© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue  

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Basic Biographical Details

Name: David Cousin
Designation: Architect
Born: 19 May 1809
Died: 14 August 1878
Bio Notes: David Cousin was born in North Leith on 19 May 1809 (christened 28 May), the son of John Cousin, joiner and his wife Isabella Paterson. He was articled to his father as a joiner but studied mathematics with Edward Sang and early secured a place in William Henry Playfair's office, exhibiting a design for a parish church in the RSA of 1830. He left in 1831 to commence his own practice from his father's house at 24 Fettes Row. No executed work is known from the first few years but he competed for the Scott Monument and became acquainted with John Claudius Loudon for whose 'Cottage, Farm and Villa Architecture' he made two designs, that for a Scots baronial mansion being advanced for its date.

In the 1830s, Post Office directories indicate that he was involved with the family businesses of cabinet making and joinery. His brother George was involved as well. Around 1837 Cousin moved to 12 Clarence Street on his marriage to his first wife Isabella Galloway, daughter of John Galloway, tailor, on 23 April 1838 at Tolbooth Parish Church, Edinburgh. They had three daughters all of whom died early: Agnes (born 21 January 1840, died 10 July 1856), Isabella (born 14 April 1842, died 21 February 1874) and Eliza (born 14 December 1845, died 15 May 1850). Shortly thereafter he formed a short-lived partnership (1839-45) with the Glasgow civil engineer William Gale under the style of Cousin & Gale, Cousin being in charge of the Edinburgh office and Gale the Glasgow one. The practice came to wider notice almost immediately by winning two competitions, one for the classical West Church in Greenock and another for the neo-Norman Parish Church at Cambuslang; and in 1841 Cousin was appointed assistant to the elderly city Superintendent of Works, Thomas Brown, at 12 Royal Exchange, with freedom to continue his private practice, which was based at 43 Princes Street from c.1843. Over-commitment in relation to the Greenock Church brought about what was described as 'brain-fever' which left his health permanently impaired.

Cousin was one of the most outstanding architects of his generation but because of his recurrent ill-health, preoccupation with civic duties and the nature of his practice, his abilities were never as fully realised as they might have been. In the early 1840s he became a specialist in the layout of cemeteries, most of them with very competent Gothic gates and lodgehouses, and in the case of Warriston, Newington and Dalry catacombs. Like his former master Playfair, Cousin 'came out' (left the Established Church) at The Disruption and for the newly formed Free Church he prepared standard Italianate round-arched designs with low-pitched roofs which could be built quickly and cheaply. They were widely adopted, but it was a matter of some disappointment to him that he was not more widely commissioned when they were replaced by more permanent structures from the 1850s onwards. He did, however, design the most ambitious of the early Edinburgh free churches, St George's, in the neo-Norman style he favoured in the late 1830s and early 1840s, while Thomas Maitland commissioned him to design the Free Church offices and Savings Bank on the Mound in 1858-63, an outstanding picturesque neo-Jacobean design to enhance the Old Town skyline. The same idiom was adopted at the brilliantly planned curved-frontage India Buildings (1864), by far the most innovative block of business chambers then constructed in Scotland.

In 1845 following the death of George Angus in that year, Cousin became architect to the British Linen Bank, its branch bank building programme becoming the mainstay of his private practice; and on 1 June 1847 he was appointed Edinburgh's Superintendent of Public Works in succession to Thomas Brown who had retired earlier that year, his first works in that capacity being the magnificent mannerist palazzo of the Corn Exchange in the Grassmarket (1848) and the abbatoirs (1851-52) for which he made a study visit to Paris. The appointment brought with it responsibility for the University of Edinburgh which was then still municipally-owned and resulted in the commission for the Reid School of Music Classroom.

The success of the Edinburgh Corn Exchange with its wide-span timber roof brought commissions for the exchanges at Melrose, Dalkeith and Kelso, the last two having Tudor Gothic frontages which successfully reproduced the qualities of original fifteenth century work. Cousin was also one of the pioneers of Puginian-tractorian early Decorated in Scotland, notably in his churches at Oban (1846) and Rosneath (1853) which reflected his friendship with the Episcopal Church architect John Henderson.

