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Dictionary of
Scottish Architects

Portrait of J Honeyman Portrait of D MacGibbon Portrait of Sir R R Anderson 

Essay Themes

Recent Developments in Scottish Architectural History

David M Walker

In 1992 the Scottish Survey of Architectural Practices (SSAP) was set up by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), and the Business Archives of Scotland. This continued the work already begun by McKean, then at the RIAS, in 1984 when it was first appreciated that important practice records had recently been lost, as a result of either practice closure or moving office. It encompassed one hundred architectural practices, nine consulting engineers and twenty-six quantity surveyors. Seventeen practices were studied in detail. The results of this comprehensive survey were published as Rebecca M Bailey's Scottish Architects' Papers: A Source Book in 1996. As a spin-off from the McKean and SSAP programmes, the records of over twenty practices were deposited either with the RIAS or RCAHMS, the ownership of those held by the former passing to the latter in 1999. A further two particularly important archives, the cream of the Lorimer archive and the Dick Peddie & McKay collection, were bought by RCAHMS in 1998 and 1999 respectively with the financial assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

In 1999-2004 these records were catalogued and conserved by the HLF-funded Scottish Architects' Papers Preservation Project (SAPPP), the results being summarised in Creating a Future for the Past: the Scottish Architects' Papers Preservation Project, published in 2004. This contains an important series of practice essays: users of that work should, however, also refer to the original essays as the published versions are abridgements to meet financial constraints. In parallel with these RCAHMS projects, mention should be made of the significant improvements in the care and cataloguing of some of the Dean of Guild collections following Iain M Gray's survey. A few have been catalogued and have contributed to the present database. Others are, however, on very restricted access and the planned search of them as a second phase of the DSA has had to be put on hold. It should be noted by intending users of the Dean of Guild Records that as a result of local government reorganisation in 1995 many of the collections are not now at the locations given by Gray.

While much ongoing dissertation research has been carried out in the Scottish universities' Art History, Fine Art and Architecture departments, specific mention should be made of more than a dozen research programmes: approximately in date order, these are:

