Basic Biographical Details

Name: John Douglas
Designation: Architect
Born: 1829
Died: 23 May 1911
Bio Notes: John Douglas was born at Sandiway, Cheshire on 11 April 1830, the son of John Douglas and his wife Mary Swindley. The elder Douglas commenced his working life as a labourer but was a joiner by 1830, then a builder, and finally a surveyor: his wife was born and brought up on the Eaton Hall estate, later to become his son's most important client.

Douglas was articled to Edmund Sharpe & Edward Graham Paley of Lancaster c.1846 and remained with Paley after he began to practise on his own as chief assistant. Although he may have begun independent practice while still in Paley's office as early as 1855 he did not open his 6 Abbey Square, Chester office until 1860. It was initially both house and office and on 25 January of that year he married Elizabeth Edmunds of Bangour Is-coed. They had five children of whom only two lived to be adults; of these the elder surviving son, Charles Edmunds, born 1864 joined his father's practice c.1880 but died of consumption in 1887.

From the first Douglas was an accomplished Gothic designer, initially Early Decorated for churches and Old English, usually half-timbered, for domestic work. It was based on a profound study of old work by Douglas and his staff, their measured drawings and sketches of English and Welsh buildings being published in 1872 in the Abbey Square Sketch Book. But from the mid-1860s Italian Gothic and Romanesque designs began to appear, and in 1869 he became architect to the 3rd Marquess and 1st Duke of Westminster. Thereafter some of his work became distinctly cosmopolitan with marked French German and Netherlandish influences in the 1870s and early 1880s. His one Scottish house, Dansfield, 1883, belongs to his small group of French chateau-like houses of which The Paddocks at Eccleston (1882) was the premier example. By the later 1880s and 1890s he had returned to a refined English Tudor and neo-Jacobean. At its best Douglas's work challenged comparison with Shaw, Nesfield, Devey and George and attracted the attention of Hermann Muthesius and the French architect Paul Sedille.

In January 1884 when it became apparent that his son Colin was unlikely to be able to continue the practice Douglas took Daniel Porter Fordham (born 1845 or 1846) into partnership. Fordham had been in the office since at least 1872 and was an excellent draughtsman, but he too became consumptive. He never married and had to retire in 1898, moving to Bournemouth where he was cared for by an unmarried sister. He died there in the following April. Charles Howard Minshall, born 1858 and the son of a Chester bookseller, replaced Fordham as partner in 1898. He had been articled to Douglas in 1874 and had remained with him as an assistant. The partnership of Douglas and Minshall was dissolved in 1909. The reasons are not known, but communication may have been difficult as Douglas was by then very deaf and dependent on an ear trumpet and his son, Sholto had become an alcoholic. Minshall then established his own practice in Chester in partnership with the somewhat obscure E J Muspratt. Despite the high profile of the practice at the Royal Academy and in the building journals none of the partners ever sought membership of the RIBA.

Douglas died on 23 May 1911 at Walmoor Hill, Dee Banks, Chester, a massive Tudor pile which he had built for himself and his son Sholto, his wife Elizabeth having died in 1878. Although slow in sending out accounts he left a moveable estate of 32,088 17s 6d in addition to his substantial heritable properties in Chester. His remaining practice was then absorbed by Minshall & Muspratt under the title of Douglas, Minshall & Muspratt. Minshall died in 1934.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 26, Abbey Square, Chester, Cheshire, EnglandBusiness1860After 1905 
Item 2 of 2Walmoor Hill, Dee Banks, Chester, Cheshire, EnglandPrivate23 May 1911 *  

* 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 4Sharpe & Paley18461850Apprentice 
Item 2 of 4Edward Graham Paleyc. 1850 Assistant 
Item 3 of 4Douglas & FordhamJanuary 18841898Partner 
Item 4 of 4Douglas & Minshull 18981909Partner 

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 1Charles Howard Minshull 1874 Apprentice 

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 31883DanefieldLargs AyrshireScotland 
Item 2 of 31901All Saints Episcopal ChurchLockerbie DumfriesshireScotland 
Item 3 of 31906All Saints Episcopal ChurchSt Andrews FifeScotlandChancel and bell tower


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 1Hubbard, Edward1991The work of John Douglas   

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 8Builder1899  Obituary of Fordham Check date
Item 2 of 8Builder2 June 1911  Obituary
Item 3 of 8Chester Chronicle27 May 1911  Obituary
Item 4 of 8Chester Chronicle3 June 1911  Obituary
Item 5 of 8Chester Courant24 May 1911  Obituary
Item 6 of 8Chester Observer27 May 1911  Obituary
Item 7 of 8Liverpool Daily Post24 May 1911  Obituary
Item 8 of 8RIBA Journal30 June 1911 London: Royal Institute of British ArchitectsObituary - pp589-90