© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue  

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Basic Biographical Details

Name: Robert Thornton Shiells
Designation: Architect
Born: 1833
Died: 1902
Bio Notes: Robert Thornton Shiells was born in 1833 and apprenticed to David Bryce. By 1857 he had auspiciously commenced practice on his own account from his home at 7 Gilmore Place with a very large villa at Bruntsfield Terrace and began exhibiting at the RSA. An office was opened at 62 George Street sometime before 1862, and on 18 March 1864 he married Flora Tait. In about 1863 he entered into partnership with Robert Paterson's younger brother John who had also commenced practice around 1857, the office now being at 27 Cockburn Street. Both architects appear to have been enthusiasts for Italian Gothic and Romanesque but the partnership was dissolved after about four years, Shiells moving back to 62 George Street. Thereafter Shiells's Gothic tended to follow English models as at the quite ambitious Kings Park UP Church in Dalkeith (1871) and the Free Church at Leslie, but the need to find a style that would fit the new Tron Free Church (1877-78) into David Cousin's Chambers Street format seems to have caused him to look at Lombardic Romanesque models. From the Tron stemmed a remarkable group of Romanesque churches, the Lombard Marshall Street Baptist Church (1877) and Buccleuch Street UP at Dalkeith, the more Germanic reconstruction of East Linton Free Church (1879) and Kirkgate UP, Leith (1885), which returned to the Lombard model.

Late in 1877 or early in 1878, Shiells entered into a partnership with James M Thomson, now with an office at 65 George Street to which Shiells had moved in 1874/75, but the continuity of style with Shiells's work suggests that Shiells remained the principal designer, or that Thomson had been his principal assistant: nothing is known of Thomson's background. The practice survived the severe recession of the 1880s better than most but in 1894 Shiells became bankrupt as a result of personal speculation in feus at North Merchiston, his main creditors being the Beatties and his partner James M Thomson. The partnership was thereafter dissolved (although it seems to have been in existence as late as May 1896), the practice being continued by Thomson. Shiells thereafter resided at 6 Duddingston Park, Portobello, but whether he continued practice is not yet known.

Shiells died in 1902, his affairs being eventually wound up in 1904.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 107, Gilmore Place, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/businessc. 1857  
Item 2 of 1021, Lothian Road, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/businessBefore 1863 Before 1863 was house and office but from 1863 house only
Item 3 of 1027, Cockburn Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1863c. 1867 
Item 4 of 105, Brougham Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivatec. 1864c. 1867Becdame Brougham Place
Item 5 of 1062, George Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1867c. 1868NB Directories give c1867 for date of starting at this address, but other sources say c.1862
Item 6 of 108, Lonsdale Terrace, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivatec. 1868c. 1871 
Item 7 of 1065, George Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1868c. 1873 
Item 8 of 1065A, George Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1874c. 1897Shiells & Thomson
Item 9 of 104, St Margaret's Road, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivatec. 1875c. 1884 
Item 10 of 106, Duddingston Park, Portobello, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/businessc. 1898c. 1902 

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 3David Bryce  Apprentice 
Item 2 of 3Paterson & Shiellsc. 1863c. 1867Partner 
Item 3 of 3Shiells & Thomson1877 or 1878c. 1896Partner 

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 3James Graham Fairley18651869Apprentice 
Item 2 of 3James Pearson Alisonc. 1877(?)c. 1882(?)Apprentice 
Item 3 of 3James Pearson Alisonc. 1882(?)September 1885Draughtsman 

