Basic Biographical Details

Name: William Kerr
Designation: Architect
Born: 23 June 1867
Died: 10 September 1940
Bio Notes: William Kerr was born in Houston, Renfrewshire on 23 June 1867, the son of William Kerr, master joiner and Marion Weir. In 1885 he was articled to John Burnet & Son where he worked alongside John Archibald Campbell (a partner from 1886), Alexander McGibbon and Alexander Robb Scott. He is known to have worked on the drawings for the Barony Church, the Athenaeum and on the churches and other buildings for the Duke of Hamilton on Arran.

In 1890 Kerr moved to Paisley to work for Thomas Graham Abercrombie where he quickly rose to become principal assistant and undertook most of the design work of that practice from 1894; much of it in Burnet-influenced Baroque or Gothic, the Clark Memorial Church at Largs being strongly influenced by Burnet's design for the Coats Memorial Church in Paisley.

About 1902 Kerr was taken into partnership by John Melvin Junior. Melvin had never enjoyed good health and as the expectations of the Paton family, his main patron, grew in relation to the proposed new office block at Kilncaigs Works, he concluded that 'feeling his health and strength unequal for the whole work' it was desirable to take a younger and more up-to-date designer into partnership. Kerr had been recommended to the Patons by Thomas Graham Abercrombie through family and client connections with the Coats family, relatives of the Patons. Since Abercrombie was a frequent holiday guest on the Coats steam yacht, the connection may have been made directly: it is also possible that it was made through Abercrombie's brother Colonel R G Abercrombie who lived in Alloa. This tactful arrangement seems to have been in deference to Melvin's past services and the fact that both families were United Presbyterian. John Melvin Junior died three years later on 30 September 1905.

Once established in Alloa Kerr took over the Paton domestic commissions which had hitherto been the preserve of Sydney Mitchell. Like the Patons he was a strictly teetotal Liberal, and like Abercrombie before him, he was frequently invited to join his clients on holiday, invitations which did not extend to his wife and family. For what were described by John Biggar as 'personal reasons' Kerr never lived in Alloa. He commuted from his native Houston, often making small sketch-plans on any piece of paper that he had to hand or on his shirt cuffs. Only quite late in life did he move from Houston, not to Alloa but to a terrace house in Comely Bank in Edinburgh as a better base for the education of his sons, their student friends, notably Alan Reiach, and Robert Scott Morton, were particularly welcome guests.

In 1912 Kerr took into partnership John Gray who had been an assistant with John Melvin Junior. Once Kerr had taken over the office Gray quickly assimilated his style and they worked so closely together that buildings reputedly designed by Gray are virtually indistinguishable in style from those by Kerr. Throughout their partnership the practice name remained John Melvin & Son. Despite the accomplished qualities of their best work neither partner sought publicity or exhibited at the RSA.

Kerr was admitted LRIBA on 24 June 1912, his proposers being McGibbon, Alexander Nisbet Paterson and John Keppie. Much of the firm's inter-war practice consisted of housing estates and schools, but the larger jobs remained high quality right up to Kerr's death in Edinburgh on 10 September 1940, still at work on his sickbed designing a school at Tillicoultry. Kerr left a daughter and three sons, the eldest of whom was blinded in the First World War, his two younger sons serving in the second. Of these Adam Bryce Kerr (born 23 May 1910) was also an architect, training at Edinburgh College of Art and in the office of John Ross McKay, but in the difficult conditions of the post-war years preferred to join the staff of the Scottish Office rather than seek a partnership with John Melvin & Son.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 37, Mar Street, Alloa, Clackmannanshire, ScotlandBusinessBefore 1910After 1930 
Item 2 of 3Cotswold, Houston, Renfrewshire, ScotlandPrivate1912 *  
Item 3 of 3Comely Bank, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivateBefore 19271940 

* 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 & Son18851890Apprentice 
Item 2 of 3Thomas Graham Abercrombie1890c. 1902AssistantLater principal assistant
Item 3 of 3John Melvin & Sonc. 19021940Partner 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3John Keppie24 June 1912for Licentiateship
Item 2 of 3Alexander McGibbon24 June 1912for Licentiateship
Item 3 of 3Alexander Nisbet Paterson24 June 1912for Licentiateship

