Aussie in search of St Albans family roots

Australian Elizabeth Kinneir-Tarte has come to St Albans to learm more about her father, architect F

Australian Elizabeth Kinneir-Tarte has come to St Albans to learm more about her father, architect Frederick Walter Kinneir-Tarte - Credit: Debbie White/Archant

THE lush, mountainous island of Tasmania is a far cry from the bustling historic city of St Albans.

But for a determined Aussie, her journey of over 10,000 miles to England on a quest to unearth family history spanning three centuries is worth the trek.

Elizabeth Kinneir-Tarte, a civil celebrant and workplace trainer, has recently been visiting St Albans, a city she felt an instant connection with as her father’s mark was stamped right throughout it.

And it is quite an unusual history to unravel as her father was aged in his 80s when she was born to his much younger second wife in Australia in 1941.

Frederick Walter Kinneir-Tarte moved to St Albans in the late 1880s, after placing an advertisement in the Herts Advertiser for an old fashioned home or cottage within one mile of St Albans Midland Station.

He was 29 years old, married to Emilie Fursdon, nick-named ‘Lalla’, and the couple’s first home was 99 St Peter’s Street, later known as Zorba’s Greek Restaurant.

Elizabeth explained that the South African-born Fred, an architect, immediately set about designing buildings that can still be seen in St Albans today.

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According to information written by John Brodrick about Fred for the St Albans and Herts Architectural and Archaeological Society (Arc & Arc), one of his first tasks was to survey the St Peter’s Church tower.

There were concerns about it swaying when the bells were being rung.

As he specialised in church architecture, Fred wrote a report referring to earlier disastrous restorations and recommended the bell be recast, belfry beams replaced and cracks filled.

As Fred’s reputation grew in the district, so too did the number of homes built to his design in St Albans, Harpenden and Hitchin.

He designed and supervised a major expansion of Camp School in St Albans as well as overseeing preservation work on the Roman walls at Verulamium Park.

In the early 1900s he was commissioned to design the doubling of a wealthy mining engineer’s home, “Bucknalls”, which in the 1920s became the offices of the Building Research Station in Bricket Wood.

The Building Research Establishment Group (BRE) occupies that same site today with Bucknalls still at the centre amid more modern buildings.

Despite his successful career in the UK, Fred, Lalla and their son Merlin left St Albans for the warmer climes of Australia in 1907 where he bred goats.

But Merlin later died in the First World War, and his mother passed away soon afterwards.

In 1923 Fred married teacher Greta Goode, despite an age difference of 40 years.

As Elizabeth was just a toddler when Fred died at the age of 85, she has few memories of him.

The Aussie, who turned 72 while in St Albans, has been staying with Brenda Bolton, who lives opposite the King Harry in a medieval almshouse at the top of Watling Street, which was remodelled by Fred back in 1894.

She has been in contact with the Arc & Arc while here, and is keen to hear from residents who may have information about her dad, as she plans to write a book about him.

Elizabeth said: “I have four children, so I would like to know more about the history of my father and the Kinneir-Tarte family.”

Information can be sent to her at 1 William Street, Burnie 7320, Tasmania.