Herbert George Simms

(30/11/1898 - 28/09/1948)

Herbert Simms was an architect who played a pivotal role in transforming the housing landscape of Dublin during the early 20th century including the Crumlin Housing Scheme.

Herbert George Simms (1898–1948) was an English architect who played a pivotal role in transforming the housing landscape of Dublin during the early 20th century. Born on November 30, 1898, in London, Simms was the eldest of at least six children in his family. His father, George William Simms, worked as a train driver and was originally from Fawley, Buckinghamshire. His mother, Nellie (née Worster), hailed from Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. George Simms had four older children from a previous marriage, as his first wife, Mahala, had passed away in 1896 at the age of 39. Herbert’s early years were spent in a working-class environment, living on Prince of Wales Road in Kentish Town. He attended the Haverstock Industrial and Commercial School, with the 1911 census showing the family residing at 33 Victoria Road, where Herbert was the eldest of the six children still living at home.

Simms’s life took a different turn during World War I when he served in the Royal Field Artillery. His wartime service earned him an ex-service scholarship of £150 and tuition fees, enabling him to study architecture at the University of Liverpool. He received a Certificate in Architecture in 1921 and completed the third and fourth years of the Diploma course. Based on his previous office work and the quality of his studies, he was permitted to take the course for the Certificate in Civic Design, which he received in March 1923.

After university, Simms relocated to Dublin, where he initially worked in the office of Aubrey Vincent O’Rourke. In February 1925, he was appointed as a temporary architect to Dublin Corporation, working under Horace Tennyson O’Rourke. This temporary role gradually expanded and lasted until December 1927. In 1926, he was authorised to visit London, Liverpool, and Manchester to study the latest developments in the construction of flats.

In 1932 or 1933, a separate housing architect’s department was established in Dublin Corporation, with Simms taking on the role of Corporation housing architect. He quickly recruited a team to work in the department, and during his sixteen years in this position, he oversaw the construction of 17,000 residences, including both flats and houses.

Simms is best known for his work in providing quality housing for Dublin’s working-class population. His housing complexes, particularly his flat designs, were influenced by the architecture of Michel de Klerk, Jacobus Oud, and Johannes van Hardeveld. Simms also championed the development of garden suburbs and successfully implemented “decanting,” a process involving building four-story flats on derelict sites before demolishing older, overcrowded housing.

Simms married Eileen Clarke, daughter of Garda Superintendent Thomas Clarke, on September 30, 1929. His life took a tragic turn when Horace O’Rourke, the city architect and a buffer between Simms and the city’s administrative and political entities, retired in 1945 without being replaced. Simms found himself bearing the full weight of the housing projects, leading to overwork and a nervous breakdown. On September 28, 1948, Simms took his own life by throwing himself under a train at Dún Laoghaire. A suicide note he left behind revealed his struggles with overwork and mental exhaustion.

Herbert George Simms’s legacy endures in Dublin through the many homes and flats he designed, which have provided comfortable living for generations of Dubliners. His dedication to enhancing the lives of people living in his dwellings and his attention to detail contributed to the longevity of his buildings. His tragic end at the age of 49 serves as a poignant reminder of the toll his tireless work took on him. His achievements have earned him posthumous respect and recognition as a significant figure in Dublin’s architectural history.

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Connection with area: Architect who designed the Crumlin housing scheme amongst others.