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 1051886Athenaeum  GlasgowScotlandDrawings for original building on St George's Place - as assistant to J J Burnet
Item 2 of 1051886Barony Parish Church  GlasgowScotlandDrawings - as assistant to J J Burnet
Item 3 of 1051888St Molio's Parish ChurchShiskineArranButeScotlandAs assistant to J J Burnet
Item 4 of 1051890UP ChurchLargs AyrshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 5 of 1051891RoneilPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 6 of 1051893Arthur Allison Memorial HallPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 7 of 1051894Royal Alexandra InfirmaryPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 8 of 1051895Middle Church hallPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 9 of 1051895Paisley Grammar School and William Barbour AcademyPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 10 of 1051896Drill HallPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 11 of 1051896Paisley Technical SchoolPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie, who won competition and secured job
Item 12 of 1051897Peter Brough Nursing HomePaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 13 of 1051897WhiteleighPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 14 of 1051898BelmontPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandExtension - as assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 15 of 1051898Gleniffer Laundry and Bath HousePaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAddition of Bath House - as assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 16 of 1051899Coats Girls ClubPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 17 of 1051899Infectious Diseases HospitalLinlithgow West LothianScotlandFirst premiated competition design, but job went to John Melvin & Son
Item 18 of 1051899Mrs Archibald Coats Memorial HomePaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 19 of 1051900Pitlochry HydroPitlochry PerthshireScotlandWorked on building - perhaps original architect?
Item 20 of 105c. 1900Baptist ChurchPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 21 of 1051901CrosbiePaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 22 of 1051901Dundashill Bakery  GlasgowScotlandOriginal building (perhaps a different Melvin?)
Item 23 of 1051901Parish ManseAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandBegun by Melvin but obvious Kerr details
Item 24 of 1051901Royal Starch WorksPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 25 of 1051902Cotswold (and adjacent Kerr's Land)Houston RenfrewshireScotlandExtensions
Item 26 of 1051902Craig-na-AirdAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 27 of 1051902CraigmyleAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 28 of 1051902Hawkhill CottagesAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 29 of 1051902House, Braids RoadPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 30 of 1051902House, Riccartsbar AvenuePaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 31 of 1051902Huntershill HousePaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs assistant to T G Abercrombie
Item 32 of 1051902St John's Episcopal SchoolAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 33 of 105After 1902House at KilmacolmKilmacolm/Kilmalcolm RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 34 of 105After 1902Large factories for John Paton Son & CoAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 35 of 105After 1902Offices for John Paton Son & CoAlloa? Clackmannanshire?Scotland 
Item 36 of 105190322 Coalgate and 3-9 Union StreetAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandRecast as a billiards room and reading room for brewery employees
Item 37 of 1051904Kilncraigs OfficesAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 38 of 1051904Liberal ClubAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 39 of 1051905KellysideDollar ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 40 of 1051905Moncrieff UF ManseAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 41 of 105c. 1905Dunmar HotelAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandAttribution by Adam Swan
Item 42 of 105190660, 62, 64, 66 Tullibody RoadAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 43 of 105190896-98 Tullibody RoadAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 44 of 1051908GlenvarDollar ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 45 of 105191025 Alexandra DriveAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 46 of 1051910Alloa County BuildingsAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandExtensions in Drysdale Street
Item 47 of 1051911Houston SchoolHouston RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 48 of 1051911Lethangie HouseMilnathort Kinross-shireScotlandU-plan rear wing added.
Item 49 of 1051911Sauchie District HallSauchie ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 50 of 105c. 1911KerrmakinHouston RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 51 of 105c. 1911Kinross Higher Grade SchoolKinross Kinross-shireScotland 
Item 52 of 1051912The GeanAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 53 of 105Before 1912Linwood SchoolLinwood RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 54 of 105c. 1912Cottage at farm at DennyDenny StirlingshireScotland 
Item 55 of 105c. 1912House, CraiglockhartCraiglockhart EdinburghScotland 
Item 56 of 1051913Bothy, 79 ClaremontAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 57 of 1051913Claremont GroveAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandNew wing added
Item 58 of 1051913Glendelvine ManseGlendelvine PerthshireScotlandNew porch
Item 59 of 1051913Glendevon ManseGlendevon PerthshireScotlandAlterations
