Arnold Dunbar Smith (1866-1993), born in Islington, was apprenticed to J.G. Gibbons of Brighton in 1883 and studied at the Brighton School of Art and the Architectural Association in London.. He worked for Millard & Baggallay between 1884 and 1895 while he continued his studies and during this time entered the Royal Academy Schools as well as traveling in France, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland.
Cecil Claude Brewer (1871-1919) was apprenticed to F.T. Baggallay between 1890 and 1893. After a brief period at the Clifton College (1889) he continued his studies at the University College in London, where he received the Donaldson Medal in 1890, and, from 1891 to 1893 the Architectural Association, winning the silver Medals for 1892 and 1893 as well as the AA Traveling Studentship in 1894. From 1893 to 1898 he studied at the Royal Academy Schools where he won the Gold Medal and Traveling Studentship, He traveled in France, England, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Smith and Brewer formed a partnership in 1895 in London and in the same year won the competition for the Passmore Edwards Settlement in Tavistock Place, London which established their reputation as arts and crafts architects working in the so-called “Free Style” of the 1890s (an attempt to create a new architectural style for England).
The firm designed mainly domestic work utilising vernacular traditions (such as Fives Court, Pinner Middlesex) until 1909 when they won the competition for the National Museum of Wales (1910) in Cathays Park, Cardiff. This monumental building, one of the earliest in Great Britain to utilize the Beaux-Arts style then popular in the United States, signaled a change in direction for the firm. The Arts and Crafts Movement was failing and architects were returning to classicism, particularly for large, public buildings. The innovative design of Heal’s Furniture Store (1916), however, suppressed the classical imagery in favour of an honest expression of the steel frame structure of the building.After Brewer’s death in 1918, Smith continued the work of the firm and designed many houses as well as additions to the Fitzwilliam Museum (1924-1933). In 1930, J.A. Meikle and K.W.F. Harris became partners under the firm name of A. Dunbar Smith.
After Smith’s death in 1933, Meikle, Harris and Sidney Clark continued the practice under the original firm name of Smith and Brewer. The firm was dissolved with the death of Clark in 1949.