Basic Biographical Details

Name: James Thomas Irvine
Designation: Architect
Born: 29 September 1826
Died: 6 June 1900
Bio Notes: James Thomas Irvine was born at Papil (then spelt Papal), Yell, Shetland on 29 September 1826, the son of Gilbert William Irvine and his wife Margaret Hoseason of Dalsetter. Gilbert Irvine was then managing the Midbrake estate which is London-based elder brother Thomas had inherited the estate in 1813.

Gilbert Irvine died early. Responsibility for his son James’s education fell upon his uncle Thomas whose profound interest in Shetland history and archaeology he had inherited. Thomas Irvine obtained an articled apprenticeship for him in the London office of Scott & Moffatt in 1840 or 1841 at the age of fourteen and he remained with Scott when the partnership was dissolved in 1845. Although Irvine obta9ned a place in the Royal Academy Schools he preferred to remain with Scott on large projects rather than commence practice on his own at least partly because he had developed a very close near-family relationship with Scott and his son sand with his principal assistant John Drayton Wyatt. By 1852 he was clerk of works in charge of the restoration of St Peter’s Northampton, followed by a new church at Wolland (1855) restoration works at Peterborough Cathedral (1855-60), the rebuilding of Cattistock Church (1857), the restoration of St Lawrence, Ludlow (1859-60) and of St Sepulchre’s, Northampton (1857-65). By the mid-1860s he had graduated to the most difficult restorations where his archaeological as well as his structural skills were particularly relevant: Bath Abbey (1864-72), Rochester Cathedral (1871-74) and Lichfield Cathedral (begun 1874), all of which presented problems of lost or uncompleted elements. A pause in the work at Lichfield brought his association with George Gilbert Scott to an end in 1877, Scott having no other major contract to offer him. At the time the break in his service may not have been unhelpful. In that year he inherited Midrace from his uncle, only to find it so heavily indebted that he had to sell it, retaining only his parents’ home at Millby Cottage, then occupied by his mother, remarried as Mrs Craigie.

Irvine’s later years were unsettled and clouded by bereavements. He remained in Lichfield and although Oldrid Scott provided some further work there, he had no regular work for the next seven years. Nevertheless loyalty to the Scotts remained strong. When Oldrid Scott cleared out a large part of his father’s archive about 1883, Irvine bought it from the paper merchant and sorted out the more important drawings and presented them to the Bodleian Library, only for them to be again thrown out in the early 1940s.

In 1884 Irvine returned to Peterborough. Scott had advised the rebuilding of the central tower in 1874 but in 1882 Scott’s sons were replaced by John Loughborough Pearson who dismantled it in 1883. He found much evidence of the Romanesque tower which he planned to rebuild, re-erecting the fourteenth century tower above it as the belfry stage, a project for which Irvine’s track record as a building archaeologist made him ideally suited. Work began but was halted by disagreements in 1885. It was then decided to rebuild the tower as it had been, but work was interrupted again in 1887 before it was finally completed in 1890 with the partial rebuilding of the west front still to be undertaken. This too proved contentious and Irvine’s defence of what was done attracted criticism. Irvine’s remuneration was seriously interrupted by these delays and as an interim measure he undertook the consolidation of Kirkstall Abbey for Somers Clarke and J T Mickelthwaite. This entailed a five year separation from his family whom he had left in Peterborough in the expectation that work there would resume. Pearson recalled him in 1896 but died in December 1897. Pearson’s son, Frank, did no retain the commission which passed to George Frederick Bodley, an old colleague at Scott’s with whom he had a happier relationship.

Irvine had a small private practice in his Lichfield and Peterborough years but little is known of it. He does not seem to have designed anything in Shetland but he visited it for family and archaeological reasons as often as he could, publishing his finds in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland of which he had become a fellow in 1866 – and in the journal of the British Archaeological Association. Like William Galloway he maintained a good working relationship with Sir Henry Dryden. In England he had a similar relationship with John Henry Parker, his researches at Bradford on Avon and on the buildings he had worked on for Scott being published by the British Archaeological Association. He died at Peterborough on 6 June 1900. His research papers and collections largely survive divided between the library of the National Museum of Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, Shetland Library and Bath Central Library.

