Francis Rattenbury, the celebrated architect who designed Victoria's legislative building, the Empress Hotel and other landmarks around British Columbia, finally has a headstone on his grave in England, 72 years after his brutal murder.
John Motherwell, a Victoria-based engineer and amateur historian, visited Mr. Rattenbury's grave in Bournemouth in 2006 and needed assistance from the cemetery's staff to find it.
He felt that Mr. Rattenbury, whose company and work is the subject of a book he is writing, deserved to be properly remembered.
"I had always wanted to visit his grave ... to satisfy my curiosity and pay my respects. Luckily, the ground staff were able to identify it," Mr. Motherwell said.
"It struck me on the train going back up to London there was quite a contrast because many people in Victoria take great stock in either owning Rattenbury buildings or taking pride in them, and yet there was no memorial to him in Bournemouth. That was my sole motivation."
Mr. Motherwell said that once he received permission, he bought a grey granite stone for £1,575 ($3,200), and had an image of Mr. Rattenbury's monumental but ornate legislative building engraved on it.
"Across the bottom of the gravestone it says 'British Columbia Architect.' The reason for this is that it was the pseudonym, to conceal his identity, that Rattenbury used when he bid for the commission to build the legislative building," Mr. Motherwell said.
He added that grey granite provided the foundations for many of Mr. Rattenbury's buildings, including the legislature and Vancouver's former court house, which now houses the city's art gallery. Unable to attend November's unveiling of the headstone, he said he hopes to visit the grave in 2008.
Mr. Rattenbury was born in Yorkshire and lived in British Columbia from 1891 to 1929, and was responsible for many Vancouver and Victoria heritage gems. The scandal over his second marriage to a Canadian-born concert pianist about 30 years his junior in the mid-1920s and his shocking death in England 10 years later overshadowed his illustrious career.
The Rattenburys moved to Bournemouth in 1929 after the architect had outraged polite society in Victoria by leaving his wife of 25 years and two children to be with Alma Pakenham, a noted beauty and talented composer.
Mr. Rattenbury was battered to death with a croquet mallet in 1935 by Alma's 17-year-old lover, the family's chauffeur, at their Dorset home, known as Villa Madeira.
Mrs. Rattenbury was acquitted of the killing, but committed suicide after the chauffeur, George Stoner, was sentenced to hang for the crime. A petition with 320,000 signatures demanded clemency for Mr. Stoner, and he served just seven years. He died, aged 83, in 2000.
Mr. Motherwell said he was unable to locate Mrs. Rattenbury's grave, which remains unmarked and in the same cemetery as her husband's.
The murder was one of the biggest scandals in Britain at the time, and was the basis of the Terence Rattigan play Cause Célèbre. Later, Helen Mirren played Mrs. Rattenbury in a film.
John Rattenbury, the couple's son, now 78, is himself a distinguished architect. He said in an interview from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., that he was "very pleased" that a headstone now marked his father's grave, although he was unable to attend the unveiling.
"It's wonderful that they're doing that, and isn't it nice that someone in B.C. promoted it?" he said.
After the death of his parents, he said, he was sent to Vancouver at the age of 11, during the Second World War, to live with his maternal relations. He was drawn to architecture while still at school in Vancouver and in 1950 began to work with architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who became his mentor and "second father."
John Rattenbury said that early in his career in the late 1940s, while he still lived in Vancouver, he experienced a poignant introduction to his father's work.
"There was a building across the street that was under demolition. I looked out the window and saw this big wrecking ball hitting it and [my boss]came out and said 'Did you know that your father designed that building?' I said 'No!' He told me it was the
old Vancouver Hotel," Mr. Rattenbury said.
"That was the first building of his I'd seen and not under very happy circumstances, watching it being torn down. Eventually, I got over to Vancouver Island and saw the legislative buildings and the Empress Hotel, which was my favourite."
Mr. Rattenbury said his father and his mentor had different places in the architectural pantheon.
"My father was, for his time, a really good architect. He made some really handsome buildings. I think the Empress Hotel is a beautiful building in the Victorian style," he said.
"Philosophically, Frank Lloyd Wright did far more than my father by advancing the cause of architecture.
"Thinking about human scale and materials and how it would relate to the land. But some of my father's buildings, I think, were really very nice. They were beautiful and well built."