© All rights reserved. Building News 14 September 1890 

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Basic Biographical Details

Name: William James Anderson
Designation: Architect
Born: 22 November 1863
Died: 25 March 1900
Bio Notes: William James Anderson was born at 17 Bell Street, Dundee, on 22 November 1863, the son of James Anderson, tea dealer, and his wife Margaret Steel. In August 1877 he was articled to James Gillespie of St Andrews, obtaining a place in the Edinburgh office of Robert Rowand Anderson and George Washington Browne. There he worked on Glasgow Central Station and other high-quality projects until about 1883 when he moved to Glasgow as chief assistant to Thomas Lennox Watson. While there he studied at Glasgow School of Art for sessions 1884-85 and 1886-89, and in 1887 he won the Alexander Thomson Travelling Scholarship which enabled him to spend five months in Italy in 1888. These studies were immediately reflected in the high-quality Renaissance detail of the ground floor of Watson's Citizen Building in St Vincent Place. In the following year he transferred to William Leiper's office to assist him with the equally high-quality detailing of the Sun Insurance Building, but the directories suggest that Leiper may have allowed him to commence a small private practice from his home at 62 Cadder Street, Pollokshields, to which he had moved from 10 Albert Drive Crosshill c. 1886-87.

In 1890 Anderson published his Thomson Scholarship drawings as 'Architectural Studies in Italy' and became president of the Glasgow Architectural Association. In the following year he left Leiper's and commenced his own practice at 136 Wellington Street with his younger brother Alexander Ellis Anderson (b.1866) as assistant, and secured elevation as ARIBA on 5 June 1893, having passed the qualifying examination. His proposers were William Leiper, Leiper's close friend W Forrest Salmon and Watson. There was not a lot of business in the first year or so but the Governors of Glasgow School of Art commissioned a series of seven lectures delivered at the Corporation Galleries in 1893-94 on the architecture of the Italian Renaissance as part of a Beaux-Arts inspired 'study the classics' programme for its architectural students. Of these lectures five were published by BT Batsford as 'The Architecture of the Renaissance in Italy' while the two introductory lectures were developed into a course on the history and development of Greek architecture followed by three lectures on Roman architecture, delivered in 1896-97. These were then put into book form as 'The Architecture of Greece and Rome' which was completed by R Phené Spiers and published by Batsford in 1902. As director he gave a further course on the various styles of architecture down to that time, and in the winter of 1898-99 he gave a further course dealing with the Renaissance in France. These he intended to develop into a third volume, but the texts were found not to be sufficiently complete for publication and eventually at the suggestion of Sir john W Simpson, Batsford commisioned a totally new book from W H Ward, published in 1911.

These scholarly activities and Anderson's fine draughtsmanship resulted in Anderson's appointment as Director of the Architectural Department at Glasgow School of Art in 1894 at the early age of thirty. This appointment gave him sufficient security to marry Agnes Inglis Dunbar at the Cockburn Hotel, Glasgow, on 12 September and move house from 27 Westmorland Terrace (to which he had moved c. 1892) to 7 Waverley Gardens, followed by a further move to 1 Marlborough Gardens, Cathcart. The practice itself moved to 95 Bath Street, where he took chambers adjacent to those of Alexander Nisbet Paterson with whom he shared a single apprentice, Alexander David Hislop. Anderson's principal client was The Fireproof Building Company, the principal of which was a Mr Orr, a pioneer of pre-Hennebique reinforced concrete construction based on the use of steel beams, old rails and barbed wire. Orr was his own structural engineer and Anderson's superintendence correspondingly limited. In 1898 there was a partial collapse of the floors of Napier House in Govan Road which killed five of the men working on it. At the inquest the jury found that insufficient steel beams had been specified for the floors, but Hislop and Anderson's friend Alexander Wright's recollection was that the collapse resulted from a combination of a bad mix in the concrete and too early removal of the shuttering. Anderson suffered a nervous breakdown and had to become a patient at Gartnavel where he committed suicide with a razor on the evening of 25 March 1900. He was survived by his wife and an infant son who subsequently emigrated to Canada. His moveable estate amounted to £312 lls lld.

Shortly before his death, in or about 1899, Anderson appears to have formed a brief partnership with William Leiper for the commission for the interior work for SS Regele Carol I for the 'Roumanian Government'. It was run from Anderson's office at 95 Bath Street. As Anderson was in the middle of the Napier House inquest, Leiper must have been helping his former assistant with this particular job. Indeed it may have been that by this stage Anderson had been committed to Gartnavel Asylum and that Leiper stepped in to assist with all Anderson's jobs.

