Basic Biographical Details

Name: James Miller & Son
Designation: Architectural practice
Started: c. 1936
Ended: 1940
Bio Notes: James Miller & Son was the name of the practice of James Miller after his son, George Miller joined the family practice around 1936. James Miller was born in 1860 in the parish of Auchtergaven where his father George Miller was a farmer. Very early in life his father moved to Little Cairnie, Forteviot, where his childhood was spent, his later school education being at Perth Academy. In 1877 he was articled to Andrew Heiton of Perth, soon to be joined in partnership with his nephew Andrew Heiton Granger (after 1894 Andrew Granger Heiton) who probably had some English experience (though probably not with Norman Shaw as stated by Sloan and Murray). At the end of his apprenticeship he spent some time with Hippolyte Jean Blanc before joining the Caledonian Railway engineering department initially at Perth under John Morrison Barr. He was transferred to the Glasgow office in 1888, where he designed a number of stations under the supervision of the engineer and chief, George Graham. These brought his work to the attention of the management and directors. In 1890 an old school friend, Donald Alexander Matheson, a pupil of the Perth architect and civil engineer John Young, joined the office as resident engineer for the construction of the Glasgow Central Low Level lines. During this period Miller made at least one study tour of France, Belgium and Germany and had established a small but up-market private practice. He set up full-time practice on his own account in 1892 on winning the competition for Belmont Church and rented an office at 223 West George Street, his house and office having previously been at 3 Windsor Street.

In 1894 his experience at railway work brought commissions for the stations on the West Highland Railway: Miller appears to have produced the standard design, but the actual construction and the ancillary buildings were shared with John James Burnet and his assistant Robert Wemyss who set up practice on his own in Helensburgh in 1896. On Graham's death in 1899 Matheson took over a engineer-in-chief, and although limited competitions were to be held for some Caledonian projects, Matheson's influence ensured that all the major ones went to Miller.

In 1898 Miller won the competition for the Glasgow International Exhibition on 1901; in 1901 that for the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, although the assessor, Rowand Anderson had recommended Henry Edward Clifford; in 1903 those for the Materia Medica and Physiology buildings and Natural Philosophy Buildings at the University; and in 1904 he secured the patronage of the Glasgow & South Western Railway for its hotel at Turnberry. In 1908 he won the competition for the museum in Bombay but the commission was given to the runner-up, George Wittet. Two years later in 1910 he won the competition for the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1910 and secured that for the extension of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers to match it on the opposite side of Great George Street. Miller thus came near to eclipsing Burnet in London as well as in Glasgow, but his London office at 1 Victoria Street was not reopened after the First World War.

Although Miller's written memoranda as a Royal Fine Art Commissioner show him to have been extremely thoughtful in matters of design, Miller's twentieth century practice depended for its quality of detail on a series of supremely well-chosen assistants. In the earliest years of the century these included James Carruthers Walker from 1900 until at least 1911, James Carrick, Alexander McInnes Gardner, Thomas Andrew Miller, George Arthur Boswell, Thomas Lumsden Taylor, Balfour Abercrombie and Charles Forsyth for shorter periods of two to four years.

American influence is first seen in Miller's Hispanic American exhibition buildings of 1898-1901, which like their American counterparts were built of a hard white plaster known at the time as 'staff'. It became even more marked after Matheson's fact-finding visit to the USA in 1902. Although the younger Carrick believed that Miller had gone as well, his daughter confirmed that he had not and that his knowledge of American architecture came from Matheson and contemporary journals. American influence made its first appearance in permanent form in 1903 at Olympia House in Queen Street, uncompromisingly rectangular in form like contemporary American frame buildings with the high-level giant colonnade that became a feature of taller American office buildings in the 1890s. Turnberry Hotel, begun in the following year, and Peebles Hydropathic, begun in 1905, were similarly reflections of American country hotels, as was his competition win for the design of the Caledonian Railway's Gleneagles, but completion of that project became wholly the responsibility of the railway's architect Matthew Adam after the First World War.