Irvine married twice: firstly to Ursula Margaret Hoseason from his mother’s family. She died and he remarried Margaret Pugh from Ludlow with whom he had three sons, George Gilbert (named after his father as well as Scott), John William and James Charles and a daughter Ursula Margaret. John died in 1882 and Ursula in 1891. George Gilbert became an architect, articled to his father in Peterborough in 1885-90 and then placed with Clarke & Mickelthwaite to gain wider experience.


Irvine, J T {compiler) 1860 Historical sketches of the Church of St Laurence in Ludlow and its restoration in 1859-60 by G.G. Scott, Esq., architect, A.R.A., compiled by his clerk of works. Ludlow: J Evans Bookseller.

Irvine, J T 1865 •Descriptive account of Ludlow Church', in Evans, J Handbook to Ludlow. Ludlow: J Eva ns Bookseller.

Irvine, J T 1866 ' On t he Brough of Clickhimin: in the loch of Clickhimin, near Lerwick, mainland of Shetland ', J Brit Archaeol Assoc 22, 369-75.
Irvine, J T 1873 'The architecture of Wells Cathedral', Wells Journal.

Irvine, J T 1877a •Notes upon some figures i n the western towers of Wells Cathedral', J Brit Archaeol Assoc 33, 30-4.

Irvine, J T 1877b 'Notes on Britford Church•, J Brit Archaeol Assoc 33, 215-18.

Irvine, J T 1877c 'Description of the Saxon Church of Boarhaunt i n Hampshire•, J Brit Archaeol Assoc 33, 376-80

Irvine, J T 1882 'The west front of Lichfield Cathedral', J Brit Archaeol Assoc 38, 349-53.

Irvine, J T 1883 ' On the crypt beneath the chancel of Repton Church, Derbyshire',
Trans Derbyshire Archaeol Nat Hist Soc 5.

Irvine, J T 1885a 'Note of excavations and
discoveries on the Tafts of Bayanne, below Sellafirth, on Bastavoe, Yell, Shetland ', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 19 [1884-5). 385-7.

Irvine, J T 1885b 'Dover Castle Church', J Brit Archaeol Assoc 41, 284-8.

Irvine, J T 1887a ' Notes on some prehistoric burial-places and standing stones in the island of Yell, Shetland ', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 21 (1886-7). 21 5-19.

Irvine, J T 1887b •Notes on miscella neous antiquities', J Brit Archaeol Assoc 43, 371 -2.

I rvine, J T 1887c 'Engravings in Gunton 's Peterburgh ', Northamptonshire Notes &

