Basic Biographical Details

Name: Stevenson & Redfern
Designation: Architectural practice
Started: 1896
Ended: 1908
Bio Notes: John James Stevenson was born in Glasgow on 24 August 1831, the sixth of ten surviving children of James Stevenson and his wife Jane Stewart Shannan. The Stevenson family were originally Ayrshire farmers, one of whom had settled in Paisley as silk merchants; although it used to be said that there was a connection with the Glasgow merchant Alan Stevenson, with whom the Stevenson family of engineers originated, this is as yet unproven and the last member of that family D Alan Stevenson (1891-1971) was unaware of it. James had settled in Glasgow and had become a cotton broker, but in 1843 he moved to Jarrow to establish Jarrow Chemical Company. His eldest son James Cochran Stevenson joined him in the business, and became MP for South Shields from 1868 to 1895. During that period he also owned The South Shields Gazette and from 1880 to 1900 he was a member of the Tyne Improvements Commission ending up as its chairman. Associated with them in the South Shields businesses were two further brothers, Alexander and Archibald.

John James was educated first at Glasgow Grammar School, and then at the University of Glasgow in 1845-48 and Edinburgh Theological College - presumably the Free Church College - in 1852-54 while his father was based in Jarrow, and also studied for a time at Tubingen, all with a view to entering the church: although there is no mention of Tubingen in his RIBA nomination paper, a marked interest in German architecture was to be evident in his book House Architecture. His father having retired to 47 Melville Street, Edinburgh in 1854, John James returned home, a visit to Italy having induced him to change career to architecture. In 1856 he was articled to David Bryce, but transferred to George Gilbert Scott's office in London in 1858 before completing his apprenticeship. In 1860 he undertook a second visit to Italy, on this occasion a sketching tour in the company of another assistant in Scott's office, Robert James Johnson, later of Newcastle. He then joined Campbell Douglas's office in Glasgow, and was made partner in the autumn of 1860.

John James Stevenson inherited a substantial shareholding in the Jarrow Chemical Company on his father's death in 1866. Two years later he withdrew from his partnership with Douglas for what he described as 'an interval in the practice of my profession' travelling and writing the book eventually published as 'House Architecture' in 1880. At the end of it he settled in London in 1870, and late in the following year he formed a partnership with the London School Board architectEdward Robert Robson, whom he had known in Scott's office and who had, like R J Johnson, also grown up in County Durham. The break with Douglas was wholly amicable and relations remained close, Stevenson's office becoming the stepping-stone to London for many of the most promising assistants from Campbell Douglas's office throughout the 1870s and 1880s, most notably George Washington Browne, John Marjoribanks McLaren, William Wallace, William Flockhart and Francis William Troup. In London Stevenson and Robson became the progenitors of the so-called 'Queen Anne' domestic revival, which was inaugurated by the Red House which the Stevensons built for themselves at Bayswater Hill: stylistically it incorporated features that were more of artisan James I and Charles I derivation and Stevenson himself preferred the description of 'Free Classic.' The partnership with Robson was closed in 1876 and in the late 1880s the Stevensons seem to have suffered some decline in their circumstances, partly from reduced returns from the Jarrow Chemical Company, which closed in 1891 and partly from a speculative development of large houses in Cadogan Square Chelsea that proved slow to sell. In 1888 the Red House was sold and the Stevensons moved to a late Georgian semi-detached house at 4 Porchester Gardens, which became house and office.

In 1896 Stevenson took into partnership Harry Redfern, born in 1861 who had been articled to Henry Woodyer in 1876 and had subsequently worked for William Butterfield, Alfred Lawers, Alfred Young Nutt, Peter Dollar and finally William Young (1878-89) beforecommencing independent practice in Derby in 1880.

Stevenson died in London on 5 May 1908, and a monument was erected to him in Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh. He left moveable estate of 29,912 4s 1d. His work in England lies outwith the scope of this dictionary but from 1880 onward he was responsible for an interesting series of Free Churches that had its origin in the commission in 1869 for the Free Church at Monzie (Gilmerton), which came to him through its minister the Rev Dr J R Omond, the uncle of his wife Jane Omond whom he had married in 1861, and with whom he had a son, Arnold, and a daughter, Mildred Shannon. He recommended Stevenson as architect for the Free Church at Crieff and its success resulted in him being nominated in the limited competition for Free St Leonard's in Perth in 1882 in which he was successful. Stevenson's other Scottish churches were all directly commissioned, the Stevenson Memorial Church in Glasgow being paid for by his cousin James Stevenson, who owned a chemical works in Glasgow as well as having a substantial shareholding in that at Jarrow. All of Stevenson's churches had a markedly Scots Gothic character and he was the first practising architect to make a serious study of late Scots Gothic, which was perhaps a reflection of Stevenson's Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings principles. Redfern had a considerable hand in the detailing of the churches in Stirling and Glasgow.

Redfern continued to practise after Stevenson's death. He died in 1950.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architectural practice:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 14, Porchester Gardens, London, EnglandBusiness1889 *  

* earliest date known from documented sources.

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 10Thomas Millwood Wilson18951899Apprentice 
Item 2 of 10Robert Douglas Wells18961899Apprentice 
Item 3 of 10John James Stevenson18961908Partner 
Item 4 of 10Harry Redfern (or Henry Redfern)18961908Partner 
Item 5 of 10Frederick Arthur WalkerAfter 18971902(?)Apprentice 
Item 6 of 10William MitchellAfter 1897Before 1908Assistant 
Item 7 of 10Robert Douglas Wells18991900Improver 
Item 8 of 10Thomas Millwood Wilson18991901Assistant 
Item 9 of 10Thomas Anderson Moodie1 June 18991902Draughtsman 
Item 10 of 10Hugh Stewart19021906Assistant 

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 31898Nathaniel Stevenson Memorial Free ChurchBelmont GlasgowScotland 
Item 2 of 31902Free ChurchStirling StirlingshireScotland 
Item 3 of 319038-10 Palace GreenKensington LondonEngland 


Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architectural practice:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 2Builder19 May 1950  p669 - obituary of Redfern
Item 2 of 2RIBA JournalApril 1950v57London: Royal Institute of British Architectsp245 - obituary of Redfern