Basic Biographical Details

Name: William Aitkenhead
Designation: Architect
Born: 22 February 1835
Died: 23 September 1887
Bio Notes: William Aitkenhead was born on 22 February 1835 in the Kirkton of Blantyre, Lanarkshire, the third son of William Aitkenhead and Grace McCartney. The Aitkenhead family were builders and he seems initially to have been apprenticed as a mason, a background which may have influenced his heavy involvement in building speculation later. Around 1951-5 he was a pupil in the Hamilton office of Richard Turner, architect and glasshouse expert, who also had offices in Dublin and Glasgow. After completing his apprenticeship, Aitkenhead sought experience in unidentified offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh before commencing practice on his own account in Arbroath in 1861, probably as a result of employment there as a clerk of works. By 1864 he had established a considerable local reputation as architect of Arbroath and St Vigean's poorhouse, a striking landmark; and in the same year he commenced a long career as a property developer by feuing land at Victoria Street from the Town Clerk, John Colvill. Some time before 1871 he bought Colvill's house at Brothock Bank and developed its grounds; soon afterwards he also bought Hopemount House which enabled him to widen Guthrie Port and develop it as shops and houses; and in the mid-1870s he developed the Lochshade area of Arbroath in association with a local solicitor, E J Leslie.

Aitkenhead's obituary states: 'No other architect or builder has made his mark on Arbroath as Mr Aitkenhead has done, and in the way of carrying out important improvements.' In addition to his domestic and commercial work, he was also responsible for schools, factory buildings and churches. He was briefly in partnership with an unidentified Mr Mason in the later 1870s, and for a time he had a branch office in Brechin, but by the time of his death it had been closed and replaced by another in Montrose where his practice is said to have been extensive.

Aitkenhead's architecture has points of originality with a predilection for geometrical roof forms wherever they could be afforded. He married Margaret Strachan Lamb Black, by whom he had four sons (including William, born 1874) and three daughters, one of whom predeceased him. He was an active member of the Queen Street Congregational Church, and was at one time a leading member of the Arbroath YMCA. He is described in his obituary as 'a well-known citizen of Arbroath' and as being 'of a pleasant disposition, obliging, held in respect by all who knew him, and by many he will be missed'. He died of acute pneumonia on 23 September 1887 at Newgate House, a large eighteenth-century house which had probably been bought to develop its grounds. His death was reported by his father-in-law Alexander Black of 115 Dishland Street, Arbroath. He is buried in the Western Cemetery there. His estate comprised extensive heritable property, mostly in the Lochshade area.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 7Brechin, Angus, ScotlandBusiness   
Item 2 of 7Kirkton, Blantyre, Lanarkshire, ScotlandPrivate1841 *  
Item 3 of 7Aitkenhead's Land, Blantyre, Lanarkshire, ScotlandPrivate1851 *  
Item 4 of 7Brothock Bridge Buildings, Arbroath, Angus, ScotlandPrivate/businessBefore 1868After 1877 
Item 5 of 7Hopemount House, Arbroath, Angus, ScotlandPrivate1874 *  
Item 6 of 7Lochshade, Arbroath, Angus, ScotlandPrivate1881 *  
Item 7 of 7Newgate House, Arbroath, Angus, ScotlandPrivate1887 *  

* 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 2Richard Turnerc. 1851c. 1855Apprentice 
Item 2 of 2Aitkenhead & MasonBefore 1875After 1877Partner 

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 31 Dorward HouseMontrose AngusScotlandAlterations and additions
Item 2 of 31 Houses in Viewfield RoadArbroath AngusScotlandDate unknown
Item 3 of 31 RoselyArbroath (near) AngusScotlandDate of work unknown
Item 4 of 31c. 1861House in Victoria Street, at corner with Colvill PlaceArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 5 of 311864Arbroath and St Vigeans PoorhouseArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 6 of 31c. 1864House at Brothock MillArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 7 of 31c. 1865CaenlochanArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 8 of 31c. 1865Houses and shops, Guthrie PortArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 9 of 31c. 1865Houses in Alexandra Place at High CommonArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 10 of 311866Queen Street Independent ChapelArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 11 of 31c. 1867Houses and shops, Brothock BankArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 12 of 31Before 1868Forfar TanworksForfar AngusScotland 
Item 13 of 31c. 1870House in Alexandra Place/Albert StreetArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 14 of 31c. 1870House in Alexandra Place/Albert StreetArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 15 of 311875Abbey ChurchArbroath AngusScotlandPulpit
Item 16 of 311875Arbirlot Primary School and schoolhouseArbirlot AngusScotlandSchoolhouse
Item 17 of 311875Brechin High SchoolBrechin AngusScotland 
Item 18 of 311875East Free ChurchArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 19 of 31c. 1875Craigo School  AngusScotland 
Item 20 of 31c. 1875Houses at LochshadeArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 21 of 31c. 1875Inverbrothock Manse, LochshadeLochashade, Arbroath AngusScotland 
Item 22 of 311878Commercial Bank of Scotland, MontroseMontrose AngusScotlandAlterations and repairs to upper storey
Item 23 of 311878EU ChurchArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 24 of 311880Inverkeilor Primary School and schoolhouseInverkeilor AngusScotlandTall single-storey range added
Item 25 of 31c. 1880House, Kinloch TerraceArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 26 of 311881Friockheim Parish Church and halls  AngusScotlandReconstruction
Item 27 of 31c. 1882Hillroad Boot and Shoe FactoryArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 28 of 31c. 1884Houses at Brothock BankArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 29 of 31c. 1885House, Kinloch TerraceArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 30 of 311887Hillroad Boot and Shoe FactoryArbroath AngusScotlandAddition
Item 31 of 311887Park Street UP ChurchArbroath AngusScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 3Architects Engineers and Building Trades Directory1868Architect's, Engineer's and Building Trades' Directory London, Wyman 
Item 2 of 3Guide to Brechin1884   High School
Item 3 of 3Scotlands People Website Wills & Testaments  Forfar Sheriff Court SC47/40/55

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Information from research by Anne Burgess, whose great-great-grandmother was Aitkenhead's first cousin.