Nevertheless Miller's public and commercial architecture tended to remain an accomplished Glasgow neo-Baroque, with experiments in faience to combat the Glasgow atmosphere. American and Canadian influence reappeared at Cranston's Cinema building in Renfield Street in 1914-15 and became even more marked after Richard M Gunn became chief assistant in 1918, notably at the McLaren warehouse in George Square in 1922, its elevations similar to those of Warren & Wetmore's Canadian Northern Station of 1917-18 in Montreal and at the Union Bank of Scotland won in competition in 1924 with a design inspired by York & Sawyer's 1913 Guaranty Trust Building and McKim Mead & White's National City Bank of 1903-10, both in New York. Both of these buildings had pure classical detail, but from 1930 the details became more an Egyptianised Art Deco classical with a marked preference for Portland stone as a more durable alternative to faience. A monumental English brick and stone idiom was developed in parallel from the late 1920s, the product of a commission for Cadburys Bournville and a competition win for Wyggeston Grammar School at Leicester; and from 1929 Miller took over at Crittal's Silver End development, continuing the flat roofed modern idiom introduced there by Thomas Tait and Fred McManus. After Gunn died following a period of poor health in 1933, the main design responsibility seems to have been passed to James Carruthers Walker until George Miller rejoined the office in c. 1936. George had been educated at Fettes College and at St John's College, Cambridge as well as in his father's office and at the Royal Technical College of Glasgow. Around 1932 he obtained a place in Sir Herbert Baker's office for experience, returning c.1936 to take a hand in the design work with Walker. The practice then became James Miller & Son. From about 1933 a symmetrical horizontally proportioned modern with oblong central pavilions ran in parallel with the brick modernised neo Georgian of Gunn's last years.

Miller was conservative in politics and a member of both the Conservative Club and the Junior Conservative Club as well as the Glasgow Arts Club. In their RIAS Quarterly memoir of 1948 Manson and Walker described Miller:
'Very reserved by nature, he did not enter much into public life and was well content to let others talk architecture while he was doing the job. Quick tempered, he could also be very sympathetic and understanding when the occasion demanded. He was also a hard task-master, but few of the men who passed through his hands will deny that they benefited to a remarkable degree from being employed by Mr Miller, and many of them, now successful architects on their own account later wrote to him to this effect.'
Perhaps not every Glasgow architect would have concurred with that description. The directors of the Railway companies were the most influential patrons in Glasgow. The degree to which Miller seemed to sweep up nearly every worth-while commission was resented by many while the matter of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary rankled with the assessor and the Glasgow architectural profession as a whole to the day he died. If, as has been remarked, he stayed out of the limelight at openings, it was because he knew his clients and knew not to step out of line. And although Miller lived relatively quietly at home, first at 19 Hillhead Street and later at Randolphfield, Stirling, which he bought in 1911, the circles in which he moved required him to entertain lavishly when the occasion demanded. His office, at 15 Blythswood Square from about 1900, was even smarter than Burnet's nearby in St Vincent Street. To their brief memoir Manson and Walker added a mysterious last paragraph: 'At one stage in his career, a famous architect made a tentative approach with a view to partnership, but after careful consideration Mr Miller decided to plough the lone furrow, and this he did most successfully to the end of his days.' The probability must be that the famous architect was John James Burnet when seeking a Glasgow partner after setting up his London office in 1904. The identity of the famous architect remained a well-kept secret as no one else who had been in their offices knew for certain to whom this referred.

Miller married Emelina Henrietta Crichton around 1898. George was the only son, but there were two daughters, Mabel (Mrs Harper) and Muriel. Of life at Randolphfield Mrs Harper recalled that Miller was a gardener, doing much of the maintenance himself. He taught the children to play tennis - he laid out a court for the purpose - and golf, and took them on fishing expeditions. Gleneagles was a favourite venue, despite his disappointment there, and he had cars appropriate to his clientele, a Delage and a Hispano-Suiza driven by a chauffeur with the somewhat improbable surname of Mustard. Like Lorimer he had classical tastes in music and was a good violinist.

Miller never troubled himself with the qualifying exam and was admitted FRIBA relatively late on 7 April 1902, his proposers being William Leiper, William Forrest Salmon, both of Glasgow, and John Slater of London. While still with the Caledonian Railway he began exhibiting at the Royal Scottish Academy as well as at the Royal Glasgow Fine Art Institute as early as 1890, but he did not begin exhibiting regularly until 1904, three years after his unsought election as ARSA in 1901. He was elected full academician in 1930, and throughout the following decade was an influential Royal Fine Art Commissioner, writing a particularly interesting report on the office of works designs for St Andrews House. It was a commission he did not get despite the best efforts of Lord Weir, but as a commissioner he gave Thomas Tait his full support.

