Basic Biographical Details

Name: Robert Keith
Designation: Architect
Born: 5 May 1848
Died: February 1914
Bio Notes: Robert Keith was born at Drumsturdy in the parish of Monifieth on 5 May 1848. He was apprenticed as a mason and began his working life as such, mainly in Broughty Ferry and the parish of Monifieth. He settled in Dundee in 1866 at the age of eighteen, took classes at the Government School of Design and commenced business as an architect in 1872, initially in association with a very able draughtsman J F Anderson who seems to have provided free-lance architectural service to the engineering drawing office in the town as and when required. Anderson's background has never been adequately established, but he appears to have had an independent practice in Fife.

Keith married Ann Stiven Lawson on 1 July 1869.

Keith took an active part in public life to which he owed much of his practice. In 1853 he became a director and member of the committee of management for Dundee Royal Lunatic Asylum, through which he obtained the feuing of the grounds of the original asylum at Stobswell, having previously become a member of the Dundee and Liff and Benvie parochial board when these were combined. In 1886 he was elected a police commissioner for Broughty Ferry and in the following years junior magistrate for that burgh, although he does not appear to have acquired much business there. Subsequently he was elected a town councillor in Dundee, becoming a 'hard' baillie whose sentences 'generally met the ends of justice': his position as a magistrate was said to have secured numerous commissions from the licensed trade. Although he never sought membership of the RIBA, Keith was also active in local professional matters as a founder member of the Dundee Institute of Architecture Science and Art and was its Treasurer for two years. The mainstay of the practice was production line tenement-building, particularly in the Lilybank, Watson Street, Arbroath Road and Springhill areas and in Stobswell, Hilltown, Hawkhill and Lochee Road.

In 1897 Robert Keith's son, William Bruce Dickie Keith, born in 1881 joined the practice as an apprentice, taking classes at University College Dundee and the Young Men's Christian Institute: it is not as yet clear what the latter were as most other Dundee apprentices attended Patrick H Thom's classes at the Technical Institute. Although the practice was then at a low ebb, William was taken into the partnership in 1906 and was admitted LRIBA on 24 June 1912. He was described by his contemporaries as a good draughtsman but not an especially able designer.

Robert Keith died in February 1914. His estates were sequestrated in January the following year. After his father's death William relied considerably on evening and weekend help from Vernon Constable and James MacLellan Brown, both city employees. He closed the practice c.1928 and emigrated to Australia.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 4Ivybank, West Ferry, Dundee, ScotlandPrivate 1914 
Item 2 of 441, Lilybank, Dundee, ScotlandBusiness1872 Prbably tenement site office
Item 3 of 487, High Street, Dundee, ScotlandBusiness1878 From at least 1878 onwards until at least 1894
Item 4 of 410, Whitehall Street, Dundee, ScotlandBusinessBefore 19101914 

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 1Robert Keith & Son1906February 1914Partner 

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 5William Henderson DuncanAfter 1874Before 1878Assistant 
Item 2 of 5William Bruce Dickie Keith1897c. 1902Apprentice 
Item 3 of 5Frank Coutts WebsterNovember 18971902Apprentice 
Item 4 of 5Frank Coutts Webster1902Before 1903Assistant 
Item 5 of 5William Bruce Dickie Keithc. 19021906Assistant 

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 411872Tenements, Allan Street  DundeeScotlandNever completely carried out
Item 2 of 411872Tenements, Barrack Road and Parker Street  DundeeScotland 
Item 3 of 411873Tenements, Hospital Wynd and Rosebank Street  DundeeScotlandWith J F Anderson as draughtsman
Item 4 of 411874Tenements, Rosebank Street and Kinnaird Street  DundeeScotland 
Item 5 of 411875Offices, Dock Street, Trades Lane and Candle Lane  DundeeScotland 
Item 6 of 411875Tenements in Hawkhill  DundeeScotland 
Item 7 of 411875Tenements, West Port  DundeeScotland 
Item 8 of 411876Shops, offices and flats, High Street  DundeeScotlandElevations design by Mackison under the 1871 Improvement Act, Lot 2 on feuing plan
Item 9 of 411877Victoria Markets and Arcade  DundeeScotlandProbably by J F Anderson
Item 10 of 411877Villa, Nelson TerraceWest Ferry DundeeScotland 
Item 11 of 41c. 1877Tenements, Lilybank  DundeeScotland 
Item 12 of 41c. 1877Tenements, Watson Street  DundeeScotland 
Item 13 of 411883St Joseph's RC School and Institute  DundeeScotland 
Item 14 of 411883St Mary's RC School  DundeeScotlandAdditions - 2-storey block
Item 15 of 41c. 1883Her (His) Majesty's Theatre  DundeeScotlandDesign only, superseded by William Alexander
Item 16 of 411885Dundee Lunatic Asylum Chapel  DundeeScotlandConversion to Maryfield Parish Church
Item 17 of 411885Whitehall Street  DundeeScotlandAs executant architect for most of street; William Mackison designed elevations
Item 18 of 411886St Andrews RC ChurchMontrose AngusScotland 
Item 19 of 411886Stables for Stratton  DundeeScotland 
Item 20 of 41Before 1887Chapelshade Parish Church  DundeeScotlandRepairs and alterations
Item 21 of 411888Logie Hall  DundeeScotland 
Item 22 of 411890Dundee Eastern Co-operative Society BakeryClepington DundeeScotland 
Item 23 of 411892Thomas Justice & Sons premises  DundeeScotlandOriginal building
Item 24 of 41c. 1895Tenements, Arbroath Road and Springhill  DundeeScotland 
Item 25 of 411899Whitehill (or Whitehall) VillasNewport FifeScotland 
Item 26 of 411900Excise Offices and stores  DundeeScotland 
Item 27 of 411900Gymnasium and InstituteBroughty Ferry DundeeScotland 
Item 28 of 411901Camelon Institute Stirling StirlingshireScotland 
Item 29 of 411901ClaremontWest Ferry DundeeScotland 
Item 30 of 411903HotelPitlochry PerthshireScotlandAlterations and decoration of hotel
Item 31 of 411903Hotel Buildings   South Africa 
Item 32 of 41c. 1909St Mark's Manse  DundeeScotlandRedecoration
Item 33 of 411911BankMeigle PerthshireScotlandExtensive alterations
Item 34 of 411911C Patterson's Property  DundeeScotland 
Item 35 of 411911HotelLerwickMainlandShetlandScotlandAlterations
Item 36 of 411911Improvement scheme in High Street  DundeeScotlandLarge improvement scheme at west end of High Street
Item 37 of 411911Kemback Parish Church and manseKemback FifeScotlandDecoration and taking in water supply
Item 38 of 411911Wishart Memorial Church  DundeeScotlandDecoration
Item 39 of 41c. 1911St Mark's Greenfield Church  DundeeScotlandRestoration
Item 40 of 411913House on Farington Hall estate  DundeeScotland 
Item 41 of 411913Villa, Americanmuir Road  DundeeScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 3British Architectural Library, RIBA2001Directory of British Architects 1834-1914   
Item 2 of 3Dundee Year Book1914    
Item 3 of 3Post Office Directories     

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 3Builder14 February 1914  p208
Item 2 of 3Edinburgh Gazette19 January 1915  Sequestration of Keith's estates. Information courtesy of Rob Close.
Item 3 of 3The Piper of Dundee11 November 1887   

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Courtesy of Charles CouparInformation sent via 'Contact Us' on website Sent June 2010
Item 2 of 2Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Personal information from Robert Dron