Basic Biographical Details

Name: Alfred George Lochhead
Designation: Architect
Born: 30 December 1887
Died: November 1972
Bio Notes: Alfred George Lochhead was born on 30 December 1887 in Greenock and educated at Greenock Academy. In 1906 he was articled to Thomas Graham Abercrombie of Paisley, and he studied at Glasgow School of Achitecture (1906 to 1911) and the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College under Charles Gourlay, Alexander McGibbon and Eugène Bourdon for six sessions. Thereafter he spent three months on a study tour in Italy. As he was an outstanding student, obtaining several distinctions, Gourlay engaged him as assistant in his evening classes for the years 1910-1913. He moved to the office of John Burnet & Son where he spent one year and three months and James Shearer and Herbert Honeyman became particular friends. After doing much of the work on Burnet and Son's competition entry for the Teacher Training College at Jordanhill under Norman Aitken Dick he emigrated to Canada to work for Ross & Macdonald on the Wesleyan College of McGill University and on Canadian Pacific Railway stations and hotels. After the First World War broke out he tried to enlist in the Canadian Army but was not accepted for overseas service. He then returned home and was commissioned as a second Lieutenant in the British Army serving in France. In June 1916 he learned that Eugène Bourdon, with whom he had had a particularly good relationship, was serving with the French Army on the adjoining lines and sent him a note: Bourdon suggested an inn at which they might meet for a meal on 1 July, but he did not turn up, having been killed earlier. Shortly thereafter Lochhead was shot through both knees and spent the remainder of the war in Holzminden prisoner-of-war camp where a kindly German military surgeon repaired his knees. Lochhead was fluent in both spoken and written German and became a legendary forger of identity documents for those who had a sufficiently good command of German to attempt escape.

After the war Lochhead's parents persuaded him not to return to Canada as he had intended and he spent one year in an unspecified Glasgow office. He had hoped to work on the restoration of Paisley Abbey and wrote to Peter Macgregor Chalmers in 1919 in the hope of being engaged on it. Chalmers - accompanied by Mrs Chalmers, who interrupted from time to time - interviewed him courteously but said he could only bear him in mind as no work was going ahead at that time. Late in 1919 he obtained a place in Sir Robert Lorimer's office and applied for admission as ARIBA under the War Exemption Scheme in December, one of his proposers being Sir John Burnet, who was at first somewhat tetchy about being approached as his service was six years in the past. The other proposers were Lorimer and Keppie. In the spring of 1920 Lorimer dismissed his chief draughtsman John Ross McKay and Lochhead was engaged as his replacement. With Lorimer Lochhead had a very happy relationship, working mainly on war memorials and the earlier schemes for the Scottish National War Memorial. When Chalmers died suddenly in March 1922 Lochhead's hope of working on Paisley Abbey was realised when Lorimer received the commission. Mrs Chalmers was outraged as she planned to complete it with her nephew J Jeffry Waddell and refused to hand over the drawings. Lochhead had to make a measured survey of what had been done and together he and Lorimer redesigned the vault and the east gable of the choir, the latter after a spur of the moment train trip to Carlisle.

The work at Paisley proceeded more slowly than Lochhead had hoped and in 1923 he resigned to commence practice on his own account. Lorimer asked him if he knew of a good Glasgow-trained man to take his place and he recommended Harry Hubbard, later of Williamson and Hubbard. In 1924 Lorimer recommended him for a 'setting up' commission, Cleghorn's building at the corner of George Street and Castle Street in Edinburgh.

Lochhead's practice was in Glasgow as his connections were predominantly west coast. It never consisted of much more than himself and an apprentice, the most important of these being Ninian Johnston, who joined him as an office boy in 1926 and left him for George Boswell's in the mid-1930s. Practice was difficult because of the depression; much of his practice was concerned with church furnishings, stained glass, and for a time Lochhead was a decorator for the well-off rather than an architect, the superb French chryselephantine sculptures and Georg Jensen table silver that distinguished his home at 19 Sandyford Place being stock from that time; and although he himself was never particularly well-off - late in life he married a surgeon, Helen Wingate, who was - he was a discriminating collector of Glasgow school painters. He was also a fine musician, a quartet met in his office, one of Johnston's office jobs being to set up the music stands when the office closed. Lochhead was at his busiest during and just after the Second World War when he was fully engaged on requisitioning and subsequent reparations. In the early 1950s he was commissioned to design a large office block for Lithgows at Port Glasgow, but he became ill, part of the problem being nervous exhaustion, and he was obliged to retire.