George Miller died in 1940. The practice was continued by John Wellwood Manson from George A Boswell's office. Manson had studied at Glasgow School of Art and the Royal College of Technology. He assisted the Millers with the later stages of the Commercial Bank, the BBC Buildings and other projects, and completed the work in hand after George died and Miller retired at age eighty in December 1940, the practice then becoming Miller & Manson.

James Miller died at Randolphfield on 28 November 1947, leaving the very substantial sum of 47,931 8s 11d. Manson died on 11 October 1952. The practice was then taken over by Frank Burnet Bell & Partners who completed the few buildings then in progress.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architectural practice:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 115, Blythswood Square, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness1936  

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 6James Millerc. 19361940Senior Partner 
Item 2 of 6James Carruthers Walkerc. 19361940Chief Assistant 
Item 3 of 6George James Millerc. 19361940Partner 
Item 4 of 6John Wellwood Mansonc. 19361940Chief Assistant 
Item 5 of 6John George Drysdale Henderson1937After 1938AssistantSecond half of years only
Item 6 of 6Margaret Findlay MakinsJune 1937September 1937Assistant 

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 321930Houses, Craigleith  EdinburghScotland 
Item 2 of 321935Fettes CollegeComely Bank EdinburghScotlandPlans for proposed new chapel - not built
Item 3 of 321935St Nicholas ChurchCardonald GlasgowScotland 
Item 4 of 321936BBC Broadcasting House  BelfastNorthern Ireland 
Item 5 of 321936Canniesburn Hospital and Convalescent HomeBearsden GlasgowScotland 
Item 6 of 321936Church of the Holy RudeStirling StirlingshireScotlandRestoration, designed by Miller himself; he took no fee.
Item 7 of 321936House, 30 (or 32) Old Kirk RoadCorstorphine EdinburghScotland 
Item 8 of 321936Medical School for WomenKelvinside GlasgowScotlandAdditions
Item 9 of 321936Two pairs of Semi Detached Houses, East Craigs  EdinburghScotland 
Item 10 of 321936Wigtown LodgeGarliestown WigtownshireScotlandAlterations
Item 11 of 32c. 1936Michael Nairn & Co Office Block and factoryKirkcaldy FifeScotland 
Item 12 of 321937AnnandaleBearsden GlasgowScotlandAlterations
Item 13 of 321937BalnagarrowCramond EdinburghScotland 
Item 14 of 321937BannochlieBridge of Weir RenfrewshireScotlandAlterations and potting shed
Item 15 of 321937Easter Drylaw Housing  Edinburgh  
Item 16 of 321937Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Nurses' Home  GlasgowScotland 
Item 17 of 321937Greenock Ear, Nose and Throat HospitalGreenock RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 18 of 321937SMT Garage  GlasgowScotland 
Item 19 of 321937The New Locarno, Saucheihall Street  GlasgowScotlandAlterations
Item 20 of 321938Almond Lodge  EdinburghScotland 
Item 21 of 321938Gilbert Bain HospitalLerwickMainlandShetlandScotland 
Item 22 of 321938Glasgow Empire Exhibition, RSAC, AA and Messrs Beatties Bakeries Ltd StandsBellahouston GlasgowScotland 
Item 23 of 321938Glasgow Empire Exhibition, South African PavilionBellahouston GlasgowScotland 
Item 24 of 321938Premises for Shanks & Co, 189 West George Street  GlasgowScotlandProposed alterations
Item 25 of 3219397 Calderwood Road for Millers Timber Trust Co LtdNewlands GlasgowScotland 
Item 26 of 321939Eastwood ParkGiffnock RenfrewshireScotlandAlterations for wine cellar
Item 27 of 321939House Types A and BWesterglen  Scotland 
Item 28 of 321939Killearn Emergency HospitalKillearn StirlingshireScotland 
Item 29 of 321939Killearn HouseKillearn StirlingshireScotland 
Item 30 of 321940Gleneagles HotelGleneagles PerthshireScotlandConversion to emergency hospital
Item 31 of 321941Fisher Henderson & Co, Ladyburn Skin WorksGreenock RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 32 of 321941Westburn Sugar RefineriesGreenock RenfrewshireScotlandReconstruction

References

Currently, there are no references for this architectural practice. The information has been derived from: the British Architectural Library / RIBA Directory of British Architects 1834-1914; Post Office Directories; and/or any sources listed under this individual's works.