Basic Biographical Details

Name: Melvin & Leiper
Designation: Architectural practice
Started: 1864
Ended: c. 1867
Bio Notes: William Leiper was born in Glasgow on 21 May 1839, the son of William Leiper who had a private school in George Street and traced his descent from the seventeenth-century Aberdeenshire master masons of that name. His mother was Jane Mellis, or Myles as it is given on Leiper's death certificate.

Educated by his father and at Glasgow High School, he served his apprenticeship with Boucher & Cousland from '1855-6' to about 1859 when he went to London, working for John Loughborough Pearson and William White for approximately one year each. There he gained an entrée to the circle of Edward William Godwin and William Burges, who was later to propose him as FRIBA. He was then for a time in Dublin supervising the building of Findlater Church for Andrew Heiton of Perth whose work for a time had similar qualities to Leiper's. Thereafter he found a place with Campbell Douglas & Stevenson in Glasgow. By very early 1864 he had formed a partnership with Robert Grieve Melvin. Melvin had been born c.1839, the son of Andrew Melvin, master brewer and distiller and his wife Jane Grieve. No details are known of his training but he had inherited James Smith's practice in Glasgow on his death in December 1863 and completed Smith's Stirling's Library on Miller Street.

Leiper's reputation was immediately established by winning the competition for Dowanhill Church, Glasgow in 1864. Its spire drew inspiration from Pearson's design for St Peter's Vauxhall, G G Scott's for St Matthias Stoke Newington, thirteenth-century Rutland examples and those from Nesfield's 'Specimens' while its doorway gave Glasgow its first taste of Burges's Early French. Its interior was remarkable for its very wide single-span roof, probably inspired by Godwin's at Northampton Town Hall, and for its glass and stencilled decoration by Daniel Cottier. The adjoining hall was equally notable for the strong and simple Pearsonesque geometry of its roofs. The following year brought the richly sculptured Dumbarton Academy and Burgh hall, the design of which he had developed from Woodward's Oxford Museum and Godwin's Congleton Town Hall. In similar Early French vein were the towered extravaganza of Kirktonhill House, Dumbarton (1866, demolished), the smaller but more adroitly composed Cornhill, Lanarkshire and The Elms, Arbroath, Angus, the last towerless but with the high geometric roofs that were characteristic of him. In some of his less expensive early houses he adopted the low-pitched roofs and compositional methods of Alexander Thomson, a friend in his early years, notably at Bonnington (now Rhuarden), Helensburgh, Dumbartonshire, and Castlepark, Lanark, which has an unusual combination of Swiss and Anglo Japanese elements.

The partnership of Leiper & Melvin ended in a dispute c.1867. Leiper continued a successful practice thereafter but Melvin turned his attention away from architecture to work as a hotelkeeper with his new wife, his only significant work apart from Stirling's Library being the Glasgow Gas Company's palazzo at 42 Virginia Street, built in that year.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architectural practice:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 2Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness   
Item 2 of 2124, St Vincent Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness1865 *  

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architectural practice (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 2Robert Grieve Melvin1864c. 1867Partner 
Item 2 of 2William Leiper1864c. 1867Partner 

Buildings and Designs

This architectural practice 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 41864Stirling's Library  GlasgowScotlandCompleted after Smith's death in December 1863
Item 2 of 41865Dowanhill UP ChurchDowanhill GlasgowScotlandWon competition to secure job
Item 3 of 41865Dumbarton Burgh Halls and Committee Rooms and Dumbarton AcademyDumbarton DunbartonshireScotlandAwarded commission and executed Gothic scheme
Item 4 of 41867Office for Glasgow Gas Company  GlasgowScotlandDesigned mainly by Melvin


Currently, there are no references for this architectural practice. The information has been derived from: the British Architectural Library / RIBA Directory of British Architects 1834-1914; Post Office Directories; and/or any sources listed under this individual's works.