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Basic Biographical Details

Name: John Wilson
Designation: Architect
Born: 27 March 1877
Died: 20 January 1959
Bio Notes: John Wilson was born on 27 March 1877 and was articled to the School Board architect Robert Wilson - who may have been a relative - in 1892-98. (His RIBA obituary reverses the roles of John Wilson and George Washington Browne and says he was articled to Browne.) During that period he attended the Edinburgh School of Applied Art, studying under the Beaux-Arts-trained Frank Worthington Simon and Stewart Henbest Capper from whom he acquired a taste for French classicism. In or around 1899 he secured a travelling scholarship which enabled him to spend five months sketching and measuring in England. He then became an assistant in the office of John More Dick Peddie and George Washington Browne, rising to chief assistant in 1903. In the following year he went part-time to commence practice on his own account, and a School of Applied Art travelling studentship enabled him and James Anderson Arnott to undertake a measured study of the Petit Trianon at Versailles which he published as a folio in 1907: Wilson used to relate how he awoke from a lunch-time nap in the garden to see a lady in late-18th century costume leave the Trianon by one of the casement windows, only to realise that they had measured the window that morning and found it permanently fastened. Wilson returned to continue part-time for Peddie & Washington Browne and his profound knowledge of French classicism was probably a significant asset when Edinburgh College of Art was on the drawing board: some of the preliminary sketches made in 1907 may well have been his. From 1905, he was also an assistant teacher at the School of Applied Art.

The Peddie & Washington Browne partnership was dissolved in 1907 and after some two years as sole partner, John More Dick Peddie took into partnership James Forbes Smith (born 1876), who had been his assistant only slightly longer than Wilson. Wilson left in May 1910, resigning his post at the School of Applied Art and giving up private practice in order to become architect to the Local Government Board at 125 George Street. He was admitted LRIBA in the mass intake of 20 July 1911, proposed by James Bow Dunn and the Edinburgh Architectural Association, and became FRIBA in 1913 after only two years, his proposers being Alexander Lorne Campbell, Robert Stodart Lorimer and Robert Rowand Anderson. By that time he had spent four or five summers travelling in France and had ventured for a shorter period to Germany. In 1917 he was responsible for a special report on the design, construction and materials of small dwelling houses, and a report advocating the large-scale, government-backed building of garden suburbs for the working-classes and in 1921 he was a member of the Committee of Inquiry into the High Cost of Building Working Class Dwellings in Scotland, and in 1925 a member of the Moir Committee which investigated new methods of construction. Wilson was appointed Chief Architect to the Department of Health for Scotland in 1928.

From 15 August to 1 September 1934 at the instigation of the Secretary of State, Sir Godfrey Collins, Wilson and the Department's Permanent Secretary, John Highton, and the Depute Medical Officer of Health for Glasgow, Dr W G Clark, and Ebenezer MacRae, City Architect, visited recent housing schemes in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Prague Vienna and Paris which resulted in the report of the Departmental Committee on the Construction of Flats for the Working Classes. They found that while the space standards and servicing of Scottish local authority was generally better than on the continent, the houses they had seen paid more attention to the social and aesthetic aspects, comments which were also reflected in the parallel report of the Scottish Architecture Advisory Committee to the Department of which Wilson was also a member. These comments were reflected in the design of the more adventurous council estates over the next few years.

From 1936 Wilson was assisted by Robert Hogg Matthew. Wilson was also a specialist in hospital design, writing two works on the subject 'The Planning of Sanatoria Hospitals and Other Public Health Institutions' and 'Hospital Planning and Construction' for the authorities and institutions under his supervision, and a further work on 'Town Planning in Relation to Public Health'.

Wilson was admitted Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 6 March 1922. He was awarded the OBE in 1941 and retired in 1942. In later life Wilson was completely blind, 'an affliction which he bore with courage'. He died on 20 January 1959. A large collection of his personal and professional papers was acquired by RCAHMS in 1982.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 4125, George Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness19101939 or after 1940Local Government Board offices
Item 2 of 476, Thirlestane Road, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivatec. 1911  
Item 3 of 459, Murrayfield Gardens, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivatec. 1912c. 1914 
Item 4 of 420, Lomond Road, Leith, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1950 *  