Item 60 of 1051914Temperance Young Men's Christian Association clubroomsAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 61 of 1051915The Gillespie HallMouswald DumfriesshireScotlandGave his services gratuitously as he had a connection with the parish
Item 62 of 1051919Minto Gardens Council HousingAlva ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 63 of 1051919Walker InstituteTillicoultry ClackmannanshireScotlandRear extension
Item 64 of 1051920Council HousingTillicoultry ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 65 of 105After 1920Houses, Academy PlaceDollar ClackmannanshireScotlandAlterations and additions
Item 66 of 1051922Sauchie District HallSauchie ClackmannanshireScotlandWar memorial
Item 67 of 105192339 Ashley TerraceAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 68 of 105192345-47 High StreetAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 69 of 1051923Lethangie HouseMilnathort Kinross-shireScotlandAlterations and additions - perhaps East wing
Item 70 of 1051923Wellington HouseAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandRelocation of Georgian House from War Memorial site
Item 71 of 1051924Paton's Sports PavilionAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 72 of 1051924Remony LodgeLoch Tay PerthshireScotlandClaimed for Gray by both Gray's daughter and Duncan Millar's son
Item 73 of 1051925Bowling ClubAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 74 of 1051925Coalsnaughton Public Hall and LibraryCoalsnaughton ClackmannanshireScotlandSecond hall added at rear
Item 75 of 1051925Council housing, Ashley TerraceAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 76 of 1051925Sauchie District HallSauchie ClackmannanshireScotlandExtension
Item 77 of 1051926Alloa Parish Church hallAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 78 of 1051926County OfficesAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandBuilt in the garden of Fentoun House, then owned by Gray, thus probably by Gray.
Item 79 of 1051929Cochrane HallAlva ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 80 of 105c. 1929PavilionAlva ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 81 of 1051930sCouncil housing, Argyll Street, Sorley Brae and BurnsideDollar ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 82 of 1051930sGreenriggDollar ClackmannanshireScotlandAttribution by Adam Swan
Item 83 of 1051930sTodsfieldDollar ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 84 of 1051930Fishcross Miners' Welfare InstituteFishcross ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 85 of 1051930Housing, Broad StreetAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 86 of 1051931Co-operative OfficesAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 87 of 1051934MeadowbankDollar ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 88 of 1051935Alloa Gas Undertaking premisesAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandMainly responsible
Item 89 of 1051935Lethangie HouseMilnathort Kinross-shireScotlandRebuilding after fire
Item 90 of 1051935Park Primary SchoolAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 91 of 1051935Parkhead UF ManseAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 92 of 1051936Cochrane Park, pavilionAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 93 of 1051936FactoryAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandExtension
Item 94 of 1051936Four houses, Henderson AvenueAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 95 of 1051936HousingAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 96 of 1051936Kilncraigs OfficesAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandExtension
Item 97 of 1051936Kilncraigs warehouseAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 98 of 1051936Temperance Young Men's Christian Association clubroomsAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandRear hall extension in Mar Street
Item 99 of 1051937Dollar Academy, Preparatory SchoolDollar ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 100 of 1051938Alloa County BuildingsAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandSecond extension 1938 in Drysdale Street (Police Offices)
Item 101 of 1051938Clackmannan County Infectious Diseases HospitalSauchie ClackmannanshireScotlandNorth block added
Item 102 of 1051938The PinesDollar ClackmannanshireScotlandWith Patrick McNeil
Item 103 of 1051938Tillicoultry Primary SchoolTillicoultry ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 104 of 1051939Paton's Sports PavilionAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandAdded lodge
Item 105 of 1051940Tillicoultry Secondary SchoolTillicoultry ClackmannanshireScotlandDesign - not executed


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 4Glendinning, Miles1997Rebuilding Scotland: The Postwar Vision, 1945-75  Tuckwell Press Ltdp150
Item 2 of 4Swan, Adam1988The Kerrs of Alloa49Charles Rennie Mackintosh Newsletter, Summer 1988pp7-10
Item 3 of 4Swan, Adam1992William KerrIIIArchitectural Heritage, EUP, Chapter 7pp83-92
Item 4 of 4Walker, Frank Arneil1986South Clyde Estuary: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to Inverclyde and Renfrew  p80

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 2Alloa Advertiser21 September 1940   
Item 2 of 2Alloa Journal21 September 1940   

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 3DMW ArchiveLetters from Eric Compton & Mrs Compton to Adam Swan (latter dated 4 February 1988)  
Item 2 of 3Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Personal information from A Bryce Kerr, Alfred G Lochhead, John Watson, Alan Reiach, Robert Scott Morton and Gordon Biggar
Item 3 of 3RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers L v24 no1999