Basic Biographical Details

Name: William Ernest Watson
Designation: Architect
Born: 1880
Died: 12 January 1950
Bio Notes: William Ernest Watson ('Willy') was born in Sheffield in 1880 and educated at Glebe School, Greenock. He spent the years 1893 to 1897 in the Ardgowan estate office in Greenock training as a surveyor but on 21 July 1898 he was articled to John Burnet & Son in Glasgow as an architect, attending classes at Glasgow School of Art. In 1901 he became an assistant to William Douglas Caröe in London, and in 1905 he passed the qualifying exam, being admitted ARIBA on 4 December that year, his proposers being Caröe, John Slater, Herbert Passmore and Herbert Duncan Searles-Wood. In the same year he joined William James Ancell as head draughtsman, remaining with him until 1911 when he commenced independent practice at 53 Chancery Lane. At some point he became architect to the St George's in the East Board of Guardians.

He was elevated to FRIBA in mid-1919, his sole proposer being John James Burnet. At that time he was still on war service as a Captain with the Royal Field Artillery, based at the Western General Hospital, Liverpool having previously served in France; he had already been a Territorial for some years before the war. His nomination papers state that he was sub-editor of 'The Hospital', for which he had written several articles on hospital decoration and construction. His literary works also included a number of books and articles on building contracts, practice and arbitration; he was for a time President of the Institute of Arbitrators, and appeared as counsel in cases concerning architectural and contract matters. He was an expert in the London Building Acts, having qualified as a District Surveyor, and was an Associate of the Town Planning Institute and of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. He was joint-Honorary Secretary of the Practice Standing Committee from 1926 to 1932, and served as a RIBA Examiner from 1929 to 1933 and on the Special Committee on the Scale of Charges from 1927 to 1933.

Watson died suddenly of heart failure on 12 January 1950. He was warmly remembered by his fellows as a genial character. In a RIBAJ obituary, H B Cresswell writes of him:
'Though born in Sheffield, W.E. was emphatically a Scot. The strong, dark, hirsute brow, with the kindly blue eye gazing from beneath its pent; and the measured rhythm of the utterance with precise value given to consonants, was part of his personality; and his patrician tastes were also true to his blood: soldiering, riding, golf, fly-fishing and the wilds. So, too, was his appreciation of high quality in things, from the split cane fly rod to the haggis sent him every week from Scotland and the fish pie and Bradenham double-cured ham for which Sunningdale Golf Club was famous in days when I went there as his guest. … [H]e had higher aims than success; and the many lame dogs that he helped over stiles, and others who, seeking his advice, lived to be grateful for rescue from litigation, stood for much with him.'

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 44 Verulam Buildings, Gray's Inn, London, EnglandBusiness   
Item 2 of 4Linthwaite, Laleham, Middlesex, EnglandPrivate1905 *  
Item 3 of 453, Chancery Lane, London, EnglandBusiness1911After 1914 
Item 4 of 4No 1 Western General Hospital, Liverpool, EnglandPrivate1919 *  

* 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 & Son21 July 18981 January 1901Apprentice 
Item 2 of 3William Douglas Caröe1 January 1901September 1905Assistant 
Item 3 of 3William James AncellSeptember 1905(?)1911Chief Draughtsman 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 5(Sir) John James BurnetMid 1919for Fellowship
Item 2 of 5William Douglas Caröe4 December 1905for Associateship
Item 3 of 5Herbert Passmore4 December 1905for Associateship
Item 4 of 5Herbert Duncan Searles-Wood4 December 1905for Associateship
Item 5 of 5John Slater4 December 1905for Associateship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 1Eric Kingdon Rowe24 November 1935For Licentiateship


Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 2RIBA JournalFebruary 1950v57London: Royal Institute of British Architectsp160 - obituary
Item 2 of 2RIBA JournalApril 1950v57London: Royal Institute of British Architectsp245 - obituary by H B Cresswell

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers A v16 p99 (microfilm reel 19); F no1665 (microfilm reel 14)