Basic Biographical Details

Name: Herbert Lewis Honeyman
Designation: Architect
Born: 12 November 1885
Died: 22 November 1956
Bio Notes: Herbert Lewis Honeyman was born 12 November 1885 at 24 Newton Place Glasgow. He was the fourth and youngest son of John Honeyman and the only child of his third marriage to Sarah Anne Horne. He was brought up mainly at Bridge of Allan and was initially sent to a private preparatory school there. Thereafter he was a boarder at Glenalmond but spent as much time as possible with his blind father. Whenever possible he was companion and guide, describing and researching, and it was in that relationship that his tireless lifelong devotion to medieval architecture and archaeology originated. A brief attempt to introduce him to his father's office was not a success; his father was then on the point of retiring and John Keppie is said to have had no time for him, an attitude probably influenced by the fact that at that period there was no prospect of the firm being able to support three partners. His father then approached John James Burnet and Herbert was accepted as an apprentice in 1902, his father leasing a flat at 23 West Cumberland Street. Rejection by his father's firm was nevertheless a bruising experience which was reflected in his demeanor at Burnet's, as recalled by a senior assistant in that office, James Shearer, who became a life-long friend. 'He was an exceedingly shy young man who rarely spoke to anyone unless spoken to, spending his days in an odd kind of isolation. The staff he had joined, including even its senior members, was a lighthearted, generous and most tolerant group of men of whom several in later life have attained positions of professional eminence. The general impression made by 'HLH' on his associates - and it lasted for quite a long time - was one of a youth in every way unusual, sensitive, and somewhat old-fashioned for his years. He rarely looked away from his drawing board, but the frequent body-shaking chuckles which he bestowed on it showed he was very much alive to all that was going on around him, and, in his own way, taking part in it, and enjoying it. During periods of idleness, he amused himself by embellishing the margins of his 'backing sheet' with little drawings of tombstones with Latin inscriptions.

Concurrently Herbert studied at Glasgow School of Architecture where he was taught by an old friend and former assistant of his father's, Alexander McGibbon, and by the French Beaux-Arts Professor Eugène Bourdon. He distinguished himself there, contributing to 'Vista', the School's magazine, and in time becoming its editor. He won the travelling bursary in 1907 and spent the years 1908 and 1909 in England and France. In 1911 he won the RIBA silver medal with his essay 'The design and construction of belfry stages and spires in stone and brick'. Keppie remained no more willing to admit him than he had been earlier and in 1909 Herbert opened his own office at 180 West Regent Street. It did not prosper and for a time he became chief assistant to James Shearer, who had set up practice in Dunfermline and had earlier secured the confidence of the Carnegie Trust.

He closed his office in December 1913, and joined the firm of Graham & Hill of Newcastle upon Tyne, taking his mother with him. In 1916 he was drafted into the Royal Engineers, and sent to the Survey Company at the Ordnance Office at Southampton from which he was transferred to that at Phoenix Park, Dublin, where he qualified as a topographical and military surveyor. He was sent to France in July 1918 and attached to the Field Survey Battalion's Inundation Section.

In appearance, and to a certain extent manner, Herbert was, in his earlier years, very like his father, but tended to be rather abrupt in speech, though with a dry sense of humour which could defuse awkwardness. An illness contracted in the field in October 1918, followed by convalescence in England, left him with high colour and a rather fragile appearance.

In November 1919 he was exempted from the qualifying examination in architecture under the War Exemption Scheme and he was admitted ARIBA early the following year. He asked Sir John Burnet to nominate him and as a gesture of reconciliation asked Keppie to second him, which he did. His third proposer was William Henry Wood of Newcastle. Burnet wrote in his supporting statement that Honeyman 'was an earnest & hardworking pupil & while with me showed himself a distinguished student of the Glasgow School of Art (Architecture); he has since shown marked literary & artistic ability in architecture'. His admittance to the RIBA was in order that he could enter into partnership with Dennis Hill, Major M H Graham having retired. Hill was architect to The Northumberland Territorial Auxiliary Forces and Herbert worked for him on the drill halls at Blyth, Tynemouth, Seaton Delaval and Barrack Road, Newcastle.

