The architectural practice of Middleton & Talbot, established in 1952 by Melbourne University classmates Ronald Middleton (1924-2005) and Brian Talbot (1921-2014), remained in continuous operation, in various permutations and under various names, for nearly five decades.
The elder of the two founding partners, Brian John Talbot was born on 26 January 1921. After early studies at both Brighton Technical College and Melbourne Technical College, Talbot enlisted with the Australian Army in 1942 and he served with the Australian AAPI group until his discharge in December 1945 with the rank of Sergeant. Resuming civilian life, he took a position in the Architectural Department of the State Electricity Commission, working under SEC Chief Architect William Gower. In 1947, while still employed at the SEC, Talbot commenced studies at the Melbourne University Architectural Atelier, undertaking the day course established specifically for returned servicemen. It was there that he met Ronald Harwood Middleton, who, although nearly four years Talbot's junior, had similarly seen wartime military service. Born in Windsor on 16 December 1924, Middleton joined the RAAF in 1943 and, at the time of his discharge three years later, was attached to the No 1 Aircraft Deport. Becoming acquainted through the atelier's ex-servicemen course, Talbot and Middleton both transferred to the degree course and would receive their Bachelors of Architecture on the same day in April 1950.
After graduation, Brian Talbot remained at the SEC while Ron Middleton furthered his professional experience in several notable city practices, including E F Billson, Hugh Peck & Associates and Mussen, Mackay & Potter. Respectively registered as architects September 1950 and December 1951, Talbot and Middleton elected to join forces in private practice in 1952, naming their new partnership by atypically arranging surnames in alphabetical order rather than seniority. Their practice, initially based in Greville Street, Prahran, later moved to premises in Pasley Street, South Yarra. Initially focusing on small-scale residential commisisons, the practice had expanded to embrace larger-scaled industrial projects by the end of the decade.
Around 1960, the firm expanded with the admission of architect Brian O'Connor, a successful sole practitioner who knew Brian Talbot and Ron Middleton from university days. Rebadged as Middleton, Talbot & O'Connor, the enlarged partnership operated for only a few years before O'Connor left to resume sole practice, whereupon the office reverted to its original name. In 1967, it was further reconfigured as a limited liability company, Middleton, Talbot & Company Pty Ltd, with senior staff member John Hunt as its third director. There were further changes in the early 1970s, when Ron Middleton moved to Queensland and took up a position in the Brisbane office of Cook, Kerrigan & Partners. Brian Talbot carried on the Melbourne practice, promoting John Hunt to the position of named partner in the firm known thereafter as Talbot, Hunt & Partners Pty Ltd, architects and town planners. The other partners were Vernon Tansley (who would later become a senior partner) and W R Grice. Aside from its principal office at 51 a'Beckett Street, the firm also maintained branches in Darwin and Alice Springs, where it had regularly undertaken work since the later 1960s.
After the death of Brian Talbot's wife Wilma in November 1980, he retired to the Gold Coast. The Melbourne practice was continued by its remaining staff, rebadged as Tansley, Hunt & Partners Pty Ltd, until the company was finally deregistered as recently as 2002. Coincidentally, both co-founders of Middleton & Talbot spent their last years in Queensland. Ron Middleton was still living in Brisbane at the time of his death on 24 February 2005. Brian Talbot, having spent 33 years on the Gold Coast, returned to Melbourne shortly before his death on 24 October 2014, aged 93 years.
Select List of Projects
Middleton & Talbot #1 (1952-1959)
Middleton, Talbot & O'Connor (1960-1964)
Middleton & Talbot #2 (1964-67)
Middleton, Talbot & Company Pty Ltd (1967-1971)
Talbot, Hunt & Partners Pty Ltd (1972-1975)