. A January 1890 birth notice states "DANCKER.- on the 25th December (of the previous year), at Rose Park, the wife of F. W. Dancker, of a son." South Australian Register, Births, Wed 1 Jan 1890, p.4.

[3] Schenk, John, ‘Dancker, Eric Phillips’, Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, 2013, Architects of South Australia:
http://www.architectsdatabase.unisa.edu.au/arch_full.asp?Arch_ID=123, accessed 16/1/19.

[4] Schenk, John, ‘Dancker, Eric Phillips’, Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, 2013, Architects of South Australia:
http://www.architectsdatabase.unisa.edu.au/arch_full.asp?Arch_ID=123, accessed 16/1/19.

[5] 25 Years Consul for Belgium, The Advertiser, Wed 21 Feb 1934, p. 16.

[6] Round, Kerrie. 1995, CELEBRATING THE PAST: The Growth of Amateur History in South Australia, p. 138.

[7] Indecency Charge Denied by Architect, The News, Wed 15 Mar 1944, p3.

[8] Notes From South Aust., Eric Phillipps Dancker, Guinea Gold, Tues 21 Mar 1944, p2.

[9] Death certificate of Gladys Clara Dancker from 1960 lists these medical details. Accessed at Geneology SA database, 8/1/19.

[8]  Death certificate of Eric Phillipps Dancker from 1953 lists these medical details. Accessed at Geneology SA database, 8/1/19.

[9] The ‘shamefulness’ of E. P. Dancker’s reputation was evidently of such potency that the Dancker Collection, bequested to a colleague of E. P. Dancker, was given on the express condition that the anonymity of the donor would be permanently upheld.