© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue  © All rights reserved. Building News 16 May 1890 

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Basic Biographical Details

Name: John Burnet (senior)
Designation: Architect
Born: 27 September 1814
Died: 15 January 1901
Bio Notes: John Burnet was born at Craighead House, Kirk o' Shotts on 27 September 1814, the son of Lieutenant George Burnet of the Kirkcudbright and Galloway Militia, and his wife Margaret Wardlaw, who was the daughter of a Dalkeith merchant John Wardlaw. He was educated at Dunipace Parish School and thereafter apprenticed as a carpenter, graduating to architecture through experience as a clerk of works with a Mr Smith, architect and builder, who can be safely identified with John Smith, originally of Alloa and after 1826 of Glasgow, as Burnet's earliest clients were in the Alloa-Clackmannan area. Such architectural training as he had probably came from Smith's son James. Burnet commenced practice on his own account in 1843 with free churches at Shandon, Alloa and Clackmannan, all in a simple round-arched Italian style. By 1845 he was sufficiently prosperous to marry Elizabeth Hay Bennet, the daughter of Lindsay Bennet, merchant, Leith. She was an ambitious lady and a driving force behind the practice. Within a few years he had taken his younger brother William Cadell Burnet (born 1828) into the practice as pupil and for a time assistant, but the latter preferred to settle in London, sharing an office with another brother, George, who was a merchant there, and subsequently transferred his business to the United States.

Burnet was essentially self-taught from a large and important library which included Durand, Letarouilly and Viollet-le-Duc. He rose in prominence in the mid-1850s with the pure Greek temple of Elgin Place Church, with the Clapperton/Middeton warehouse in Miller Street, which was remarkable for its central well and laminated timber roof structure, and with Madeira Court on Argyle Street, which was strongly influenced by Charles Wilson's work. Thereafter his practice flourished in part as a result of success in limited competitions, but he seems to have had good connections among the Glasgow merchants and shipowners for whom he designed large baronial houses at Auchendennan, Arden, Kildalton and the giant Kilmahew in the mid-1860s. By that date he had also become an accomplished Gothic designer, most notably at Woodlands Church and the Glasgow Stock Exchange, where he exploited features from William Burges's London Law Courts design - his brother William was architectural clerk to the competition - a skilful plagiarism which did not escape Burges's attention, although he seems to have allowed the matter to pass without comment. In his final years he was responsible for three of the city's most important buildings: the Clydesdale Bank, the Merchants' House and the Cockerell-inspired reconstruction of the Union Bank, in the later stages of which he was assisted by his son John James, certainly after his return from Paris at the end of 1876 and probably earlier. He was Glasgow correspondent of the Architectural Publication Society's Dictionary from about 1860, perhaps through connections formed by his brother. He is known to have travelled and sketched in Germany, France and Italy but dates are lacking. His visits to Germany probably related to the education of his son George who studied at Heidelberg in the mid-1870s, while those in France certainly related to his son John James's education at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts from 1871 onwards.

Burnet was elected FRIBA on 4 December 1876, his proposers being John Honeyman, John Macvicar Anderson and Wyatt Papworth, editor of the Architectural Publication Society's Dictionary, but within a year his active role as an architect came to an end with the return of his son John James from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts: Henry Edward Clifford may have had a significant role even earlier, as may Burnet's nephew William Landless. In 1886 John Archibald Campbell, also returned from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, became a partner and c.1889 the elder Burnet went into semi-retirement at the age of seventy-five. Outwith the office his interests were sketching and fishing. He died in Glasgow on 15 January 1901, leaving moveable estate of 3,210 5s 2d. He was predeceased by his eldest son George Wardlaw Burnet, Sheriff Substitute of Aberdeen who died as a result of the collapse of his bamboo bicycle; by his second son Lindsay Burnet, who was a mechanical engineer; and by his daughter Elizabeth. Only John James and Margaret (Mrs John Edwards) survived him.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 12ScotlandBusiness   
Item 2 of 12107, Buchanan Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness18441845 
Item 3 of 1250, Renfield Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness18511853 
Item 4 of 12Ashton Vale/152, Buccleuch Street, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate18541857 
Item 5 of 12113, West Regent Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness1856 *  
Item 6 of 1297, West Regent Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness18601864And perhaps after
Item 7 of 12105, St Vincent Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness1865  
Item 8 of 129, Sandyford Place, Sauchiehall Streetet, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate18651867 
Item 9 of 1214, Victoria Crescent, Dowanhill, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate18671878 
Item 10 of 12180, St Vincent Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness18681876no 150 according to PO directories and left in 1874 not 1876
Item 11 of 12167, St Vincent Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness18761886(?)accordng to PO directories began here 1874
Item 12 of 12St Kilda, Victoria Circus, Dowanhill, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate18791901 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