Cousin was a founder-member of the Architectural Institute of Scotland in 1850 and gave a number of papers, the more important of which concerned the chronic housing problem Edinburgh then faced, 'Remarks on the Domestic Architecture of Paris' delivered in 1855-65 recording the impressions of his visit of c.1850. A further paper 'Remarks on Jeffrey's Theory of the Beautiful' followed in 1857-58, reflecting his interest in the mathematically-based proportional system whih led him to the founding of the Aesthetic Society. In built form these proportions are particularly noticeable at the Reid Music Classroom (1849), his own house at 7 Greenhill Gardens (1849) and several of his British Linen Bank branch banks.

On Henderson's death in 1862 Cousin took over his practice and completed the work in hand; but as the practice was predominantly an Episcopal one and Cousin was a Whig Free Churchman, not much of Henderson's clientele was retained. In the same year, 1862, Cousin laid out the lands of Mayfield in Newington for Duncan McLaren, who was also a Free Churchman. Later he laid out the grounds of Craigmillar Park, the property of Mr Little Gilmour. Cousin's official duties were extended significantly on 18 December 1867 when he was appointed architect to the Improvement Trust he had helped to promote, but in accepting he referred to his breakdown in health and asked that John Lessels be appointed joint architect with him, a request which was implemented on 17 March 1868. Under the Improvement Act Cousin planned St Mary Street, Blackfriars Street, Jeffrey Street and Chambers Street, the architecture of which reflects his transition from pure Italian Renaissance to a mid Victorian freestyle also evident in the later bank-houses.

Cousin resigned as City Superintendent of Works on 23 April 1872 because of failing health but retained his appointment as joint architect to the Improvement Trust with John Lessels. He left for Algiers and Mentone to recover his health but continued for a time in private practice, being among those invited to compete for the University's new buildings in 1874 when he submitted a joint design with Lessels, now unfortunately lost. Isabella died in December 1876 whereafter he married Elizabeth Lawson, daughter of John Lawson of Cairnmuir. His later years appear to have been spent mainly in Louisiana in a continuing attempt to recover his health but the practice continued throughout 1875-77 from 9 Coates Crescent. Cousin died on 14 August at The Hermitage, Sans Souci, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There was no surviving family from either marriage; a brother, George Cousin was an ordained surveyor. Cousin's pupils comprised John McLachlan, the younger John Henderson and Thomas Kemp, elder son of George Meikle Kemp. The practice was continued by his surveyor brother George in partnership with William Ormiston who was probably largely responsible for the practice in Cousin's final years. Whether he was a pupil is not known.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 1024, Fettes Row, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/business18301831 
Item 2 of 1012, Clarence Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivatec. 1837c. 1843 
Item 3 of 1012, Royal Exchange, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1840 City Superintendent of Works' office. No mention of Gale in 1840c but appears in directories 1842-3. Name on its own in c1844
Item 4 of 1043, Princes Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivatec. 1843 Private practice as well as house?
Item 5 of 1017, George Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1845  
Item 6 of 1016, George Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1845Before 1849Moved here from no 17.
Item 7 of 107, Greenhill Gardens, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate18491878House and office for private practice from 1851
Item 8 of 1010, Royal Exchange, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1868c. 1871 
Item 9 of 1011, Royal Exchange, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1872c. 1874 
Item 10 of 109, Coates Crescent, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/businessc. 1875c. 1878House and office

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 3William Henry PlayfairBefore 18301831Assistant 
Item 2 of 3Cousin & Galec. 18381845Partner 
Item 3 of 3Thomas Brown I1841 Principal 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 14Thomas Kemp  Apprentice 
Item 2 of 14John Henderson II  Apprentice 
Item 3 of 14David Bryce (junior)After 1841(?)1851(?)Assistant 
Item 4 of 14David Robertson18501855Apprentice 
Item 5 of 14John Chesserc. 18521858  
Item 6 of 14Thomas Arnold18531858Apprentice 
Item 7 of 14David Robertson1855Before 1865Assistant 
Item 8 of 14Thomas Arnold18581863Assistant 
Item 9 of 14John McLachlanc. 1858 Apprentice 
Item 10 of 14George Henderson18621868Apprentice 
Item 11 of 14John Hinton Gall18641868ApprenticeUnder William Ormiston and George Cousin, according to LRIBA papers
Item 12 of 14William OrmistonBefore 1864Before 1878 As senior assistant or partner - role unclear
Item 13 of 14George CousinBefore 1864Before 1878 As assistant or partner - role unclear
Item 14 of 14Robert Morhamc. 18661873AssistantLater partner

