Basic Biographical Details

Name: Archibald Simpson
Designation: Architect
Born: 4 May 1790
Died: 23 March 1847
Bio Notes: Archibald Simpson was born in Aberdeen on 4 May 1790, the fifth son of the nine children of William Simpson, clothier, and his wife Barbara Dauney, daughter of the Rev Francis Dauney, minister of Banchory Ternan. His uncle was William Dauney, an Aberdeen architect and builder. Simpson was educated at the Grammar School in Aberdeen and attended Marischal College briefly. He received his initial training with an architect-builder, James Massie, but moved to London in 1810 and was employed initially there by the architect Robert Lugar. He transferred a year later to the office of David Laing but this was a temporary post. His struggles in London, in spite of letters of introduction, are recorded in two letters to his family. He visited Italy but returned home to Aberdeen in 1813.

Simpson set up business on his own account in the town. He was fortunate that Aberdeen was embarking on a series of ambitious street improvements about this time which coincided with technological advances enabling the use of granite as a building material. Simpson’s work made full use of the special qualities of this material and his talents as a designer and town-planner were put to good use.

Simpson’s contemporary, the architect John Smith, was already the City Architect when Simpson emerged on the scene. For the next thirty years or so almost every commission of importance went to either Smith or Simpson. Although Smith had the advantage of the official position, Simpson was the better designer. It was particularly in his Greek Revival designs (such as Aberdeen Music Hall and the porticoed county assembly rooms of 1820) that Simpson’s use of granite gives his buildings particular distinction. These were followed by a wide range of commissions including the Gothic Marischal College of 1837, the New Market of 1840, and in the same year his headquarters of the North of Scotland Bank, with its quadrant corner screen and richly decorated interior incorporating the Parthenon frieze. His finest design is reckoned to be Strathcathro House in Angus dating from 1828 with its fine Corinthian portico. Generally his Gothic churches are perhaps less successful. The brick octagonal spires he used for his series of Free Church designs in Aberdeen in 1843-44. are based on north German examples – highly unusual in the ‘granite city’ but necessary as a cost-cutting measure. Simpson’s practice included many designs for country houses which were generally neo-classical in style with occasional essays in Jacobethan and Scottish vernacular (for example Castle Newe and Meldrum). Toward the end of his life he experimented with a simplified classical style for example at Thainston House and Woodside Church. Simpson never competed for major public buildings in Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Simpson was of slight build and ‘shy and retiring’ in character but was said to have been a man of 'strong and eccentric character'. He was remembered as ‘a little, active man, always to be seen carrying plans under his arm’. He loved music and played the violin. He was a member and president in 1844 of the local dining club knwn as the Maryculter Club.

He died intestate on 23 March 1847 at his home, 1 East Craibstone Street, Aberdeen. He never married. He was buried in the East Church of St Nicholas, Aberdeen. There are various portraits of Simpson all by his friend James Giles. One is in Aberdeen Art Gallery and two belong to the University of Aberdeen.

Few of his drawings survive as there was a major fire in his office in 1826. There are some drawings in Aberdeen Public Library.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 2Aberdeen, ScotlandBusiness   
Item 2 of 21, East Craibstone Street, Aberdeen, ScotlandPrivate 1847 

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 3James Massie  Apprentice 
Item 2 of 3Robert Lugar1810 Assistant 
Item 3 of 3David Laing1811 Assistant 

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 5James Ross  Clerk of Works 
Item 2 of 5James Matthews18341839ApprenticeUnder Mackenzie's supervision
Item 3 of 5William Ramagec. 1834 ApprenticeRemained as assistant and became principal assistant
Item 4 of 5Thomas Mackenzie1835 Assistant 
Item 5 of 5Peter Kerr18391843Apprentice 

