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Basic Biographical Details

Name: John Begg
Designation: Architect
Born: 20 September 1866
Died: 23 February 1937
Bio Notes: John Begg was born at Bo'ness on 20 September 1866, the third son of John Begg, JP and ironmaster there. He claimed descent from the family of Robert Burns. Begg was educated at Edinburgh Academy from 1879 to 1883. He was articled to Hippolyte Jean Blanc from 1884 to 1889 and studied at Heriot-Watt and the Edinburgh School of Design. From there he gained a place in the offices of Alfred Waterhouse. He then became chief assistant to Sir Robert Edis (1891-95) at £3 per week and in the same capacity to Young & Hall (1895). While in London he studied at both the Architectural Association and The Royal Academy Schools (1890-92) and was President of the Architectural Association in 1896. There he won the Pugin Studentship in 1890 (as a result of which he spent time travelling in Northamptonshire), the Ashpitel Prize in 1891, was runner-up for the Soane Medallion in 1892. He was elected ARIBA on 8 June 1891 on passing the qualifying exam, his proposers being Alfred Waterhouse, John Macvicar Anderson and Richard Phené Spiers, head of the RA Schools, and was awarded RIBA's silver medal (essay) in 1894.

In his London years Begg became acquainted with Lorimer who commissioned presentation drawings from him, being the best draughtsman he knew, but the link with Lorimer was broken in 1896 when Begg was appointed architect to the Real Estate Corporation of South Africa; this appointment ended with the Boer unrest in 1899 and between that year and 1901 Begg was back in Edinburgh working for Lorimer at 2 shillings and sixpence an hour while his chief assistant J F Matthew was soldiering for 15 months in South Africa having been called up as a volunteer ('not a paying business … however it's a blessing to get hold of a chap that's any use').

In 1901 Begg was appointed consulting architect to the Government of Bombay where he became a J P and Presiding Magistrate in 1904, and appointed George Wittet of Elgin as his depute; and in 1907 he was appointed Consulting Architect to the Government of India in succession to James Ransome, who had broken the monopoly of the Royal Engineers and the Public Works engineers who trained for Indian Service at Cooper's Hill.

Begg was proficient in a variety of styles, some Indo-Saracenic in the late Victorian tradition of British India and some reflecting contemporary British architecture, particularly that of Lutyens. But admiration for Lutyens' architecture did not deter Begg from intriguing against the New Delhi Town Planning Committee appointed by Lord Hardinge as viceroy in March 1912 and against Lutyens and Lanchester in particular. Not unreasonably he set out the difficulties of engaging 'home architects' within the Indian Public Works system but was not given the role he requested as the Government of India took the view that he was already fully occupied. His disaffection resulted in him providing confidential material and reports of rumours to his brother-in-law, a parliamentary reporter, who in turn fed them to Joseph King, Liberal MP for Somerset North, who conducted a well-informed Commons campaign throughout 1912, culminating in a wide-ranging attack on the project on 20 December. Although he had been given a major role in the competition for the New Delhi secretariat, Hardinge excluded Begg from all further knowledge of the project in March 1913; a report in which Begg advocated an Indo-Saracenic idiom for New Delhi did not help matters.

Begg survived the events of 1912-13 when a lesser architect might have been asked to resign. But no honours came his way when his term of office in India ended in 1921. He returned to private practice in Edinburgh, briefly at 60 Castle Street and later at 23 Rutland Square, forming a partnership with Alexander Lorne Campbell whose previous partnership with John Nichol Scott had ended ion 1920 and in 1922 he became head of the architectural section of Edinburgh College of Art. In 1924 he suffered a critical RIBA report on the teaching at the School in 1924 and brought in Charles Denny Carus-Wilson. He held the post of Head of Architecture until his retirement in 1933; he was known to his students there as 'Old John'. He was also prominent in the affairs of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, overseeing the conversion of the house Rowand Anderson had bequeathed it at 15 Rutland Square and becoming its President in 1932, having previously served as President of the Edinburgh Architectural Association. Although his reputation was widley respected, his Scottish commissions were few.