* 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 7Robert Wilson18921898Apprentice 
Item 2 of 7Peddie & Washington Browne18981903Assistant 
Item 3 of 7Peddie & Washington Browne19031907Senior Assistant 
Item 4 of 7John More Dick Peddie19071909Senior Assistant 
Item 5 of 7J M Dick Peddie & Forbes Smith1909May 1910Senior Assistant 
Item 6 of 7Local Government Board for ScotlandMay 1910Before 1928Chief Architect 
Item 7 of 7Department of Health for Scotland (Scottish Board of Health; later Scottish Development Department)1928After 1938 or before 1942Chief Architect 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 4(Sir) Robert Rowand Anderson1913for Fellowship
Item 2 of 4Alexander Lorne Campbell1913for Fellowship
Item 3 of 4James Bow Dunn20 July 1911for Licentiateship - as president of the Edinburgh Architectural Association
Item 4 of 4(Sir) Robert Stodart Lorimer1913for Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 47Walter Alison3 March 1919for Associateship
Item 2 of 47James Alexander Arnott1920for Fellowship
Item 3 of 47James Spalding BennetMid 1921for Associateship
Item 4 of 47James McLellan BrownMid 1919for Associateship
Item 5 of 47Sam Bunton18 November 1941for Licentiateship
Item 6 of 47James Davidson Cairns1929for Fellowship
Item 7 of 47Alexander John Macaskill Currell21 October 1941for Associateship
Item 8 of 47William ('Will') Dootson (junior)10 March 1942For Licentiateship
Item 9 of 47Robert Wemyss FergusonLate 1921for Associateship
Item 10 of 47John Hogg FerrieEarly 1932for Licentiateship
Item 11 of 47Alexander Allan Foote21 June 1937for Fellowship
Item 12 of 47John Wright Ford15 December 1942for Licentiateship
Item 13 of 47Martin Gardner3 December 1942for Associateship
Item 14 of 47Frederick Walter Goddard10 December 1946For Associateship
Item 15 of 47Robert Davidson Goodfellow1938for Licentiateship
Item 16 of 47John Peter Dippie GrantEarly 1920for Associateship
Item 17 of 47James GrayLate 1922for Associateship
Item 18 of 47William Brindle HalleyLate 1931for Licentiateship
Item 19 of 47Percy Pithie HendersonLate 1930for Associateship
Item 20 of 47John Hinshelwood14 April 1942for Licentiateship
Item 21 of 47John JerdanLate 1920for Fellowship
Item 22 of 47Stewart KayeMarch 1921For Associateship
Item 23 of 47Thomas Forbes Maclennan1 December 1924for Fellowship
Item 24 of 47George Donaldson MacnivenLate 1915for Fellowship
Item 25 of 47Ebenezer James MacRae5 March 1934for Fellowship
Item 26 of 47Stuart Russell Matthew4 April 1938for Fellowship
Item 27 of 47Duncan McCulloch (junior)16 December 1943for Licentiateship
Item 28 of 47John Ross McKayMid 1920for Associateship
Item 29 of 47James McLachlan30 November 1925for Fellowship
Item 30 of 47Alexander McWilliamDecember 1922For Associateship
Item 31 of 47Robert Reid MillLate 1931for Licentiateship
Item 32 of 47Alfred Hugh Mottram6 March 1939for Fellowship
Item 33 of 47David Alexander Murray20 July 1943for Licentiateship
Item 34 of 47John Okell9 January 1939for Associateship
Item 35 of 47Arthur Forman Balfour PaulMid 1933for Fellowship
Item 36 of 47Alexander Pye15 December 1942for Licentiateship
Item 37 of 47Thomas RutherfordLate 1931for Licentiateship
Item 38 of 47Thomas RutherfordLate 1932for Fellowship
Item 39 of 47John Mailler Scott1932for Licentiateship
Item 40 of 47Robert Philip ShawJuly 1920For Associateship
Item 41 of 47James Grant Shearer16 November 1943for Licentiateship
Item 42 of 47Elizabeth Spittal (Mrs Edmonds)19 January 1943for Associateship
Item 43 of 47Patrick McGowan Thompson10 February 1936for Associateship
Item 44 of 47James ThomsonMid 1916for Fellowship
Item 45 of 47William James Walker ToddMid 1931for Licentiateship
Item 46 of 47William WalkerJanuary 1921for Fellowship
Item 47 of 47Henry Rochead Williamson9 April 1946for 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 101898Caledonian Hotel  EdinburghScotlandFormation of hotel over station, incorporating Kinnear & Peddie's Caledonian Station - as assistant to John More Dick Peddie
Item 2 of 101902North British and Mercantile Company building  DublinEireHad charge of construction - as assistant to Peddie & Washington Browne
Item 3 of 10Before 1903Scottish Provident Institution  GlasgowScotlandHad charge of construction - as senior assistant to Peddie & Washington Browne
Item 4 of 101905British Linen Bank  EdinburghScotlandHad charge of construction - as senior assistant to Peddie & Washington Browne
Item 5 of 10After 1905InglewoodMorningside EdinburghScotlandIn independent practice (concurrently working part-time with John More Dick Peddie)
Item 6 of 10After 1905TorwoodPeebles PeeblesshireScotlandIn independent practice (concurrently working part-time with John More Dick Peddie)
Item 7 of 101906Edinburgh Municipal Art College  EdinburghScotlandAs assistant to Peddie, may have contributed a lot to the design
Item 8 of 101907Edinburgh Life Assurance Company Building  EdinburghScotlandCompletely new building - as senior assistant to John More Dick Peddie
Item 9 of 101909Melrose Parish ChurchMelrose RoxburghshireScotlandHad charge of reconstruction - as senior assistant to John More Dick Peddie, who won competition to secure job
Item 10 of 101914County and Burgh of Inverness Infectious Diseases HospitalInverness Inverness-shireScotlandActed as consultant for conversion to hospital


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 7British Architectural Library, RIBA2001Directory of British Architects 1834-1914   
Item 2 of 7Glendinning, Miles2008Modern architect: the life and times of Robert Matthew RIBA Publishingp54, 59, 66
Item 3 of 7Post Office Directories     
Item 4 of 7RIBA1950The RIBA Kalendar 1950-1951 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 
Item 5 of 7Who's Who in Architecture1914    
Item 6 of 7Who's Who in Architecture1923    
Item 7 of 7Who's Who in Architecture1926    

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 2RIBA JournalJuly 1959 London: Royal Institute of British ArchitectsObituary reprinted from Scotsman p334
Item 2 of 2Scotsman23 January 1959  Obituary

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Courtesy of Fiona BrockieInformation sent to Dictionary Sent February 2017.

Ms Brockie is researching the diaries of Mr. Wilson's wife, Evelyn, which were donated to the French Institute in Edinburgh (presumably at the same time as Wilson's papers were donated to the RACHMS, after the death of their daughter in 1982)
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers L v21 no1683; F v22 no1530 (microfilm reel 13)


© All rights reserved. Šand courtesy of RIAS 

© All rights reserved. Šand courtesy of RIAS