I rvi ne, J T 1888a' Notes [1) of the discovery of a glass cu p i n a stone coff i n at Peterborough Cathed ra l, a nd [2) of enca ustic tiles with i nterla ced patterns, from Ford lington, St George's Ch u rch, Dorchester, a nd M ilton Abbey Ch u rch , Dorset', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 22 [1887-8). 21 5-19.
I rvi ne, J T 1888b 'On a prehistoric fli nt i n possession of the Dowager Ma rch ioness of H u ntly', J Brit Archaeol Assoc 44, 182-5.
I rvi ne, J T 1889a 'Saxon mon u me nta l slabs found at Peterborough Cathed ra l', J
Brit Archaeol Assoc 45, 79-80.
I rvi ne, J T 1889b 'Discoveries i n the nei gh bou rhood of Crowla nd ', J Brit Archaeol Assoc 45, 363-4.
I rvi ne, J T 1889c 'Maxey Chu rch', Northamptonshire Notes & Queries.
I rvi ne, J T 1890a 'On a n Ea rly Celtic sepu lchra l sla b', J Brit Archaeol Assoc 46, 71 2.
I rvi ne, J T 1890b 'Descri ption of t he rema i ns of the Norma n Cathed ral of Bath, exposed du ri ng the repa i rs made between 1863 and 1872', J Brit Archaeol Assoc 46, 85-94.
I rvi ne, J T 1890c ' Notes of excavations made at Wa ll by t he late Colonel Bag nell', J
Brit Archaeol Assoc 46, 227-31.
I rvi ne, J T 1891a 'Ba rholme Chu rch, Lincolnsh i re', J Brit Archaeol Assoc 47, 308- 12.
I rvi ne, J T 1891b 'Discoveries i n Repton Ch u rch, Derbyshi re', J Derbyshire Archaeol Nat Hist Soc 14, 158-60.
I rvi ne, J T 1892 ' Notes on specimens of i nte rlaci ng ornament which occu r at Ki rkstall Abbey, nea r Leeds, Yorkshi re', J Brit Archaeol Assoc 48, 26-30.
I rvi ne, J T 1893a 'Peterborough Cathed ral. An attempt to recover t he fi rst desig n of the West Front of the Abbey Chu rch ded ica ted to St. Peter, now the Cathed ra l', J Brit Archaeol Assoc 49, 138-50.

I rvi ne, J T 1893b An attempt to recover the first design of the West Front of the Abbey of St Peter now Peterborough Cathedral. Peterboroug h: priva tely
pri nted ( repri nted by Pa ul Bush 1997, Glosso pl.
I rvi ne, J T 1894a 'Accou nt of the d iscovery of pa rt of t he Saxon Abbey Chu rch of Peterboroug h', J Brit Archaeol Assoc 50, 45-54.
I rvi ne, J T 1894b 'Pla ns of d iscove ries la tely made i n t he nave of Re pton Ch u rch, Derbyshi re', J Brit Archaeol Assoc 50, 248-50.
I rvi ne, J T 1894c 'Old d ivision of ru n-rig la nds. Accou nts of the la nds of Hou lla nd and Bracke n', Shetland News6.1.1894.
I rvi ne, J T 1895 'Notes relative to some Nort ha m ptonshi re Ch u rches of Norma n Age', J Brit Archaeol Assoc 1 ( new serl, 309-13.
I rvi ne, J T 1897 ' Notes on specimens of sim ple head -stones fou nd i n stone
d istricts, where they ma rk the sleeping-pla ces of t he h u m ble classes', J Brit Archaeol Assoc 3 Inew serl. 298-300.
I rvi ne, J T 1898 ' Notes on sepulch ra l cai rns discovered by t he blowi ng of sand on the Sands of Bracon; and on t he sculptu red stone discovered at South Garth, Isla nd of Yell, Shetla nd ', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 32 (1897_:8), 171-4.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 1Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, EnglandBusinessBefore 1885After 1890 

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 7(Sir) George Gilbert Scott18401845Apprentice 
Item 2 of 7(Sir) George Gilbert Scott18451852Assistant 
Item 3 of 7(Sir) George Gilbert Scott18521877Clerk of Works 
Item 4 of 7John Loughborough Pearson18841886Clerk of Works 
Item 5 of 7Clarke & Micklethwaite18901896Clerk of Works 
Item 6 of 7John Loughborough Pearson18901897Clerk of Works 
Item 7 of 7George Frederick Bodley18971900Clerk of Works 

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 1George Gilbert Alexander Andrew Irvine18851890Apprentice 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 3British Architectural Library, RIBA2001Directory of British Architects 1834-1914   
Item 2 of 3Cole, David1980The Work of Sir Gilbert Scott   
Item 3 of 3Ritchie, Anna2011A Shetland Antiquarian: James Thomas Irvine of Yell Shetland Amenity Trust 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1Builder16 June 1900v78 p593 - obituary