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 60 Lauriston Catholic School  EdinburghScotland 
Item 2 of 601857Villa at 2 Bruntsfield Terrace  EdinburghScotland 
Item 3 of 601859Episcopal Church design    Design exhibited
Item 4 of 601859Villas, Bruntsfield Terrace  EdinburghScotland 
Item 5 of 601862Villa, Dick Place  EdinburghScotland 
Item 6 of 60186348-68 Grove Street  EdinburghScotland 
Item 7 of 6018653 Chalmers Crescent  EdinburghScotland 
Item 8 of 601865Original Secession Chapel  EdinburghScotland 
Item 9 of 601865Primitive Methodist Chapel  EdinburghScotland 
Item 10 of 601866St Peter's Episcopal ChurchMusselburgh MidlothianScotland 
Item 11 of 601867English ChurchCompiegne PicardyFrance 
Item 12 of 601867Park Place United Methodist Church  EdinburghScotlandDesign exhibited (competition design?)
Item 13 of 601867Tenement, Lauriston Place corner  EdinburghScotland 
Item 14 of 601867Tenements, Heriot Mount  EdinburghScotlandDesign exhibited
Item 15 of 6018689-16 George IV Bridge  EdinburghScotland 
Item 16 of 601868Livingston Place Feuing  EdinburghScotland 
Item 17 of 601869Dalry FeuingDalry EdinburghScotland 
Item 18 of 601869Tenements, Glen Street  EdinburghScotland 
Item 19 of 601870Whittingehame CottagesEastfield East LothianScotland 
Item 20 of 601871St Margaret's RC ChurchDunfermline FifeScotland 
Item 21 of 601871West UP ChurchDalkeith MidlothianScotlandDesign exhibited
Item 22 of 601872Forrest Road  EdinburghScotland 
Item 23 of 601872Tenements with shops, Teviot Place  EdinburghScotland 
Item 24 of 601873Abercairney  PerthshireScotlandAddition of tower
Item 25 of 601873Private RC Chapel    Design for interior exhibited
Item 26 of 60187429-37 St Mary's Street  EdinburghScotlandAlterations
Item 27 of 601874EU Church  EdinburghScotland 
Item 28 of 601876Free Church and hallLeslie FifeScotland 
Item 29 of 601876Mayfield Free ChurchMayfield EdinburghScotlandCompetition design
Item 30 of 601876Tenements, 26-30 Warrender Park Road and 22-30 Marchmont Crescent  EdinburghScotland 
Item 31 of 601876Women's Medical Class Rooms, Minto House  EdinburghScotlandNo 22
Item 32 of 601877Cowgate Free Church  EdinburghScotlandEnlargement
Item 33 of 601877Leith stables for Wardie & CoLeith EdinburghScotland 
Item 34 of 601877Marshall Street Baptist Church  EdinburghScotland 
Item 35 of 601877Tron Free Church  EdinburghScotland 
Item 36 of 601878Prestonpans Free ChurchPrestonpans East LothianScotland 
Item 37 of 601878UP ChurchStonehouse LanarkshireScotlandDesign exhibited
Item 38 of 601879East UP ChurchDalkeith MidlothianScotlandDesign exhibited
Item 39 of 601879Free ChurchEast Linton East LothianScotlandReconstruction
Item 40 of 601879Lochgelly Free ChurchLochgelly FifeScotlandNew gallery, porch rebuilt, platform extended etc
Item 41 of 601879South UP ChurchGalashiels SelkirkshireScotlandDesign exhibited
Item 42 of 60188032-42 Marchmont Crescent  EdinburghScotland 
Item 43 of 601880Prospect Place Church  EdinburghScotland 
Item 44 of 601880Roslin Free ChurchRoslin/Rosslyn MidlothianScotland 
Item 45 of 601880SS John Cantius and Nicholas RC ChurchBroxburn West LothianScotlandChurch and spire (the latter added 1890)
Item 46 of 601880Union Bank, West Maitland Street and Palmerston Place  EdinburghScotland 
Item 47 of 601880UP Church, Gilmore Place  EdinburghScotland 
Item 48 of 601882New Free Church, Ferry Road  EdinburghScotland 
Item 49 of 601884Limplum House  East LothianScotlandHouse and probably Lodge
Item 50 of 601885Bo'ness Established ChurchBo'ness / Borrowstouness West LothianScotlandWon competition to secure job
Item 51 of 601885Kirkgate UP ChurchLeith EdinburghScotlandWon competition to secure job
Item 52 of 601886Four villas, Mayfield RoadMayfield EdinburghScotland 
Item 53 of 601888Dumbarton Cottage HospitalDumbarton DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 54 of 601888Newington Free Church  EdinburghScotlandAlterations
Item 55 of 60188985-87 Shandwick Place  EdinburghScotland 
Item 56 of 601889Musselburgh Free ChurchMusselburgh MidlothianScotlandReconstruction, new fašade and tower
Item 57 of 601891Forrest Road  EdinburghScotlandAddition of corner part
Item 58 of 601891Public House, St Mary's Street  EdinburghScotland 
Item 59 of 601896Lightburn Infectious Deseases Hospital  GlasgowScotlandThis may be an error in Builder
Item 60 of 60Before 1902Compiegne     


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 5Architects Engineers and Building Trades Directory1868Architect's, Engineer's and Building Trades' Directory London, Wyman 
Item 2 of 5British Architectural Library, RIBA2001Directory of British Architects 1834-1914   
Item 3 of 5Edinburgh Architectural Association1907Edinburgh Architectural Association Exhibition Catalogue EdinburghMemoir
Item 4 of 5Laperriere, Charles Baile de (ed.)1991The Royal Scottish Academy Exhibitors 1826-1990   
Item 5 of 5Post Office Directories     

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1National Archives of Scotland (formerly SRO)Court of Session records CS 318 no 308, 1904


© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue  

© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue