Basic Biographical Details

Name: Robert Philip Andrew Hurd
Designation: Architect
Born: 29 July 1905
Died: 17 September 1963
Bio Notes: Robert Philip Andrew Hurd was 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 was educated at Marlborough, where he was a year ahead of Ian Lindsay, and at the LCC Central School of Arts. Thereafter he went 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 was engaged to be married to a fellow student, Elizabeth Ryan of Roy Bridge, but she died before the marriage could take place.

Hurd came to Scotland in 1930 or 1931 (he was elected a student member of the RIBA in the latter year) to complete his studies at Edinburgh College of Art and work for two of the staff there, Frank Charles Mears and Charles Denny Carus-Wilson. His intention was 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 1932 during the course of these studies Hurd entered into a partnership with a colleague in Mears's office, the modernist architect Norman Alexander Gordon Neil (born 1899), who was deeply influenced by modern German and Scandinavian architecture. 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.

Hurd early became involved in conservation issues. Like Lindsay he early 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. Although post-war conditions were difficult the practice quickly recovered, Hurd being appointed, along with Lindsay, an architect member of the Secretary of State's Hydro-Electric Amenity Committee. This brought work on the architectural aspects of a number of hydro schemes and membership of the successor Architectural Panel of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board; and from 1947 until 1959 he was Planning Consultant for Lewis, Ross and Cromarty County Council.

In 1952 Hurd was commissioned to reconstruct large sections of the Canongate as local authority housing and quickly found himself in the same difficulty with the Highways Department as Macrae had done fourteen years earlier. Whole facades had to be taken down and rebuilt on a set-back building line, and historic closes completely disappeared. While Hurd tried hard to make both the rear elevations and the new-build elements architecturally interesting, his involvement in it brought about his estrangement from Lindsay. Hurd did much better in his reconstruction of the greater part of Old Aberdeen for the University of Aberdeen where the work was much more generously funded by the MacRobert Trust. To assist with these projects Hurd's chief assistant Ian McKerrow Begg was taken into partnership in 1953, the practice then becoming Robert Hurd & Partners.

During the 1950s, Hurd campaigned in opposition to the University's plans for George Square, however he did accept a commission in 1959 from the University (on Basil Spence's recommendation) to report on rehabilitation of the west side of the square. By this time, in spite of his conservationist tendencies, he was considered by some as a 'reactionary' designer, due to protests against his new building for Emmanuel College, Cambridge by the 'Anti-Ugly Action' group in 1959.

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 Iain 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.

Hurd died suddenly while on holiday in Zurich, Switzerland on 17 September 1963. His body was brought home and buried in Canongate Churchyard.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 56, Upper Dean Terrace, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate   
Item 2 of 53, Forres Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness19321944(?) 
Item 3 of 549, George Square, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivateEarly 1930s *After 1948 
Item 4 of 512, Randolph Place, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness19441950 
Item 5 of 541, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness19501963 

* 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 3Mears & Carus-Wilson1930 or 19311932Assistant 
Item 2 of 3Neil & Hurd19321950Partner 
Item 3 of 3Robert Hurd & Partners (or R A Hurd & Partners)19531963Partner 

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 2Antony Curtiss Wolffe19471953AssistantPlanning assistant
Item 2 of 2Ian McKerron Begg19501953Assistant 

