2. John Edward Dixon-Spain (Lt. Col.)

Known as Ted. Architect, Q.M., Lg. Hon., O.B.E.

Born: 1879

Died: 8th May 1955 in Graveley, Herts

Funeral at Roman Catholic cathedral Welwyn Garden City

Became Catholic in 1914. Married to Elsie. 2/3 Daughters.


Fought in the Second (?) Boer War under Lord Roberts.

John Edward Dixon-Spain (bottom right, sitting) John Edward Dixon-Spain Close Up

On the 12th June 1915, Ted obtained his aviators’ certificate as a Lieutenant in a Maurice Farman biplane, at the British Flying School , Le Crotoy, France (ref. here). He later became a Flying Instructor.

Captain J. E. Dixon-Spain in the Gnome Duke of Wellington, by Ted Dixon-Spain Pitters at Poker, by Ted Dixon-Spain Springbok, by Ted Dixon-Spain

As Squadron Leader, Ted served under Eisenhower as a ‘Monument Man‘ during WW2, apparently one of three involved in the Normandy Landings in 1944 (see below). We think his expertise in church architecture was of particular importance.

References to Ted on the internet:

JSTOR: Memoir of the Ranking Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Officer in the ETO during World War IIJanet Flanner, Annals of Crime, “The Beautiful Spoils,” The New Yorker, March 8, 1947, p. 38

Excerpt: “… ANNALS OF CRIME about art treasures looted by the Nazis. Article deals with the creation of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Division; its personnel, their work in finding & restoring art treasures to their rightful owners Monuments men were present during the invasion of Normandy They were Major Bancel LaFarge, U.S.A. & Lt. George Stout, U.S.N.R. & one Englishman, Squadron Leader J. E. Dixon-Spain, R. A. F. In the autumn on 1945, shortly after the German capitulation, the staff swelled to 84 officers & men. The chief adviser was the Slade Professor of Fine Arts from Cambridge University, Lt. Col. Geoffrey Webb. Some of the luminaries of the earlier American Monuments men were Lt. Lamont, Moore, Lt. Sheldon Keck. Lt. Calvin Hathaway, Capt. Everett Lesley, Pfs. Lincoln Kirstein, Capt. Robert Posey, Capt. Walker Hancock, Lt. James Rominer, Walter Huchthausen, and Capt. Ralph H. Hammett … ”

from High Art and National Socialism by Monika Ginzkey Puloy in the Journal of the History Colloections 10, No. 2 (1998)

“The optimistic programme outlined early in 1944 for the MFA&A envisaged a well-structured Allied advisory staff headed by a lieutenant-colonel with sixteen majors, assisted by a number of field outfits, each with a minimum of twelve junior officers, plus an officer attached to the HQ_ of each army, with three more officers assisted by six enlisted men to ensure a constant flow of information from the front.67 They would all dash about Europe in trucks and jeeps, armed with cameras and typewriters, sending constant reports to the rear. What actually seems to have happened was that about a fortnight after the Normandy landing, two MFA&A officers, Captain Bancel LaFarge and Lieutenant George Stout, and one Englishman, Squadron Leader J. E. Dixon-Spain, set out, without back-up or equipment, explaining and persuading their way into action in order to make a start on salvaging the art treasures of Europe.68 By the summer’s end, three further Americans and two more British MFA&A officers had joined them. The amazing accomplishment of these eight men, who at first had to make their way by ‘riding on anything from the regimental laundry trucks to liberated bicycles’, ended in the fragmentary arrival of the Allies’ full war-time art group, which, despite lofty ambitions, never reached more than about a dozen men up to the end of hostilities. None the less, they scoured France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany ‘with unbelievable efficacy and ubiquity and actually inspected 3,145 monuments and archives, or what was left of them’.”

The Monuments Men is to be filmed by George Clooney:

Posted about it here

from the Catholic Pamphlets Website: “John Edward Dixon-Spain, O.B.E., F.R.I.B.A., was also the son of a parson; he was the architect of many public buildings in various parts of the world. He became a Catholic at the beginning of the first World War, and in the second was Fine Arts Officer with the First United States and Second British Armies from Normandy to the Rhine …”

Squadron Leader J.E. Dixon-Spain's Service Record Squadron Leader J. E. Dixon-Spain's Service Record





2005 (EXTRACT)

St Joan of Arc, in Farnham

John Edward Dixon-Spain (1878-1955) went into partnership with Charles Nicholas in 1905, and the two men remained together throughout their careers. Dixon-Spain was the son of an Anglican vicar but converted to Roman Catholicism in 1914. His best known works are the Quasr el Aini State Hospital, Cairo, Newcastle Public Hall and Baths, the Rock Hotel, Gibraltar, and the Church of St Joan of Arc, Farnham. He also designed a number of film studios and, after 1945, was chiefly involved with designing RC primary and secondary schools. His obituary in the RIBA Journal says He was a great worker, devoted to architecture, and his standards both for himself and others were very high. With his passing the profession has lost an architect of great ability and unerring judgement. He was a man of complete integrity whose quiet manner masked a very strong character which was illuminated by a slightly sardonic wit.

