Basic Biographical Details

Name: Alexander Skirving
Designation: Architect
Born: c. 1849
Died: 12 May 1919
Bio Notes: Alexander Skirving was born about 1846, the son of James Skirving, civil engineer and Margaret Cameron. Although settled in Lanarkshire, the Skirvings were originally a landed Fife family, Alexander's great grandfather being the political reformer William Skirving of Strathruddie.

Skirving was articled to Alexander Thomson and his brother George from 1864 until 1870. He remained with the former as assistant and latterly chief draughtsman: during his time at Thomson's he studied at Glasgow School of Art, gaining several prizes and scholarships. In 1875, probably just after Thomson's death, he went on a three month tour of Italy and at some period prior to commencing independent practice in 1876 he worked in several offices in London, including that of Richard Coad in London and that of the stained glass designers and manufacturers, Heaton, Butler & Bayne, work which was to lead to agency business in that field. Although his entry in 'Glasgow Contemporaries' indicates that he received part of his art education in London, there is no record of it in his RIBA nomination papers.

Skirving's earlier work was a reflection of his time with Alexander Thomson, and of Thomson's enthusiasm for the writings of James Ferguson whose theories of phonetic architecture found expression in Skirving's neo-Greek and neo-Hindu designs for the Glasgow Municipal Buildings competition. In a better integrated form with refined details, these found built expression at the Scottish Legal Life Building in Wilson Street and Virginia Street a few years later: his subsequent buildings tended to be more conventional in design, although his Langside Haill UP Church of 1894-96 was still mainly Thomsonesque in conception.

His practice was predominantly a south side one centred on Langside where he lived after his marriage to Ellen (or Helen) Charlotte Woodward, daughter of Thomas Woodward at Barony Parish Church, Glasgow on 28 April 1886.

Skirving was admitted FRIBA on 11 June 1906, his proposers being John James Burnet, John Keppie, Thomas Lennox Watson and C J MacLean, secretary of the Glasgow Institute. At that date he was, or recently had been, Grand Architect of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons of Scotland, although the office does not seem to have brought him all that much business. He was a man of wide interests as a member of a number of literary and scientific societies, notable the Rosebery Burns Club of which was president. In that capacity he served on the organising committee of the Robert Burns exhibition of 1896.

Like many other architects Skirving suffered financial hardship during the First World War, particularly as he had invested heavily in rare books and antiques rather than in stocks and property. When some of these items had to be sold they brought much less than had been expected in the depressed wartime market. His mind became affected by it and he was a private patient in Craig House, Edinburgh when he died of chronic bronchitis and asthma on 12 May 1919. His funeral took place at Glasgow Crematorium, Maryhill.

The practice was continued by his only son, also Alexander Skirving, born 1890.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 5Chestnut Cottage, Langside, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivateBefore 1873c. 1919Bought or built this house while still a draughtsman with Thomson
Item 2 of 5227, West George Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusinessJanuary 1876  
Item 3 of 526, West George Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusinessAfter March 1876  
Item 4 of 5183, West George Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusinessc. 1880After 1882 
Item 5 of 5Regent Chambers/121, West Regent Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness18841919 

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 4A & G Thomson1864c. 1869(?)ApprenticeRemained as Chief draughtsman
Item 2 of 4Richard CoadAfter 1869Before 1876Assistant 
Item 3 of 4Heaton Butler & BayneAfter 1869Before 1876Assistant 
Item 4 of 4A & G Thomsonc. 1869(?)Before 1873(?)Chief Draughtsman 

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 6David Valentine Wyllie18751875Assistant 
Item 2 of 6Robert Miller18881890Assistant 
Item 3 of 6Alexander Caldwell ThomsonAfter 18891896Apprentice 
Item 4 of 6William Haldane18991903Assistant 
Item 5 of 6James Mitchell Whitelawc. 1901c. 1905Apprentice 
Item 6 of 6Alexander Skirving (junior)c. 1909 Apprentice 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3(Sir) John James Burnet11 June 1906for Fellowship
Item 2 of 3John Keppie11 June 1906for Fellowship
Item 3 of 3Thomas Lennox Watson11 June 1906for Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 1William McNicol Whyte24 June 1912for Licentiateship