Begg, who was known to his friends as Jack, died in Edinburgh on 23 February 1937 and was buried at Grange Cemetery. He had been predeceased by his wife, who had burned to death in a house from which firemen were unable to rescue her. They had two sons, one of whom, Kenneth Andrew Begg (born 1903), was also an architect (see separate entry).


Begg, John: 'Architecture in India'

Begg, John and Sanderson, Gordon: 'Types of modern buildings at Delhi, Agra,
Allahabad, Lucknow, Ajmer, Bhopad, Bikanir, Gwalior, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipor, with notes on the craftsmen employed on their design and execution, Allahabad', 1913

Begg, John: Annual reports on architectural work in India for the years 1906-1907, 1907-1908, 1908-1909, 1909-1910, 1910-1911, 1911-1912, 1912-1913, 1913-1914, 1914-1915, 1915-1916, Calcutta, Superintendent Government Printing India.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 547, Bernard Street, Russell Square, London, EnglandPrivate1891 *  
Item 2 of 5The Dell, Nepean Road, Malabar Hill, Bombay, IndiaPrivate1901 *  
Item 3 of 560, Castle Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness19211924Office of Begg & Lorne Campbell
Item 4 of 594, Inverleith Place, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate19211937Acquired from his elder brother for whom he had built it c.1895
Item 5 of 523, Rutland Square, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness19251937 

* 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 5Hippolyte Jean Blanc18841889Apprentice 
Item 2 of 5Alfred Waterhouse18891891Assistant 
Item 3 of 5(Sir) Robert William Edis18911895Chief Assistant 
Item 4 of 5K D Young & Hall18951895  
Item 5 of 5Begg & Lorne Campbell1920(?)c. 1924Partner 

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 4George Wittet19041907AssistantIn the Public Works Secretariat, Bombay
Item 2 of 4Thomas Oliphant FosterBefore 1914 AssistantAssistant Consulting Architect to the Government of India underJohn Begg
Item 3 of 4Archibald James Baxter19271933Chief Assistant 
Item 4 of 4William Gordon Dey19351935AssistantOccasional assistant


