|Bio Notes: ||John Macvicar Anderson was born in Glasgow on 11 July 1835 the son of John Anderson, merchant and the nephew of William Burn's wife, Eliza Macvicar. He was educated at the Collegiate School and at the University of Glasgow and it was perhaps at Burn's suggestion that he was initially articled to his former pupils William Clarke and George Bell c.1851 before settling in London with his uncle with whom he completed his articles. There he made the acquaintance of two more senior assistants, David MacGibbon and John Honeyman, the latter becoming a life-long friend as well as Richard Norman Shaw and William Eden Nesfield. He was admitted ARIBA on 19 December 1864, his proposers being Burn, John Shaw and Thomas Henry Wyatt: by that date he had his own household at 2 Norfolk Crescent having married Janet Crum of Thornliebank who also came of a well-off Glasgow merchant and manufacturing family earlier in that year. In or about 1868 Burn took him into partnership, the event probably being marked by his elevation to FRIBA on 14 December of that year, his proposers being Burn, Wyatt and David Brandon. He took over the practice and Burn's house at 6 Stratton Street Piccadilly when Burn died on 15 February 1870. |
Like Burn he declined all invitations to enter competitions and abhorred any form of advertising but he was active in charitable work. Although he designed the Sailors’ Home in Bombay in 1869, Anderson continued the exclusively country house nature of Burn’s practice; but from the early 1880s he accepted a wider range of commercial and ecclesiastical business, particularly from Scottish clients, notably St Columba’s Church in Pont Street, London of which he was a member, the Headquarters of the London Scottish, Christie’s Galleries, King Street, Lloyd’s Bank, Coutts Bank and the British Linen Bank whose Threadneedle Street office he designed as late as 1913. All of these were directly commissioned. Like Burn he declined all invitations to enter competitions, and wherever possible, discouraged them. He abhorred any form of advertising, but he may have formed useful connections through his extensive charitable activities, the Royal Scottish Hospital and the Royal Caledonian Asylum to which he was architect.
Anderson was President of the RIBA 1891-94. John Alfred Gotch remembered him as 'a President of great personal charm and keen interest in all institute affairs, he [was] among those elected to the Presidency rather on account of his proved service for the Institute rather than pre-eminence in practice … As a business man and educationalist he did much to forward RIBA policy'. He was also honorary architect to the Royal Scottish Hospital and Royal Caledonian Asylum. He died at 6 Stratton Street, London on 9 June 1915. His practice was continued by his son, Henry Lennox Anderson, born 1894, who studied at the Architectural Association, and was taken into partnership in 1905. He was admitted LRIBA on 27 February 1911 his proposers being his father, Sir Aston Webb and his father's former assistant Robert Shekleton Balfour. He died in 1950, when the practice was finally closed and the drawings given to the RIBA.
Anderson became active in the RIBA after Burn’s death. He was a Council member from 1874 and an outstanding Honorary Secretary from 1881 to 1889, in the words of his successor Aston Webb, ‘conciliatory, firm, punctual and accessible’ qualities tested to the full when the RIBA appointed him arbiter in the strike and lock-out dispute between the master builders and the carpenters and joiners in October 1891.
As the RIBA’s honorary secretary Anderson campaigned against the demolition of Gibbs’s St Mary-le-Strand for road improvements in 1887 and when that issue was resolved he was appointed architect for its restoration in 1888-89. After he became president of the RIBA 1891-94, he again intervened on behalf of Trinity Almshouses and trenchantly criticised the new King’s College buildings to the east of Somerset House. He was a firm supporter of architectural education and of the Architectural Association in particular: together with Alfred Waterhouse he tried hard but unsuccessful to persuade the Institute to but its premises at 9 Conduit Street with the object of getting the Institute and the Association under one rioof: subscribing generously for the shares of the Architectural Union Company which had been formed for that purpose.
The acrimonious dispute between the Memorialists led by Richard Norman Shaw, Thomas Graham Jackson and Reginald Bloomfield and a majority of the RIBA’s Council on registration and compulsory examination for associateship took place during Anderson’s presidency: while agreeing with the Memorialists on registration, and maintaining the Institute’s opposition to it, he supported Arthur Cates on examination, observing in reply to the Memorialists 1892 volume ‘Architecture: a Profession or an Art’ that ‘Architecture was a Profession and an Art, not or an Art’. He did not succeed in avoiding the defection of a significant number of the leading British architects from the Institutem but his will prevailed and it was left to the later presidents to try to heal the breach.. In the second year of his presidency (1892) he presented the Royal Gold Medal to the French architect published Cesar Daly, and in his third year, apparently at his own instigation, it was given to Richard Morris Hunt, the first Ameican to be so honoured. In later years John Alfred Gotch remembered Anderson as ‘a President of great personal; charm and keen interest in all institute affairs, he [was] among those elected to the Presidency rather on account of his proved service for the Institute rather than pre-eminence in practice…As a business man and educationalist he did much to forward RIBA policy’. While Gotch’s comments are still true, Anderson’s work is now recognised as having solid if very conservative merit.
Anderson died at 6 Stratton Street on 9 June 1915 after a month’s illness: he had celebrated his golden wedding in Scotland in the previous year. His wife Janet survived him, dying at 6 Stratton Street on 20 April 1926. They had three sons: the eldest was Willaim Bevan Anderson, a director of Christies, and the youngest Ronald Grahame Anderson who died in 1940. The practice was continued by his middle son, Henry Lennox Anderson, born 1894, who studied at the Architectural Association and was taken into partnership in 1905. He may not have shared his father’s views on compulsory registration as he was admitted LRIBA on 27 Fenruary 1911 his proposers being his father, Sir Aston Webb and his father’s fomer assistant Robert Shackleton Balfour. He died on 26 July 1950 at 18 Rothesay Gardens, London and was cremated at Golders Green. The library at Stratton Street was then sold and the practice papers bequeathed to the RIBA which transferred the Scottish drawings to the National Buildings Record.