Basic Biographical Details

Name: Jonathan Anderson Bell
Designation: Architect
Born: c. 1808
Died: 28 February 1865
Bio Notes: Jonathan Anderson Bell was born in Glasgow c.1808, the second son of James Bell, advocate, and Jessie Hamilton; Sheriff Bell was his brother. He was educated in Edinburgh and attended Edinburgh University. An early interest in art led him to spend the years 1829-30 in Rome where he became an accomplished topographical draughtsman and watercolourist with a particular fondness for brilliant colour. On his return to Britain he was articled to Rickman & Hutchinson in Birmingham, with whom he remained as an assistant until 1837: he was said to have been Rickman's favourite pupil, perhaps because of his skill in presentation drawings. Rickman wrote of him in July 1826 'he seems an intelligent clever young man he has been set to writing out Specifications he seems very willing to turn his hand to any thing & I hope will prove a useful hand in time' and in December 1826: 'Jonathan improves fast in his sketching of Flowers.' While in Birmingham Bell began exhibiting views of Italy, Worcester and Warwick at the Royal Scottish Academy from 1834.

On his return to Edinburgh in 1837 or early 1838 Bell set up house and practice in Gardner's Crescent. He became secretary of the Royal Association for the Promotion of the Fine Arts in Scotland in 1839 and when the Institute of Architects in Scotland was founded on 26 August 1840 Bell was a member of its council, quickly becoming secretary of that organisation as well. In that capacity it fell to him to deal with William Burn when his nomination of David Bryce was unfavourably received by the other members of council in May 1840 and to write to the Duke of Buccleuch explaining why the Institute had collapsed in 1841.

In 1842-43 Bell exhibited designs for the transept of a cathedral and a thirteenth-century-style church, but he seems to have had little actual business and he moved for a time to Cambridge to undertake the illustrations for Le Keux's 'Memorials of Cambridge'. In Scotland he published a book on Dryburgh Abbey for which his drawings were engraved by William Miller. Much of his practice appears to have consisted of designs for memorials and gravestones and possibly presentation drawings for other architects: the architectural presentation artist John Burbridge, who moved between Edinburgh and Glasgow in the 1850s and 1860 and shared his penchant for strong colours, seems to have been associated with him in work of this kind and may have been a pupil.

The peak of Bell's practice seems to have been in 1855-60 when he built Beeslack for Cowan the papermaker and Victoria Buildings in Glasgow for Archibald Orr Ewing in a very competent Billings-inspired Scottish baronial.

Bell died unmarried on 28 February 1865 at 69 York Place which had been his address since the 1840s. His death was reported by Stephen Bell, 43 St George's Road, Glasgow who was probably a nephew. An In Memoriam album of his unpublished poems, together with some details of his work, was assembled after his death and privately published. A copy is held in the NMRS.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 4Gardner's Crescent, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/businessLate 1837 or early 1838  
Item 2 of 42, Hope Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness1840 *  
Item 3 of 469, York Place, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate18411865Home, and place of death
Item 4 of 4Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, EnglandPrivateMid 1840s *  

* 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 2Rickman & Hutchinson1830c. 1835Apprentice 
Item 2 of 2Rickman & Hutchinsonc. 18351837Assistant 

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 14 Alexander Cowan Monument  EdinburghScotlandDate unknown
Item 2 of 14 Archibald Constable Monument  EdinburghScotlandDate unknown
Item 3 of 14 Dean Cemetery, Robert Reid MonumentDean EdinburghScotlandDate unknown
Item 4 of 14 Dr Chalmers Monument  EdinburghScotlandDate unknown
Item 5 of 14 Glasgow Necropolis, Monument for Principal MacfarlaneDennistoun GlasgowScotlandDate unknown
Item 6 of 141843Free High Church and Free Church College  EdinburghScotlandUnsuccessful competition design (exhibited at RA)
Item 7 of 141849Glasgow Necropolis,William Rae Wilson Monument and Octagonal Moorish Kiosk  GlasgowScotland 
Item 8 of 141851Glasgow Necropolis, Monument to Rev Duncan McFarlan  GlasgowScotland 
Item 9 of 14Before 1853Two villas, Mansionhouse Road  EdinburghScotland 
Item 10 of 141855Beeslack House and lodgePenicuik MidlothianScotland 
Item 11 of 141858Victoria Buildings  GlasgowScotland 
Item 12 of 141861Design for a fountain     
Item 13 of 141861Leith Corn ExchangeLeith EdinburghScotlandCompetition design; Peddie and Kinnear were appointed
Item 14 of 141864Old WellPenicuik MidlothianScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 4DNB Dictionary of National Biography   
Item 2 of 4Johnston, W T2003Artists of Scotland Officina Publications CDROM 
Item 3 of 4Post Office Directories     
Item 4 of 4Scotlands People Website Wills & Testaments  Edinburgh Sheriff Court Inventories SC70/1/125

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2National Monuments Record of Scotland/NMRS, RCAHMSJonathan Anderson Bell album  
Item 2 of 2RIBA Thomas Rickman Diary 28 July 1826 and 28 December 1826. Information courtesy of Michael Port