Basic Biographical Details

Name: Campbell Douglas & Sellars
Designation: Architectural practice
Started: 1871 or 1872
Ended: Late 1888 or early 1889
Bio Notes: Campbell Douglas's practice before 1870 had been chielfly occupied with churches and houses, but in the early 1870s moved into an altogether different league of major commercial projects and public buildings. Douglas's phenomenal success in this field was made possible by the energy and ability of James Sellars, whom he took into partnership from March 1872, if not earlier.

James Sellars was born in the Gorbals on 2 December 1843, the son of a house-factor of the same name. Lindsay Miller, writing in 1888, records that he was articled to Hugh Barclay at the age of 13 in 1857. He remained there until 1864 when he joined the office of James Hamilton who had a significant practice in Belfast as well as in Glasgow, and remained there for three years, marrying his first wife, Mary Campbell, in 1866. Thereafter we read of him pursuing the humdrum life of an assistant in several offices until he joined Campbell Douglas's office in 1870. He earned his partnership by winning the first competition for the Stewart Memorial out of fifty designs submitted in 1870, and 'awoke to find himself famous': and when the result was quashed and the competition re-advertised at half the original outlay he drew even greater attention to himself by winning that competition also on 31 January 1871. In that year he married his second wife, Jeanie Moodie, and he was admitted to the Glasgow Institute of Architects in March 1872, his certificate being signed by Alexander Thomson and John Baird, and in the autumn he took a brief sketching holiday in Paris and Normandy, which he put to good use later. This visit probably related to the presence in the office from 1871 of Charles Alfred Chastel de Boinville, a pupil of A Guyot and an ex-assistant of Geoffroy of Cherbourg who had sought employment in Glasgow in the wake of the Franco-Prussian war. As Chastel de Boinville returned to Paris in 1872 it is possible that Sellars travelled with him. Sellars went abroad only twice: as Lindsay Miller observed 'when young he had not the means, when able no time.'

What Chastel de Boinville specifically contributed to the work of the practice in the year or so he spent with it is difficult to establish now, though it is possible that he had some hand in the spectacular French Gothic spire of the Queen's Park Church; but his presence coincided with a radical change in the stylistic direction of the practice in 1871-73. The Scottish Amicable building and the Claremont Street Wesleyan Church had cinquecento detailing, but at St Andrews Halls a monumental neo Greek was adopted. Superficially the design had much in common with Alexander Thomson's work in its uncompromisingly rectangular shapes and banded masonry but it also had an even more direct relationship to the post-Schinkel Berlin School, while much of the smaller detail was markedly French Beaux-Arts, a tendency still more markedly seen at Finneston Church and the Queen Insurance Building of 1877-80. Parallel developments were to be seen in the work of Hugh and David Barclay with whom Sellars retained close links, and it may be that they were the other Glasgow practice Chastel de Boinville assisted in 1871-72, although Leiper's French Beaux-Arts Partick Burgh hall suggests him as an equally likely candidate.

These developments in the Campbell Douglas & Sellars and Barclay practices ran counter to those elsewhere in Britain, their only parallels being John Honeyman's library and museum in Paisley of 1868 and James Hibbert's Harris Library and Museum at Preston of 1882, and probably it was the esteem in which Thomson was held in Glasgow which made them possible. Also directly related to Sellars's acquaintance with Chastel de Boinville was the French-roofed New Club and his unexecuted design for rebuilding the Trades House of Glasgow which were wholly of French Second empire inspiration and closer in style to London buildings of the same date. The designs submitted in the two Glasgow Municipal Buildings Competitions of 1880-81 were similarly a fairly pure French Beaux-Arts, Sellars's tendencies in that direction probably having been encouraged by the success of the Burnet practice following J J Burnet's return from Paris late in 1877. More individual, though still with French-inspired details, were the Glasgow Herald Building and the giant City of Glasgow Bank buildings of 1878-80 where giant Corinthian orders were combined with pedimented attic features of which were probably of J J Stevenson - E R Robson inspiration. Throughout this period Douglas's design role is unclear, though he probably determined the general direction of the practice while acknowledging that the elevations were the product of Sellars's 'fertile brain and facile pencil', A N Paterson observed that at least in the earlier years of the partnership the drawings bore many annotations in Campbell Douglas's handwriting.

