Basic Biographical Details

Name: John Melvin & Son
Designation: Architectural practice
Started: c. 1874
Ended: After 1970
Bio Notes: John Melvin Senior was born in Alloa in 1805 the second son of John Melvin, wright, and, like the Frames in the same town, came of a staunchly United Presbyterian family. He commenced his career as a joiner in the family business but moved to Edinburgh where he went through a course of study and practice of architecture and in 1826 returned to his native town and began business as master joiner and architect, as he frequently 'combined the two by drawing the plans of a house, and alterations and repairs, and executing the joiner work as well'.

John Melvin Junior was born in 1855 and was articled to his father before seeking Edinburgh experience with George Beattie & Son. He returned to Alloa as his father's partner c.1874. In 1878 John Melvin Senior, who had spent much of his time at his house in Comrie in his later years, retired completely and 'was entertained to dinner by the contractors of Alloa and presented with a handsome silver epergne, emblematic of architecture'. He died 7 March 1894.

John Melvin Junior never enjoyed good health. As the expectations of the Paton family, his main patron, grew in relation to the proposed new office block at Kilncaigs Works, in 1902 'feeling his health and strength unequal for the whole work', Melvin assumed as partner William Kerr. Kerr had been recommended to the Patons by Thomas Graham Abercrombie through family and client connection with the Coats family who were in turn related to the Patons. Since Abercrombie was a frequent holiday guest on the Coats steam yacht, the connection may have been made directly: it is also possible that it was made through Abercrombie's brother Col R G Abercrombie who lived in Alloa. This tactful arrangement seems to have been in deference to Melvin's past services and the fact that both families were United Presbyterian. John Melvin Junior died three years later on 30 September 1905.

William Kerr was born in Houston, Renfrewshire on 23 June 1867. In 1885 he was articled to John Burnet & Son where he worked alongside John Archibald Campbell (a partner from 1886) Alexander McGibbon and Alexander Robb Scott. He is known to have worked on the drawings for the Barony Church, the Athenaeum and on the churches and other buildings for the Duke of Hamilton on Arran. In 1890 Kerr moved to Paisley to work for Thomas Graham Abercrombie where he quickly rose to become principal assistant and undertook most of the design work of that practice from 1894; much of it in Burnet influenced Baroque or Gothic, the Clark Memorial Church at Largs being strongly influenced by Burnet's design for the Coats Memorial Church in Paisley.

Once established in Alloa Kerr took over the Paton domestic commissions which had hitherto been the preserve of Sydney Mitchell. Like the Patons he was a strictly teetotal Liberal, and like Abercrombie before him, he was frequently invited to join his clients on holiday. For what were described by John Biggar as 'personal reasons' Kerr never lived in Alloa. He commuted from his native Houston until quite late in life often making small sketch-plans on any piece of paper that he had to hand or on his shirt cuffs. Only quite late in life did he move from Houston, not to Alloa but to a terrace house in Comely Bank as a better base for the education of his sons., where student friends, notably Alan Reiach, and Robert Scott Morton, were particularly welcome guests.

In 1912 William Kerr took into partnership John Gray. Gray was born in Springfield, Fife c.1878 and educated at Dollar Academy. In or about 1896 he was articled to John Melvin Junior and remained as assistant. Up to that point Gray was probably largely self-taught as an early twentieth century architect but once Kerr had taken over the office he quickly assimilated his style and they worked so closely together that buildings reputedly designed bu Gray are virtually indistinguishable in style from those by Kerr. Throughout their partnership the practice name remained John Melvin & Son. Despite the accomplished qualities of their best work neither partner sought publicity or exhibited at the RSA.

Kerr was admitted LRIBA on 24 June 1912, his proposers being McGibbon, Alexander Nisbet Paterson and John Keppie. Gray did not seek admission to the RIBA until after the war, during which he served in the Royal Engineers. Much of the firms inter-war practice consisted of housing estates and schools, but the larger jobs remained high quality right up to Kerr's death on 10 September 1940, still at work on his sickbed designing a school at Tilliecoultry. Kerr left a daughter and three sons, the eldest of whom was blinded in the First World War, his two younger sons serving in the second. Of these A Bryce Kerr was also an architect but in the difficult post-war years preferred to join the staff of the Scottish Office rather than seek a partnership with John Melvin & Son.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architectural practice:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 47, Mar Street, Alloa, Clackmannanshire, ScotlandBusinessBefore 1910After 1930 
Item 2 of 464, Mar Street, Alloa, Clackmannanshire, ScotlandBusiness1911 *  
Item 3 of 415, Mar Street, Alloa, Clackmannanshire, ScotlandBusinessBefore 1964After 1981 
Item 4 of 410a, Melville Terrace, Stirling, Stirlingshire, ScotlandBusiness1970 *After 1981Branch office

