Basic Biographical Details

Name: John Starforth
Designation: Architect
Born: 1822(?)
Died: 18 May 1898
Bio Notes: John Starforth was born in Auckland, Durham and christened in the church of St Andrew on 18 July 1822. His father was John Henry Starford or Starforth and his mother Elizabeth Moor. He is said to have attended Durham University; Johnston found no record of him there, but as at St Andrews the documentation relating to those who only took classes relevant to their needs was perhaps not always retained. He came to Edinburgh as a youth and was apparently first apprenticed to Thomas Hamilton; but perhaps from want of business in Hamilton's office he moved to that of Burn & Bryce, presumably before Burn left for London in 1844. He probably remained with Bryce as an assistant and remained with Bryce at least until 1853 when he published 'The Architecture of the Farm' and a design for a steading for a farm of 500 acres in the 'Transactions of the Highland Society' (vol 5, 345-353), which brought him the society's gold medal. His first known building, Patriot Hall, dates from 1859, but it was not until 1864-5 that his career took off with a competition win for the Edinburgh Albert Memorial (the result was passed over as a statue by Sir John Steell was preferred) and major commissions in Dumfries.

Starforth's practice consisted mainly of churches, hospitals, poorhouses and country house work 'in the Highlands and West of Scotland' and, probably, villas, farmhouses and farm steadings: his three later publications are probably at least partly commissioned designs, though none has as yet been identified. His 'Scotsman' obituarist reported that his fondness for angling and shooting, as well as his own amiability of manner, both largely contributed to his success as a country house architect, and he remained 'on intimate terms of friendship' with his clients. The style of his country houses reflects his years in Bryce's office, but on a modest scale.

Most of his church commissions were obtained in competition, and were early English or early Geometrical in detail. The larger ones at Dumfries, Moffat, Kelso and Nairn have a marked individuality in plan and detail with a picturesque grouping of tower and flanking stairhalls. Like David Thomson, he appears to have had a printed list of his commissions which was issued to prospective clients and newspapers. No copy of this has so far been found, but a report on his Nairn church in the Dundee Advertiser of 27 March 1893 reprinted most of it, giving a fairly complete record of his practice.

By the mid-1890s Starforth was in failing health 'through an affection of the heart', and he died suddenly while walking along Princes Street on the morning of 18th May 1898. His wife Helen Henderson survived him, dying at 13 Fotheringham Road, Ayr on 12 February 1916. They had two daughters and three sons, one of whom, Robert H. Starforth, continued the practice.

'The Architecture of the farm, a series of designs for farm houses and farm steadings', Edinburgh, 1853
'Villa Residences and Farm Architecture: a series of designs for villas farmhouses & c.', Edinburgh, 1865
'Designs for Villa Residences, with descriptions', Edinburgh, 1866
'The Architecture of the Park', Edinburgh, 1890

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 73, South Charlotte Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness1857  
Item 2 of 770, Queen Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/businessc. 1860c. 1861House and office
Item 3 of 778, Queen Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness1866 *  
Item 4 of 715, Drummond Place, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/business18671870 
Item 5 of 737, York Place, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/businessc. 1868c. 1897(?)With Robert H Starforth after c.1892. House and office
Item 6 of 712, Pitt Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1898 With Robert H Starforth
Item 7 of 755, Comely Bank Road, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate(?)c. 1898  

* 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 3Thomas Hamilton Before 1844ApprenticeDates unknown
Item 2 of 3Burn & Bryce1844 * ApprenticeExact dates unkown
Item 3 of 3Burn & BryceAfter 1844(?) AssistantStarforth is believed to have remained in the practice after his apprenticeship

* earliest date known from documented sources.

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 2David McArthyAfter 1870 Apprentice 
Item 2 of 2Robert H StarforthBefore 1898(?)1898  