Douglas's practice took a further step in a Beaux-Arts direction when John Keppie, a draughtsman who worked closely with Sellars was encouraged to attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Born in 1862, the son of James Keppie a wealthy tobacco importer with houses in Hillhead and Prestwick, Keppie was educated at Ayr Academy. He was articled to Campbell Douglas & Sellars c. 1880 and, unusually, attended classes at the University of Glasgow as well as at Glasgow School of Art. His dossier at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts is missing but he appears to have joined the Atelier Jean Louis Pascal in 1885 and remained there until at least the autumn of 1886 when he travelled in Northern Italy. He was a fine watercolourist and had remarkable success in the Tite prize competitions, winning its silver medals in that year and again in 1887. He returned from Paris to the Campbell Douglas & Sellars office without completing the course in order to assist Sellars with the firm's entry for the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1888, the competition for which had been advertised in January 1887 and was won on 31 March 1887 with a weather boarded design with galvanised metal domes in a Moorish, probably basically French colonial, idiom.

In the 1880s Sellars became influenced by the work of Rowand Anderson, probably through Campbell Douglas & Sellars's continuing friendship with George Washington Browne. Interest in the early Renaissance work of Anderson and Browne showed first at the octagonal Free Abbey Church in Dunfermline in 1881 and progressed through Scots Renaissance and Scots Georgian influenced designs to the competition design for Renfrew County Buildings, close in design to Anderson's Edinburgh Medical School, and Anderson's College of Medicine in Glasgow which mixed Early Italian Renaissance and later Scots seventeenth-century motifs, both of 1888.

Sellars's death was a direct consequence of the Glasgow International Exhibition. Campbell Douglas took severely ill and was unable to come downstairs to the office for months. James Barr, Sellars's civil engineer co adjutor recorded that 'twenty-two hours' arduous and unremitting toil was no unusual event'. At the exhibition site a rusty nail pierced his boot causing an injury that failed to clear up and was neglected from want of time. He saw the exhibition through to the opening on 8 May and was offered a knighthood which he declined, probably out of deference to his senior partner, observing that 'he couldn't live up to it': Sellars had in fact always adopted a lower profile than his senior partner, preferring not to become a Fellow of the RIBA along with Douglas when the latter was admitted on 9 June 1879, his proposers being the elder Burnet, Charles Barry Junior and his old colleague R J Johnson. The final accounts occupied Sellars for the whole of the summer and were a struggle against failing health, which a holiday in the West Highlands was too late to improve. He died of blood poisoning at his house, 9 Montgomerie Crescent on 9 October and was buried on the 11th at Lambhill where a very Greek memorial by Keppie marked his grave. A portrait of him by Georgina M Greenlees is in the Glasgow Art Gallery collection.

Sellars's interests were not limited to the practice. He designed a great deal of cast iron work for Macfarlane's Saracen Ironworks, and was secretary of the Architectural Section of the Glasgow Philosophical Society and, along with Honeyman, took a particular interest in the housing of the working classes and the poor, an interest which probably resulted in his several commissions for welfare buildings: he was also at various times Deacon of the Wrights, President of the Glasgow Institute of Architects and a liner in the Dean of Guild Court. Keppie described him as having a 'quaint repartee' something of which was to be seen in the fifty-seven pages of doggerel verse he delivered as the annual report of the 'Hoolecanae' an obscure order of owls of which he was chancellor.

After Sellars's death Campbell Douglas took his chief assistant Alexander B Morrison into partnership as Campbell Douglas & Morrison, but after a few significant competition wins Douglas's practice gradually declined.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architectural practice:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 1266, St Vincent Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusinessAfter 1873Before 1906 

Employment and Training

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architectural practice (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 25Charles Alfred Chastel de Boinville18711872Partner 
Item 2 of 25Campbell Douglas1871Late 1888 or early 1889Senior Partner 
Item 3 of 25William MillarAfter 1871 Assistant 
Item 4 of 25James Sellars1871 or 18721888Partner 
Item 5 of 25George Washington Browne18731875Assistant(?) 
Item 6 of 25James Marjoribanks MacLaren18731875Assistant(?) 
Item 7 of 25William Fergusonc. 1874c. 1882Assistant 
Item 8 of 25James Garden Laing1875c. 1878Assistant 
Item 9 of 25William Flockhart18761877Assistant 
Item 10 of 25William Harvey Ross18761888Principal Assistant 
Item 11 of 25Francis William Troup18771882Apprentice 
Item 12 of 25Alexander McGibbonc. 1880(?)Before 1882Assistant 
Item 13 of 25John Keppiec. 18801885Apprentice 
Item 14 of 25Andrew BalfourAfter 18821886Assistant 
Item 15 of 25John Smith MurdochAfter 1883(?)Before 1886Assistant 
Item 16 of 25Henry Mitchell1884Late 1888 or early 1889Apprentice 
Item 17 of 25William Tait Conner4 February 18844 February 1889Apprentice 
Item 18 of 25George Watt18851887Assistant 
Item 19 of 25George McKenzie1886 Apprentice 
Item 20 of 25Charles Edward Whitelaw1887Late 1888 or early 1889Apprentice 
Item 21 of 25Eric Alexander SutherlandSeptember 1887Late 1888 or early 1889Apprentice 
Item 22 of 25Robert Yates Mayor18881888Assistant 
Item 23 of 25John Keppie1888Late 1888 or early 1889Chief Assistant 
Item 24 of 25Alexander Barr MorrisonBefore 1888c. 1889Senior Draughtsman 
Item 25 of 25William Lochhead DyerLate 1880sEarly 1890sApprentice 

