Basic Biographical Details

Name: William Kidner
Designation: Architect
Born: 16 February 1841
Died: 31 March 1900
Bio Notes: William Kidner was born on 16 February 1841 at Durston, near Taunton, Somerset, the second son of William Kidner, a farmer and his wife, Ann Smith. The family farmed at Bickley Farm, Milverton, Somerset in 1851. William junior does not appear to have embarked on an architectural career immediately as was working as a builder's clerk in 1861 and at that time was living at 11 Bessborough Gardens, St John's Westminster. His RIBA nomination paper gives no indication of his training but he probably studied at University College London since his proposers were Professor Thomas Leverton Donaldson and his pupil Edward Augustus Gruning; he certainly worked for his third proposer, George Gilbert Scott, as he emigrated to Shanghai in 1864 to build Scott's Holy Trinity Cathedral and set up practice there after it was completed in 1869. His brother had joined him in 1866. While in Shanghai Kidner visited various places in China and Japan. In his spare time he joined a shooting club and came to be regarded as the finest shot in China. In 1872 William was back in England but returned to Shanghai by Christmas 1873. In about 1874 he engaged as assistant John Myrie Cory, a Carlisle architect who had also been in Scott's office between 1867 and 1869, and had spent fifteen months in the United States in 1870 and 1871. On his return Cory had bought a partnership in the London Roman Catholic practice of a relative Joseph Cory Scholes, but this had apparently not proved a success. In 1875 Cory became a partner in Kidner's Shanghai practice which reached its peak in 1877 with two large bank commissions. Kidner withdrew from the partnership with Cory early in 1878, as he was in London in March answering questions on Joseph's Conder's paper on Japanese architecture, read at the RIBA by T Roger Smith.

In 1877 William Kidner had married Jamesina Nicol Crosbie, daughter of James Crosbie, a bank agent of Elgin and his wife Helen Nicol. They married in Kensington in London. A year later their son, Percy Crosbie, was born. He became a managing director of Vauxhall Motors. They also had a daughter Helen Crosbie. Kidner had met his wife through Jamesina's eldest sister whose husband was John Andrew Maitland. He had made his fortune in the Far East and was head of the Freemason's Lodge (the Northern Lodge of China) to which William belonged.

Sometime before 1881 Kidner returned to Britain and settled in Elgin where he designed two large American-influenced houses. Whether Kidner had visited the USA himself, or had drawn upon Cory's knowledge of American architecture is not clear. The commission for Lesmurdie came through Jamesina's other sister as she had married an Elgin JP, Charles James Johnston. It was for them that William Kidner designed Lesmurdie.

In 1884 or 1885 Kidner gave up his Elgin practice and emigrated a second time to design buildings for the British North Borneo Company. Kidner was back in London by 1892 and on 19 November 1894 he read a paper entitled 'Notes upon the architecture of China' written by Frederick M Gratton of Shanghai at the RIBA.
Kidner died on 31 March 1900 and is buried at Hampstead Cemetery.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 4Shanghai, ChinaBusiness1866Early 1878 
Item 2 of 423, Old Broad Street, London, EnglandBusinessEarly 1878After 1892With the exception of periods in Elgin and Borneo
Item 3 of 4Elgin, Morayshire, ScotlandBusinessBefore 18811884 or 1885 
Item 4 of 4Borneo, MalaysiaBusiness1884 or 1885Before 1892 

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 2(Sir) George Gilbert Scott 1869Assistant 
Item 2 of 2Kidner & Cory1875Early 1878Partner 

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 1John Myrie Cory1874(?)1875AssistantLater becamer partner

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 10 Urban development plan  De HaanBelgium 
Item 2 of 101867British Consulate, prison  ShanghaiChina 
Item 3 of 101867Church at Hankow  HankowChina 
Item 4 of 10c. 1868Holy Trinity Church  ShanghaiChinaExecuted George Gilbert Scott's design
Item 5 of 101877Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank  ShanghaiChina 
Item 6 of 101878Mercantile Bank  ShanghaiChina 
Item 7 of 101881Lesmurdie HouseElgin MorayshireScotlandEnlargement of existing cottage house for Johnston of Newmill
Item 8 of 101882BlackfriarshaughElgin MorayshireScotlandBaronial enlargement
Item 9 of 101885Church at Kudat  KudatBorneo 
Item 10 of 101885Government House  SandakanBorneo 


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 3Graves, Algernon1905The Royal Academy of Arts: a complete dictionary of exhibitors and their works…1905-6London: Graves and Bell 
Item 3 of 3Izumida, Hideo Scottish architects in the Far East 1840-1870 Architectural Heritage II : Scottish architects abroad 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 2North China Herald and Market Report16 November 1867   
Item 2 of 2RIBA Journal1900v7London: Royal Institute of British Architectsp284 - obituary - CHECK for further info

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 3Public Record OfficeCensus Records RG09/51/163 p11
Item 2 of 3Public Record OfficeGeneral records HO 107/1921/240
Item 3 of 3Via DSA websiteInformation coutesy of Simon Kidner Sent June 2006