In April 1956 Ian G Lindsay appointed him part-time investigator of historic buildings for the West of Scotland, Lochhead's friend Joseph Weekes having died in 1950. Lochhead did not drive, but he listed Glasgow by public transport and on foot; in 1960-61 he listed his native Renfrewshire, for most of which his wife drove. None of these was ever paid for: under the departmental rules the Department of Health could pay only for complete days, and a health problem limited how much he could do. For these lists Lochhead carried out a formidable programme of research; latterly this was in conjunction with David Walker who took over from him in 1962 when ill health ruled out further field work. Although a stylish writer, a certain shyness and reticence prevented him from publishing more than the briefest anonymous papers himself.

Despite his war wounds and somewhat fragile health Lochhead had a very slim sprightly appearance to the end of his life. He was teetotal and extremely fastidious in both dress and speech; and although never blind, his Glasgow Art Club nickname 'Delius' accurately described his personal appearance.

In the later 1960s Lochhead suffered a serious stroke. He made an almost full recovery but immediately thereafter the Lochheads moved to a ground floor flat in a villa in Nithsdale Road, close to what had been his parents' house. During the move, despite pleas not to do so, he destroyed both his practice papers and the splendid Italian studentship drawings that adorned his office. He died suddenly of a heart attack in November 1972. The Lochheads had no family, and after a few years Helen Lochhead moved to a nursing home at Oxford to be near her sister.

(W T Johnston notes that he was 'Testate, Glasgow, 19 March 1973')

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 810, Hillview, Paisley, Renfrewshire, ScotlandPrivate1906 *  
Item 2 of 8c/o Cunningham/63, Union Street, Greenock, Renfrewshire, ScotlandPrivate1909 *  
Item 3 of 8205, Nithsdale Road, Pollokshields, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate1910 *  
Item 4 of 862, Robertson Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness1924 *  
Item 5 of 865, West Regent Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusinessBefore 1929After 1934 
Item 6 of 8196, Bath Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness1940 *  
Item 7 of 819, Sandyford Place, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate/businessBefore 1948c. 1968 
Item 8 of 8226, Nithsdale Road, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivatec. 1968(?)1972 

* 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 5Thomas Graham Abercrombie19061910(?)Apprentice 
Item 2 of 5John Burnet & Son19131914Assistant 
Item 3 of 5Ross & Macdonald19141914 or 1915Assistant 
Item 4 of 5(Sir) Robert Stodart LorimerLate 1919Early 1920Assistant 
Item 5 of 5(Sir) Robert Stodart LorimerEarly 1920c. 1924Chief Draughtsman 

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 1Ninian Rutherford Jamieson Johnston19291931Apprentice 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3(Sir) John James BurnetEarly 1920for Associateship
Item 2 of 3John KeppieEarly 1920for Associateship
Item 3 of 3(Sir) Robert Stodart LorimerEarly 1920for Associateship

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 131910Tennant Mansion, 195 West George Street  GlasgowScotlandReconstruction and enlargement of Tennant mansion as offices for Nobel Explosives Company - as assistant to John James Burnet
Item 2 of 131923Paisley AbbeyPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandChief draughtsman to Robert Stodart Lorimer on restoration of choir vault, tower and interior woodwork
Item 3 of 131924Cleghorn Building  EdinburghScotlandLochhead's early designs were not approved but later ones accepted
Item 4 of 131928Cyprus HouseDunblane PerthshireScotland 
Item 5 of 131930sHouse for MacfarlaneBearsden GlasgowScotlandWork including decorating and furnishing
Item 6 of 131931CarlestounMilngavie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 7 of 131937Fyfe Chambers  GlasgowScotlandNew top floor and internal remodelling
Item 8 of 131939Nathaniel Stevenson Memorial Free ChurchBelmont GlasgowScotlandCommunion table and elders chairs
Item 9 of 131940Memorial bronzeWest Kilbride AyrshireScotland 
Item 10 of 131948Offices for the British Polar Engineers LtdGovan GlasgowScotland 
Item 11 of 131951Bakery of William Gardiner & Sons, Ltd, Dumbarton Road  GlasgowScotland 
Item 12 of 131953Premises of Charles Tennant & Co Ltd, Lochburn RoadPossilpark GlasgowScotlandTo prepare plans for new building
Item 13 of 131954Offices for LithgowPort Glasgow RenfrewshireScotlandDesign modified in execution after his retirement


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 3RIBA1930The RIBA Kalendar 1930-1931 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 
Item 2 of 3RIBA1939The RIBA Kalendar 1939-1940 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 
Item 3 of 3Walker, Frank Arneil1986South Clyde Estuary: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to Inverclyde and Renfrew  p7

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 2Builder12 October 1951  p502
Item 2 of 2Builder14 August 1953  p264

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Personal information from Alfred G Lochhead; additional research (including birth date and addresses) by Iain Paterson
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers A no 3006 (Microfilm Reel 24, v 26-27)