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 6John Macvicar Anderson8 June 1891for Associateship
Item 2 of 6Francis Thomas Baggallay (or Frank Thomas Baggallay)2 December 1901for Fellowship
Item 3 of 6Richard Phené Spiers8 June 1891for Associateship
Item 4 of 6Richard Phené Spiers2 December 1901for Fellowship
Item 5 of 6Alfred Waterhouse8 June 1891for Associateship
Item 6 of 6Aston Webb2 December 1901for Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 98James Moffatt Aitken8 March 1937for Associateship
Item 2 of 98John Abercromby Arthur29 November 1926for Associateship
Item 3 of 98William Robert Ashcroft5 March 1934for Associateship
Item 4 of 98John Somerville Baillie6 April 1936for Associateship
Item 5 of 98David Gordon BannermanEarly 1933for Associateship
Item 6 of 98Archibald James BaxterEarly 1934for Associateship
Item 7 of 98Isobel Hogg Kerr BeattieMid 1931for Associateship
Item 8 of 98Kenneth Andrew Begg1929for Associateship
Item 9 of 98(Captain) Eric Sinclair Bell4 December 1933for Licentiateship
Item 10 of 98Edward Henry Anthony BlountEarly 1931for Licentiateship
Item 11 of 98Helen Mary Bryce4 December 1933for Associateship
Item 12 of 98William Theodore Percival Bryce1931 or 1932for Fellowship
Item 13 of 98Edith Mary Wardlaw Burnet Hughes (née Burnet)5 December 1927For Associateship, but was not ratified
Item 14 of 98Gilbert Laurie Cadell8 January 1934for Associateship
Item 15 of 98James Davidson Cairns1929for Fellowship
Item 16 of 98John Denoon CarnegieEarly 1932for Associateship
Item 17 of 98David CarrLate 1930for Associateship
Item 18 of 98George Arthur Cassells1930for Associateship
Item 19 of 98Frank James Connell2 December 1935for Associateship
Item 20 of 98Morton John Heddell CowieLate 1930 or early 1931for Associateship
Item 21 of 98Archibald Craig28 March 1927For Associateship
Item 22 of 98David Maxtone Craig8 March 1937for Associateship
Item 23 of 98William Davidson14 June 1926for Fellowship
Item 24 of 98William Gordon Dey2 December 1935for Associateship
Item 25 of 98John Ferguson Donaldson30 November 1936for Associateship
Item 26 of 98James Drummond5 December 1927For Associateship
Item 27 of 98Agnes Mary Drysdale (generally known as Mary Drysdale, later Mrs Freeman)9 February 1937for Associateship
Item 28 of 98John Forbes11 May 1936For Associateship
Item 29 of 98Colin Campbell Fraser9 February 1937for Associateship
Item 30 of 98John Strachan FraserEarly 1932for Associateship
Item 31 of 98James GalletlyEarly 1933for Associateship
Item 32 of 98Martin Gardner3 December 1942for Associateship
Item 33 of 98Alexander Esmé Gordon (or Esmé Gordon)2 December 1935for Associateship
Item 34 of 98Horace Arthur Rendel Govan2 December 1935for Associateship
Item 35 of 98Charles William GrayLate 1931for Licentiateship
Item 36 of 98William Brindle HalleyLate 1931for Licentiateship
Item 37 of 98David Gardiner HardieEarly 1932for Associateship
Item 38 of 98David HarveyEarly 1933for Associateship
Item 39 of 98James (or Hamish) Ponton Hastie30 November 1936for Associateship
Item 40 of 98Hugh Hawson (junior)1931for Associateship
Item 41 of 98George Hay8 March 1937for Associateship
Item 42 of 98Percy Pithie HendersonLate 1930for Associateship
Item 43 of 98Leslie Howard Hill21 October 1935for Associateship
Item 44 of 98James William HillsEarly 1931for Associateship
Item 45 of 98Andrew Stewart Hood2 December 1935for Associateship
Item 46 of 98Robert Charles Hutchison (sometimes misspelt Robert Charles Hutchinson)Mid 1932for Associateship
Item 47 of 98Margaret Johnston James5 March 1934for Associateship
Item 48 of 98Thomas Arnold Jeffryes (sometimes misspelt Jeffreys)Early 1932for Associateship
Item 49 of 98Adam Bryce Kerr9 March 1936for Associateship
Item 50 of 98(Sir) William Hardie Kininmonth Early 1931for Associateship
Item 51 of 98James William Laing4 December 1933for Associateship
Item 52 of 98George Haslehurst Lawrence (sometimes misspelt George Hazelhurst Lawrence)2 December 1935for Associateship
Item 53 of 98Harry Lind4 December 1933for Associateship
Item 54 of 98Duncan Livingstone4 December 1933for Associateship
Item 55 of 98George Alexander Lyall9 February 1937for Associateship
Item 56 of 98Hugh Sinclair MacdonaldEarly 1930for Associateship