  1. Officina Artists of Scotland: architects. This was compiled by William T Johnston. It has been continually updated since first published in database form in 1993 and Johnston generously provided a disk. Although much less comprehensive, this did very usefully help the DSA with dates of birth and death and publications where it did not already have them. In only a couple of instances has the DSA ventured to differ on date of birth, where the parents or location did not correspond with the other information it held: births prior to 1855 are a hazardous area if the parish clerk did not record sufficient information.
  2. Glasgow's architects. Iain Paterson has for many years been conducting detailed researches into architects practising in Glasgow and some of these have been issued as fact sheets by Glasgow City Council's Development and Regeneration Services. He has generously shared his researches with the DSA team. Of particular importance have been his researches on Henry Edward Clifford, Thomas Melville Lunan, and Francis Stirrat. Also helpful have been Gordon Urquhart's Along Great Western Road (2000), a detailed study of the whole of the Kelvinside area and the earlier Glasgow: The Forming of the City (1992), edited by Professor Peter Reed; a fuller account of the activities of the City Improvement Trust and its architects has since been provided by Matthew Withey's PhD thesis The Architecture of the Glasgow Improvement Trust and the Glasgow City Improvement Trust 1866-1910 (2002). Also notably comprehensive have been Bruce Peter's researches into the architecture of Glasgow's cinemas, published in 1996 as 100 Years of Glasgow's Amazing Cinemas, superseding the earlier publications on this subject.
  3. Alexander Thomson. Dr Gavin Stamp, a member of the DSA's Project Board, founded the Alexander Thomson Society in 1993 and began publishing current research in newsletters. His interest in Thomson culminated in a major programme of new research for the exhibition 'Alexander "Greek" Thomson: The Unknown Genius', held at The Lighthouse, Glasgow by the Glasgow 1999 Festival Company. This was published in book form and Dr Stamp generously made his database available to the DSA team.
  4. George Walton and Fred Rowntree. In 1993 Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries mounted a major exhibition of the work of George Walton, curated by Daniel Robbins. It also greatly extended knowledge of Rowntree. Associated with the exhibition was a major book, George Walton, Designer and Architect by Karen Moon, published in the same year.
  5. Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the John Honeyman, John Keppie, Andrew Graham Henderson and Alex Smellie practices. The torrent of publications on Charles Rennie Mackintosh continued unabated throughout the 1990s. Some have not added much, if anything, to the state of knowledge, although the individual studies of Glasgow School of Art and the Hill House most certainly have, and new-found information, not only on Mackintosh but on related figures, has been a regular feature of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society's newsletters since the 1970s. In 1996 Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries mounted a major Mackintosh exhibition curated by Pamela Robertson and J. Stewart Johnson with Roger Billcliffe as consultant. Immediately preceding this exhibition was Alan Crawford's Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1995) and associated with it was a second book with the same title edited by Wendy Kaplan in which Alan Crawford had a very large hand. Together with the earlier (1990) publication of Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Architectural Papers, edited by Professor Pamela Robertson, the subsequent publication of Mackintosh's architectural sketches by Alan Crawford (1999) and Elaine Grogan (2002), and the publication of the letters from Mackintosh's later years, these have greatly advanced knowledge of Mackintosh when it seemed there could be nothing new left to find. Alan Lamont undertook a PhD thesis on Honeyman and finally David Stark provided a complete history of the practice, Charles Rennie Mackintosh & Co, 1854 to 2004, to mark its 150th anniversary. He too generously provided the DSA team with a copy of his database which helpfully extended beyond that provided by Alex Smellie forty years earlier.
  6. James Barbour and John McLintock Bowie. In 1996 Antony C Wolffe produced a summary catalogue of the drawings of this very important Dumfries practice, now held by Sutherland Dickie & Copland, and published it with a biographical note in the Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, Vol LXXI.
  7. Thomas Smith Tait and Margaret B Brodie. A well-researched exhibition on Thomas Smith Tait, also featuring work by Margaret B Brodie, was held in Paisley in 1998, building on earlier work by Neil Baxter, Walker, and particularly Dawn Caswell McDowell. It extended the knowledge of those who saw it but regrettably did not appear in book form.
  8. Architectural sculpture. In 1999 the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, commenced a National Recording Project of which Glasgow, compiled by Ray McKenzie of Glasgow School of Art, is volume 5 (published in 2002). The Edinburgh volume is still in preparation, but the information in the excellent Glasgow volume has most usefully supplemented the information already held by Walker. The DSA does not aim to provide a dictionary of sculptors, but it does include information on sculptors, decorators and other craftsmen where the quality of the work makes their contribution particularly significant.
  9. James Salmon and John Gaff Gillespie. In 1994 RCAHMS acquired Salmon's practice papers from 1913 to 1924 (the earlier papers prior to the dissolution of the Salmon Son & Gillespie practice were destroyed in World War II). These were catalogued by David William Walker, and in 2003 Raymond O'Donnell published his twenty years of research into this practice, James Salmon 1873-1924. Particularly happy outcomes of that event were the visit of Salmon's niece Anne Salmon (Mrs Allan Francis) from New Zealand and her deposit with RCAHMS of Salmon's letters to his brother Hugh, both in 2005.
  10. Peddie & Kinnear. Between 1995 and 2002 David W Walker researched the practice of John Dick Peddie and Charles George Hood Kinnear for a PhD thesis. It differed from most 'Life and Work'-type biographies in that it provided an insight into how some Victorian architects promoted client companies and took their fees in shares. An RCAHMS exhibition of Peddie & Kinnear's work and that of Peddie's son John More Dick Peddie was held at the RIAS, curated by Dawn Caswell McDowell.
  11. James Marjoribanks MacLaren. In 2003 the English architectural historian Alan Calder published James MacLaren: Arts and Crafts Pioneer, the culmination of some twenty years of research on this architect who was the subject of an RIBA Heinz Gallery exhibition curated by Calder in 1990. His work has extended beyond MacLaren to his brother Thomas (who has also been researched by R J Nevins) and to his successors William Dunn and Robert Watson and other related figures. Calder has generously shared his knowledge with the DSA team and has found a most remarkable collection of early photographs as well as a fair number of original drawings.
  12. Thomson & Sandilands. Between 1999 and 2005 Suzanne Mireylees researched this Ecole des Beaux Arts and Royal Academy Schools practice for her PhD thesis In the shadow of Gartloch: The life and work of John Thomson & Robert Douglas Sandilands. Although the practice records have been lost, some early drawings and photographs of a hitherto unknown project remained with the family in Cornwall.
  13. Canada. Holly Kinnear has researched the Scottish architects who settled in Montreal and has provided data for the DSA. Donald Luxton's Building the West: the early architects of British Columbia (2003) contains a number of Scottish architects, sometimes picking up the threads of architects of whom the DSA had lost trace.
  14. Pirie & Clyne. In 1996 Victoria Ball wrote an important dissertation on this practice which usefully drew together everything known at that time. Her continuing interest in the subject resulted in the discovery and gift of John Bridgeford Pirie's drawings to RCAHMS in 1995.
  15. Archibald Leitch. From 1996 to 2005 Simon Inglis carried out a comprehensive programme of research on Archie Leitch, culminating in the publication of Engineering Archie: Archibald Leitch - football ground designer in the latter year. Although more engineer than architect, and despite practising in Liverpool and London for the majority of his career, Leitch, who was born and first came to prominence in Glasgow, has been given full coverage in the DSA due to his dominance of football stadium design throughout the UK for the first three-and-a-half decades of the 20th century.

Whether anything quite so important as the Salmon letters, the MacLaren photographs and the Pirie drawings still lies hidden away in private hands remains to be seen. But it is hoped that consultees of the DSA who do have family photographs and office papers will make contact: small collections and even sets of drawings for individual buildings all add to the state of knowledge, particularly so when the practice archive has been destroyed or dispersed.