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 98 Raigmore HouseInverness Inverness-shireScotlandDesigned Raigmore House (date unknown) - supervised by Alexander Ross
Item 2 of 98 Westburn House  AberdeenScotland 
Item 3 of 981815Castle ForbesAlford AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 4 of 981815House of FetternearFetternear AberdeenshireScotlandWas thought to have been the executant architect for Massie
Item 5 of 981816St Andrew's Episcopal Church  AberdeenScotlandOriginal church
Item 6 of 98c. 1816Fyvie Castle and ancillary buildingsFyvie AberdeenshireScotlandMay have been responsible for entrance corridor with porch flanked by towers with conical roofs
Item 7 of 981818Medico-Chirurgical Society Hall  AberdeenScotland 
Item 8 of 981819Aberdeen Lunatic Asylum  AberdeenScotlandNew building
Item 9 of 981819Forgue Parish Church and GraveyardForgue AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 10 of 981819House, Union Street and Shiprow  AberdeenScotland 
Item 11 of 981819Kintore Parish Church and manseKintore AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 12 of 981819Union Building (or Buildings)  AberdeenScotland 
Item 13 of 981820Athenaeum Reading Room  AberdeenScotland 
Item 14 of 981820Music Hall  AberdeenScotlandPlans for music hall - won the commission
Item 15 of 98c. 1820Bank of ScotlandFraserburgh AberdeenshireScotlandAttribution
Item 16 of 98c. 1821Crimonmogate, obelisk  AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 17 of 981822Haddo HouseHaddo/Methlick AberdeenshireScotlandAlterations, including arcade below horseshoe stair to first floor entrance. Also 2-storey, 4-bay pavilion to north wing for dowager apartments. Coffered ceiling to Adam's family stair.
Item 18 of 981822HeathcotArdo KincardineshireScotland 
Item 19 of 981822Mains of Haddo, farmhouse and officeHaddo AberdeenshireScotlandAlterations possibly by Simpson
Item 20 of 981822Park HouseDrumoak AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 21 of 98c. 1822Haddo House Estate, coach house and stable block  AberdeenshireScotlandRemodelling
Item 22 of 981823Bon Accord Square and Crescent  AberdeenScotland 
Item 23 of 981823Murtle HousePeterculter AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 24 of 981824Durris House  AberdeenshireScotlandAdditions
Item 25 of 981825CrimonmogateLonmay AberdeenshireScotlandHouse and probably estate buildings including laundry, dairy, corn mill, millhouse, west lodge etc
Item 26 of 981825St Giles Parish ChurchElgin MorayshireScotlandWon competition and secured job
Item 27 of 98c. 1825County HotelBanff BanffshireScotlandInterior - may be by Simpson or Robertson
Item 28 of 981826Gordon CastleFochabers MorayshireScotlandEast lodge. Orangery.
Item 29 of 981826Pitlurg HouseSlains AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 30 of 981826Town and County Bank  AberdeenScotland 
Item 31 of 981827Gordon CastleFochabers MorayshireScotlandAlterations and repairs to east wing after fire.
Item 32 of 981827Inverbrothock Chapel of EaseArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 33 of 981827Letham GrangeArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 34 of 981827Mechanics InstituteForres MorayshireScotlandLower floors
Item 35 of 981827Stracathro HouseBrechin (near) AngusScotland 
Item 36 of 98c. 1827Tillery HouseFoveran AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 37 of 981828Gordon Castle, Castle Farm  MorayshireScotland 
Item 38 of 981829St Lawrence Masonic Lodge and Assembly RoomsForres MorayshireScotland 
Item 39 of 981829Strathdon Parish Church, Mitchell-Forbes MausoleumBellabeg AberdeenshireScotland'Probably' (HS)
Item 40 of 981829Woodside ChapelWoodside AberdeenScotland 
Item 41 of 981830Anderson InstitutionElgin MorayshireScotland 
Item 42 of 981830Cottages, Marine TerraceFerryhill AberdeenScotlandOriginal design
Item 43 of 98c. 1830Boath House  NairnshireScotland 
Item 44 of 98c. 1830St Catherine's HouseBanff BanffshireScotland 
Item 45 of 981831Castle Newe  AberdeenshireScotlandReconstruction
Item 46 of 981831Infant School  AberdeenScotland 
Item 47 of 981831Old ManseBellabeg AberdeenshireScotland'probably' (HS)
Item 48 of 981831Spey BridgeFochabers MorayshireScotlandTimber arch to replace central spans of stone bridge over the River Spey destroyed by floods for 5th Duke of Gordon. Replaced by an iron bridge 1852.
Item 49 of 981832Aberdeen Royal Infirmary  AberdeenScotlandNew building
Item 50 of 981832Craig Castle  AberdeenshireScotlandAlterations or enlargement
Item 51 of 981832Elgin Pauper Lunatic Asylum, BilbohallElgin MorayshireScotland 
Item 52 of 981832Gordon Episcopal Chapel and Chapel HouseFochabers MorayshireScotland 
Item 53 of 981833St Andrew's Episcopal ChurchBanff BanffshireScotland 
Item 54 of 981834Dr Bell's School  AberdeenScotland 
