Brigadier General Arthur Benison Hubback – Empire Builder

A little quiz for you. What do the following buildings have in common?

Ipoh Railway Station

Ipoh Town Hall 1916

Former British Residency, Seremban

Former State Secretariat, Seremban

Galeri Diraja, Klang

Masjid Jamek

Old City Hall

Old Post Office

Former F.M.S. Railway HQ

KL Railway Station

Railway Administration Building, KL

Terminal Offices, FMS Railway, Penang

Ubudiah Mosque, Kuala Kangsar

I suppose the title gives it away. All these buildings were designed by the same man, Arthur Benison Hubback, a draughtsman/architect with the Public Works Department in the Federated Malay States.

They were all designed and built about 100 years ago, plus or minus ten years (1897 – 1917). These are just the Hubback buildings that I photographed during my travels over the past couple of years. He designed many more structures including the Kowloon Canton Railway Terminus in Hong Kong, of which only the clock tower still stands near the Star Ferry pier on Kowloon side.

He was part of a talented team, led by an engineer, Charles Edwin Spooner, and which also included two other draughtsmen, A.C.A. Norman and R.A.J. Bidwell whose names are credited with the design of KL’s famous copper-domed Sultan Abdul Samad Building.

These buildings were made to last. The KL Railway Station was built to British Standards which meant that the steel columns had to be capable of supporting the weight of up to six feet of snow.  Even with the freak weather the world is experiencing these days, snow in Kuala Lumpur seems unlikely!

Today it is difficult to imagine Kuala Lumpur’s cityscape without the contributions of these famous tourism landmarks made by Mr. Hubback and his colleagues.

When the First World War broke out, Hubback enlisted, drawing on his experience as the founder of the part-time Malay Volunteer Rifles.  Although he has already in his forties at the time of joining, he served with great distinction and was awarded the CMG and DSO.  (The CMG is the medal which was fictionally awarded to James Bond). Incredibly for a late entrant he rose to the rank of General. I suppose promotion was fast during WWI due to the high casualty rate but, even so, Hubback was clearly a high achiever.

His brothers were also interesting characters. Theodore Rathbone Hubback was an avid game hunter before switching to the cause of conservation and he is famous for lobbying for the establishment of the King George V National Park (now Taman Negara).

His other brother, Bishop George Clay Hubback was a missionary in India (note all 3 brothers have unconventional middle names) .

If you would like to read more about the Arthur Hubback and his brothers take a look at this interesting blog.