Basic Biographical Details
|Name: ||Stewart Henbest Capper |
|Designation: ||Architect |
|Born: ||1860 |
|Died: ||8 January 1925 |
|Bio Notes: ||Stewart Henbest Capper was born in 1860 at Upper Clapton in Greater London. His parents moved to Edinburgh when he was nine and from then he and his two brothers were educated at the Royal High School where he was dux in 1875. He then matriculated at Edinburgh University at the age of sixteen where he gained a First Class Honours in Classics in 1880 after studying for a session at the University of Heidelberg. Having chosen architecture as his profession he joined the office of J Burnet & Son, Glasgow in 1884, but a serious health condition forced him to accept later that same year a position as tutor to the only son of Sir Robert Morier, then British minister to Portugal and subsequently in Madrid, a post which was soon combined with that of private secretary. There he learned Portuguese and Spanish, studied Spanish architecture and made many lasting friendships. Still in that same year, 1884, he resumed the study of architecture by attending the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where he was a pupil of Jean-Louis Pascal for four years. There he became a lifelong friend of Alexander Nisbet Paterson. Together with Frank Worthington Simon and John Keppie, whose stays were more brief, they shared rooms and made 'jaunts together en province' for sketching or refreshment with the other students after 'strenuous days and nights at the atelier and en loge'. After further travelling in Europe, Capper returned to Edinburgh in 1887, working as assistant to Sir George Washington Browne. |
He continued to assist Washington Brown until 1891, but from 1888 he was also practising on his own account in partnership with his former fellow pupil at Pascal's, Frank Worthington Simon. The newly formed partnership of Simon & Capper won the competition for Hope Chapel, Wigan, in 1888. In 1890 Simon came into prominence as the architect of the Edinburgh International Exhibition of that year, working in collaboration with the artist-architect William Allan Carter who also had his own studio at 5 St Andrew Square; Capper does not seem to have had any involvement in this project. In that same year Rowand Anderson and David MacGibbon persuaded thirty well-off individuals to subscribe £1,200 for the formation of the Edinburgh School of Applied Art at the Royal Institution. When classes commenced on 17 October 1892 Simon was its first professor with George Mackie Watson as first assistant, quickly joined by his brother John who had run the Edinburgh Architectural Association classes and by Capper, the last giving the School as a whole a marked Ecole des Beaux-Arts bias in its teaching. All owed their appointments to Anderson's patronage, the Watson brothers also being ex-assistants of Anderson's while Capper was an ex-assistant of his former partner George Washington Browne. Prior to that, on 8 June 1891, Capper had been admitted ARIBA, his proposers being John James Burnet, William Leiper and Richard Phené Spiers.
By 1892 the Simon & Capper partnership had been dissolved and Capper was in independent practice. Sometime late in 1891 he had become associated with Professor Patrick Geddes - a biologist - who had founded the Town & Gown University Settlement with the object of creating staff and student residences within the Old Town of Edinburgh. This resulted in the Ramsay Garden, Riddles Court, James Court and Blackie House development. Geddes hoped to extend the concept to Glasgow and, probably at Capper's suggestion, wrote to John James Burnet who asked to see the Settlement's accounts before taking the matter further. Whilst involved in this work, Capper also took part in the work of the university, acting as examiner in the History and Theory of the Arts.
The association between Geddes and Capper ended in 1896 when a temporary breakdown in health induced Capper to accept the position of first professor of architecture at McGill University in Montreal for which he had been nominated by Professor G Baldwin Brown. It was believed his health could improve with the drier climate. A condition of his tenure was that he could not practise at the same time, as the university was opposed to their professors operating in absentia. As professor he became a Royal Canadian Academician and urged university education for architects at a time when there were only three chairs in England and none in Europe. He returned to England in 1903 to take up the chair of architecture at Victoria University, Manchester; while his time there was academically successful the climate was not good for him. After Percy Erskine Nobbs withdrew from the Montreal chair in 1909, Capper expressed an interest in returning but on Baldwin Brown's recommendation the vacancy was eventually filled by Ramsay Traquair in 1913. Capper left Manchester in 1912, when another breakdown in his health obliged him to retire early and go abroad to recover his health.
When in Canada Capper had joined the Canadian Field Artillery reaching the rank of captain. When he moved to Manchester he secured a transfer of his commission to the volunteers there and organised the Officer Training Corps of the University with promotion to the rank of brevet major. When war came he joined his battalion and went to Egypt. Found unfit for the Gallipoli campaign, he was appointed military censor in Cairo for which purpose he learned Arabic. At the end of the war he was given a similar position in the European department of the Ministry of the Interior in Cairo, a post which he retained until his death from a heart attack in the Anglo-American Hospital in Cairo on 8 January 1925. His funeral was attended by Lord Allenby and representatives of the Egyptian Government.
'Masterpieces of Spanish architecture' (1909)
Private and Business Addresses
|The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:|
| ||Address||Type||Date from||Date to||Notes|
|5, Queen Street, Edinburgh, Scotland||Business||1891 *|| || |
|1, Beaufort Road, Edinburgh, Scotland||Private||1891 *|| || |
|21, St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, Scotland||Business||1892||1896|| |
|McGill University, Montreal, Canada||Business||1896||1903|| |
|Victoria University, Manchester, England||Business||1903||1913|| |
* earliest date known from documented sources.
Employment and Training
Employees or Pupils
|This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):|
| ||Name||Date proposed||Notes|
|Francis Roland Foster||20 July 1911||for Licentiateship|
Buildings and Designs
|The following books contain references to this architect:|
|Munro, Colin I|| ||Thomas Munro & Co: a family practice collection|| ||Architectural Heritage VI, pp45-55|| |
|Post Office Directories|| || || || || |
|Welter, Volker M|| ||History, biology and city design: Patrick Geddes in Edinburgh|| ||Architectural Heritage VI, pp60-82|| |
|The following periodicals contain references to this architect:|
| ||Periodical Name||Date||Edition||Publisher||Notes|
|Bulletin of the Soc for Study of Arch in Canada||September 1996||v21, no3||Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada|| |
|RIBA Journal||24 January 1925|| ||London: Royal Institute of British Architects||p200-203 Obituary by G Baldwin Brown & A N Paterson|
|Schola Regia||1925|| || ||Easter, check date|
|Scotsman||23 December 1991|| || ||Article by R J Naismith|
|The following archives hold material relating to this architect:|
| ||Source||Archive Name||Source Catalogue No.||Notes|
|RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert Museum||RIBA Nomination Papers|| ||A v11 p87 (microfiche 48/G6)|