Basic Biographical Details

Name: David Barclay Niven
Designation: Architect
Born: 1864
Died: 9 January 1942
Bio Notes: David Barclay Niven was born in 1864 and educated at Dundee High School: his family was said to have had a Kirriemuir connection. In April 1880 he was articled to Charles and Leslie Ower, a training he quickly regarded as of negligible value, 'although he did,' as Herbert Wigglesworth tactfully put it, 'acquire a thorough knowledge of building as a vivid manifestation of humanity'. In April 1884 he obtained a place as assistant with John Murray Robertson, the most advanced office in Dundee at that time, where he became aware of contemporary American architecture; and in April 1888 he moved to the London office of Aston Webb where he quickly became chief assistant. During those years he studied at the Royal Academy schools under Phene Spiers, passed the qualifying exam in November 1889, made two brief sketching tours (one in France, one in Belgium) and was admitted ARIBA on 13 January 1890, his proposers being Webb, Robertson, and John Macvicar Anderson. Sent to Genoa to supervise the building of the Protestant Hospital, he spent a year of study in Italy, and during that time, in 1891, he designed and supervised the reconstruction of the British and Foreign Sailors Society's Institute, a sailors' home.

In 1892 Niven returned to London and commenced practice at 34 Mecklenburgh Square with 'slender resources and few friends outside the profession,' but he quickly obtained a share of the patronage of Sir Donald Currie for ship interiors, and in 1893 he entered into partnership with another Scottish-trained architect, Herbert Hardy Wigglesworth, who had been articled to Alexander Marshall Mackenzie. By 1895 the practice was obtaining major domestic commissions, and by 1900 when Niven became FRIBA and had visited the USA the office moved to Gwydir Chambers, 104 High Holborn, with Niven residing at 'St Monan's', Walton on Thames. In that year Niven moved house to Farnham, Surrey, and took in partnership a brilliant draughtsman of the F L Griggs school, Harold Falkner. Born in Farnham on 28 November 1875, Falkner was a well-off pupil of Reginald Blomfield who had commenced practice there in 1896. The practice title became Niven, Wigglesworth & Falkner, but the full name was not always used for business outwith Surrey. Falkner's sometimes wayward arts-and-crafts habits of business at Farnham soon created problems, and the partnership was effectively dissolved in 1903, although the practice title of Niven, Wigglesworth & Falkner was used in Surrey up until 1906 and survived as late as 1909. Except for a brief period in partnership with a Niven & Wigglesworth pupil, Guy Maxwell Aylwin, from 1927 onwards, Falkner thereafter practised alone in Farnham in ever-increasingly autocratic eccentricity until his death on 30 November 1963.

Niven and Wigglesworth's London office was a mecca for aspiring architectural assistants from Scotland. Niven took a particular interest in architectural education, attending RIBA Council and Committee meetings and serving on the Board of Architectural Education: Wigglesworth recalled that 'he enjoyed direct contact with those seeking qualification… they always aroused his most sympathetic interest.'

Much of the attraction of the office was Niven's personality. Of him Wigglesworth wrote: 'David Barclay Niven was one of those militant beings whose ardent and earnest enthusiasm contributed generously to architecture. His energy was untiring, he worked at high pressure and at furious speed. His power of acceleration was amazing. Neither in the office nor on the job was the pace allowed to slacken. Buildings were completed ahead of time more often than not and difficulties were overcome with joyous ease and efficiency. Complacency and inability he incontinently brushed aside. The physical and mental fatigue which ensued were to him a small price to pay for the exhilaration so thoroughly enjoyed.'

Although the practice recovered quickly after the First World War, after the building of Hambro's Bank in Bishopsgate in 1925 there were no significant new commissions in view and the partnership was dissolved in the following year. Niven's interest in the practice was continued by Arthur Kenyon who had been an assistant since 1906, with an office at 7 John Street, Bedford Row, while Wigglesworth merged his practice with that of Alexander Marshall Mackenzie & Son. In those later years Niven became particularly interested in town and garden planning issues in London and was a founder of the London Society, of which he was the first chairman of the executive committee. In 1919 he produced a scheme for the architectural improvement of Charing Cross with T Raffles Davison, and in 1921 he published his vision for the city, 'London of the Future.'

Niven would not leave London during the air-raids and stayed in his South Kensington home until a land-mine wrecked almost the entire property, he being found untouched in the only safe corner of the house. The shock was too much for one who had drawn heavily upon his nervous system, and he gradually declined, dying in his son's home, Green Trees, Cobham, Surrey on 9 January 1942.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 5St Monan's, Weymouth Park, Walton on Thames, Surrey, EnglandPrivate 1900 
Item 2 of 534, Mecklenburgh Square, London, EnglandBusiness18921900 
Item 3 of 5Farnham, Surrey, EnglandPrivate1900  
Item 4 of 5Gwydir Chambers/ 104, High Holborn, London, EnglandBusiness1900After 1905 
Item 5 of 57, John Street, Bedford Row, London, EnglandPrivate/business1926 *  

* earliest date known from documented sources.


Employment and Training

Employers

The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 5C & L OwerApril 1880April 1884Apprentice 
Item 2 of 5John Murray RobertsonApril 1884November 1889Assistant 
Item 3 of 5(Sir) Aston Webb & E Ingress BellNovember 18891891Chief Assistant 
Item 4 of 5Niven & Wigglesworth18931926Partner 
Item 5 of 5Niven Wigglesworth & Falkner19001903PartnerPartnership dissolved in 1903 but name continued to be used until as late as 1909

RIBA

RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 6John Macvicar Anderson13 January 1890for Associateship
Item 2 of 6John Macvicar Anderson5 March 1900for Fellowship
Item 3 of 6John Murray Robertson13 January 1890for Associateship
Item 4 of 6Leonard Aloysius Scott Stokes5 March 1900for Fellowship
Item 5 of 6Aston Webb13 January 1890for Associateship
Item 6 of 6Aston Webb5 March 1900for Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 15Herbert Mayer Barker24 June 1912for Licentiateship
Item 2 of 15George Ronald Bryce20 July 1911for Licentiateship
Item 3 of 15Archibald Bulloch3 December 1906for Associateship
Item 4 of 15Herbert William Cruickshank (or Herbert William Cruikshank)Mid 1920for Associateship
Item 5 of 15John Kirkwood Currie3 March 1919for Associateship
Item 6 of 15James Henry Gray27 February 1911for Associateship
Item 7 of 15Arthur William Kenyon2 December 1907for Associateship
Item 8 of 15Leslie Gordon LunanMid 1921for Associateship
Item 9 of 15Alexander George Robertson Mackenzie2 December 1901for Associateship
Item 10 of 15Alexander George Robertson Mackenzie3 March 1913for Fellowship
Item 11 of 15John Donald MillsLate 1906for Fellowship
Item 12 of 15James Andrew Minty14 June 1926for Fellowship
Item 13 of 15John Holden Peacock20 July 1911for Licentiateship
Item 14 of 15John Wilson Walker4 December 1905for Associateship
Item 15 of 15William Barnet Wyllie4 March 1907for 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 291890sHouseBromley KentEngland 
Item 2 of 291890sHouse for Sir Donald CurrieNew Brighton HampshireEngland 
Item 3 of 291890sLynch HouseSevenoaks KentEngland 
Item 4 of 291890sLynden BeechesSevenoaks KentEngland 
Item 5 of 291890sSaloons for Castle Line Steamers     
Item 6 of 291890sSt ClementsOrpington KentEngland 
Item 7 of 291890sThree houses for G S WaterlowFareham HampshireEngland 
Item 8 of 291891Institute for Seamen  GenoaItaly 
Item 9 of 291891Protestant Hospital  GenoaItaly 
Item 10 of 29After 1893Carisbrook Castle Ship Interior, Castle Line     
Item 11 of 291895KincardineKincardine O'Neil AberdeenshireScotlandHouse and lodge etc
Item 12 of 291895Tantallon Castle Ship Interior, Castle Line     
Item 13 of 291895Teith ViewDoune PerthshireScotland 
Item 14 of 291897BengairnCastle Douglas (near) KirkcudbrightshireScotlandSketch design exhibited
Item 15 of 291897NethercliffeWalton on Thames SurreyEngland 
Item 16 of 291898Three houses for J G HardyWalton on Thames SurreyEngland 
Item 17 of 291899“Hillington” Walton on Thames SurreyEngland 
Item 18 of 291900HouseWeymouth Park SurreyEngland 
Item 19 of 291900Piper's HillByfleet SurreyEngland 
Item 20 of 291901Courier Building  DundeeScotland 
Item 21 of 291902Scandinavian Sailors’ Home, West India DocksPoplar/Limehouse LondonEngland 
Item 22 of 29After 190319-21 Hatton Garden  LondonEngland 
Item 23 of 29After 190354 Harley Street  LondonEngland 
Item 24 of 29c. 1907Hardwick HouseNottingham NottinghamshireEnglandReconstruction and redecoration
Item 25 of 29c. 1907Millhanger  Sussex?England 
Item 26 of 29c. 1908House near FarnhamFarnham (near) SurreyEngland 
Item 27 of 291910Ottershaw Park  SurreyEngland 
Item 28 of 291914Dunford LodgeWoking SurreyEngland 
Item 29 of 29192127 Portland Place  LondonEnglandConverted for the Swedish Legation

References

Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
 Author(s)DateTitlePartPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1Gray, A Stuart1985Edwardian Architecture: A Biographical Dictionary   

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 2Builder16 January 1942  Obituary
Item 2 of 2RIBA JournalFebruary 1942 London: Royal Institute of British ArchitectsObituary by Herbert hardy Wigglesworth p67

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 Personal information from Frank Thomson.
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers A v11 p10, microfiche 45/F5; F v13 p76, microfiche 119/A2