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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:|
| ||Address||Type||Date from||Date to||Notes|
|Chestnut Cottage, Langside, Glasgow, Scotland||Private||Before 1873||c. 1919||Bought or built this house while still a draughtsman with Thomson|
|227, West George Street, Glasgow, Scotland||Business||January 1876|| || |
|26, West George Street, Glasgow, Scotland||Business||After March 1876|| || |
|183, West George Street, Glasgow, Scotland||Business||c. 1880||After 1882|| |
|Regent Chambers/121, West Regent Street, Glasgow, Scotland||Business||1884||1919|| |
Employment and Training
|The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):|
| ||Name||Date from||Date to||Position||Notes|
|A & G Thomson||1864||c. 1869(?)||Apprentice||Remained as Chief draughtsman|
|Richard Coad||After 1869||Before 1876||Assistant|| |
|Heaton Butler & Bayne||After 1869||Before 1876||Assistant|| |
|A & G Thomson||c. 1869(?)||Before 1873(?)||Chief Draughtsman|| |
Employees or Pupils
|This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):|
| ||Name||Date proposed||Notes|
|William McNicol Whyte||24 June 1912||for Licentiateship|
Buildings and Designs
|The following books contain references to this architect:|
|British Architectural Library, RIBA||2001||Directory of British Architects 1834-1914|| || || |
|Glasgow Contemporaries||1901||Glasgow Contemporaries at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century|| || || |
|Who's Who in Architecture||1914|| || || || |
|The following periodicals contain references to this architect:|
| ||Periodical Name||Date||Edition||Publisher||Notes|
|Builder||30 May 1919||v116|| ||p530 - obituary|
|Building News||21 May 1919|| || ||p322 - obituary|
|RIBA Journal||June 1919||v26||London: Royal Institute of British Architects||p200 - obituary|
|The Bailie||15 July 1896|| || || |
|The following archives hold material relating to this architect:|
| ||Source||Archive Name||Source Catalogue No.||Notes|
|Professor David M Walker personal archive||Professor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material|| ||Personal information from Alexander Skirving's grandson. Birth & death information from Iain Paterson.|
|RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert Museum||RIBA Nomination Papers|| ||F v17 p53 no1123 (microfilm reel 12)|
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