Basic Biographical Details

Name: Vernon Constable
Designation: Architect
Born: 1884
Died: August 1930
Bio Notes: Vernon Constable was born at Coupar Angus in 1884 and articled to James Salmon & Son in Glasgow from 15 June 1900 to 1904, remaining as an assistant until May 1906. During that period he studied at the Glasgow School of Art (1900 and 1901) and Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College under Eugène Bourdon, Alexander McGibbon and Charles Gourlay. He spent five months in Italy in 1906 and the same year joined the office of Mitchell & Whitelaw as a draughtsman, perhaps attracted by Whitelaw's Beaux-Arts credentials. He was still in their employment when he passed the qualifying exam in London in November 1907. At the same time, he was engaged as an instructor in the Design in Construction evening class at the Technical College. He was admitted ARIBA on 2 March 1908, his proposers being William Forrest Salmon, William Leiper and Thomas Lennox Watson.

In September 1914 Constable was recruited by James Thomson, City Engineer and City Architect of Dundee to complete the Caird Hall, the foundation stone of which had been laid in that year, a project which had to be substantially redesigned after Sir James Caird's daughter Mrs Marryat required a substantial enrichment of the original scheme and provided the funds for it. Soon after his appointment he was called up for war service, but he returned in 1919 and redesigned the main elevation with a Doric colonnade He also designed most of the interior work. He was described by Robert Dron as 'a great man for French books' with a 'trunk full of French folios and engravings'. These he had next to him when drawing out the Caird Hall details.

In September 1921 the posts of City Engineer and City Architect were separated and Constable became James Thomson's chief assistant architect in the City Architect and Director of Housing Department. In parallel with his work there, Constable assisted William Bruce Dickie Keith's practice and became a part-time lecturer in architecture at Dundee Technical College. He set about re-organising the courses there, securing the institution of a five year part-time course leading to exemption from the RIBA intermediate examination in 1929; his standing with the institute had been enhanced by winning its Silver Medal for an essay entitled 'A Descriptive Study of the First Principles of Architecture.' Outside work Constable chief interest was his membership of the small but long-established society in Dundee named The Symposium.

In 1924 the City had made Constable redundant and he had to set up practice on his own: he had no clients apart from the Masonic Lodge in Tay Street and he eked out his salary as a part-time lecturer by taking in work from other practices, principally Keith's and Lowe & Barrie's. He secured a full-time teaching appointment in Leeds in 1929, but his wife declined to join him there. In August 1930 after what seems to have been an unsuccessful return visit to Dundee to persuade her to change her mind, he threw himself in front of an oncoming train from Ninewells Bridge.

One of Constable chief interests outside work was his membership of the small but long-established society in Dundee named The Symposium.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 3210, Hillhouse Gardens, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate1900 *  
Item 2 of 3Ferndene Cottage/38, Cornhill Street, Springburn, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivateBefore 1908After 1920 
Item 3 of 3Logie, Dundee, ScotlandPrivate19191930 

* 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 7James Salmon & Son15 June 1900November 1903Apprentice 
Item 2 of 7Salmon, Son & GillespieNovember 19031904Apprentice 
Item 3 of 7Salmon, Son & Gillespie1904May 1906Assistant 
Item 4 of 7Mitchell & Whitelawc. October 1906September 1914Assistant 
Item 5 of 7Dundee Burgh Engineer's Office/Dundee City Engineer's OfficeSeptember 1914September 1921AssistantWorking under James Thomson; except period on war service
Item 6 of 7James ThomsonSeptember 19141924AssistantIn Dundee Burgh Engineer's Office; except period on war service
Item 7 of 7Dundee City Architect and Director of Housing DepartmentSeptember 1921Before May 1924Chief Assistant 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3William Leiper2 March 1908for Associateship
Item 2 of 3William Forrest Salmon2 March 1908for Associateship
Item 3 of 3Thomas Lennox Watson2 March 1908for Associateship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 2John Glen Dunn20 July 1911for Licentiateship
Item 2 of 2Alexander Thomson Heathcote20 March 1911for Licentiateship

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 91911The Victoria Road Calender  DundeeScotlandNew doorway, marble staircase and office suite - designed for Lowe & Barrie
Item 2 of 91914Caird Hall  DundeeScotlandAssisted James Thomson, City Architect/Engineer
Item 3 of 91915St Joseph's RC School  DundeeScotlandSecond premiated design
Item 4 of 91919Logie Housing Scheme  DundeeScotlandDesigned, as assistant to James Thomson, Dundee City Architect/Engineer; took a flat in the scheme himself
Item 5 of 91921ClaremontWest Ferry DundeeScotlandAddition of pavilions, dormer and billiard room (further additions planned but not executed) - Constable mainly responsible, although William Bruce Dickie Keith was nominally in charge
Item 6 of 91921Claremont Lodge and gatesWest Ferry DundeeScotlandMainly responsible, although William Bruce Dickie Keith was nominally in charge
Item 7 of 91925Cottage for W M Dick, Cambridge Street  DundeeScotland 
Item 8 of 9c. 1929Albert Masonic HallLochee DundeeScotlandDesigned building, for Lowe & Barrie
Item 9 of 9c. 1929Masonic Hall  DundeeScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 2Frew, John1992James McLellan Brown Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, '100 Years of Town Planning in Dundee', pp16-22pp16-17
Item 2 of 2Walker, Bruce and Gauldie, W Sinclair1984Architects and Architecture on Tayside Dundee: Dundee Institute of Architectsp185

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 2Builder15 August 1930  Obituary
Item 2 of 2RIBA Journal6 December 1930 London: Royal Institute of British Architectsp89 Obituary

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Personal information from the late Robert Dron, Frank Thomson, William Lyall and Sinclair Gauldie: Dr John Frew's notes of interviews with Robert Dron (1 July 1991 and 28 September 1992) and Sinclair Gauldie (October 1992); research by Iain Paterson (NB: birth record at Reg Dist 279, entry 22).
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers A v17 p142 (microfilm reel 19)