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architectural practice (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 10John Melvin (senior)c. 18741878Partner 
Item 2 of 10John Melvin (junior)c. 18741905Partner 
Item 3 of 10William Constable18791883Apprentice 
Item 4 of 10William Kerrc. 19021940Partner 
Item 5 of 10James Taylor1910Before 1914Draughtsman 
Item 6 of 10John Gray19121940Partner 
Item 7 of 10Thomas Loudon Fleming1931 *c. 1936ApprenticeLater assistant
Item 8 of 10Patrick McNeil1938 * Assistant 
Item 9 of 10Archibald McNeil Duncan1940sAfter 1950Assistant 
Item 10 of 10Gordon Buchanan BiggarBefore 1953After 1980Partner 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Buildings and Designs

This architectural practice 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 1081873Greenside Mission ChapelAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 2 of 1081874Museum and library for the Natural History and Archaeological SocietyAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 3 of 1081874NorwoodAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 4 of 1081875Alloa Burgh SchoolAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 5 of 1081875Dysart UP ManseDysart FifeScotland 
Item 6 of 1081877Clydesdale BankBo'ness / Borrowstouness West LothianScotland 
Item 7 of 108187863 Queen StreetAlva ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 8 of 1081878Kilncraigs Factory, Old Mill and Engine HouseAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 9 of 1081878Kirkton of Largo SchoolUpper Largo FifeScotland 
Item 10 of 1081878Popular InstituteTillicoultry ClackmannanshireScotlandTower added
Item 11 of 1081879Tillicoultry Town hallTillicoultry ClackmannanshireScotlandAddition of tower - competition won to secure job
Item 12 of 108c. 1880Villas in Kellie PlaceAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 13 of 1081885Alva Infant SchoolAlva ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 14 of 1081889Kincardine-on-Forth Public SchoolKincardine-on-Forth FifeScotland 
Item 15 of 1081893Clackmannan County Infectious Diseases HospitalSauchie ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 16 of 1081896Thistle BreweryAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland'Possibly' (HS)
Item 17 of 1081899Infectious Diseases HospitalLinlithgow West LothianScotlandSecured job
Item 18 of 1081900Paton's SchoolAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandAdditions
Item 19 of 1081901Clackmannan County Infectious Diseases HospitalSauchie ClackmannanshireScotlandLaundry block added
Item 20 of 1081901Dundashill Bakery  GlasgowScotlandOriginal building (perhaps a different Melvin?)
Item 21 of 1081901Infectious Diseases HospitalBathgate West LothianScotland 
Item 22 of 1081901Parish ManseAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandBegun by Melvin but obvious Kerr details
Item 23 of 1081901Police StationAlva ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 24 of 1081901Union ClubAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandPart of brewery and office of George Younger remodelled as Union Club
Item 25 of 1081902Craig-na-AirdAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 26 of 1081902CraigmyleAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 27 of 1081902Hawkhill CottagesAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 28 of 1081902Kilncraigs Factory, West MillAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandTop three floors added
Item 29 of 1081902St John's Episcopal SchoolAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 30 of 108After 1902House at KilmacolmKilmacolm/Kilmalcolm RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 31 of 108After 1902Large factories for John Paton Son & CoAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 32 of 108After 1902Offices for John Paton Son & CoAlloa? Clackmannanshire?Scotland 
Item 33 of 108190322 Coalgate and 3-9 Union StreetAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 34 of 1081904Kilncraigs OfficesAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 35 of 1081904Liberal ClubAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 36 of 1081904SchoolTillicoultry ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 37 of 1081905KellysideDollar ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 38 of 1081905Moncrieff UF ManseAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 39 of 108c. 1905Dunmar HotelAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandAttribution by Adam Swan
Item 40 of 108190660, 62, 64, 66 Tullibody RoadAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 41 of 108190896-98 Tullibody RoadAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 42 of 1081908GlenvarDollar ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 43 of 108191025 Alexandra DriveAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 44 of 1081910Alloa County BuildingsAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandExtensions in Drysdale Street
Item 45 of 1081911Houston SchoolHouston RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 46 of 1081911Lethangie HouseMilnathort Kinross-shireScotlandU-plan rear wing added.
Item 47 of 1081911Sauchie District HallSauchie ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 48 of 1081911Women's InstituteDunfermline FifeScotlandPlaced first in competition but Welsh appointed
Item 49 of 108c. 1911KerrmakinHouston RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 50 of 108c. 1911Kinross Higher Grade SchoolKinross Kinross-shireScotland 
Item 51 of 1081912The GeanAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 52 of 108Before 1912Linwood SchoolLinwood RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 53 of 108c. 1912Cottage at farm at DennyDenny StirlingshireScotland 
Item 54 of 108c. 1912House, CraiglockhartCraiglockhart EdinburghScotland 
Item 55 of 1081913Bothy, 79 ClaremontAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 56 of 1081913Claremont GroveAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandNew wing added