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 110 90 George Street  EdinburghScotlandShopfront, attribution by Ian Gow
Item 2 of 1101830Design for a church     
Item 3 of 1101837Scott Monument  EdinburghScotlandUnsuccessful competition design exhibited
Item 4 of 1101839Cambuslang Parish ChurchCambuslang LanarkshireScotlandCompetition win
Item 5 of 1101839Kingston Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 6 of 110After 1839Design for a Church  Wigtownshire?Scotland 
Item 7 of 1101840New West ChurchGreenock RenfrewshireScotlandCompetition win
Item 8 of 1101840Olrig Parish ChurchOlrig CaithnessScotland 
Item 9 of 1101841St Thomas's Church of England  EdinburghScotland 
Item 10 of 1101842Chirnside Bridge Paper MillsChirnside BerwickshireScotland 
Item 11 of 1101842City and County Buildings and second Merchants' House  GlasgowScotlandUnsuccessful competition designs
Item 12 of 1101842Glasgow Necropolis, Mausoleum to Major Archibald Douglas Monteath (or Monteith)Dennistoun GlasgowScotland 
Item 13 of 1101842Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society HallInverleith EdinburghScotland 
Item 14 of 1101842Warriston CemeteryWarriston EdinburghScotlandWon competition and secured job
Item 15 of 1101843Auchterarder Free ChurchAuchterarder PerthshireScotland 
Item 16 of 1101843Cramond Free Church  EdinburghScotland 
Item 17 of 1101843Kirkcaldy Free ChurchKirkcaldy FifeScotlandProbably supervised the design: see Notes
Item 18 of 1101843Newington Free Church  EdinburghScotland 
Item 19 of 1101843Pathhead Free ChurchPathhead, Kirkcaldy FifeScotland 
Item 20 of 1101843St Andrew's Free Church  EdinburghScotland 
Item 21 of 1101843St Devenick's Free ChurchBanchory KincardineshireScotland 
Item 22 of 1101843St George's Free Church Lothian Road  EdinburghScotland 
Item 23 of 110c. 1843Borgue Free ChurchBorgue KirkcudbrightshireScotland 
Item 24 of 1101844(?)Ayr Free ChurchAyr AyrshireScotlandPlans may have been made by Cousin prior to dissolution of partnership; executed subsequently by Gale
Item 25 of 1101844Dean Free ChurchDean EdinburghScotland 
Item 26 of 1101844Free High Church and hallsKilmarnock AyrshireScotlandChurch and probably hall to south
Item 27 of 1101844Roseneath Free ChurchRoseneath DunbartonshireScotlandDMW suggests this may have been built to a standard David Cousin design.
Item 28 of 1101844Saltcoats Free ChurchSaltcoats AyrshireScotlandMain church
Item 29 of 1101845Auchterarder Free ChurchAuchterarder PerthshireScotlandEnlargement (may not be by Cousin)
Item 30 of 1101845Dean Cemetery and lodgesDean EdinburghScotlandWon competition and secured job. Probably included Cemetery Lodge
Item 31 of 1101845Kinghorn Free ChurchKinghorn FifeScotlandBegun in partnership; presumably completed by Cousin alone
Item 32 of 1101846British Linen Bank, HamiltonHamilton LanarkshireScotland 
Item 33 of 1101846Dalry CemeteryDalry EdinburghScotland 
Item 34 of 1101846Free High Church and Free Church College  EdinburghScotlandUnsuccessful competition design exhibited
Item 35 of 1101846Oban Free High ChurchOban ArgyllScotland 
Item 36 of 1101846Rosebank Cemetery  EdinburghScotland 
Item 37 of 1101847East Princes Street gardens  EdinburghScotlandTerraces, balustrades and steps
Item 38 of 1101848Currie Parish ChurchCurrie MidlothianScotlandAlterations to windows
Item 39 of 1101848Dalrymple ChurchDalrymple AyrshireScotland 