It is likely that Dixon-Spain only built two churches, of which the more important is the one at Farnham. His other church, St Alphage, Hendon, never received its intended campanile and was, in any case, damaged in the war. The Church of St Joan of Arc is built in red brick with a steeply pitched tiled roof and tall, open-arched, campanile. The style is, loosely speaking, Romanesque, but the pitch of the roof and form of the campanile break away from this tradition. The cubic volumes of the building are emphasised by the plain surfaces and crisp lines. The “formal yet vigorous” statue of St Joan over the entrance to the narthex is the work of Roger de Villiers.

Inside, the church has white walls and the windows are filled with clear glass, something that Father Robo, who commissioned the building, was anxious to maintain. In contrast to the plainness of the structure, it contains a number of fine fittings. The paving in the sanctuary, of Roman stone with large porphyry star, is now hidden under carpet, but the gilded baldacchino over the altar can still be seen. The 17th century gilt wood reredos, on the other hand, that was once beautifully framed by the apsidal niche in the east wall, is no longer in place. A small crucifix, made by a local artist, now hangs in the niche. The two statues in niches to either side of the High Altar are by Vernon Hill, as are the statues in the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin (completed 1935) and the Chapel of St Catherine and St Margaret (completed 1937). Finished before either of these chapels, however, was the Baptistery with its fine Sienese marble fittings and bronze screen. The painting of the Baptism of Christ that hangs behind the font is the work of a Catholic artist, Geoffrey Burnand. There is a grassy expanse to the west of the church, with an avenue of cherry trees leading up to the hedged ‘piazza’ in front of the main entrance.

SOURCES: Obituaries, Builder, 13 May 1955 and RIBA Journal, 1954-5, 62;

Etienne Robo, The Story of A Catholic Parish (1938); Dr Michael Straiton, St Joan of Arc – The Saint and her Church in Farnham (2005).


The Church of St Joan of Arc is one of the best works of John Edward Dixon-Spain and, as far as I know, the only complete church built to his design. Although the style of the church is traditional, there is nothing slavish in the way the architect makes use of earlier forms. In fact, with its sharply defined cubic shapes and open-arched campanile, it is unlike any other church I have seen. The west front of the church is further enhanced by the formality of its setting with its hedged ‘piazza’ and avenue of cherry trees leading towards the main door. In my view this church certainly deserves inclusion on the government List of Buildings of Special Architectural and Historical Interest.


From A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5

” … A mission church in East Road, Burnt Oak, dedicated to St. Paul and served from St. John, West Hendon, was consecrated in 1904; the building, which was of corrugated iron, had formerly been occupied by Burnt Oak National school. (fn. 89) It ceased to be used for worship in 1927, when the church of ST. ALPHAGE, Burnt Oak, was built in Montrose Avenue, as the centre of a new parish which covered the Watling estate; in 1970 the living was in the gift of the bishop of London. (fn. 90) The architect of the church, a plain brick building with a basilican plan in the Early Christian style, was J. E. Dixon-Spain; the church was restored in 1952 after war-damage. (fn. 91) … “


from Architects in Egypt: A Preliminary Bibliography

Compiled by Omar Khalidi


“Qaer-El-Aini Hospital and Medical School Competition: First Premiated Design, C. Nicholas and J.E. Dixon-Spain, Architects.” 1923. In Architects’ Journal 57, pp.532-37.

“Qaer el-Ain Hospital Competition.” 1921. Architects’ Journal 53, pp. 485-486.


from Survey of London: volumes 31 and 32

No. 24 Golden Square

This site, the northernmost of those on the west side of Gelding Close allotted to Symball by the partition of 1675 (fig. 18), was the first to be developed in Golden Square and now contains its oldest surviving building. Although the house was not rated until 1686, it is clear from other evidence that building, possibly by Andrew Laurence or ‘Mr. Shaw’, had begun as early as April 1675. (ref. 123) Colonel Thomas Sackville was the first occupant. Later occupants include Lord George Howard (1694–5), who later lived at No. 34, John Hanbury (1706–7) and Orlando Bridgeman (1716–22). (ref. 28) From 1724 to 1788 this house, with the adjoining No. 23, was successively the Portuguese and then the Bavarian legation (see above, sub No. 23). In 1788 Nos. 23 and 24 Golden Square, with their back premises, gardens and stables extending to Warwick Street, were bought by Bishop James Talbot for the erection of a new Roman Catholic chapel. The present Warwick Street church was shortly afterwards built behind the two houses, No. 23 being let to tenants and No. 24 being retained as the church presbytery.