Item 57 of 98James Macgregor22 June 1936for Fellowship
Item 58 of 98(Captain) Gordon Nasmyth Mackintosh5 December 1927For Associateship
Item 59 of 98Emily Lind Maclennan (Mrs Linda Westwater)Early 1933for Associateship
Item 60 of 98John Fraser MatthewMid 1931for Licentiateship
Item 61 of 98Robert Hogg MatthewMid 1931for Associateship
Item 62 of 98Philip Edward Joseph McManus (later Phillip or Philipp Edouard McManis)30 November 1936for Associateship
Item 63 of 98(Sir) Frank Charles Mears29 June 1927for Fellowship
Item 64 of 98John Burn MoffatLate 1931 or early 1932for Associateship
Item 65 of 98Alexander James Wilson MorrisonEarly 1933for Associateship
Item 66 of 98James Inch Morrison30 November 1925for Fellowship
Item 67 of 98Robert Scott Morton3 December 1934for Associateship
Item 68 of 98James Mackie MurrayEarly 1930for Associateship
Item 69 of 98Norman Alexander Gordon NeilLate 1931for Associateship
Item 70 of 98Angus Moncur Neilson3 December 1934for Associateship
Item 71 of 98John PattersonEarly 1934for Associateship
Item 72 of 98Arthur Forman Balfour PaulMid 1933for Fellowship
Item 73 of 98Vishwa Nath Prasad20 July 1936for Associateship
Item 74 of 98Alan Reiach3 December 1934for Associateship
Item 75 of 98Robert Stirling ReidEarly 1931for Licentiateship
Item 76 of 98James Watson Ritchie29 November 1926for Associateship
Item 77 of 98James Robertson13 May 1935for Associateship
Item 78 of 98Patrick Henry Dudgeon Ronaldson2 December 1935for Associateship
Item 79 of 98Robert Alexander ScottEarly 1934for Associateship
Item 80 of 98Eileen May Sherwell (Mrs Goodman)10 February 1936for Associateship
Item 81 of 98Alfred Sinclair5 December 1927for Associateship
Item 82 of 98(Sir) Basil Urwin SpenceMid 1933for Associateship
Item 83 of 98Alexander SteeleEarly 1929for Associateship
Item 84 of 98William Tulloch SutherlandEarly 1933for Associateship
Item 85 of 98Patrick McGowan Thompson10 February 1936for Associateship
Item 86 of 98Leslie Grahame Thomson (or Leslie Grahame-Thomson; later Leslie Grahame MacDougall)14 February 1927For Associateship
Item 87 of 98William Innes Thomson14 January 1935for Associateship
Item 88 of 98John Guthrie Tulloch9 February 1937for Associateship
Item 89 of 98Edwin TurnbullLate 1931 or early 1932for Associateship
Item 90 of 98Alexander Wentworth Varcoe4 January 1935For Associateship
Item 91 of 98James Watson1 June 1933for Licentiateship
Item 92 of 98Ernest John Weir9 March 1936for Associateship
Item 93 of 98William Malcolm Wilson5 March 1934For Associateship
Item 94 of 98George Wittet8 January 1912for Licentiateship
Item 95 of 98George WittetLate 1915for Fellowship
Item 96 of 98Robert Woodcock2 December 1935for Associateship
Item 97 of 98Derek Selby Wright11 January 1937for Associateship
Item 98 of 98James Dickson Young30 November 1936for 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 44 Anglican Church  Jabbulpur/JubbulporeIndiaDate not known
Item 2 of 44 Anglican Church  MaymyoIndiaDate not known
Item 3 of 44 Anglican Church  LucknowIndiaDate not known
Item 4 of 44 Presbyterian Church  SimlaIndiaDate not known
Item 5 of 44 Presbyterian Church  Jabbulpur/JubbulporeIndiaDate not known
Item 6 of 44 Simla Telegraph Office  Simla/ShimlaIndia 
Item 7 of 44c. 189594 Inverleith Place  EdinburghScotland 
Item 8 of 441897Penlan House  JohannesbergSouth Africa 
Item 9 of 441898York Buildings  JohannesburgSouth Africa 
Item 10 of 441903General Post Office  BombayIndia 
Item 11 of 441903Sir William Moore Operating Theatres  BombayIndia 
Item 12 of 441904Princes Dock Customs House  BombayIndia 
Item 13 of 441904Technical block, School of Art  BombayIndia 
Item 14 of 441909Council House Secretariat  CalcuttaIndia 
Item 15 of 441911Calcutta Medical College, fourth block  CalcuttaIndia 
Item 16 of 441912Government Press and Publishing Building  RangoonBurma 
Item 17 of 441912Post Office  AgraIndia 
Item 18 of 441912Stationery Office  CalcuttaIndia 
Item 19 of 441913Lady Hardinge Medical Hospital and College  DelhiIndia 
Item 20 of 441913Post Office  NagpurIndia 
Item 21 of 441915Custom House  RangoonBurma 
Item 22 of 441915High Court  VaranasiIndia 
Item 23 of 441915Law Courts  BenaresIndia 