Item 40 of 1101848Edinburgh Corn ExchangeOld Town EdinburghScotland 
Item 41 of 1101848Newark Castle  AyrshireScotlandReconstruction and large new wing
Item 42 of 1101848Newington CemeteryNewington EdinburghScotland 
Item 43 of 1101849Maybole CastleMaybole AyrshireScotlandRepairs and renovations. Enlargement of windows at upper floors.
Item 44 of 1101849Villa, 7 Greenhill Gardens  EdinburghScotland 
Item 45 of 1101850Free Church ManseKinghorn FifeScotlandProvided plans
Item 46 of 1101851Grange EstateGrange EdinburghScotlandLayout
Item 47 of 1101852AbattoirsFountainbridge EdinburghScotland 
Item 48 of 1101852Bellevue Crescent, Northern Half  EdinburghScotlandRevised Thomas Brown's scheme
Item 49 of 1101852British Linen BankArbroath AngusScotland 
Item 50 of 1101852St Modan's Parish ChurchRosneath / Roseneath DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 51 of 110Before 1853Villas, 2 and 4 Dick Place  EdinburghScotland 
Item 52 of 1101854British Linen Bank  DundeeScotlandEnlargement
Item 53 of 1101854Dalkeith Corn ExchangeDalkeith MidlothianScotland 
Item 54 of 1101854New West ChurchGreenock RenfrewshireScotlandSteeple added
Item 55 of 11018551 Manor Place and 22 Coates Crescent  EdinburghScotlandDrawings are dated and addressed from 'City Chambers'
Item 56 of 1101855Edinburgh City Chambers  EdinburghScotlandAlterations
Item 57 of 1101855Kelso Corn ExchangeKelso RoxburghshireScotland 
Item 58 of 1101855Kingsmuir CottagePeebles PeeblesshireScotland 
Item 59 of 1101856Curriehill House  MidlothianScotland 
Item 60 of 1101856Old Greyfriars Church  EdinburghScotlandRestoration after fire
Item 61 of 1101858Free Church Offices and Savings Bank  EdinburghScotland 
Item 62 of 1101858Heriot Brewery OfficesOld Town EdinburghScotland 
Item 63 of 1101858Reid School of Music  EdinburghScotland 
Item 64 of 1101860Convent of the Sisters of Mercy  EdinburghScotland 
Item 65 of 1101860Edinburgh City Chambers  EdinburghScotlandAlterations
Item 66 of 1101860W & R Chambers Printing Works  EdinburghScotlandAlterations
Item 67 of 110Before 1860McLaren & Sons' Premises  EdinburghScotlandFitting out
Item 68 of 110c. 1860British Linen Bank, MoffatMoffat DumfriesshireScotlandAttributed, similar to Selkirk, but plans not preserved.
Item 69 of 110c. 1860Burnside HouseLargs AyrshireScotland 
Item 70 of 110c. 1860Mercat Cross  EdinburghScotlandRestoration proposal to counter Bryce's
Item 71 of 11018621-19 Mayfield Gardens  EdinburghScotland 
Item 72 of 1101862Dalkeith Militia BarracksDalkeith MidlothianScotland 
Item 73 of 1101862India Buildings  EdinburghScotlandJob taken over by Cousin after Henderson's death
Item 74 of 1101862Leith AbattoirLeith EdinburghScotland 
Item 75 of 1101862Lochgilphead District Asylum for the InsaneLochgilphead ArgyllScotland 
Item 76 of 1101862Mayfield feuing  EdinburghScotland 
Item 77 of 1101862Melrose Corn ExchangeMelrose RoxburghshireScotland 
Item 78 of 1101862Scottish National Albert Memorial  EdinburghScotlandProposal to site statue in Chambers Street- watercolour (by Cousin and Sam Bough)
Item 79 of 1101862Tobermory Union PoorhouseTobermoryMullArgyllScotland 
Item 80 of 1101863British Linen BankHawick RoxburghshireScotland 
Item 81 of 1101863British Linen Bank, SelkirkSelkirk SelkirkshireScotland 
Item 82 of 1101863Edinburgh City Chambers  EdinburghScotlandWall in Cockburn Street
Item 83 of 1101864Two blocks of tenements, Carrubber's CloseOld Town EdinburghScotland 
