HUBBACK, Arthur Benison  [1871 -  1948]

A walk around the city of Kuala Lumpur would reveal many fine buildings dating from the early years of the twentieth century. Of particular note are the majestic Kuala Lumpur railway station and the Jamek Mosque, the oldest in the city. Both of these buildings, along with many others across what was then British Malaya, were designed by Arthur Benison Hubback who hailed from Liverpool.

He was born on 13th April 1871, the son of Liverpool corn merchant Joseph Hubback and his wife Georgina (née Benison), their home being at 74 Rodney Street L1. They had some standing in the city, Joseph Hubback serving as mayor from 1869-70, and Orchard’s Liverpool Legion of Honour noted that Georgina was involved in the administration of parish relief and was president of the Liverpool Needlework Guild which supplied poor people with clothing. Soon after Arthur's birth the family moved to 6 Sandon Terrace, Upper Duke Street L1, then moving  to West Kirby. Joseph died in the 1882 and the family returned to city, living at 22 Falkner Square L8. He had three brothers; Theodore was a civil engineer and conservationist in Malaya, Joseph was a civil engineer and rubber broker, and George who became a Church of England bishop.

After school at Fettes College in Edinburgh Arthur Hubback began working as an apprentice to the city architect, Thomas Shelmerdine. In 1895, at the age of 24, he left England to take up a post as chief draughtsman of the Selangor public works department in Malaya. He remained in Malaya for 19 years  until the outbreak of the First World War. This was a period of great activity in construction and he worked on buildings in both Malaya and Hong Kong. He was involved in at least 25 buildings in Malaya many of which are considered of great relevance to Malaysia’s architectural heritage.

He had begun his military involvement in 1907 when he took charge of the Federated Malay States Volunteer Rifles, promoted to major in 1910 and lieutenant-colonel in 1914. At the start of World War 1 he returned to the UK serving firstly as a major then as lieutenant colonel commanding the 20th London Regiment, serving on the Somme, where he was wounded. Promoted to brigadier general he was mentioned in dispatches six times and was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1916 and awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1918. He continued to serve in the military until 1924 and by then had ceased to practice architecture. He died on 8th May 1948 aged 77 at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire.

He married Margaret Voules in 1901 and had two children, a son Arthur and daughter Yvonne. The son, Arthur Gordon Voules Hubback, served in the Royal Navy, rising to become Fourth Sea Lord.

6 Sandon Terrace L1

The Hubbacks lived at Sandon terrace in the 1870s. The houses were demolished c.1907 to make way for a playground for the Liverpool Institute

74 Rodney Street L1

The Hubback family home at the time of Arthur's birth in 1871

22 Falkner Square L8

The Hubback family home in the 1890s.

Jamek Mosque, Kuala Lumpur

Designed by Arthur Bennison Hubback and built in 1909. See here for more information.


There is a comprehensive entry for Hubback in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. and a brief summary on Wikipedia. His importance in Malaysian architectural heritage is shown by a number of websites dedicated to his life and work, notably and