Alexander Wright described Anderson as 'a short, neatly dressed man with a pointed beard…one of the best.' His practice consisted almost entirely of relatively low cost buildings, reflected in the brick 'Queen Anne' of his early buildings at Dundee and the roughcast and rendered concrete of his Glasgow buildings. Although these had refined detailing, Napier House in particular had a tendency to simplified 'modern movement' characteristics with unusual window forms.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 81, Marlborough Gardens, Cathcart, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate   
Item 2 of 895, Bath Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness   
Item 3 of 810, Albert Drive, Crosshill, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate July 1886 
Item 4 of 83, Oxford Terrace, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate 1900 
Item 5 of 862, Cadder Street, Pollokshields, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate/businessJuly 18861893 
Item 6 of 827, Westmorland Terrace, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate18921894 
Item 7 of 8136, Wellington Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusinessc. 1893  
Item 8 of 87, Waverley Gardens, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate1894  

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 5James Ross GillespieAugust 18771881Apprentice 
Item 2 of 5Anderson & Browne1881c. 1883Assistant 
Item 3 of 5Thomas Lennox Watsonc. 18831888Chief Assistant 
Item 4 of 5William Leiper18891891Assistant 
Item 5 of 5Leiper & Andersonc. 1899 * Partner 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 3Alexander Ellis AndersonAfter 18891893AssistantWorked in his brother's office before 1893.
Item 2 of 3George Sinclair18941896Draughtsman 
Item 3 of 3James Hoey CraigieMarch 1895May 1895Assistant 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3William Leiper5 June 1893for Associateship
Item 2 of 3William Forrest Salmon5 June 1893for Associateship
Item 3 of 3Thomas Lennox Watson5 June 1893for Associateship

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 181885Evening Citizen offices and printing worksCentral GlasgowScotlandAs assistant to Thomas Lennox Watson (date of original building as given in Williamson, Riches & Higgs and journals)
Item 2 of 181888SheninghurstAyr AyrshireScotland'in the manner of W J Anderson'
Item 3 of 181889Sun Life Insurance Office  GlasgowScotlandDetails, as assistant to William Leiper
Item 4 of 181891Glasgow Art Gallery and MuseumKelvingrove GlasgowScotlandUnsuccessful competition design
Item 5 of 181892Orient House  GlasgowScotland 
Item 6 of 181892Tea warehouse and shop  DundeeScotland 
Item 7 of 181892Timber sheds and sawmills for Gilmour & Aitken  GlasgowScotland 
Item 8 of 181893Chimneypiece for J N Graham   Scotland 
Item 9 of 18c. 1893Balmory VillaPollokshields GlasgowScotland 
Item 10 of 181894Cottages at CrossmyloofCrossmyloof GlasgowScotland 
Item 11 of 181894House in Abington AvenueNorthampton NorthamptonshireEngland 
Item 12 of 181894Warehouses and Shops  GlasgowScotland 
Item 13 of 181895Eglinton Street Congregational Church  GlasgowScotlandAlterations and redecoration.
Item 14 of 181896Glasgow School of Art  GlasgowScotlandUnsuccessful competition design
Item 15 of 181897Dwellinghouses, Haghill Estate  GlasgowScotland 
Item 16 of 181897Working Men's HotelGovan GlasgowScotland 
Item 17 of 181898RavenscraigPrestwick AyrshireScotland 
Item 18 of 181899SS Regele Carol I, interiors    Music room


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 6Academy Architecture    1893. P87. Drawing of chimneypiece for J N Graham
Item 2 of 6Academy Architecture1893   p87. Drawing of chimneypiece for J N Graham
Item 3 of 6Anderson, W J The Architecture of the Renaissance in Italy  See preface.
Item 4 of 6Anderson, W J and Spiers, R Phene The Architecture of Greece and Rome  See preface.
Item 5 of 6Glasgow Architectural Association Sketchbooks    Published sketches, 1884-88 and 1894.
Item 6 of 6Scotlands People Website Wills & Testaments  Paisley Sheriff Court Inventory Sc58/42/60 and Wills SC58/45/11

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 6Builder1 January 1898   
Item 2 of 6Builder7 April 1900   
Item 3 of 6Builder14 April 1900  pp381-382 - Obituary
Item 4 of 6Builders Journal4 September 1904  Measured drawing of Pearce Lodge
Item 5 of 6Building News14 November 1890  Biographical information and portrait
Item 6 of 6RIBA Journal28 January 1900 London: Royal Institute of British Architectspp284, 312, by A N Paterson

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 5Courtesy of Dr Kathy Wheeler, MiamiInformation via 'Contact Us' on website Sent December 2016
Item 2 of 5Dundee Planning Department/NMRSDundee Approved Duplicate Plans (Originals in NMRS for dates 1867-1883; otherwise on microfilm)  
Item 3 of 5Glasgow City ArchivesWorsdall Collection A 228, A 229
Item 4 of 5Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Information on Villa for Mrs Raeside from the late A D Hislop, per the late Alfred G Lochhead.
Item 5 of 5RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers A v12 p36 (microfiche 53/D1)


© All rights reserved. Building News 14 September 1890 

© All rights reserved. Building News 14 September 1890