© All rights reserved.  and courtesy of Avril Rennie 

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Basic Biographical Details

Name: Robert Rennie
Designation: Architect
Born: 14 February 1906
Died: 15 March 1969
Bio Notes: Robert Rennie was born on 14 February 1906 in Port Bannatyne on the Isle of Bute, the son of Robert Rennie, an officer with the Isle of Bute Constabulary and his wife Agnes Singer Henderson. When he was small his parents relocated to Brodick on the Isle of Arran where he initially attended the local primary school. During a visit to the school in about 1915 the Marchioness of Graham spotted his talent at art. She was so impressed that she wrote to the Principal of Glasgow School of Art asking that a place be reserved for him. She also sent young Robert a china palette and a box of paints.

For his secondary school education Robert was sent to Hillhead High School, staying in digs in Glasgow during the week and returning home at the weekends. At school he excelled at rugby and played for the Ist XV. He enrolled in continuation classes at Glasgow High School in September 1924.

Although a place had been reserved for him in the School of Art, Robert's father considered that art was an uncertain career and persuaded his son to study architecture. One of his tutors at the School was Jack Coia whose work had a profound influence on Rennie's later work. During his years at the School of Art, he won the Gold Medal for Design. He passed the qualifying exam and was admitted ARIBA on 6 March 1934, proposed by Andrew Graham Henderson, John Keppie and John Watson. During this period he worked in the office of Keppie & Henderson; Henderson reported that he had 'served my firm in a thoroughly satisfactory manner as draughtsman for about three years during which he completed the GSA architecture course.'

Rennie remained with Keppie & Henderson after completing the course at the School of Art. However, due to the recession in the 1930s, Rennie was made redundant, and he went back to live with his parents who had moved to Saltcoats in Ayrshire in 1930. He commenced independent practice working from his parents' home at 104 Argyle Street, Saltcoats. By 1939 when he was a member of the Glasgow Institute of Architects he gave his address as 23 Bradshaw Street, Saltcoats. Later that year he volunteered for military service and served as Captain with the Royal Artillery (279 Field Regiment), which was posted to Burma. He was later promoted to the rank of Major and was mentioned in dispatches.

After the end of hostilities Rennie returned to Saltcoats and built up his practice, working initially on his own from an office at 12A Hamilton Street. He entered a short-lived partnership with Stanley Bramble, trading as Rennie & Bramble and later, probably about 1957, formed a partnership with Andrew Houston Watson as Robert Rennie & Watson.

In 1962 Rennie purchased the practice of Black & Shapley, based at 15 Barr Street, Ardrossan. At first, Rennie kept 15 Barr Street as a satellite office. Two of Black & Shapley's staff stayed on there, Robert Paton, architectural technician, and Mrs Ruby Kidd, secretary. Some time later the Ardrossan office was closed and Bobby Paton and Ruby Kidd moved to the office in Saltcoats (where Rennie already had a staff of about eight to ten).

In those days, the 'Three Towns' of Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenson each had their own Burgh Council. Robert Rennie & Watson was engaged in local authority housing, and had three separate Burgh Councils to deal with. Taking over Black & Shapley meant that Rennie's hand was strengthened in regard to the Ardrossan Burgh Council and that the bulk of that sort of work in the 'Three Towns' area came to him. He concentrated on Ardrossan and Saltcoats, while Drew Watson concentrated on Stevenston. The practice was responsible for a wide range of projects including a number of local authority housing schemes for the councils of Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston, private houses, hotels, shops, offices, small factory buildings and at least six churches.

Rennie died of respiratory failure and chronic bronchitis at Larkfield Hospital, Greenock on 15 March 1969. He was survived by his widow, Helen Paterson Simpson Ainslie, whom he had married on 15 June 1949, and their two daughters. Both Rennie and his wife were cremated at Masonhill Crematorium, Ayr, and their ashes were scattered there. He was also survived by his older sister, Helen ('Nell'). After Rennie's death Angus Starling joined the practice which became Rennie Watson & Starling. The firm moved to larger premises in Arran Place, Ardrossan; it continued to operate until about 1990 when it was wound up.

Rennie Place, Saltcoats, and Rennie Business Units, Saltcoats, were both named after Robert Rennie, an indication of the esteem in which he was held in that town.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 4104, Argyle Road, Saltcoats, Ayrshire, ScotlandPrivate/business(?)1934 *After 1950 
Item 2 of 423, Bradshaw Street, Saltcoats, Ayrshire, ScotlandPrivate/business(?)1939 *  
Item 3 of 412A, Hamilton Street, Saltcoats, Ayrshire, ScotlandBusinessAfter 1945  
Item 4 of 4Carlton/53, Ardrossan Road, Seamill, Ayrshire, ScotlandPrivate19491969 

* 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 3Keppie & HendersonAfter 1924Before 1933Draughtsman 
Item 2 of 3Rennie & Bramble19561957Partner 
Item 3 of 3Robert Rennie & WatsonAfter 1957(?) Partner 

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 2Andrew Houston Watson19491954Apprentice 
Item 2 of 2Andrew Houston Watson19561961Assistant 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3Andrew Graham Henderson5 March 1934For Associateship
Item 2 of 3John Keppie5 March 1934For Associateship
Item 3 of 3John Watson5 March 1934For Associateship

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 15After 1945Chapelhill Mount housing schemeArdrossan AyrshireScotland212 houses.
Item 2 of 151956Our Lady of Perpetual Succour RC ChurchMillportGreat CumbraeButeScotland 
Item 3 of 151956St Andrew's ChurchIrvine AyrshireScotlandDesigned with Harry Taylor
Item 4 of 151957(?)Houses at Arthur StreetStevenston AyrshireScotlandCHECK - not sure if architect or just in charge of vetting tenders
Item 5 of 155 September 1958Houses at Station RoadStevenston AyrshireScotlandaccepting tenders per Builder p418
CHECK role - architect, as well?
Item 6 of 152 October 1959Tenement, 1-7 Glebe StreetStevenston  Scotlandaccepting tender applications at Hamilton Street address per Builder p368
Item 7 of 151960sAll-Pets pet shopSaltcoats AyrshireScotland 
Item 8 of 151960s(?)All-Travel travel agentSaltcoats AyrshireScotland 
Item 9 of 151960sArdenlee HotelSeamill AyrshireScotlandAdditions? New build?
Item 10 of 151960sLocal Authority housing, Kerlaw EstateStevenston AyrshireScotland 
Item 11 of 151960sRobert Harris Department StoreSaltcoats AyrshireScotland 
Item 12 of 151960sSt Brendan's RC ChurchSaltcoats AyrshireScotland 
Item 13 of 15Mid 1960s(?)The Braes, local authority housingSaltcoats AyrshireScotlandMainly responsible?
Item 14 of 15Before 1975Local Authority housing, North Station siteSaltcoats AyrshireScotland 
Item 15 of 15Before 1975Local Authority Housing, Parkend RoadSaltcoats AyrshireScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 3Post Office Directories     
Item 2 of 3RIBA1939The RIBA Kalendar 1939-1940 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 
Item 3 of 3RIBA1950The RIBA Kalendar 1950-1951 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Information from Rennie's daughter, Avril Rennie, via website. Further research by Iain Paterson.
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers A no 5403 (combined box 77)


© All rights reserved.  and courtesy of Avril Rennie 

© All rights reserved. and courtesy of Avril Rennie