After Hill's early death Honeyman ran an exclusively conservation-based practice specialising in ecclesiastical and domestic work. As surveyor to the Diocese of Newcastle he had some 130 vicarages in his care, designing new ones at Ponteland, Heddon on the Wall, Widdrington, and St Paul's and All Saints' in Newcastle and church halls at Monkseaton. Many of the diocese's churches were also in his care, major repairs being carried out under his supervision at St Ann's, All Saints', and St Andrew's, all in Newcastle. He built no new churches but designed a great deal of fine church woodwork. He also carried out restoration work at Dunstan Hill, where he rebuilt a ruined wing with material salvaged from the demolition of Gloster Hill and built a dairy in 1939; at Fowberry Tower where he added a kitchen wing in 1953 and in 1947 at the White House, Aydon.

In January 1922 Herbert had joined the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries which became the main interest of his life. In time he became a member of the Northumberland County History and Ancient Monuments Committees and was one of the organisers of the Roman Wall Campaign of the late 1920s. In January 1933 he became the Society's joint secretary, in 1940 sole secretary and 1941 also the editor of its 'Proceedings', appointments which he retained until his death.

Archaeology and conservation were not the only respects in which Herbert's life was an extension of his father's. He had the same sense of social responsibility, serving on the council of the Tyneside Social Service Society and for a time was its secretary. He was one of the promoters of the Newcastle Housing Trust for which he was honorary architect.

Those who remembered him knew Herbert as a man of independent mind with views which were not always those of the establishment. His personal life was not an altogether happy one. His mother was somewhat difficult and possessive, demanding much attention as she disliked being left alone. This made professional practice difficult at times, but Herbert cared for her with patience and devotion until her death in 1936. In his later years, Herbert's stoop gave him a somewhat bear-like appearance, Dr John Harvey remembering him as being 'fine-looking in a rugged way, and a personality of notable status without seeming eccentric … he was a great precisian [sic] and demanded extremely high standards of scholarship'. His reputation as an architectural scholar in 'Archaeologia Aeliana' and the 'County History of Northumberland' resulted in an invitation to become part-time investigator of historic buildings for Northumberland and Durham, the task being shared with Mrs M B Bond. It was not much money, two guineas a day, later increased to three, but it deepened his already encyclopaedic knowledge of Northumberland and helped him write his 'History of Northumberland' (1949) which became a best-seller. In the same years he successfully organised the rescue of Washington Old Hall in County Durham, for the restoration of which he was architect. In September 1951 he married Edith Sarsfield of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She shared his interests and it was a happy if brief marriage. In 1955 he became a founder member of the Vernacular Group, and in the last months before his death on 22 November 1956 he corrected the text and made many additions to Nikolaus Pevsner's Northumberland volume in 'The Buildings of England' series, his contribution being recorded with grateful sadness in the foreword.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 623, West Cumberland Street, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivatec. 1902  
Item 2 of 6180, West Regent Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness1909December 1913 
Item 3 of 6Newcastle upon Tyne, EnglandPrivate/businessDecember 1913  
Item 4 of 6134, Cambridge Drive, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate19141915Also in 1919
Item 5 of 61 Graingerville South, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, EnglandPrivate1920 *  
Item 6 of 66, Eldon Square, Newcastle upon Tyne, EnglandBusiness1920 *  

* 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 3John Burnet & Son19021907(?)Apprentice 
Item 2 of 3James Grant ShearerAfter 1909Before 1913Senior Assistant 
Item 3 of 3Graham & Hill19131919(?)Assistant1913a. Became partner with Dennis Hill 1919


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3(Sir) John James BurnetEarly 1920for Associateship
Item 2 of 3John KeppieEarly 1920for Associateship
Item 3 of 3William Henry WoodEarly 1920for 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 21908Ecclesmachan Parish ChurchEcclesmachan West LothianScotlandAlterations and additions - new porch and west chancel
Item 2 of 21913Old Greyfriars Church  EdinburghScotlandNew communion table, pulpit and panelling of sanctuary ('Tercentenary Memorial')


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 2Archaeologia Aeliana  4th Series xxxv
Item 2 of 2Post Office Directories     

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1RIBA JournalSeptember 1957 London: Royal Institute of British Architectsp474

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 recollections of A G Lochhead, Eric Birley and John Harvey
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers A no2992 (microiflm reel 24)