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Basic Biographical Details

Name: James Wylson
Designation: Architect, Engineer
Born: 1811
Died: 6 January 1870
Bio Notes: James Wylson was born in Glasgow in 1811 and articled to John Weir of Glasgow c.1827, remaining with him as an assistant for four years and writing ‘The Practical Architect’ published in 1836. In that year when he moved to Norwich as assistant to John Brown, shortly thereafter moving to London where he became senior clerk to Sydney Smirke with whom he remained until 1843. On 1 September 1842 he founded the Association of Architectural Draughtsmen in conjunction with the brothers W B and James Colling, J Drayton Wyatt, William Young (of Manchester), Charles Jayne and E C Sayer, who was its secretary. Wylson himself was its first president. It met in Jayne’s rooms in Southampton Street Strand and its first exhibition in 1845 was attended by Charles Barry. But on leaving Smirke’s, Wylson himself had commenced practice in York, having worked there for Smirke on the Minster, moving to Glasgow by 1846 as a result of winning the competition for Lumsden’s Model Dwellings in New City Road and obtaining the commission for the Prince’s Theatre Royal.

While in Glasgow Wylson designed two large warehouses and a church; but his competition win for the layout of Gilmorehill in 1848 did not materialise into actual building and his 'Remarks on Workmen's Houses in Town Districts' published in 1848, does not seem to have attracted further business. In 1850 he moved back to London as senior assistant to Charles Barry, a post he combined with the part-time Surveyorship of the National Freehold Land Society; and about 1860 he obtained further surveyorships, first that of the Conservative Land Society, and then that of the United Land Company Limited, enabling him to recommence full independent practice in London.

Wylson recommenced independent practice in London some time before 1860 when he became surveyor to the National Freehold Land Society and subsequently to the Conservative Land Society and the United Land Company Ltd.

Wylson was and excellent mathematician and interested in all the technical aspects of building. He was one of the earliest contributors to ‘The Builder’, on Mortar and Cements in 1844; on timber and the restorations of York Minster in 1845; and acoustics in 1850. In 1855 Wylson put forward the second serious proposal for a Channel Tunnel. His proposal was for a 'floating' tunnel to be buoyed at a uniform depth. In 1859 he published 'The Mechanical Inventor's Guide' and thereafter was the author of many of the articles in the Architectural Publication Society's Dictionary.

Wylson died in London on 6 January 1870, and was buried at Brompton Cemetery. The London architect Oswald Cane Wylson (1858-1925) was his son; as he was only eleven when his father died, he was articled to Arthur Cates in 1873. Oswald's son, Duncan (1908-1962), was 17 when his father died. He was also an architect and practised in London and Sussex. He died when his son, John, was only 13; he also trained and works as an architect. Another great-grandson was Anthony (1932-2006) senior partner in the London practice of Wylson & Waterson, and author of several architectural works. His widow, Patricia, and daughter, Marianne, also practise and work as architects.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect, engineer:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 3York, Yorkshire, EnglandBusinessc. 1845c. 1845 
Item 2 of 3Glasgow, ScotlandBusinessc. 1845Before 1850 
Item 3 of 3London, EnglandBusinessBefore 18501870 

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect, engineer (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 5John Weirc. 1827c. 1832Apprentice 
Item 2 of 5John Weirc. 18321836Assistant 
Item 3 of 5John Brown1836Before 1843Assistant 
Item 4 of 5Sydney SmirkeBefore 1843c. 1845Senior Clerk 
Item 5 of 5(Sir) Charles BarryBefore 1850Before 1860Assistant 

Buildings and Designs

This architect, engineer 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 131836St Luke's Established Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 2 of 13c. 1845Brodie Castle  MorayshireScotlandRemodelling including south front including restoration of south west tower's caphouse and entrance hall.
Item 3 of 131846Princes Theatre Royal  GlasgowScotland 
Item 4 of 131847Warehouse, 167 Trongate  GlasgowScotlandAttribution on stylistic grounds
Item 5 of 13c. 1847Laidlaw's warehouse  GlasgowScotland 
Item 6 of 131848Canada Court  GlasgowScotland 
Item 7 of 131848Gilmore Hill Estate housing layout  GlasgowScotlandFirst premuim (£30) in competition; scheme not carried out
Item 8 of 131848Lumsden's Model Dwellings  GlasgowScotland 
Item 9 of 131849Free St Luke's Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 10 of 131849St Kiaran's Episcopal Church and parsonageCampbeltown ArgyllScotlandDesigns drawn up for new church - not executed
Item 11 of 131850Great Exhibition of 1850  LondonEnglandUnsuccessful competition entry
Item 12 of 131864Plough Lane development for the Conservative Land AssociationBattersea LondonEngland 
Item 13 of 131868Bolingbroke Park EstateBattersea LondonEnglandResponsible for layout only as he died in January 1870.


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect, engineer:
Item 1 of 3APSD The Dictionary of Architectureed Wyatt PapworthThe Architectural Publication Society (8v 1852-1892)Biographical note and Glasgow entry
Item 2 of 3Gildard, Thomas1895An Old Glasgow Architect on some Older OnesXXVIProceedings of the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow 
Item 3 of 3Summerson, John The Architectural Association, 1847-1947  Contains portrait of Wylson.

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect, engineer:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1Builder15 January 1870  Obituary

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect, engineer:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1Courtesy of John Wylson, great grandson of James Wylson, architect and civil engineer.Information via website Sent March 2008.

Mr Wylson has papers relating to his great grandfather and hopes to go through them at some point after he retires.


© All rights reserved. © and courtesy of Wylson family 

© All rights reserved. © and courtesy of Wylson family