Basic Biographical Details

Name: C Ower & Co
Designation: Architectural practice
Bio Notes: Charles Ower Junior was born in Dundee c.1849, the son of Charles Ower Senior and his wife Mary Fleet. He was educated at Dundee High School and articled to his father c.1864-1869 as a civil engineer. He was then sent to the South Kensington Schools to study architecture. He returned to Dundee to join his father's practice as a partner in 1873, probably after a period as an assistant. His father withdrew from private practice shortly thereafter, enabling him to take his brother Leslie (born 1851) into partnership. Like him, Leslie had been educated at Dundee High School and articled to his father, but he had sought subsequent experience in Glasgow, working as assistant to the railway engineer James Fairie Blair for eighteen months from 1872, which enabled him to study engineering at the Andersonian University. He had returned to join his father as assistant early in 1874. The practice became C & L Ower in May 1874, a date which probably marked Charles Ower Senior's retirement.

In c.1877 Charles Ower Junior travelled in Italy and exhibited Milan and Turin subjects at the RSA in 1878 and 1879.

Although both Charles Junior and Leslie practised as architects and civil engineers, they had separate professional memberships. Charles sought admission only as AMICE while Leslie sought admission only as FRIBA. He was admitted on 16 June 1890, his proposers being William Mackison, John Macvicar Anderson, London, and John Holden, Manchester, the last of these also being an engineer-architect. Nevertheless it was Charles who wrote to the RIBA on 10 February 1892 setting out his views on architectural education, compulsory examination and registration, describing the current debate on whether the profession was a science or an art as 'Practical Architects versus Fancy men and Faddists.'

The Ower partnership was successful enough from the outset both as architects and engineers and it became an important teaching office. Both brothers were kindly employers by the standards of the time but in physical appearance and personality they were very different. Charles was a bigger-built bearded man, good with clients but difficult and somewhat excitable with a tendency to over-react within the office and at meetings of the Dundee Institute of Architects of which he was effectively the founder in June 1884: at the close of the meeting called by James Maclaren on the measurement of quantities he proposed a local professional body on the lines of the Architectural Association. Leslie was slim and, at least in later years, clean-shaven with a much more equable temperament. Tensions were evident from the beginning and by the 1890s, in the words of those who worked there, 'they couldn't pull together at all.' Although the architectural side of the practice seems to have been at its most prosperous between 1896 and 1898 when William Gillespie Lamond was their head draughtsman and had taken over much of the design work, the partnership was dissolved in the latter year.

Although both brothers retained a significant domestic practice the institutional and commercial clientele was largely lost following the break-up. Charles Ower continued in practice on his own account as C Ower & Co, gifting an important collection of architectural books to Dundee Public Libraries in 1900 to commemorate the relief of Mafeking which he believed would ensure an imperial future for aspiring architects and provided an endowment from which to buy more; but his own practice gradually faded and he isolated himself from the rest of the profession by his resignation from the Dundee Institute of Architects in 1903 on the trivial issue of its objection to the Dundee Wine Spirits and Beer Association seeking competitive tenders for licensing court plans. By 1914 he was practising only as a valuator from a backwater office in unfashionable Gellatly Street. He died unmarried at Benora, the large house he had built for himself in Broughty Ferry on 25 November 1921, leaving a moveable estate of 6,841 12s.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architectural practice:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 1Gellatly Street, Dundee, ScotlandBusiness1914 *  

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architectural practice (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 2Charles Ower (junior)After 1898 Partner 
Item 2 of 2John Robert Moore19141917Apprentice 

Buildings and Designs

This architectural practice 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 11903Virginia Buildings  DundeeScotlandGifford gives 1903-14 but is this a mis-print for 1903-04?


Currently, there are no references for this architectural practice. The information has been derived from: the British Architectural Library / RIBA Directory of British Architects 1834-1914; Post Office Directories; and/or any sources listed under this individual's works.