© All rights reserved. Building News 28 February 1890 

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Basic Biographical Details

Name: John Macvicar Anderson
Designation: Architect
Born: 11 July 1835
Died: 9 June 1915
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.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 415, Great James Street, Bedford Row, London, EnglandPrivate1856 *  
Item 2 of 414, Old Burlington Street, London, EnglandPrivate1862 *  
Item 3 of 42, Norfolk Crescent, London, EnglandPrivateBefore 18641870 
Item 4 of 46, Stratton Street, London, EnglandPrivate/business18691915 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

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 3Clarke & Bellc. 1851Before 1856Apprentice 
Item 2 of 3William Burnc. 18561868Assistant 
Item 3 of 3Burn & Anderson18681870Partner 

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 13William Bunn Colling    
Item 2 of 13George Ransome1872c. 1877Apprentice 
Item 3 of 13George Ransomec. 18771879Assistant 
Item 4 of 13Fergus Carstairs RogersAfter 1879Before 1892Apprentice 
Item 5 of 13Robert Alexander Jackc. 1881c. 1891Assistant 
Item 6 of 13Andrew Whitford Anderson1884 Assistant 
Item 7 of 13(Sir) Percy Scott WorthingtonAfter 1887Before 1891Assistant 
Item 8 of 13Robert Shekleton BalfourAfter 18921894Chief Assistant 
Item 9 of 13George Topham Forrest18941898Assistant 
Item 10 of 13Henry Lennox AndersonJanuary 1894c. 1899ApprenticeRemained as assistant until 1905.
Item 11 of 13Henry Lennox Andersonc. 1899May 1905Assistant 
Item 12 of 13Henry Lennox AndersonMay 1905 Partner 
Item 13 of 13Herbert McGregor Wood19111913Chief Assistant 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 6David Brandon14 December 1868for Fellowship
Item 2 of 6William Burn19 December 1864for Associateship
Item 3 of 6William Burn14 December 1868for Fellowship
Item 4 of 6John Shaw19 December 1864for Associateship
Item 5 of 6Thomas Henry Wyatt19 December 1864for Associateship
Item 6 of 6Thomas Henry Wyatt14 December 1868for Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 20Andrew Whitford Anderson9 June 1884for Licentiateship
Item 2 of 20Henry Lennox Anderson27 February 1911for Licentiateship
Item 3 of 20Colonel Eustace James Anthony Balfour18 January 1892For Fellowship
Item 4 of 20Robert Shekleton Balfour4 December 1893for Associateship
Item 5 of 20Robert Shekleton Balfour11 June 1906for Fellowship
Item 6 of 20James Barnet18 January 1886for Fellowship
Item 7 of 20John Begg8 June 1891for Associateship
Item 8 of 20John Burnet (senior)4 December 1876for Fellowship
Item 9 of 20John Carrick4 December 1876for Fellowship
Item 10 of 20William Nicholson Cumming9 January 1893for Associateship
Item 11 of 20John Honeyman14 December 1874for Fellowship
Item 12 of 20Bertram Vaughan Johnson31 January 1890for Associateship
Item 13 of 20Thomas Purves Marwick8 January 1883for Associateship
Item 14 of 20David Barclay Niven13 January 1890for Associateship
Item 15 of 20David Barclay Niven5 March 1900for Fellowship
Item 16 of 20Leslie Ower16 June 1890for Fellowship
Item 17 of 20James Paxton21 November 1892for Associateship
Item 18 of 20(Sir) Thomas Duncan Rhind11 March 1895for Associateship
Item 19 of 20James Cromar Watt13 June 1892for Associateship
Item 20 of 20Herbert Hardy Wigglesworth5 March 1900for Fellowship

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 17 Lovesgrove  CardiganWales 
Item 2 of 171856Clubhouse     
Item 3 of 171862The LeysElstree HertfordshireEnglandEarlier building on the same site?
Item 4 of 17After 1864Powerscourt HouseEnniskerry County WicklowEireAdditions and alterations. Working with William Burn?
Item 5 of 171869Sailors' Home  BombayIndia 
Item 6 of 171870Somerley  HampshireEnglandContinued work begun by Burn
Item 7 of 171872Orwell ParkIpswich SuffolkEngland 
Item 8 of 171874Bowhill HouseSelkirk SelkirkshireScotlandCompletion of Burn's work, including plans for chapel, billiard room and smoking room
Item 9 of 171875Invergarry HouseFort Augustus Inverness-shireScotlandAddition of stable block
Item 10 of 171878Sundridge ParkBromley KentEnglandExtensive remodelling
Item 11 of 171881West St Giles Church  EdinburghScotlandAssessor for competition
Item 12 of 171884Doonside House and lodge etcAlloway (near) AyrshireScotland 
Item 13 of 171888Commercial Bank, Lombard Street and Birchin Lane  LondonEnglandReconstruction
Item 14 of 171889Alloway Parish ChurchAlloway AyrshireScotlandAlterations including new baptismal font
Item 15 of 171889Inverlochy CastleTorlundy Inverness-shireScotlandEnlargement
Item 16 of 171896Commercial Union Assurance Building  LondonEngland 
Item 17 of 171902National Bank of Scotland, London Branch  LondonEnglandNew building, extension


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 3British Architectural Library, RIBA2001Directory of British Architects 1834-1914   
Item 2 of 3Gotch, J A1934The Growth and Work of the Royal Institute of British Architects 1834-1934 London: RIBA 
Item 3 of 3Gray, A Stuart1985Edwardian Architecture: A Biographical Dictionary   

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 10Builder18 June 1915  p564 Obituary
Item 2 of 10Building NewsFebruary 1890   
Item 3 of 10RIBA Journal12 June 1915v22London: Royal Institute of British ArchitectsObituary, p403 and 416
Item 4 of 10The Times19 October 1887   
Item 5 of 10The Times17 October 1891   
Item 6 of 10The Times5 November 1891   
Item 7 of 10The Times22 June 1892   
Item 8 of 10The Times28 June 1892   
Item 9 of 10The Times8 November 1892   
Item 10 of 10The Times11 June 1915  Obituary

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Drawings Collection  


© All rights reserved. Building News 28 February 1890 

© All rights reserved. Building News 28 February 1890