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 361874Design for a chamber organ    Design exhibited at RA
Item 2 of 361875Design for a clubhouse     
Item 3 of 361875Interior of library     
Item 4 of 361876Design for a monument     
Item 5 of 36After 18767 Great Western Terrace  GlasgowScotlandDecoration
Item 6 of 36After 1876HouseThorntonhall LanarkshireScotlandAdditions
Item 7 of 36After 1876Queen's Park Church  GlasgowScotlandAdditions, alterations and decoration, including organ case
Item 8 of 36After 1876Warehouse and Cooperage  Glasgow?Scotland 
Item 9 of 361878Institute of Fine Arts  GlasgowScotlandCompetition design - not successful
Item 10 of 36188151-59 Partickhill Road  GlasgowScotland 
Item 11 of 361882Langside Old Parish ChurchLangside GlasgowScotland 
Item 12 of 361882Wellington House  GlasgowScotlandAdditions
Item 13 of 361882 or 1883Warehouse, Broomielaw  GlasgowScotland 
Item 14 of 361883Glasgow Municipal Buildings  GlasgowScotlandCompetition design
Item 15 of 361884Furniture Warehouse  Glasgow?Scotland 
Item 16 of 361885Blackie & Son Printing Works  GlasgowScotlandExtension to north of main block - main block now demolished
Item 17 of 361887Design for a church in Edinburgh  EdinburghScotlandCompetition design exhibited
Item 18 of 361887Design for a school at PaisleyPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandCompetition design exhibited
Item 19 of 361887Langside Memorial ColumnLangside GlasgowScotland 
Item 20 of 361887Liberal Club  GlasgowScotlandReconstruction of Bedford Hotel into Liberal Club
Item 21 of 361887Mission hall for Queen's Park United Presbyterian  GlasgowScotland 
Item 22 of 361889Paisley County Buildings (Sheriff Court), Meeting Room and OfficesPaisley RenfrewshireScotlandCompetition design for County Buildings exhibited
Item 23 of 361889Scottish Legal Life Assurance offices  GlasgowScotland 
Item 24 of 361890Blackie & Son Printing Works  GlasgowScotlandBlock to west of site
Item 25 of 361893Camp Coffee Works  GlasgowScotlandBlock in Greendyke Street added
Item 26 of 361893NorthbankDowanhill GlasgowScotlandExtensive alterations and addition to east, doubling size of house
Item 27 of 361895Langside Hill Free ChurchLangside GlasgowScotland 
Item 28 of 361896Blackie's Warehouse  GlasgowScotlandAdditions
Item 29 of 361896Sydney Place UP Church  GlasgowScotlandOrgan case
Item 30 of 361901RamoyleDowanhill GlasgowScotlandAlterations, including carved screen in drawing room
Item 31 of 361902Barony Parochial AsylumLenzie LanarkshireScotlandFarm colony
Item 32 of 361902City of Glasgow District Asylum for Pauper LunaticsGartcosh GlasgowScotlandFarm Colony Pavilion
Item 33 of 361904Barony PoorhouseForesthill GlasgowScotlandAdditions
Item 34 of 361904Glasgow East End Industrial Exhibition 1903|1904Dennistoun GlasgowScotlandBuildings of Moorish design
Item 35 of 361912School in SpringburnSpringburn GlasgowScotlandPossibly an addition
Item 36 of 361913Largs Battle MonumentLargs AyrshireScotlandDesign exhibited - presumably unsuccessful in competition


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 3Glasgow Contemporaries1901Glasgow Contemporaries at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century   
Item 3 of 3Who's Who in Architecture1914    

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 4Builder30 May 1919v116 p530 - obituary
Item 2 of 4Building News21 May 1919  p322 - obituary
Item 3 of 4RIBA JournalJune 1919v26London: Royal Institute of British Architectsp200 - obituary
Item 4 of 4The Bailie15 July 1896   

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 from Alexander Skirving's grandson. Birth & death information from Iain Paterson.
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers F v17 p53 no1123 (microfilm reel 12)


© All rights reserved.  Glasgow Institute of Architects 

© All rights reserved. Glasgow Institute of Architects

© All rights reserved.  Courtesy of RCAHMS. Licensor (Glasgow Contemporaries at the Dawn of the XXth Century) 

© All rights reserved. Courtesy of RCAHMS. Licensor (Glasgow Contemporaries at the Dawn of the XXth Century)