Item 55 of 98After 1834Haddo HouseHaddo/Methlick AberdeenshireScotlandExtension of terrace on east elevation - as part of formal garden works
Item 56 of 98Before 1834Haddo HouseHaddo/Methlick AberdeenshireScotlandCupola and clock stage added to archway of service court
Item 57 of 98c. 1834Blairs Home FarmAltyre MorayshireScotland'Buildings of Scotland' attribution
Item 58 of 9818351-6 Rubislaw Place and 21, 23 Waverley Terrace  AberdeenScotland 
Item 59 of 981835Bellie KirkFochabers MorayshireScotlandRepairs and alterations
Item 60 of 981835Drumoak Parish ChurchDrumoak AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 61 of 981835Linton Home FarmLinton AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 62 of 981835St Nicholas East Parish Church  AberdeenScotlandBuilt on foundations of choir
Item 63 of 98c. 1835Carnousie House and LodgeCarnousie BanffshireScotlandNew house
Item 64 of 98c. 1835Linton HouseCluny AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 65 of 98c. 1835Meldrum House  AberdeenshireScotlandHouse and alterations to stable and coachhouse
Item 66 of 981836North of Scotland BankPeterhead AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 67 of 98c. 1836Albyn Place  AberdeenScotlandDesigns drawn up for 2-16.
Item 68 of 981837Aberdeen Lunatic Asylum  AberdeenScotlandKitchens
Item 69 of 981837Aberdeen University, Marischal College  AberdeenScotlandU-plan quadrangle building
Item 70 of 981837Clydesdale BankBanff BanffshireScotlandAttribution also to William Robertson
Item 71 of 981837High School for Girls  AberdeenScotlandCentral block
Item 72 of 981837Parish ManseKeithhall AberdeenshireScotlandExtension
Item 73 of 981838Forbes of Newe Obelisk, St Nicholas Churchyard  AberdeenScotlandAlterations to monument
Item 74 of 981839Gordon SchoolsHuntly AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 75 of 981839North of Scotland Bank  AberdeenScotland 
Item 76 of 981840Glassaugh House, with lodge and bridgeGlassaugh BanffshireScotlandHouse remodelled. Also remodelled earlier north pavilion as Glassaugh Lodge and designed bridge.
Item 77 of 981840LessendrumDrumblane AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 78 of 981840Pittodrie HousePittodrie AberdeenshireScotlandAdditions
Item 79 of 98c. 1840North of Scotland BankHuntly AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 80 of 98c. 1840Rubislaw Estate feuingRubislaw AberdeenScotlandOriginal plan
Item 81 of 981841Druminnor Castle  AberdeenshireScotlandEnlargement
Item 82 of 981841New Market and the layout of Market Street  AberdeenScotland 
Item 83 of 981841Post office  AberdeenScotland 
Item 84 of 981843Aberdeen Lunatic Asylum  AberdeenScotlandWorkshops and colonnades. Colvin gives dates as 1845-46 for additions
Item 85 of 981843Free ChurchRothesayButeArgyll & ButeScotland 
Item 86 of 981843Triple Kirk churches  AberdeenScotland 
Item 87 of 981844Aberdeen Royal Infirmary  AberdeenScotlandAdditions
Item 88 of 981844Glenferness House  NairnshireScotlandOriginal house
Item 89 of 981845Mechanics Institute  AberdeenScotlandWith William Ramage
Item 90 of 981845Old Aberdeen Free ChurchOld Aberdeen AberdeenScotland 
Item 91 of 98c. 1845Morkeu HouseCults AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 92 of 98c. 1845Scotston HouseOld Aberdeen (near) AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 93 of 981846Union Bank of ScotlandLerwickMainlandShetlandScotland 
Item 94 of 981846West Church School  AberdeenScotland 
Item 95 of 981846Woodside Church  Aberdeen (near)Scotland 
Item 96 of 98c. 1846Holyrood Free Church and School  EdinburghScotlandBuilt School for Duchess of Gordon. Neo-Norman Church planned and one bay built. Colvin states that this is an attribution on stylistoc ground sand Simpson's employment by the duchess elsewhere.
Item 97 of 98c. 1847Skene House  AberdeenshireScotlandRemodelling, completed by William Ramage who published a lithograph of the house
Item 98 of 98c. 1847ThainstonKintore (near) AberdeenshireScotlandRemodelling


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 5APSD The Dictionary of Architectureed Wyatt PapworthThe Architectural Publication Society (8v 1852-1892) 
Item 2 of 5Colvin, H M1995A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-18403rd editionNew Haven and London: Yale University Press 
Item 3 of 5Fraser, G M1918Archibald Simpson Architect and his times Aberdeen Weekly Journal, 5 April to 11 October 1918 
Item 4 of 5New DNB New Dictionary of National Biography   
Item 5 of 5Walker, David1984Scottish Pioneers of the Greek Revival  Chapter by Malcolm Higgs 'Archibald Simpson'.

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 3Aberdeen Journal   Notes and Queries 1, 1908, pp168-9
Item 2 of 3Builder1847v p217. Obituary.
Item 3 of 3RIAS Quarterly1947 Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS)The Archibald Simpson Centenary Celebrations. With Memoir by W Douglas Simspon, reprinted with amplifications in RIASQ.