Buildings and Designs

This architectural practice 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 781868(?)Mossbank Industrial SchoolHogganfield GlasgowScotland 
Item 2 of 781871Burnbank UP Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 3 of 781871Stables and workshops  GlasgowScotlandBegun by Campbell Douglas alone; completed in partnership with Sellars
Item 4 of 781871Stewart Memorial fountain for Wellington ParkKelvingrove GlasgowScotlandWon in competition
Item 5 of 78After 1871Langholm Cottage HospitalLangholm DumfriesshireScotlandDate not known
Item 6 of 78c. 1871Claremont Street Wesleyan Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 7 of 781872City of Glasgow Assurance Company Headquarters  GlasgowScotlandUnsuccesful competiton design
Item 8 of 781872Cowcaddens Free ChurchCowcaddens GlasgowScotland 
Item 9 of 781872Dysart Free ChurchDysart FifeScotland 
Item 10 of 781872Glasgow Public Halls  GlasgowScotlandCunningham of Liverpool took the design to sketch-plan stage; the degree to which his scheme influenced the final design is not known, but Campbell Douglas was his 'associate' from the beginning
Item 11 of 781872Keil HouseCampbeltown ArgyllScotlandRemodelling and large extension
Item 12 of 781872Queen's Park Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 13 of 781872Scottish Amicable Building  GlasgowScotlandBegun by Campbell Douglas alone, completed by Campbell Douglas & Sellars
Item 14 of 781873Free ChurchNeilston Renfrewshire  
Item 15 of 781873St Enoch's Free ChurchPartick GlasgowScotlandWon competition and secured job
Item 16 of 781874Bank of Scotland Buildings  GlasgowScotland 
Item 17 of 781874Lenzie UP ChurchLenzie Dunbartonshire/LanarkshireScotlandGothic design - executed
Item 18 of 781874Scotia Music Hall, tenement and shops  GlasgowScotlandRebuilding of Black's theatre, 15,000. Known then as the Scotia Variety Theatre, and tenement added in front.
Item 19 of 781875Cupar Free ChurchCupar FifeScotlandWon competition to secure job
Item 20 of 781875NetherhallLargs AyrshireScotland 
Item 21 of 781875The Merchants' House  GlasgowScotlandUnsuccessful competition design
Item 22 of 781875Wellington Place Baptist Church  GlasgowScotlandCompetition design - not successful
Item 23 of 78After 1875Belhaven Mission  GlasgowScotland 
Item 24 of 781876Alloway Parish ChurchAlloway AyrshireScotlandS transept
Item 25 of 781876Blackfriars Park ChurchWester Craigs GlasgowScotland 
Item 26 of 781876Hillhead Established ChurchHillhead GlasgowScotlandWon in limited competition, Sellars was appointed but requested to produce a revised scheme based on Leiper's entry
Item 27 of 78After 1876ChurchKamesburgh / Port BannatyneButeButeScotland 
Item 28 of 781876 or 1877Kirkcaldy Free ChurchKirkcaldy FifeScotlandUnsuccessful competition entry
Item 29 of 781877Ayr Town HallAyr AyrshireScotlandExtension to High Street, and alterations - placed third in competition but secured job
Item 30 of 781877Belhaven UP ChurchDowanhill GlasgowScotlandWon competition to secure job
Item 31 of 781877Kelvinside AcademyKelvinside GlasgowScotland 
Item 32 of 78June 1877Trades House  GlasgowScotlandPlans for new building submitted for invited competition; subsequently abandoned after failure to reach a decision
Item 33 of 781877 or c. 1878Tower Building  GlasgowScotland 
Item 34 of 781878City of Glasgow Bank  GlasgowScotland 
Item 35 of 781878Finnieston Free ChurchKelvingrove GlasgowScotland 
Item 36 of 781878Her Majesty's Theatre, Gorbals StreetGorbals GlasgowScotland 
Item 37 of 78c. 1878Milton Street SchoolCowcaddens GlasgowScotland 
Item 38 of 78c. 1878Queen Insurance Building  GlasgowScotland 
Item 39 of 781879Anderston Free ChurchHillhead GlasgowScotland 
Item 40 of 781879Craigs HouseCarmunnock GlasgowScotland 
Item 41 of 781879Glasgow Herald Building  GlasgowScotlandExtensive rebuilding, remodelling back (Buchanan Street)
Item 42 of 781879Glasgow Medical Mission, CaltonCalton GlasgowScotland 
Item 43 of 781879Helensburgh Free ChurchHelensburgh DunbartonshireScotlandSession House
Item 44 of 781879New Club  GlasgowScotlandWon competition to secure job
Item 45 of 781880Wylie and Lochhead's FactoryCharing Cross GlasgowScotland 