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 2John Burnet & Son188213 August 1886Partner 
Item 2 of 2Burnet Son & Campbell13 August 18861897Partner 

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 15William Landless  Apprentice 
Item 2 of 15William Cadell Burnet (or William Caddel Burnet)c. 1843(?)c. 1848ApprenticeUncertain whether William was apprenticed to his brother John, but seems likely
Item 3 of 15William Cadell Burnet (or William Caddel Burnet)c. 1848Before 1865AssistantUncertain whether William assisted his brother John, but seems likely
Item 4 of 15Alexander FraserMid 185MMid 1850sAssistant 
Item 5 of 15Henry Edward CliffordOctober 1867c. October 1872Apprentice 
Item 6 of 15William Fergusonc. 1871c. 1874Apprentice 
Item 7 of 15John McLean (or Maclean) Crawford1872c. 1876Apprentice 
Item 8 of 15Henry Edward Cliffordc. October 18721878Draughtsman 
Item 9 of 15George Burnet1875 * Assistant 
Item 10 of 15John Bennie Wilson18751879Assistant 
Item 11 of 15Charles Ramsay Gilchrist18751880Apprentice 
Item 12 of 15John Archibald Campbell18771880Apprentice 
Item 13 of 15(Sir) John James Burnet18771882AssistantEffective designer
Item 14 of 15Horace Field1877 or c. 1878c. 1879ApprenticeUnder John James Burnet
Item 15 of 15William Stirling IVApril 1879 Apprentice 

* earliest date known from documented sources.