Item 24 of 441915Robertson Arts College  Jabbulpur/JubbulporeIndia 
Item 25 of 441917Central Provinces Council Chamber  NagpurIndia 
Item 26 of 441917Rangoon Telegraph Office  RangoonBurma 
Item 27 of 441921Brechin War MemorialBrechin AngusScotlandDesign exhibited
Item 28 of 441921George Watson's College, Watsonian memorial  EdinburghScotlandDesign exhibited
Item 29 of 441921Lady Anderson's Memorial CottageColinton EdinburghScotland 
Item 30 of 441921Theatre    Conversion of unspecified building to theatre
Item 31 of 44192215 Rutland Square  EdinburghScotlandAlterations (conversion from house to offices for RIAS)
Item 32 of 441922New College, UF Church War Memorial  EdinburghScotlandDesign exhibited
Item 33 of 441922Paisley War MemorialPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandUnsuccessful competition design
Item 34 of 441922St Bernard's Parish Church War Memorial  EdinburghScotlandDesign exhibited
Item 35 of 441922St Giles Cathedral, Scottish Ministers War Memorial  EdinburghScotland 
Item 36 of 441922Tenements at Heriot Bridge  EdinburghScotland 
Item 37 of 441923Bengal Legislative Council Chamber  BengalIndiaCompetition design
Item 38 of 441923House for Sir J Paterson BrownMurrayfield EdinburghScotlandDesign exhibited
Item 39 of 44192436 Colinton Road  EdinburghScotland 
Item 40 of 441925Edinburgh Dental Hospital and school  EdinburghScotlandRebuilt incorporating Lessels and Taylor corner building (these dates are beyond the known dates of the Begg & Lorne Campbell partnership; it is unclear which partner was responsible)
Item 41 of 44Before 1926Agricultural College  PoonaIndiaIn conjunction with George Wittet
Item 42 of 44Before 1926Central Government Offices  PoonaIndiaIn conjunction with George Wittet
Item 43 of 44c. 1934Millburn Tower, South LodgeGogar MidlothianScotlandAlterations (possibly assisted by Morton J H Cowie)
Item 44 of 441935Westfield Autocar motor showroomStirling StirlingshireScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 12Begg, John1900Architecture in Transvaal RIBA Journal 3rd series 7 of 3 Jan pp. 81-6
Item 2 of 12Davies, Philip Splendours of the Raj: British architecture in India 1660-1947   
Item 3 of 12Grove Dictionary of Art Grove Dictionary of Art  Davies, Philip: sv Begg
Item 4 of 12Irving, Robert Grant1981Indian summer: Lutyens Baker and Imperial Delhi   
Item 5 of 12Placzek, Adolf K (ed)1982Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects New York: The Free Press/Macmillan Publishing CompanyStamp, Gavin: sv: Begg
Item 6 of 12Post Office Directories     
Item 7 of 12Rand Afrikaans University (Department of Art History) 1979Survey of historical buildings in Johannesburg. 1st report Parktown 1975   
Item 8 of 12Stamp, Gavin1981British architecture in India 1857-1947 Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, cxxix (1981) pp358-79 
Item 9 of 12The Edinburgh Academy Register1914    
Item 10 of 12Wall, Gerhard Mark van der1984Die boukuns van Johannesburg, 1886 – 1940 [The architecture of Johannesburg, 1886 – 1940]. DLitt thesis, Rand Afrikaans University [Now University of Johannesburg]. 
Item 11 of 12Writers to the Signet1890History of Writers to the Signet   
Item 12 of 12www.artefacts.co.za www.artefacts.co.za Website of artefacts, for the recording of South African buildingsAccessed September 2011

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 5RIAS Quarterly1933AutumnRoyal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) 
Item 2 of 5RIBA Journal29 May 1920 London: Royal Institute of British Architectsp 333 Article by John Begg 'Architecture in India'
Item 3 of 5RIBA Journal6 March 1937v44London: Royal Institute of British ArchitectsObituary p466
Item 4 of 5RIBA Journal20 March 1937v44London: Royal Institute of British ArchitectsMemoirs of Begg by Stephen Wilkinson and Alexander Paterson, p519
Item 5 of 5The Times26 February 1937  p18

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 letter from Esmé Gordon to D M Walker, 13 September 1989
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers A v11 p84 (microfiche 48/F7); F v14 p7 no854 (microfilm reel 11)


© All rights reserved. ©and courtesy of RIAS 

© All rights reserved. ©and courtesy of RIAS