Item 84 of 1101865(?)Edinburgh Corn ExchangeOld Town EdinburghScotlandAlterations to roof? - probably responsible, assisted by James Milne Monro
Item 85 of 1101865Militia Barracks  EdinburghScotland 
Item 86 of 1101866British Linen Bank, StranraerStranraer WigtownshireScotland 
Item 87 of 1101867British Linen Bank, PaisleyPaisley RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 88 of 110c. 1867Chambers Street  EdinburghScotlandFormation and general scheme of elevations
Item 89 of 110186845-51 Hanover Street  EdinburghScotlandRemodelling with shops
Item 90 of 1101868British Linen Bank  DundeeScotlandNew building
Item 91 of 11018692 St Mary's Street and Canongate  EdinburghScotlandWith John Lessels
Item 92 of 1101869Bellevue Crescent, Northern Half  EdinburghScotlandFurther modified scheme
Item 93 of 1101869Catholic Young Men's Institute  EdinburghScotland 
Item 94 of 1101869Sheriff CourtCampbeltown ArgyllScotland 
Item 95 of 1101869St Mary's Street, upper part (numbers 4-28)  EdinburghScotlandUpper part with David Cousin
Item 96 of 1101869St Mary's Street, Lower Part  EdinburghScotland 
Item 97 of 1101869Tenement, 48, 50 High Street  EdinburghScotland 
Item 98 of 110187011-15 Blackfriars Street  EdinburghScotlandDesign
Item 99 of 110187023-29 Blackfriars Street  EdinburghScotlandDesign
Item 100 of 11018705-9 Blackfriars Street  EdinburghScotlandOriginal design with Cousin - executed by Robert Morham
Item 101 of 110187056-60 High Street and 1-3 Blackfriars Street  EdinburghScotlandOriginal design with Lessels - executed by Robert Morham
Item 102 of 1101870Blackfriars UP Church  EdinburghScotlandWith Morham as assistant
Item 103 of 1101870Two blocks, Blackfriars Street  EdinburghScotlandDesign
Item 104 of 110c. 1870Edinburgh City Chambers  EdinburghScotlandAlterations
Item 105 of 110Before 1871Tenement, 52, 54 High Street  EdinburghScotlandDesign
Item 106 of 1101873Phrenological Museum  EdinburghScotland 
Item 107 of 1101874British Linen BankDunfermline FifeScotland 
Item 108 of 1101874British Linen Bank, WishawWishaw LanarkshireScotland 
Item 109 of 1101876Watt Institution and School of Arts  EdinburghScotlandOriginal design
Item 110 of 1101877West Savile Road  EdinburghScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 5Friends of the Church of Scotland1843 17 March and 7 April Report and designs for churches (copy in NMRS)
Item 2 of 5King, David David Cousin 1809-78 Unpublished thesis 
Item 3 of 5Loudon1830Cottage, Villa and Farm Architecture  Cottage villa and Scots Baronial mansion designs, plans and elevations, p885
Item 4 of 5Post Office Directories     
Item 5 of 5Walker, Frank Arneil1986South Clyde Estuary: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to Inverclyde and Renfrew  p13, p129

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 5Builder14 September 1878  Obituary
Item 2 of 5Caledonian Mercury26 March 1838  Letter from Cousin regarding Scott Monument.
Item 3 of 5Courant4 September 1878  Obituary
Item 4 of 5Dundee Evening Telegraph & Post4 September 1878  David Cousin suffered from heart disease and neuralgia. When he was in Mentone ‘last winter’ he was recommended to try the climate in America. But the extreme heat was too much. Never rallied.
Item 5 of 5Scotsman6 March 1895  p9 Erroneously refers to George Cousin.


© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue  

© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue