Basic Biographical Details

Name: Edith Mary Wardlaw Burnet Hughes (née Burnet)
Designation: Architect
Born: 7 July 1888
Died: 28 August 1971
Bio Notes: Edith (Edma) Burnet was born at 6 West Circus Place, Edinburgh, on 7 July 1888. She was the daughter of George Wardlaw Burnet, advocate, and Mary Crudelius, grand-daughter of John Burnet Senior and niece of Sir John Burnet. She was brought up in Aberdeen where her father had been appointed Sheriff-substitute for the Counties Aberdeen, Kincardine and Banff. He died in 1901 as a result of a cycling mishap and his family was cared for by John James Burnet as their only surviving uncle. Edith left school in December 1906 and went to Paris to attend lectures at the Sorbonne and study art and architecture. From there she went to Dresden to study German and Art in October 1909, and spent some time with John James and Jean Burnet, whom she arranged to meet in Leipzig. In September 1911 she moved on to Florence to study Italian and Art, extending her studies to Perugia, Siena and Assisi in 1912.

In 1911 (RIBA paper) or 1912 (information provided by EBH at a much later date) she entered Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen to study garden design, but in quickly transferred to the architecture course, gaining the diploma in June 1914. In August she submitted a competition design for the government buildings in Ottawa in association with her tutor and future husband T Harold Hughes and AG Bryett, and in September 1915 was appointed lecturer in the history of art and architecture at Gray's School of Art and at the Normal School. Later she was assistant lecturer in design, a post she retained until 1918. From 1914-15 she assisted in the offices of Jenkins & Marr and of W J Devlin.

In 1916 she won first prize for a war memorial design submitted to the Civic Arts Association, and in the same year she received her first commission, the Rutherford Memorial. Marriage to Hughes followed on 3 September 1918 at the West Parish Church, Aberdeen. They had three daughters: Dr Moira Baskerville (married surname Campbell); Frances Heather (married name Lomax, architect) and Edith Audrey (Mrs Douglas Scott).

In 1919 Hughes became a partner in John Burnet & Son's Glasgow office, but incompatibility with Norman Aitken Dick and a serious theft of clients' funds caused Hughes to withdraw and accept a teaching post at Glasgow School of Art in 1920. After an unsuccessful attempt to join Burnet's London office - there was no separate female lavatory and Burnet was perhaps wary of having Hughes in the London office - she set up practice in Glasgow in 1920, belatedly taking the qualifying exam in July 1927. She specialised in domestic architecture, and particularly in kitchen design. She is considered Britain's first practising woman architect.

Edith was nominated for admittance as an Associate of the RIBA in September 1927 by several Academicians, John James Burnet, John Alfred Gotch and John Begg. At that date there had never been a female member and the Council took counsel's opinion. When he said she could be elected, they took opinion from a second counsel who pronounced in the negative as desired. Although Josephine Haswell Miller was elected in 1938, Edith was not nominated again. It should be noted that the RIBA Kalendar of 1950-51 records that she was elected ARIBA in 1927.

In February 1939 Hughes was invited to speak at the Aberdeen Soroptimists' annual dinner in Aberdeen. She expressed the opinion that the city lagged very far behind in its lack of suitable accommodation for working and professional women and others who was doomed to lodgings.

After the Second World War Hughes was based mainly in Oxford, having resigned as head of Glasgow School of Architecture. Edith then set up house in Royal Circus, Edinburgh, becoming architect to St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Lansdowne House School and John Watson's School. She was elected Honourary Fellow of the RIAS in 1968, having failed to admite her earlier in her career as she was female (following legal advice). After her health failed she lived with her physician daughter at Tirranmuir, Kippen. She died of cerebral thrombosis following a bad attack of pneumonia on 28 August 1971 at the age of 83 at 18 Park Terrace, Stirling.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 7Aberdeen, ScotlandPrivate   
Item 2 of 76, West Circus Place, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1888  
Item 3 of 727, Ashton Terrace, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness19241930 
Item 4 of 7185, St Vincent Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness1927 *  
Item 5 of 7Cardrona, Dunblane, Perthshire, ScotlandPrivateBefore 19271940 
Item 6 of 730, Royal Circus, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate19451965 
Item 7 of 7Tirranmuir, Kippen, Stirlingshire, ScotlandPrivatec. 19691971The home of her daughter, Dr Moira Campbell

* 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 2Jenkins & Marr1914Before 1915Assistant 
Item 2 of 2William John DevlinAfter 19141915Assistant 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3John Begg5 December 1927For Associateship, but was not ratified
Item 2 of 3(Sir) John James Burnet5 December 1927For Associateship, but was not ratified
Item 3 of 3John Alfred Gotch5 December 1927For Associateship, but was not ratified

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 281916Rutherford Memorial   ScotlandFirst commission
Item 2 of 281921House (bungalow) at East LintonEast Linton East LothianScotland 
Item 3 of 281921Woodside Terrace, conversion of terraced house into flats  GlasgowScotland 
Item 4 of 28192214 Huntly Gardens  GlasgowScotlandAlterations and additions
Item 5 of 2819225 Windsor Terrace  GlasgowScotlandAlterations and additions
Item 6 of 281922St Martin'sBearsden GlasgowScotland 
Item 7 of 281924Coatbridge War MemorialCoatbridge LanarkshireScotlandWon competition to secure commission
Item 8 of 281925Deil's CraigStrathblane StirlingshireScotland 
Item 9 of 281926House at BearsdenBearsden GlasgowScotland 
Item 10 of 281927Mercat Cross  GlasgowScotland 
Item 11 of 281928WoodcotDollar ClackmannanshireScotlandAlterations and additions
Item 12 of 281929Lady Artists' Club, Blythswood Square  GlasgowScotlandAlterations
Item 13 of 281930Dalveen (?)Kippen StirlingshireScotlandAlterations and additions
Item 14 of 281931HillcrestKippen StirlingshireScotlandAlterations and additions
Item 15 of 281932BonhardAberfoyle PerthshireScotland 
Item 16 of 281932Bungalow at CrookstonCrookston GlasgowScotland 
Item 17 of 281934Drumlamford  PerthshireScotlandAlterations and additions
Item 18 of 281934Lady Artists' Club, Blythswood Square  GlasgowScotlandFurther alterations and decoration of Exhibition Hall
Item 19 of 281935Four bungalows at DunblaneDunblane PerthshireScotland 
Item 20 of 28c. 1935Three cottages, Woodhall RoadColinton EdinburghScotlandRemodelling of no 55 (to which Burnet had retired)
Item 21 of 281936House at DollarDollar ClackmannanshireScotlandConversion to two flats
Item 22 of 281936House on Kenilworth Road  GlasgowScotlandConversion to two flats
Item 23 of 281937High Mains, Buchanan Castle Grounds  StirlingshireScotland 
Item 24 of 281938Beacon SchoolBridge of Allan StirlingshireScotlandAlterations and additions
Item 25 of 2819461 Cleveden Crescent  GlasgowScotlandConversion into flats
Item 26 of 2819463 Royal Circus  EdinburghScotlandConversion to flats
Item 27 of 281959St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral  EdinburghScotlandFont and screen in St Margaret of Scotland Chapel (G G Scott's font was demolished)
Item 28 of 281964Dunblane Cathedral, Clement ChapelDunblane PerthshireScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 2RIBA1939The RIBA Kalendar 1939-1940 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 
Item 2 of 2RIBA1950The RIBA Kalendar 1950-1951 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 2Glasgow Herald20 February 1939  p9
Item 2 of 2RIBA JournalFebruary 1972 London: Royal Institute of British ArchitectsObituary

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 Personal information, CV and job list from Edith Burnet Hughes; also from letter from Esmé Gordon to D M Walker, 13 September 1989
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers A no 4120 (Box 7)


© All rights reserved. Courtesy of Edith Burnet Hughes 

© All rights reserved. Courtesy of Edith Burnet Hughes' great grand daughter, Kirsty Maguire (per Fiona Sinclair)