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 521934Buckholm Farm  RoxburghshireScotland 
Item 2 of 521934Oxenfoord Estate, SanatoriumOxenfoord MidlothianScotland 
Item 3 of 521934Parish Church Manse IonaArgyllScotlandAddition
Item 4 of 521934Torwoodlee HouseGalashiels SelkirkshireScotlandAlterations
Item 5 of 521935Cnoc Mor IonaArgyllScotland 
Item 6 of 521935Council ChambersInverness Inverness-shireScotlandProbably competition design
Item 7 of 521935Ravelston FlatsRavelston EdinburghScotland 
Item 8 of 52c. 1935AldersideGullane East LothianScotland 
Item 9 of 521936Acheson House  EdinburghScotlandRestoration
Item 10 of 521936Royal HotelNorth Berwick East LothianScotland 
Item 11 of 52c. 1936Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art  DundeeScotlandCompetition designs
Item 12 of 521937EaglescairnieHaddington East LothianScotlandRebuilding
Item 13 of 521937Hamilton HousePrestonpans East LothianScotlandRestoration
Item 14 of 521937Highland Home Industries  EdinburghScotland 
Item 15 of 521937HouseCorpach Inverness-shireScotland 
Item 16 of 521937Lamb's HouseLeith EdinburghScotlandRestoration (completed in 1959-61 as Robert Hurd & Partners)
Item 17 of 521938CoirechoilleSpean Bridge Inverness-shireScotland 
Item 18 of 521938West Highland HotelMallaig Inverness-shireScotlandAlterations?
Item 19 of 5219395 Charlotte Square  EdinburghScotlandAlterations
Item 20 of 521939Loudoun HallAyr AyrshireScotlandRestoration
Item 21 of 521940Woodend ButeButeScotland 
Item 22 of 521946Culzean Castle  AyrshireScotlandRestoration begun
Item 23 of 521948Dungavel HouseStrathaven LanarkshireScotlandResidential training centre for National Coal Board
Item 24 of 521950Blackie House, Wardrop's Close, Lawnmarket  EdinburghScotlandFurther alterations
Item 25 of 521950Public House, Lawnmarket  EdinburghScotlandAlterations and restoration
Item 26 of 521950Tenements, 17-20 Bank Street  EdinburghScotland'The fussy rubble stair replacing the mounlded doorpiece at the rear of No 435 Lawnmarket and the flat rood on the adjoining rear wing of Nops 17-20 Bank Street' are part of Hurd's work
Item 27 of 52c. 1950(?)Cakemuir CastleCrichton MidlothianScotlandAlterations
Item 28 of 521952Burns TavernGalston AyrshireScotland 
Item 29 of 521952Development, Chessels Court & Morocco LandRoyal Mile EdinburghScotlandRedevelopment
Item 30 of 521952South End Community CentreDaliburghSouth UistInverness-shireScotlandDesigned as power station
Item 31 of 521953Tolbooth Area redevelopment  EdinburghScotland 
Item 32 of 52After 1953Sandford CottageWormit FifeScotlandNW extension
Item 33 of 521954Culross Abbey HouseCulross FifeScotlandRestoration
Item 34 of 521954House of Nisbet of Dirleton, Canongate  EdinburghScotlandRebuilding
Item 35 of 521955Tenement, 246 -248 Canongate  EdinburghScotlandRestoration
Item 36 of 521955Tenement, 250-254 Canongate  EdinburghScotlandRestoration
Item 37 of 521956Bible LandRoyal Mile EdinburghScotlandRestoration
Item 38 of 521956Library and Village CentreSkelmorlie  Scotland 
Item 39 of 521956Shoemaker's Land  EdinburghScotlandReconstruction
Item 40 of 521957Emmanuel CollegeCambridge CambridgeshireEnglandNew kitchens and dining hall and restoration and reconstruction.
Item 41 of 521957Tenements, 189-191 Canongate  EdinburghScotlandRestoration
Item 42 of 521958202-254 Canongate  EdinburghScotlandRestoration
Item 43 of 521958Aigas Hydro-electric Power Station and DamBeauly Inverness-shireScotlandGiven as architect by Glendinning and Gifford
Item 44 of 521958Chessel's Court Redevelopment  EdinburghScotlandRestoration
Item 45 of 521958Kilmorack Hydro-Electric Power Station (Combined Dam and Power House)  Inverness-shireScotlandGiven as architect by Glendinning
Item 46 of 521958Tenement, 191 Canongate  EdinburghScotland 
Item 47 of 521959Kyle of Lochalsh Primary SchoolKyle of Lochalsh Ross and CromartyScotland 
Item 48 of 521959Newtonmill House  AngusScotlandRestoration
Item 49 of 5216 January 1959Kyle of Lochalsh Primary SchoolKyle of Lochalsh Ross and CromartyScotlandproject architect, accepting tender applications per Builder p165
Item 50 of 521960Canongate Redevelopment, Tolbooth and Morocco Land AreasTolbooth and Morocco Land Edinburgh, MidlothianScotland 
Item 51 of 52c. 1960Surgeons' Hall  EdinburghScotlandCouncil room flush-panelled.
Item 52 of 521963Chessel's Court Redevelopment  EdinburghScotlandNorth block restoration


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 5Bailey, Rebecca M1996Scottish architects' papers: a source book Edinburgh: The Rutland Pressp112-14 & 212
Item 2 of 5Glendinning, Miles1997Rebuilding Scotland: The Postwar Vision, 1945-75  Tuckwell Press Ltdp7 Tolbooth Area Redevelopment; Morocco Land; Chessel's Court
p8 Image of Chessel's Court when newly completed in 1966
p160-1 Chessel's Court
Item 3 of 5Glendinning, Miles2008Modern architect: the life and times of Robert Matthew RIBA Publishingp58,67,69,172,255-6
Item 4 of 5Johnson, Jim and Rosenburg, Lou2010Renewing Old Edinburgh: the Enduring Legacy of Patrick Geddes Glendaruel: Argyll Publishingp208-213 (Hurd's Canongate developments)
Item 5 of 5RIBA1948The RIBA Kalendar 1948-1949 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 3Builder15 February 1952  Hurd commenting on the future of Edinburgh's Royal Mile, suggesting that it should once again become a residential area, and that buildings of twentieth-century design should be erected in the gaps where old buildings once stood.

An argument is made that, while the rhythm of the street must be preserved, provision must also be made for innovation.

Hurd also criticises the McRae report, and calls for an Old Town populated by all classes of people (p276)
Item 2 of 3Builder1 August 1952  p180 - Hurd commenting on Royal Mile's Second Stage, explaining why certain approaches have been adopted
Item 3 of 3Builder15 August 1952  p248

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2National Monuments Record of Scotland/NMRS, RCAHMSNMRS Manuscripts Drawings
Item 2 of 2Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Personal information from Ian Begg (letter, 20 January 2005)