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. In Madrid he also taught English at the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (Free Institution of Education) and was responsible for the introduction of football and rounders at the school and is thus credited with the origin of football in the city.

Later 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:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 55, Queen Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness1891 *  
Item 2 of 51, Beaufort Road, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1891 *  
Item 3 of 521, St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness18921896 
Item 4 of 5McGill University, Montreal, CanadaBusiness18961903 
Item 5 of 5Victoria University, Manchester, EnglandBusiness19031913 

* 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 4John Burnet & Son18841884Apprentice 
Item 2 of 4George Washington Browne18871891Assistant 
Item 3 of 4Simon & Capper18881892Partner 
Item 4 of 4Geddes & CapperLate 18911896Partner 

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 3David Wishart Galloway18921893Assistant 
Item 2 of 3Ramsay Traquair1892(?)1897Apprentice 
Item 3 of 3Francis Roland FosterJuly 18931896Apprentice 


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 Burnet8 June 1891for Associateship
Item 2 of 3William Leiper8 June 1891for Associateship
Item 3 of 3Richard Phené Spiers8 June 1891for Associateship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 1Francis Roland Foster20 July 1911for Licentiateship

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 161888Hope ChapelWigan LancashireEnglandWon in competition
Item 2 of 161890Whiteinch OrphanageBroomhill GlasgowScotlandAmended design in execution
Item 3 of 16189213-16 Ramsay Garden  EdinburghScotland 
Item 4 of 1618923-7 James Court  EdinburghScotlandThe timber-framed upper floors at the NE corner and balconies on the E flank belong to the remodelling for Patrick Geddes by S Henbest Capper, 1892
Item 5 of 161892453-461 Lawnmarket, Robbie Burns Land  EdinburghScotlandRebuilding incorporating earlier fabric
Item 6 of 161892493-495 Lawnmarket  EdinburghScotlandRemodelling
Item 7 of 16189311-12 Ramsay Garden, University Hall  EdinburghScotlandCapper design lodged with Dean of Guild - taken over by Sydney Mitchell & Wilson: Capper may have suffered from one of his frequent bouts of ill-health
Item 8 of 161893Blairhoyle Masonic HallThornhill StirlingshireScotland 
Item 9 of 161893Riddle's Court and Close, 322-328 Lawnmarket and 5-6 Victoria Terrace  EdinburghScotlandRestoration and conversion to hall of residence
Item 10 of 161894Blackie House, Wardrop's Close, Lawnmarket  EdinburghScotlandRestoration
Item 11 of 161894Craigleith House  EdinburghScotlandConverted Craigleith House to hospital for consumptives
Item 12 of 16189548 Inverleith PlaceInverleith EdinburghScotland 
Item 13 of 161895Blairhoyle House  PerthshireScotlandNew lodge
Item 14 of 161895Church of the Sacred Heart  EdinburghScotlandPulpit and side chapels
Item 15 of 161895Edinburgh Ladies Golf Club, Clubhouse  EdinburghScotland 
Item 16 of 161909University of Manchester, Whitworth Laboratory  ManchesterEnglandDesign in collaboration with J W Beaumont?


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 4  Sent February 2017
Item 2 of 4Munro, Colin I Thomas Munro & Co: a family practice collection Architectural Heritage VI, pp45-55 
Item 3 of 4Post Office Directories     
Item 4 of 4Welter, Volker M History, biology and city design: Patrick Geddes in Edinburgh Architectural Heritage VI, pp60-82 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 5Bulletin of the Soc for Study of Arch in CanadaSeptember 1996v21, no3Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada 
Item 2 of 5Cuadernos de Futbol1 December 201460  
Item 3 of 5RIBA Journal24 January 1925 London: Royal Institute of British Architectsp200-203 Obituary by G Baldwin Brown & A N Paterson
Item 4 of 5Schola Regia1925  Easter, check date
Item 5 of 5Scotsman23 December 1991  Article by R J Naismith

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Courtesy of Luis Javier Bravo MayoInformation via 'Contact Us' on website Sent February 2017
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers A v11 p87 (microfiche 48/G6)