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3John Macvicar Anderson4 December 1876for Fellowship
Item 2 of 3John Honeyman4 December 1876for Fellowship
Item 3 of 3Wyatt Angelicus van Sandau Papworth4 December 1876for Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 12(Sir) John James Burnet3 January 1881for Associateship
Item 2 of 12Campbell Douglas9 June 1879for Fellowship
Item 3 of 12Charles George Hood Kinnear8 June 1891for Fellowship
Item 4 of 12James Lindsay3 January 1881for Associateship
Item 5 of 12John Andrew MacAra13 January 1890for Associateship
Item 6 of 12Alexander Nisbet Paterson3 March 1890for Associateship
Item 7 of 12John Rogerson13 January 1890for Associateship
Item 8 of 12David Thomson17 December 1877for Fellowship
Item 9 of 12James Anderson Williamson9 June 1884for Associateship
Item 10 of 12John Bennie Wilson20 March 1882for Associateship
Item 11 of 12William Gilmour Wilson3 January 1881for Associateship
Item 12 of 12George Penrose Kennedy Young8 June 1885for 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 113 House for John and William Baxter  DundeeScotlandDate unknown
Item 2 of 1131844Alloa Free ChurchAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 3 of 1131844Clackmannan Free ChurchClackmannan ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 4 of 1131844Shandon Free Church and SchoolShandon DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 5 of 113c. 1845Fitzroy Place, Sauchiehall Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 6 of 113Before 1847Hoghill (perhaps Haghill) House  GlasgowScotland 
Item 7 of 113Before 1847Old Botanic Gardens  GlasgowScotland 
Item 8 of 113c. 1848New Jerusalem Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 9 of 113c. 1849Milton Free Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 10 of 1131850Ward Congregational Chapel  DundeeScotlandPulpit
Item 11 of 113c. 1850244-50 Bath Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 12 of 113c. 1850Tenement block, east corner Sauchiehall Street and North Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 13 of 1131853Unitarian Church  GlasgowScotlandCompetition designs - not successful
Item 14 of 1131854Congregational Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 15 of 1131854Middleton's Building, 61-67 Miller Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 16 of 1131855Berkeley Street UP Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 17 of 113c. 1855(?)Warehouse, India Street  GlasgowScotlandDate not known, but probably c.1855
Item 18 of 1131856Elgin Place Congregational Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 19 of 1131856EU Congregational Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 20 of 1131856Finnieston Street Free Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 21 of 1131856Madeira Court, north east corner Argyle Street and Oswald Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 22 of 1131857Bank of Scotland BranchLauriston GlasgowScotland 
Item 23 of 1131858Alexander's School  GlasgowScotland 
Item 24 of 1131858The CairnsCambuslang LanarkshireScotland 
Item 25 of 1131859Bank of Scotland, Kelso BranchKelso RoxburghshireScotland 
Item 26 of 1131859House, Bath Street between Holland Street and Elgin Place  GlasgowScotland 
Item 27 of 1131860Seamen's ChapelBroomielaw GlasgowScotland 
Item 28 of 1131861Bank of Scotland, Strathaven BranchStrathaven LanarkshireScotland 
Item 29 of 1131861Union BankHelensburgh DunbartonshireScotlandAttribution by 'Buildings of Scotland'
Item 30 of 1131861Union Bank of Scotland, Hamilton BranchHamilton LanarkshireScotland 
Item 31 of 1131862Newfield House  AyrshireScotlandNew build? Remodelling?
Item 32 of 1131862Rawcliffe House  GlasgowScotland 
Item 33 of 1131863Premises for Henry Monteith & Co  GlasgowScotland 
Item 34 of 1131864Auchendennan HouseArden DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 35 of 1131864Wardlaw Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 36 of 1131864Western Infirmary  GlasgowScotland 
Item 37 of 1131865Glasgow Savings Bank Headquarters  GlasgowScotland 
Item 38 of 1131865Kilmahew HouseCardross (near) DunbartonshireScotlandAlso south lodge
Item 39 of 1131866Eglinton Street Congregational Church  GlasgowScotlandOriginal building
Item 40 of 1131866Govan Burgh BuildingsGovan GlasgowScotland 
Item 41 of 1131867Arden HouseLoch Lomond ArgyllScotland 
Item 42 of 1131867Clydesdale Bank  GlasgowScotland 
Item 43 of 1131867Dollar Academy, Playfair blockDollar ClackmannanshireScotlandAdditions - including assembly hall
Item 44 of 1131867Glasgow Academy  GlasgowScotlandAddition
Item 45 of 1131867Kildalton House IslayArgyllScotland 
Item 46 of 1131868Scottish Widows Fund and Life Assurance and Junior Conservative Club  GlasgowScotlandFirst scheme for Junior Conservative Club - displaced by Bryce.
Item 47 of 11318698 Park Circus Place  GlasgowScotland 
Item 48 of 1131869Longrow UP ChurchCampbeltown ArgyllScotland 
Item 49 of 1131870Clydesdale Bank Headquarters, St Vincent Place  GlasgowScotlandWon competition to secure job.
Item 50 of 113c. 1870ArdshielCampbeltown ArgyllScotland 
Item 51 of 113c. 1870Newfield House  AyrshireScotlandRemodelling
Item 52 of 113c. 1870Rowardennan LodgeRowardennan, Loch Lomond StirlingshireScotland 
Item 53 of 113c. 1870University of Glasgow, gate lodges  GlasgowScotland 
Item 54 of 1131871Arlington Baths Club  GlasgowScotland 
Item 55 of 1131871Cardross Free ChurchCardross DunbartonshireScotlandNew church
Item 56 of 1131871House of Assembly   Isle of ManCompetition design?
Item 57 of 1131871Union Bank, St Vincent Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 58 of 1131872Glasgow Eye Infirmary  GlasgowScotland 
Item 59 of 1131872Glasgow University, gymnasium  GlasgowScotland 
Item 60 of 1131873CarfinMotherwell LanarkshireScotland 
Item 61 of 1131873Glasgow Cathedral Graveyard, George Baillie Monument  GlasgowScotland 
Item 62 of 1131873Killean HouseTayinloan ArgyllScotlandAdditions
Item 63 of 1131874Balmaghie House  KirkcudbrightshireScotlandWith John James Burnet as junior partner
Item 64 of 1131874Montgomerie Crescent  GlasgowScotland 
Item 65 of 1131874Rawcliffe House  GlasgowScotlandMajor enlargement
Item 66 of 1131874Woodlands UP Church  GlasgowScotlandActed as assessor for limited competition: instructed to design the building himself.
Item 67 of 1131875Glasgow Stock Exchange  GlasgowScotland 
Item 68 of 1131875Grand Hotel  GlasgowScotlandDesign only
Item 69 of 1131875Killean House (new)Tayinloan ArgyllScotlandNew house built following fire in old one
Item 70 of 1131875The CairnsCambuslang LanarkshireScotlandProbably further work
Item 71 of 1131875The Merchants' House  GlasgowScotlandCompetition design
Item 72 of 1131876Glasgow Savings BankBridgeton Cross GlasgowScotland 
Item 73 of 1131876Govan Old Parish ChurchGovan GlasgowScotlandProposed improvements - not carried out - superseded by Rowand Anderson
Item 74 of 1131876Hutcheson's Boys' School  GlasgowScotlandAdditions
Item 75 of 1131876Overnewton School  GlasgowScotland 
Item 76 of 1131876Union Bank  GlasgowScotlandRefronted by John Burnet Senior. (J & G Mossman were the sculptors). Columns reused at Royal Princess's Theatre.
Item 77 of 113Before 1876Kierallon House IslayArgyllScotland 
Item 78 of 113c. 1876St Kilda  GlasgowScotland 
Item 79 of 1131877Caledonain Railway administrative offices  GlasgowScotlandConsulted and may have produced sketch scheme
Item 80 of 1131877National Bank of Scotland, Proposed Trongate Branch  GlasgowScotland 
Item 81 of 1131877New Edinburgh Theatre  EdinburghScotlandAlterations to form Synod Hall - jointly with Peddie and Kinnear
Item 82 of 1131877Queen's Dock, Hydraulic Pumping Station  GlasgowScotlandAttributed by DMW to Burnet as he was architect to Clyde Navigation Trust
Item 83 of 1131877Westbank QuadrantKelvinside GlasgowScotlandEast and central blocks
Item 84 of 1131878Design for a provincial Hotel de Ville     
Item 85 of 1131878Henderson Memorial Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 86 of 1131878Institute of Fine Arts  GlasgowScotlandWon competition and appointed for job - with his son as junior partner
Item 87 of 1131878Kilcalmonell Free ChurchKilcalmonell ArgyllScotlandAttribution by 'Buildings of Scotland'
Item 88 of 1131879Episcopal ChurchWemyss Bay RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 89 of 1131880Glasgow Municipal Buildings  GlasgowScotlandFirst competition and second competition designs - with John James as junior partner
Item 90 of 113c. 18801-11 Great Western Terrace  GlasgowScotlandAs senior partner - completed westmost houses of terrace - adhering to Thomson's design for the elevations but changing the rear.
Item 91 of 113188180 Oakfield Terrace  GlasgowScotlandAdditions to no 80 - with his son, prior to partnership
Item 92 of 1131881Deanston HouseDoune PerthshireScotlandWith John James Burnet as junior partner
Item 93 of 1131881Denny UP ChurchDenny StirlingshireScotlandWith John James Burnet as junior partner
Item 94 of 1131882Cameron House, south lodge  DunbartonshireScotlandWith John James Burnet as junior partner
Item 95 of 1131882Clyde Navigation Trust Building  GlasgowScotland 
Item 96 of 1131882Deanston House, gate lodgeDoune PerthshireScotlandWith John James Burnet as junior partner
Item 97 of 1131882Drumsheugh Baths  EdinburghScotland 
Item 98 of 1131882Sauchfield Terrace and Crescent  GlasgowScotland 
Item 99 of 1131883BellfieldDumbarton DunbartonshireScotlandReinstatement after fire
Item 100 of 1131884KilneissMoniaive DumfriesshireScotlandMajor reconstruction and addition of studio
Item 101 of 1131885Birmingham Law Courts  BirminghamEnglandCompetition design - reached 2nd tier but unplaced
Item 102 of 1131885Coats Memorial Baptist ChurchPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandCompetition design - unplaced
Item 103 of 1131885Edinbarnet  DunbartonshireScotlandHouse and conservatories
Item 104 of 1131885Edinburgh International Exhibition of Industry, Science and Art, 1886  EdinburghScotlandWon competition and secured job with C C Lindsay engineer
Item 105 of 1131885Edinburgh International Exhibition, manager's house  EdinburghScotland 
Item 106 of 1131885Hartwood AsylumShotts LanarkshireScotlandCompetition design, selected but not successful
Item 107 of 1131885Newark Free Church and hallPort Glasgow RenfrewshireScotlandWon competition and secured job
Item 108 of 1131885Schoolwell Street ManseStevenston AyrshireScotlandAdditions
Item 109 of 1131885St Andrews Free Church  EdinburghScotlandCompetition design - unsuccessful
Item 110 of 1131885University of Glasgow Students' Union  GlasgowScotland 
Item 111 of 1131885Wellington UP Church  GlasgowScotlandUnsuccessful competition design exhibited
Item 112 of 1131892Aerated Water Factory, 65 East King StreetHelensburgh DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 113 of 1131896Glasgow School of Art  GlasgowScotlandUnsuccessful competition design


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 3Glasgow Contemporaries1901Glasgow Contemporaries at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century  p213
Item 2 of 3Irving, Joseph1881The Book of Scotsmen   
Item 3 of 3Walker, Frank Arneil1986South Clyde Estuary: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to Inverclyde and Renfrew  p112, p145

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 8British Architect18 January 1901  p40
Item 2 of 8British Architect25 January 1901  p55 and p69 additional notes
Item 3 of 8Builder26 January 1901  pp108, 111, 119
Item 4 of 8Builder2 February 1901  p111 (from Glasgow Herald)
Item 5 of 8Building News16 May 1890  Portrait and biographical detials
Item 6 of 8Building News25 January 1901  p121
Item 7 of 8Quiz20 July 1893  p186
Item 8 of 8The Bailie12 August 1876  Or may be 12 April 1876 (uncertain)

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers F v5 p59, microfiche 89/B1


© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue  

© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue

© All rights reserved. Building News 16 May 1890 

© All rights reserved. Building News 16 May 1890