Except during the years 1832–53, No. 24 has been in continuous use by the priests serving the Warwick Street church. The Reverend James Archer, a celebrated preacher, lived here from 1794 to 1825. (ref. 72) In 1832 the priests moved out and the church trustees let the house on a twentyone-year lease for commercial use, at a rent of £110 per annum (only £10 more than the rent paid by Lord Masham for No. 21 in 1715). One of the ground-floor rooms at the back of No. 24, adjoining the church sacristy, was bricked off from the house and not included in the lease. (ref. 124) In 1854 the priests returned to the house. In 1959 the interior of the house was altered and improved to the designs of the architects Nicholas and Dixon-Spain. (ref. 125)

No. 24, with a much altered carcase of about the same date as No. 23, has a front in the style of the 1720’s, four storeys high and three windows wide, faced with stock bricks and dressed with red rubbers (Plate 123b). The sashed windows have exposed frames, slightly recessed in plain openings with jambs and segmental arches of red brick, and there is a narrow cornice of cut or moulded red brick below the attic storey. The doorway, on the right of the ground-storey windows, has a sixpanelled door and a radial fanlight of wood, set in a plain round-arched opening.


City Hall, Northumberland Rd. Newcastle

A view of the City Hall, Northumberland Road/College Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, taken in 1930. The City Baths adjoin the City Hall, to the left.

The City Hall was designed by C. Nicholas and J.E. Dixon Spain, c.1928


St Hugh of Lincoln, Letchworth

The Roman Catholic Church of St. Hugh of Lincoln which although quite massive, is set back from the street reducing the effect. By Nicholas and Dixon Spain started 1938 and completed 1962.


The Rock Hotel, Gibraltar

The Rock Hotel, Gibraltar

Ted was also responsible for some of the interior of Hovenden House, Fleet, Holbeach. While this is not significant in any general sens, the house was frequented by Ted’s great great nephews as they attended their maternal grandfather for Christmas services during the 1990s.

from Recent English Domestic Architecture, Google Books we find this reference:

Recent English Domestic Archit Hovenden


  1. Posted April 24, 2008 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Found ref. to J. Dixon-Spain in “Form and Fancy”:Factories and Factory Buildings by Wallis, Gilbert & Partners. Book Author: Dr. Joan Skinner, Liverpool Uni Press

    page 291, refers to two articles/ books/ journals etc. 1932, also quoted on page 267.

  2. Admin
    Posted June 20, 2008 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Just made application to RAF Cranwell in Lincs. for John Edward’s military career. Hopefully we will get much more information about the role he played in the Second World War and the Allies advance through Europe.

  3. eunice wilson
    Posted September 19, 2009 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    iam research RAF Rudloe Manor, nr Bath, now closed. J E Dixon-Spain signs several documents referring to the creating of the vast undeground tunnels, ex quaried, usevat RAF’s 10 Group. A lot of info at Nat Archive. Would like more on his personnally. Ew

  4. eunice wilson
    Posted September 19, 2009 at 5:29 am | Permalink

    strangely I became a Catholic and was received into church in Warwick Street, London. Have history of this church also as well as RAF Rudloe Manor ew

  5. Charles
    Posted September 20, 2009 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Hi Eunice, Thanks for commenting. We’d be really interested in seeing copies of anything you have. As you can see we are assembling as much about our family as possible, and it seems Great Uncle Ted as he was known in the family, was extremely active and we don’t know the half of it. Best Charles.

  6. David S
    Posted October 5, 2009 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Tower of Rand Church (Lincs) restored under direction of Mr J.E . Dixon-Spain ARIBA in 1898. (Ref: Kelly’s Lincolnshire 1909.)

  7. Charles
    Posted March 23, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    I have now checked out the British Library’s collection of “The Gnome” [BL shelfmark P.P.4039.(1.) . They hold 5 issues, numbered 1 to 5 (Nov ’16, Jan ’17, Mar ’17, May 17, and Aug 17. I do not know if this is a complete set.

    The tone is light-hearted, with numerous comical pen & ink drawings. The content ranges from the literary and cultural (eg, bits on Egyptian history), to lists of officers who have qualified at the No. 3 School of Military Aeronautics at Heliopolis. Not much mention of flyers who have “gone west” [KIA]. Regret saw no mention of the Australian Sqn.

    It’s well-written and well-produced; but the best thing in the set was a photo of captured British flyers Lt Floyer and 2nd Lt Palmer with their German &Austro-Hungarian “hosts”. The two have just been treated to “a damn good lunch” at Beersheba Aerodome (5 Mar 1917).

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