Item 46 of 78c. 1880Mission Hospital  SafedSyria 
Item 47 of 781881Free Abbey ChurchDunfermline FifeScotland 
Item 48 of 781881Sick Children's HospitalGarnethill GlasgowScotlandReconstruction of former mansion to form children's hospital
Item 49 of 781881Spiers InstitutionCowdenbeath FifeScotlandDesign exhibited - unclear whether executed
Item 50 of 781881Woodside Parish ChurchWoodside GlasgowScotlandCompetition design - not successful
Item 51 of 781882Pathhead Public HallPathhead, Kirkcaldy FifeScotland 
Item 52 of 781882Sick Children's Dispensary  GlasgowScotlandWon competition and secured job - Sellars responsible
Item 53 of 781882Trades House  GlasgowScotlandWon second competition and secured job for new building on Virginia Street site at rear
Item 54 of 781882Victoria InfirmaryLangside GlasgowScotlandWon competition - building of first part - admin block and first pavilions
Item 55 of 781883'A Glasgow Board School'  GlasgowScotlandSketch design
Item 56 of 781883Lochgoilhead Free ChurchLochgoilhead ArgyllScotland 
Item 57 of 781883Mugdock HouseMugdock StirlingshireScotlandMansion adjoining 14th-century tower
Item 58 of 781883Sinclairtown Town Hall and librarySinclairtown, Kirkcaldy FifeScotland 
Item 59 of 781883Wylie & Lochhead's  GlasgowScotlandTerra cotta portion
Item 60 of 781884Carnegie BathsDunfermline FifeScotlandAddition of galleries
Item 61 of 781884Glasgow Medical Mission, GorbalsGorbals GlasgowScotland 
Item 62 of 781885Dysart Town HallDysart FifeScotlandAdded to tolbooth of 1576
Item 63 of 781885Hartwood AsylumShotts LanarkshireScotlandCompetition design, selected but not successful
Item 64 of 781885Mission Hospital  TiberiasIsrael 
Item 65 of 781885Proudfoot InstituteMoffat DumfriesshireScotland 
Item 66 of 781886Business Premises, 137-139 Trongate  GlasgowScotland 
Item 67 of 781886Gilmerton Convalescent HomeGilmerton EdinburghScotland 
Item 68 of 781886Glasgow International Exhibition of 1888Kelvingrove GlasgowScotlandWon competition to secure job
Item 69 of 781886Ruthwell Parish ChurchRuthwell DumfriesshireScotlandAlterations and apse - to house Ruthwell Cross
Item 70 of 78c. 1886St Andrews Free Church  EdinburghScotlandWon competition and secured job
Item 71 of 781887Couper Institute and libraryCathcart GlasgowScotland 
Item 72 of 781887Speirs SchoolBeith AyrshireScotland 
Item 73 of 781887St Andrew's Scots ChurchBournemouth HampshireEngland 
Item 74 of 781888Anderson's College Medical SchoolKelvinhaugh GlasgowScotlandCommenced work, but John Keppie took over after Sellars's death
Item 75 of 781888Baptist ChurchGreenock RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 76 of 781888Hampstead Presbyterian ChurchHampstead LondonEngland 
Item 77 of 781888Paisley County Buildings (Sheriff Court), Meeting Room and OfficesPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandUnsuccessful competition design published
Item 78 of 78Late 1800sHenderson Street ClockBridge of Allan StirlingshireScotland'probably' provided design


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architectural practice:
Item 1 of 2Walker, David M1967James Sellars, architect, Glasgow, 2nd December 1843 - 9 October 1888XI, no 2Scottish Art Reviewpp16-19
Item 2 of 2Walker, Frank Arneil1986South Clyde Estuary: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to Inverclyde and Renfrew  p47

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architectural practice:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 5Builder23 April 1910   
Item 2 of 5Building News7 March 1890   
Item 3 of 5Quiz6 July 1893   
Item 4 of 5RIBA Journal11 June 1910 London: Royal Institute of British ArchitectsObituary pp606-608
Item 5 of 5Scottish Art Review1888  Memoir of Sellars by Keppie

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architectural practice:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 3British Architectural Library, RIBARIBA Biographical Files  
Item 2 of 3RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Drawings Collection  
Item 3 of 3RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers F v5 p148, microfiche 93/C6 (no list of works)