The History of Stedman Blower
Stedman Blower was founded in 1895 by Arthur Stedman (1868-1958), a son of Farnham and near contemporary of Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944). His career flourished in the country house boom up to the Great War, just as Ned Lutyens had, moving onto larger public works in the great expansion of municipal works projects in the interwar period at the end of his career. He had a delicate touch and established the credentials of the company then, as now, in the quality of the buildings and their designs. He completed a number of fine works in West Surrey, including his own offices and the Mackintosh Almshouses in Farnham and some lovely Edwardian country houses.
Arthur Stedman was born in Normandy, Guildford, in 1858, from a family of wheelwrights, apprenticing as an architect in the traditional way with a firm of Farnham builders and attending night classes at Farnham Art School. He finally set up his own office in 1895 at the age of 28 and was elected LRIBA in 1910 and a Fellow before the War. He was Guildford Diocesan Surveyor from 1925-1950 and taught at Farnham School of Art (now SIAD University College). He was also President of the South Eastern Society of Architects and Founding President of Farnham Cricket Club. He died in 1958 at the age of 90.
Leonard Stedman (1900-1980), took over from his father at the end of WW2, having been apprenticed as a pupil in Sir Edwin Lutyens’ offices in London as a young man. The period of his career matches that of another Farnham born architect, Harold Falkner, now recognized as a significant contributor to the revival of vernacular architecture in England during the period when Modernism held full sway. Leonard’s career was truncated by war and austerity and buffeted by the competing cultures of modernism and tradionalism, which seems to have confused rather than inspired him. He did however run a successful small general practice and completed some interesting buildings.
Leonard was born in 1900 and attended Farnham Grammar School and Cranleigh Boys School, after which he attended the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College, London. He spent his War years in the Royal Artillery, the Pay Corps and Garrison Engineer. He died in 1980 at the age of 80.
Michael Blower (born 1929) ran the practice from 1964 to 1995. Michael came to Stedman & Blower (as AJ & LR Stedman was renamed) to reconnect with traditional architectural forms and urban spaces. The office took on more conservation work and championed the vernacular architecture and heritage of West Surrey. He completed a number of fine restorations and sensitive alterations to historic buildings, receiving a Civic Trust Award and an RICS/Times Newspaper Award, while retaining a compact general architectural practice, with an almost exclusively Surrey-based clientele. He also worked on several projects with renowned architect, Roderick Gradidge (1929-2000), jointly winning the RIBA Award for Design Excellence.
Born in Brussels, Michael attended Douai Abbey School and trained at the Architectural Association in the 1950's on a County Scholarship, attending CIAM 10 as student representative of the British delegation headed by Maxwell Fry. After military service in the Royal Engineers at Singapore Garrison, he was appointed Project Architect on the British Pavilion at Brussels World Expo 1958. After a period in America, he joined Scott Brownrigg Turner Architects as Associate, before joining Leonard Stedman as Partner in 1964. During his career and for over 20 years he had been active in local politics serving on both Surrey County and Waverley Borough Councils. In 1995-6 he was elected as Mayor of Waverley BC. He is Vice-President of the Farnham Society and President of the Farnham Trust. He is married with 5 children and 11 grandchildren and lives in Farnham.
Robert Blower was at Stedman Blower for nearly 25 years, but over the last 5 years he has taken a reduced role and works part-time where he operates a ‘special projects studio’ for a number of important and long-standing clients of the practice. His experience is unequalled in terms of knowledge and the deployment of traditional craft technologies in building design and he has won numerous awards for his work on some of the UK’s most interesting heritage assets.
Robert originally studied aeronautical engineering as an undergraduate in the mid-1980's, but switched to architecture, graduating from South Bank University, London in 1990.
Arthur J Stedman FRIBA
Leonard R Stedman ARIBA
Michael J Blower AAdipl FRIBA FRSA
Robert Blower RIBA