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 43 Craigdarroch House  DumfriesshireScotlandAlterations - details and dates unknown
Item 2 of 43 Edenholm House   ScotlandDates and location not known.
Item 3 of 43 Kirkbank House  Roxburghshire?ScotlandDates not known.
Item 4 of 43 Mountannan HouseAnnan DumfriesshireScotlandDates not known
Item 5 of 431822Crossmichael Parish ChurchCrossmichael DumfriesshireScotlandRecast church
Item 6 of 431857Fossoway  PerthshireScotlandDetailed drawings by Starforth - perhaps passed by Bryce to Starforth for detailed drawings
Item 7 of 431858Stonefield House and estate  ArgyllScotland 
Item 8 of 431859PatriothallStockbridge EdinburghScotland 
Item 9 of 431863PeacehillBalmerino FifeScotland 
Item 10 of 431863 or 18649 The ScoresSt Andrews FifeScotland 
Item 11 of 431864Scottish National Albert Memorial  EdinburghScotlandCompetition design, exhibited at Edinburgh International Exhibition 1886
Item 12 of 431865Greyfriars ChurchDumfries DumfriesshireScotlandChurch (probably also designed lectern)
Item 13 of 431867Lanark Parish ChurchLanark LanarkshireScotland'Preparing for erection'; not built.
Item 14 of 431868Coltbridge School  EdinburghScotlandOriginal building
Item 15 of 431869Dumfries and Galloway Royal InfirmaryDumfries DumfriesshireScotlandOriginal building
Item 16 of 431869Trinity UP ChurchGreenock RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 17 of 43c. 1870BalleidKinloch PerthshireScotland 
Item 18 of 431871Peebles Free ChurchPeebles PeeblesshireScotland 
Item 19 of 431872British Linen BankDumfries DumfriesshireScotlandRecast bank
Item 20 of 431872London Road UP Church and church hall and officesCalton EdinburghScotland 
Item 21 of 431874Dumfries and Galloway ClubDumfries DumfriesshireScotland 
Item 22 of 431874Public School and schoolhouseGalashiels SelkirkshireScotland 
Item 23 of 431874Royal HospitalBerwick-upon-Tweed NorthumberlandEngland 
Item 24 of 431875Cummertrees Parish ChurchCummertrees DumfriesshireScotlandRecast and refurnished interior
Item 25 of 431875Free ChurchGalashiels SelkirkshireScotland 
Item 26 of 431875Greenock Poorhouse and Parochial AsylumGreenock RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 27 of 431876St Margaret's HallDunfermline FifeScotland 
Item 28 of 431876Tranent Public SchoolTranent East LothianScotland 
Item 29 of 431877Knox AcademyHaddington East LothianScotlandConstruction of original building.
Item 30 of 431878Bonnington UP ChurchLeith EdinburghScotland 
Item 31 of 431878Peebles HydropathicPeebles PeeblesshireScotlandOriginal building - some rubble survives at rear
Item 32 of 431879Eyre Place UP ChurchCanonmills EdinburghScotland 
Item 33 of 431879Glenfeochan House  ArgyllScotland 
Item 34 of 431881 or 1888Peebles Hydropathic, lodgePeebles PeeblesshireScotland 
Item 35 of 431882Moffat Parish Church and hallMoffat DumfriesshireScotlandCommission and construction
Item 36 of 431885Moffat Parish Church manseMoffat DumfriesshireScotland 
Item 37 of 431885UP Church and Church HallKelso RoxburghshireScotland 
Item 38 of 431887Memorial to Sir George Henry Scott Douglas of SpringwoodKelso (near) RoxburghshireScotlandDesigned but not built.
Item 39 of 431889Craigdarroch House chapel  DumfriesshireScotland 
Item 40 of 43c. 1892Ravenswood, SummerhouseMelrose RoxburghshireScotlandAlterations and addition of two chimneypieces
Item 41 of 431893Old Parish ChurchNairn NairnshireScotlandWon competition and secured job. Similar design to the same architect's Trinity North Church, Kelso.
Item 42 of 43Mid 1800sBroomlands HouseKelso RoxburghshireScotlandAdditions and alterations
Item 43 of 43Mid 1800sRammerscales House  DumfriesshireScotlandinternal alterations - dates unknown


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 4Edinburgh Architectural Association1907Edinburgh Architectural Association Exhibition Catalogue Edinburgh 
Item 2 of 4Post Office Directories     
Item 3 of 4Scotlands People Website Wills & Testaments  Edinburgh Sheriff Court Wills Sc70/4/307
Item 4 of 4Walker, Frank Arneil1986South Clyde Estuary: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to Inverclyde and Renfrew  p125-126

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 3Builder28 May 1898  obituary
Item 2 of 3Dundee Advertiser27 March 1893  Report of Nairn Parish Church which lists Starforth's other works
Item 3 of 3Scotsman19 May 1898  obituary

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1National Monuments Record of Scotland/NMRS, RCAHMSGeorge Dobie Ledgers  


© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue  

© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue