The Melbourne-based architectural partnership of Drayton & Colman (often mis-rendered in published sources as Drayton & Coleman) was established in the late 1950s by former atelier classmates Ray Drayton (1927-2015) and Walter Colman.
Born in Geelong on 17 October 1927, Raymond Leslie Drayton hailed from a prominent family in Melbourne's western suburbs whose manufacturing business, styled as Drayton Brothers, began from an iron foundry established in Footscray the 1880s, later absorbing a porcelain works in Sunshine. A relative, Miss Margaret Drayton (1894-1979), became one of the first women in Victoria to pursue a career in the construction industry when, in 1917, she commenced engineering studies at Gordon Institute of Technology whilst articled to the firm of Sharp & Chilwell. For his part, a young Ray Drayton initially envisaged a career in the fine arts before opting instead for architecture and similarly enrolling at the Gordon Institute of Technology. He subsequently moved to Melbourne to complete his studies, enrolling at the University of Melbourne Architectural Atelier in 1946. Fellow first-year students that year included such future luminaries as Rex Patrick, Grahame Shaw, Reg Padey and Walter George "Wally" Colman, with whom Drayton would later enter into partnership.
Completing the three-year atelier course in 1950, Ray Drayton and Wally Colman each sought professional experience in architectural offices. Drayton is known to have gained a position with John W Rivett, together with atelier classmates Grahame Shaw and Reg Padey. Granted a partial exemption from the ARBV examinations due to the extent of his tertiary studies, Drayton became registered as an architect in early 1952; at that time, he cited his professional address as 383 Latrobe Street, which suggests that he was either working for Horace Tribe, Roy Grounds, Keith Reid or the partnership of Mussen, Mackay & Potter, all of whom maintained offices there at that time. Also in 1952, Wally Colman applied to become registered as an architect; at the time his registration was gazetted, he was employed in the office of A R Baxter-Cox & Associates.
Little else is currently known of the professional experience of Ray Drayton and Walter Colman before they entered into partnership together around 1958. The firm's early output encapsulated a diverse range of projects including churches, houses and factories. By 1961, they had already fostered an association with the Church of Christ denomination that would bring them a number of repeat commissions in future years. In much the same way, they also developed a particular presence in what was then Melbourne's outer east (specifically the Blackburn area). This seems to have been spurred by Colman's relocation to that suburb in the early 1960s, when he and his wife moved to an existing house at 17 Eustace Street, relocating thence to one that he designed himself at 35 Jeffrey Street. By the mid-1960s, the office of Drayton & Colman was operating from premises in a row of shops in Salisbury Avenue, opposite Laburnum railway station. Drayton and his wife Betty, who had lived in Strathmore from the late 1940s, eventually followed suit, moving into a house in Nunawading that he designed in 1971.
In the mid-1960s, the office of Drayton & Colman forged an enduring association with Inge Brothers, one of Melbourne's leading project housing firms of the day. The architects not only designed a range of standard dwellings for the firm, but also the private residence of co-founder Zig Inge, in Ferdinand Avenue, Balwyn North. Drayton & Colman's designs for Inge Brothers, which were showcased in display villages in the Doncaster, Donvale and Glen Waverley areas, ran the stylistic gamut from conservative gable-roofed dwellings, such as the Mackay Verandah, to more contemporary flat-roofed models such as Claridge Nova IV. The association with Inge Brothers thrived into the early 1970s. During that time, the architects also undertook work for at least one other project housing company, and contributed a design to the standard range of the Age/RAIA Small Homes Service.
The partnership of Drayton & Colman had ceased by the late 1970s, and the former established his own sole practice as R Drayton Architects. Little is currently recorded of the late career of Wally Colman, although it is know that he had retired to Rosebud by 1995. Ray Drayton, whose wife died in 1982, remained living in Nunawading, where he was active in the local art scene. He exhibited artwork in several group and one-man shows (the latter including an exhibition of watercolours at Nunawading's Zodiac Gallery in August 1980). A member of the Victorian Artists' Society and the Australian Guild of Realist Artists, Drayton also taught painting for many years, both privately and for local bodies such at the Box Hill Art Group (serving as evening tutor from 1981-83) and the Whitehorse Arts Association. He was still involved with the latter group at the time of his death on 22 March 2015, aged 87 years.
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