|Name: ||John Alexander Carfrae |
|Designation: ||Architect |
|Born: ||1868 |
|Died: ||11 July 1947 |
|Bio Notes: ||John Alexander Carfrae was born in 1868 and was educated at James Gillespie's School. In December 1881 he was articled to Robert Wilson, architect to the Edinburgh School Board. He remained with him as assistant until February 1889, concurrently attending classes at Edinburgh School of Art and Heriot-Watt College. On leaving Wilson's office he moved to London as assistant to Arthur Cawston, transferring to HM Office of Works under Henry Tanner in the following year. During this time he was a boarder in Battersea and attended Northcote Road Baptist Church for which he drew up plans for alterations to the dais area. He returned to Edinburgh to work in Sydney Mitchell and Wilson's practice in June 1892. Six months later he returned to Robert Wilson's practice as principal assistant, taking over most of the design work. A partnership with Alexander Hunter Crawford may have been considered as in 1897 they submitted a joint design in the competition for Denton Holme School, Carlisle in which they were placed fifth, the assessor being Edward Robert Robson. In the event, Crawford went into partnership with Rowand Anderson and Frank Worthington Simon and when Wilson died in 1901, Carfrae inherited his office and his position as architect to the Edinburgh School Board. He was admitted LRIBA on 27 February 1911, his proposers being Hunter Crawford, John Campbell Turner Murray and James Andrew Minty. His travels up to that point had taken him to Belgium, Holland and France, and around the cathedral cities of Britain. |
Carfrae was one of the most brilliant architects of his generation although much of his work was constrained by standard board school formats. Whether Wilson allowed him to design anything as a senior assistant prior to his departure in 1889 is uncertain but it is tempting to see his hand in the fine tall Queen Anne style school at Sciennes, built in that year. After his return from London his mastery of Queen Anne and neo-Jacobean can be seen to develop rapidly notably at Bruntsfield School (1893) Broughton Road School (1897) and North Canongate School (1897); Flora Stevenson School, Comely Bank (1899-1900), refined free Queen Anne and neo-Georgian commemorates John JamesStevenson's formidable sister, a prominent member of the Edinburgh School Board who may have had some influence on the London-inspired Queen Anne aesthetic of the school built in those years.
Carfrae's full power as a designer was first seen at the first Boroughmuir School a brilliant polychrome free Renaissance design comparable with the best London work of the same date. Although no reference to him travelling there has been found, Drummond Street and Preston Street have a marked North European/Scandinavian character, the former with detail of exceptional refinement.
Carfrae's later schools are of mixed quality, evidently as a result of overstretched School Board finances in the period 1910-15. King's Park at St Leonards was a brilliant towered Scots Renaissance design built of stone because of its commanding site overlooking Holyrood Park, Tollcross was also in stone and an exceptionally handsome symmetrical Renaissance design but the second Boroughmuir, of harled brick with stone dressings, was the most brilliant of them all, in composition and detail a challenge to Sir John James Burnet. By contrast, Bellevue and Tynecastle were painfully cheap and starved with brick and synthetic stone dressings. Whether such economies had any bearing on Carfrae's pioneer and quite unparalleled conservation exercises at Cannonball House and Duncan Street is not yet known but they were to remain unique until Kininmonth's restoration of Bruntsfield House for James Gillespie's School in 1962.
Carfrae lost his practice as a result of the local government changes in 1918-20 although the City Architect, Ebenezer James MacRae, entrusted him with the building of Balgreen and Stenhouse Schools in 1929. He retired completely in 1939 and died on 11 July 1947, leaving estate of £36,547 12s 6d. MacRae wrote of Carfrae that 'while his planning was the result of a wide knowledge of educational requirements, he was never satisfied with the routine treatment of earlier days and his schools have an individuality and freshness of design, some like James Gillespie's Girls [the first Boroughmuir] and King's Park, on splendid sites, being completely outstanding in treatment…In spite of never robust health, his output of work was amazing…[he] was a fine draughtsman and a good watercolourist. He was quiet and retiring and of a singularly gracious nature'.
He was married to Augusta Wilkes Henderson and had two sons.
|The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:|
| ||Address||Type||Date from||Date to||Notes|
|24, Lavender Gardens, Battersea, London, England||Private||1891|| ||Carfrae was a boarder at this address in 1891 when he was working for H M Office of Works.|
|3, Queen Street, Edinburgh, Scotland||Business||1897||1937||With Robert Wilson until 1901|
|9, Hope Park Terrace, Edinburgh, Scotland||Private||1903 *|| || |
|26, Forbes Road, Edinburgh, Scotland||Private||1904||1905|| |
|3, South Gillsland Road, Edinburgh, Scotland||Private||1907||1947|| |