Item 57 of 1081913Glendelvine ManseGlendelvine PerthshireScotlandNew porch
Item 58 of 1081913Glendevon ManseGlendevon PerthshireScotlandAlterations
Item 59 of 1081914Temperance Young Men's Christian Association clubroomsAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 60 of 1081919Minto Gardens Council HousingAlva ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 61 of 1081919Walker InstituteTillicoultry ClackmannanshireScotlandRear extension
Item 62 of 1081920Council HousingTillicoultry ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 63 of 108After 1920Houses, Academy PlaceDollar ClackmannanshireScotlandAlterations and additions
Item 64 of 1081922Sauchie District HallSauchie ClackmannanshireScotlandWar memorial
Item 65 of 108192339 Ashley TerraceAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 66 of 108192345-47 High StreetAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 67 of 1081923Lethangie HouseMilnathort Kinross-shireScotlandAlterations and additions - perhaps East wing
Item 68 of 1081923Wellington HouseAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandRelocation of Georgian House from War Memorial site
Item 69 of 1081924Paton's Sports PavilionAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 70 of 1081924Remony LodgeLoch Tay PerthshireScotlandClaimed for Gray by both Gray's daughter and Duncan Millar's son
Item 71 of 1081925Bowling ClubAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 72 of 1081925Coalsnaughton Public Hall and LibraryCoalsnaughton ClackmannanshireScotlandSecond hall added at rear
Item 73 of 1081925Council housing, Ashley TerraceAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 74 of 1081925Sauchie District HallSauchie ClackmannanshireScotlandExtension
Item 75 of 1081926Alloa Parish Church hallAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 76 of 1081926County OfficesAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandBuilt in the garden of Fentoun House, then owned by Gray, thus probably by Gray.
Item 77 of 1081929Cochrane HallAlva ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 78 of 1081930sCouncil housing, Argyll Street, Sorley Brae and BurnsideDollar ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 79 of 1081930sGreenriggDollar ClackmannanshireScotlandAttribution by Adam Swan
Item 80 of 1081930sTodsfieldDollar ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 81 of 1081930Fishcross Miners' Welfare InstituteFishcross ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 82 of 1081930Housing, Broad StreetAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 83 of 1081931Co-operative OfficesAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 84 of 1081934MeadowbankDollar ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 85 of 1081935Alloa Gas Undertaking premisesAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 86 of 1081935Lethangie HouseMilnathort Kinross-shireScotlandRebuilding after fire
Item 87 of 1081935Park Primary SchoolAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 88 of 1081935Parkhead UF ManseAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 89 of 1081936Cochrane Park, pavilionAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 90 of 1081936FactoryAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandExtension
Item 91 of 1081936Four houses, Henderson AvenueAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 92 of 1081936HousingAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 93 of 1081936Kilncraigs OfficesAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandExtension
Item 94 of 1081936Kilncraigs warehouseAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 95 of 1081936Temperance Young Men's Christian Association clubroomsAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandRear hall extension in Mar Street
Item 96 of 1081937Dollar Academy, Preparatory SchoolDollar ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 97 of 1081938Alloa County BuildingsAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandSecond extension 1938 in Drysdale Street (Police Offices)
Item 98 of 1081938The PinesDollar ClackmannanshireScotlandWith Patrick McNeil
Item 99 of 1081938Tillicoultry Primary SchoolTillicoultry ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 100 of 1081939Paton's Sports PavilionAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandAdded lodge
Item 101 of 1081940Tillicoultry Secondary SchoolTillicoultry ClackmannanshireScotlandDesign - not executed
Item 102 of 1081946Messrs Younger & Son breweryAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandVarious works with Biggar as sole partner
Item 103 of 1081948Yeast Factory Menstrie PerthshireScotland 
Item 104 of 1081950Forth paper mills, officesKilbagie ClackmannanshireScotlandReconstruction of offices
Item 105 of 1081951Grain House probably for Messrs Younger & SonAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandAlterations
Item 106 of 108Before 1953Clackmannan Drill HallClackmannan ClackmannanshireScotlandAdditions and alterations
Item 107 of 108Before 1953Dollar Academy, staff housesDollar ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 108 of 1081971Royal Bank of ScotlandAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandRemodelling of ground floor.


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architectural practice:
Item 1 of 4Measurers\' Companion1911The Scottish Architects' and Measurers' Companion   
Item 2 of 4Municipal Annual1964Scottish Municipal Annual1964-1965  
Item 3 of 4RIBA1970RIBA Directory 1970   
Item 4 of 4Walker, Frank Arneil1986South Clyde Estuary: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to Inverclyde and Renfrew  p80

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architectural practice:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 2Alloa Advertiser20 September 1940   
Item 2 of 2Alloa Journal20 September 1940   

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architectural practice:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1DMW ArchiveLetters from Eric Compton & Mrs Compton to Adam Swan (latter dated 4 February 1988)