© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue  © All rights reserved. © The Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh 

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Basic Biographical Details

Name: Walter Wood Robertson
Designation: Architect
Born: 1845
Died: 23 April 1907
Bio Notes: Walter Wood Robertson (who appears incorrectly as Walter Wybrown Robertson in the 'Builder' and Building News obituaries) was born in Elie, Fife, in 1845, the son of James Robertson, cloth weaver and Ann Nelson. In 1858 he was articled to John Chesser, then in the Edinburgh City Superintendent's Office, probably the origin of the 'Scotsman' report that he was articled to Robert Morham. He studied at the Edinburgh School of Art. At the end of his apprenticeship in 1863 he spent three months gaining wider experience in the office of Peddie & Kinnear, with whom Chesser was then closely associated in various property transactions, following which he returned to Chesser as assistant for a further two years. Thereafter he spent two years with Brown & Wardrop before moving to Manchester as draughtsman first with J Holden & Son for two years, and then for a further two with Speakman & Charlesworth, during which period he studied at Owens College.

He moved to London in 1871 and joined H M Office of Works as technical assistant to Sir Douglas Galton, H M Director of Works. After that post was abolished he remained in the same office as assistant to Sir John Taylor, who appointed him principal architect and surveyor for Scotland on Robert Matheson's death in 1877.

Robertson married Alice Nesbit Alcorne. They had four sons and two daughters. Alan Keith, the youngest son, born 1881, became an architect. Robertson senior took a prominent part in the work of the London Architectural Association during his stay in that city and was vice-president from 1876-77. In 1883 Robertson was admitted to the Merchant Company of which he was successively assistant treasurer, treasurer, and in 1895-97 master. He was also a prominent mason, being for a time RWM of the Lodge of Edinburgh (St Mary's Chapel) No 1. He also served a term as President of the Edinburgh Architectural Association.

Robertson's most prominent works were the large post offices built at Perth, Greenock and Dundee in 1897-98. Although their free northern European Renaissance manner reflected Sir Henry Tanner's Birmingham Post Office of a decade earlier and were described as French at the time, the details were more Flemish and seem to have been influenced by the work of the Antwerp City Architect Pieter Jan Auguste Dens in the earlier 1880s.

Although his architecture was somewhat conservative for its date, Robertson commanded considerable respect in the profession. He was a man of immense acumen whose advice was widely sought in valuations and arbitrations. In 1904 he had a slight paralytic stroke and had to retire from his post as principal architect, commencing practice with his son Alan Keith Robertson and becoming consulting architect to the Scottish Education Department. At the end of October 1906 he had a major stroke from which he never recovered. Only then did he seek admission to the RIBA, perhaps for his son rather than himself, his proposers being Sir Henry Tanner, Sir John Taylor and Hippolyte Jean Blanc.

Robertson died at his home, Wardie Bank, Trinity, Leith on 23 April 1907, as a result of his stroke six months and twenty-two days earlier. His practice was continued by his son Alan Keith Robertson.

Reference Building News 26 April 1907 p580
We regret to announce the death of Mr Walter Wybrow Robertson, lately architect to H.M. Office of Works, Parliament-square, Edinburgh, and a former Master of the Edinburgh Merchant Company. For more than twenty years Mr. Robertson, who died on Tuesday at the age of 61 years, was principal architect under H.M. Board of Works in Scotland, and although he retired from that office three years ago owing to a slight paralytic stroke, he did some professional work since his retirement, and at the time of his death was consulting architect to the Scottish Education Department. About the end of October last he had another paralytic stroke, from which he never in any large measure recovered. He resided at Wardie Bank, Boswell-road, Trinity, where his death took place. Mr. Robertson received his early professional training under the late Mr Morham, city architect, Edinburgh, and afterwards he had professional experience with the firm of Messrs Holden and Sons, Manchester. His connection with HM. Office of Works dates from 1871. In that year he became technical assistant to the late Sir Douglas Galton, who then occupied a post that has since been abolished—that of H.M. Director of Works. Subsequently Mr. Robertson acted as assistant to Sir John Taylor, one of the architects of the Office of Works. While occupying these posts his work was mainly in London. His services and ability, however, were soon further recognised by his being appointed head of H.M. Office of Works in Scotland. During his tenure of this office he superintended many important Government buildings in different parts of Scotland, including the erection of Glasgow General Post Office, Glasgow Inland Revenue Office, the Blackford Hill Observatory, Edinburgh: new Post Offices at Dundee, Inverness, Perth, and other towns: the extension of the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh (then allied the Industrial Museum): and the extension and alteration of the Register House, Edinburgh. About the end of March, 1904, after he had had a paralytic stroke, he gave up his post under the Board of Works, and was succeeded by Mr W T Oldrieve, FRIBA. He was a member, and at one time President of Edinburgh Architectural Association, and in earlier years took a prominent part in the work of the London Architectural Association, of which he was vice-president in 1876-77. In the work of some of the corporate bodies in Edinburgh he took a considerable interest. Joining the Merchant Company in 1883, he passed successively through the offices of assistant and treasurer, and in 1895 was appointed Master of the company, an office which he filled with acceptance for the usual term of two years. At the close of his term as Master he was presented with his portrait in oil, which has now a place on the walls of the offices of the company in Hanover-street. He was at one time R.W.M. of the Lodge of Edinburgh (St. Mary's Chapel), No. 1, which is one of the oldest lodges in the United Kingdom. Mr. Robertson is survived by a widow, four sons, and two daughters. Of his sons, two are in Edinburgh—one of them an advocate and the other an architect.

