Basic Biographical Details
|Name: ||Neil & Hurd |
|Designation: ||Architectural practice |
|Started: ||1932 |
|Ended: ||1950 |
|Bio Notes: ||Norman Alexander Gordon Neil was born on 15 January 1899 and studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 1919 to 1927, attending day classes for the first two years and morning classes for the rest of his certificate course whilst working as an assistant in the office of Frank Charles Mears. In 1926 he spent time travelling in France and Italy. He remained with Mears after the formation of the latter's partnership with Charles Denny Carus-Wilson, and by 1931 had been promoted to chief assistant. In July that year he passed the qualifying exam in Edinburgh and he was admitted ARIBA at the end of the year, his proposers being Mears, Carus-Wilson and John Begg. |
In 1932 he formed a partnership with a younger colleague in Mears's office, Robert Philip Andrew Hurd. Hurd had been born on 29 July 1905, the fourth son of Sir Percy Angier Hurd MP and his wife Hannah Swan Cox who came from Dundee. He had been educated at Marlborough, where he was a year ahead of Ian Lindsay, and at the LCC Central School of Arts. Thereafter he had gone up to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, when he renewed his school friendship with Lindsay and became a member of the circle centred on Mansfield Forbes and Raymond McGrath. While there he had been engaged to be married to a fellow student, Elizabeth Ryan of Roy Bridge, but she had died before the marriage could take place. Hurd had come to Scotland in 1930 or 1931 to complete his studies at Edinburgh College of Art and work for Mears & Carus-Wilson; his intention had been to 'write about architecture and investigate national traditions', a subject almost certainly inspired by Mansfield Forbes, resulting in the architectural sections in 'Scotland in Quest of her Youth' (1934) and 'The Scots Weekend Book' (1937). In those early years he lived in George Square, his love of which was later to bring him into conflict with both Basil Spence and Robert Matthew.
Neil was the modernist in the practice, designing Ravelston flats in 1935. His first wife was German and he took a keen interest in German architecture. He was also a keen photographer and took many official pictures of the early years of the Edinburgh International Festival. Hurd meanwhile early became involved in conservation issues. Like Lindsay he secured the patronage of the 4th Marquess of Bute. In July 1936 he was a member of the National Trust for Scotland delegation to the Under Secretary of State Colonel John Colville on the issue of the preservation of Scotland's urban architectural heritage, then rapidly being cleared away under the housing acts, and in 1938 he was the author of the first book on the Trust's holdings, 'Scotland under Trust'. In the same year, together with Bute's brother Lord David Crichton-Stuart and the author Ian C Hannah MP, he obtained an interim interdict against the demolition of the Tailor's Land in the Cowgate which the city architect Ebenezer James Macrae had originally hoped to restore as housing. He was ultimately unsuccessful, but he did undertake three restorations for the 4th Marquess's personal 'Little Houses' scheme before the war. The partnership with Neil was suspended when Neil left for India, his engagement to the practice's secretary having caused some embarrassment.
Because of polio in early life one of Hurd's feet was weak, tired quickly and sometimes caused him to stumble. He was thus unfit for active service when the Second World War broke out, and was instead attached to the Royal Engineers, for a time being responsible for the removal of railings and gates for the war effort in the Edinburgh area. It was not a popular activity and he often had difficult decisions to make. But remaining in Edinburgh enabled him to continue his campaign for good design as co-author with Alan Reiach of 'Building Scotland', first issued in 1941 and reprinted in 1944, and through BBC broadcasts. From 1943 until 1948 he was President of the Saltire Society and for the following eight years he was its honorary secretary.
Neil returned to practice after the war, the practice retaining the title of Neil & Hurd until Neil finally left altogether in 1950, around the time that he married his secretary. The name was then changed to Robert Hurd Architect. Although post-war conditions were difficult the practice quickly recovered.
Hurd never sought membership of the RIBA and was content to remain FRIAS only. He was Vice-President of the Scottish Georgian Society from its foundation, and an honorary member of the Georgian Group in London, while his lifelong interest in broadcasting and the performing arts brought him membership of the Scottish Advisory Panel of the BBC and of the Council of the Edinburgh Festival Society. Alan Reiach described him as 'personally a man of great charm, a witty and sometimes irreverent companion. [He] had a strong determination, and while always concerned with broader issues affecting affairs in Scotland no cause that he thought worthwhile was too small for his support.'
Hurd never married. From the late 1930s Ian Paul lived with him. They first met on a McBrayne steamer through a shared interest in Iona and the western seaboard which subsequently extended to the Saltire Society, The National Trust for Scotland (where Paul was briefly a temporary secretary) and other bodies Hurd was interested in. Paul was a man of wide interests who had attended the University of Edinburgh but left without a degree. In earlier years the arrangement may have had its uses when Hurd was over-stretched on his interests outwith the practice but he rarely had a job in the ordinary sense of the word, only occasional fee-paid research work for Dr David Russell, and his post-war intention of establishing himself as an upmarket antique dealer by acquiring the best pieces in the showrooms of other dealers was out of touch with reality. For much of the post-war period their relationship was not a happy one, not least because of his habit of accompanying Hurd when his presence was not appropriate. Nevertheless Hurd felt some responsibility for him and left him his house.
Private and Business Addresses
|The following private or business addresses are associated with this architectural practice:|
| ||Address||Type||Date from||Date to||Notes|
|3, Forres Street, Edinburgh, Scotland||Business||1932||1944|| |
|12, Randolph Place, Edinburgh, Scotland||Business||1944||1950|| |
|41, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, Scotland|| ||1949|| || |
Employment and Training
Employees or Pupils
Buildings and Designs
|The following periodicals contain references to this architectural practice:|
| ||Periodical Name||Date||Edition||Publisher||Notes|
|Builder||2 December 1949|| || ||p747|
|Builder||4 March 1949|| || ||p288|