Image
Portrait of W W Robertson, Master of the Merchant’s Company of Edinburgh 1895-1897
by Sir George Reid RSA

Exhibited
1901 Glasgow International Exhibition
1904 Universal Exposition St Louis (included in Official Catalogue of Exhibitors - lent by Merchabts Company of Edinburgh

Reference D S MacColl. “Nineteenth Century Art with illustrations from the Fine Art Loan Collection of Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901" published 1902. next p124

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 4Manchester, EnglandBusinessc. 1866c. 1870 
Item 2 of 4London, EnglandBusinessc. 18701877 
Item 3 of 4Wardie Bank, Boswall Avenue, Trinity, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivatec. 188423 April 1907 
Item 4 of 4122, George Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1904 *1907In partnership with his son as Robertson & Son

* earliest date known from documented sources.


Employment and Training

Employers

The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 11John Chesser1 May 1858May 1863Apprentice 
Item 2 of 11Peddie & Kinnearc. May 1863c. August 1863Assistant 
Item 3 of 11John Chesserc. August 18631865Assistant 
Item 4 of 11Brown & Wardrop18651867Assistant 
Item 5 of 11J Holden & Son18671869Assistant 
Item 6 of 11Speakman & Charlesworth18691871Assistant 
Item 7 of 11H M Office of Works (later Ministry of Works, Department of the Environment and Property Services Agency)18711877ClerkWorking first under Sir Douglas Galton, then under Sir John Taylor. Described as 'technical clerk' in obituary
Item 8 of 11(Sir) Douglas Strutt Galton1871Before 1877AssistantTechnical assistant, in H M Office of Works, London
Item 9 of 11(Sir) John TaylorAfter 18711877AssistantIn H M Office of Works, London
Item 10 of 11H M Office of Works (later Ministry of Works, Department of the Environment and Property Services Agency)c. 1877c. 1904Chief Architect 
Item 11 of 11Robertson & Son19041907Senior Partner 

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 4James McLellan FairleyAfter 1881Before 1886AssistantIn Edinburgh branch of H M Office of Works
Item 2 of 4William Thomas Oldrieve (sometimes William Thomas Oldgrieve)c. 18811904Assistantin H M Office of Works, Edinburgh
Item 3 of 4James Cumming Wynnes18991904Assistantin H M Office of Works, Edinburgh
Item 4 of 4John Barbour1905 AssistantAssistant to Robertson in the Office of Works

RIBA

RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3Hippolyte Jean Blanc3 December 1906for Fellowship
Item 2 of 3(Sir) Henry Tanner3 December 1906for Fellowship
Item 3 of 3(Sir) John Taylor3 December 1906for Fellowship

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 44c. 1870Chepstow House  ManchesterEnglandMay have assisted on this job
Item 2 of 441877Inverleith HouseInverleith EdinburghScotlandInterior re-finishing after fire - as architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works, Edinburgh
Item 3 of 441881Dunfermline Abbey Churchyard, Queen Margaret's tombDunfermline FifeScotlandRepairs and enclosure with wrought iron railing - as Architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works
Item 4 of 441881King's CollegeOld Aberdeen AberdeenScotlandLibrary extended - as archtect for Scotland in H M Office of Works, Edinburgh)
Item 5 of 441882Advocates' Library  EdinburghScotlandNew reading room - as architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works
Item 6 of 4415 November 1882King's College Chapel  AberdeenScotlandNew tracery for two east windows (drawing initialled 'JT' and signed by Robertson 15 November 1882)
Item 7 of 441885Edinburgh Industrial Museum  EdinburghScotlandWest wing
Item 8 of 441885Inland Revenue Offices  GlasgowScotlandAs architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works, Edinburgh
Item 9 of 441885Parliament House, Supreme Courts of Scotland  EdinburghScotlandConversion of telling room into court no iv
Item 10 of 441886St Andrews Castle, sea defencesSt Andrews FifeScotlandSea wall at south-east corner - as Architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works
Item 11 of 441886The Old Observatory, Calton Hill  Edinburgh Alterations 'recently' completed
Item 12 of 441887Dumfries Post OfficeDumfries DumfriesshireScotlandAs architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works, Edinburgh
Item 13 of 441888Aberdeen University, Marischal College  AberdeenScotlandSE wing added
Item 14 of 441889Dunfermline Post OfficeDunfermline FifeScotlandOriginal building
Item 15 of 441889University of St Andrews, St Mary's CollegeSt Andrews FifeScotlandExecuted detached south addition to Library (later Department of Psychology) to designs by Jesse Hall (cost: £8,000)
Item 16 of 441890General Post Office  EdinburghScotlandLarge extension as architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works, Edinburgh
Item 17 of 441890Register House  EdinburghScotlandFront wall of entrance moved back - as architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works, Edinburgh
Item 18 of 441891Inverness Post OfficeInverness Inverness-shireScotland 
Item 19 of 441892Glasgow General Post Office  GlasgowScotlandRebuilding of central part facing Ingram Street, on site of Atheneum (with Oldrieve as architect with particular responsibility for Post Office buildings, working under Walter Wood Robertson, Architect for Scotland)
Item 20 of 441892Post OfficeAyr AyrshireScotlandWith Robertson as Architect for Scotland in the Office of Works
Item 21 of 441892Royal ObservatoryBlackford Hill EdinburghScotlandAs architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works, Edinburgh
Item 22 of 441893Falkirk Post OfficeFalkirk StirlingshireScotlandFront block? - as architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works, Edinburgh
Item 23 of 441893Head Post OfficePaisley RenfrewshireScotlandAs architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works, Edinburgh
Item 24 of 441893Post OfficeHelensburgh DunbartonshireScotlandAs architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works, Edinburgh
Item 25 of 441894Post OfficeGalashiels SelkirkshireScotlandArchitect responsible is not known, but Robertson was in charge of H M Office of Works at this time.
Item 26 of 441894Stirling Post OfficeStirling StirlingshireScotlandAs architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works, Edinburgh
Item 27 of 441898Dundee Post Office  DundeeScotland 
Item 28 of 441898Inland Revenue Offices  EdinburghScotlandReconstruction and extension of existing buildings as Inland Revenue Offices - as architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works, Edinburgh
Item 29 of 441898Post OfficeGreenock RenfrewshireScotlandAs architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works, Edinburgh
Item 30 of 441898Post office, Hill StreetArbroath AngusScotlandAs Chief Architect
Item 31 of 441899Perth Post OfficePerth PerthshireScotland 
Item 32 of 441900Kirkcaldy Post OfficeKirkcaldy FifeScotlandBy H M Office of Works (presumably Robertson?)
Item 33 of 441902Dunfermline Post OfficeDunfermline FifeScotlandExtension
Item 34 of 441902Parcel Post Office building  GlasgowScotlandSupervisory role only, as Architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works at beginning of project: Oldrieve was responsible for the design
Item 35 of 441902Post OfficeMelrose RoxburghshireScotlandArchitect responsible is not known, but Robertson was in charge of H M Office of Works at this time.
Item 36 of 441903Dunfermline Abbey, South African War MemorialDunfermline FifeScotlandDesigned monument - executed by Stewart McGlashen & Son
Item 37 of 441903Inverness PrisonInverness Inverness-shireScotlandBy H M Office of Works (presumably under Robertson)
Item 38 of 441903Linlithgow Post OfficeLinlithgow West LothianScotlandAs architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works, Edinburgh
Item 39 of 441904Head Post Office  AberdeenScotlandAs Architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works (completed under William Thomas Oldrieve after he succeeded Robertson)
Item 40 of 441904Portobello Post OfficePortobello EdinburghScotlandas Architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works, Edinburgh
Item 41 of 441904Post officeDunbar East LothianScotlandAs architect for Scotland in H M Office of Works, Edinburgh
Item 42 of 441905Post OfficeAirdrie LanarkshireScotlandAlexander Buchanan Gardner cliams he worked under W M Robertson but other sources indicate that it was W W Robertson of HM Office of Works who designed this building.
Item 43 of 441906Garage for Western Motor Company  GlasgowScotland 
Item 44 of 44c. 190(?)Post OfficeDuns BerwickshireScotlandMay be by Robertson as architect in Scotland in H M Office of Works, Edinburgh, depending on date

References

Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
 Author(s)DateTitlePartPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 2British Architectural Library, RIBA2001Directory of British Architects 1834-1914   
Item 2 of 2Pride, Glen L1999The Kingdom of Fife2nd EditionThe Rutland Pressp124

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 2RIBA Journal1 June 1907 London: Royal Institute of British Architectsp511
Item 2 of 2Scotsman24 April 1907   

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Research on family history, birth, death and addresses by Iain Paterson
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers F v18 p9 no1179 (microfilm reel 12)

Images

© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue  

© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue

© All rights reserved. © The Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh 

© All rights reserved. © The Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh