Basic Biographical Details

Name: W & J Smith
Designation: Architectural practice
Started: 1879
Ended: 1887
Bio Notes: William Smith II was the fourth of John Smith and Margaret Grant's eight children, born 16 September 1817. He was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and at Marischal College where he graduated MA and studied sketching and watercolour under James Giles. Thereafter he was articled to his father, working alongside Robert Kerr, the future Professor of Architecture at King's College in London. Thereafter Smith spent eighteen months in London as assistant to Thomas Leverton Donaldson in whose office he had the opportunity to study the extensive library and classical antiquities that the latter had collected. He may have attended Donaldson's classes at University College as he was admitted ARIBA on 25 July 1842, his proposers being Donaldson, Samuel Angell and George Bailey. At that date he appears to have been back in Aberdeen, but shortly thereafter he embarked on a tour of Italy and of Greece which lasted almost two years. He returned to his father's office as senior assistant and became his partner in 1845. This enabled him to marry on 2 July 1846 Mary Blaikie, born 27 September 1826 and one of the five children of Dr Patrick Blaikie RN who came of a prominent family of ironmasters in Aberdeen, Blaikie Brothers. Family photographs show that she remained a beautiful woman in middle age. Smith's father having gone into semi-retirement at Rosebank, they set up house at 142 King Street.

William Smith's first major commission was Trinity Hall, Union Street, Aberdeen, in 1846. Its adaptation of neo-Tudor to granite attracted the attention of the Prince Consort who in 1848 commissioned J & W Smith to reconstruct and enlarge old Balmoral Castle to which the elder Smith had built an addition in 1834-39. That commission did not proceed beyond the sketch plan stage but when the commission extended to a completely new house in 1852 their appointment attracted the attention of William Burn. Recent research by Paul Bradley has shown that Burn obtained an interview with the Prince Consort, probably to complain that the elder Smith had unprofessionally displaced him at Robert Gordon's College and at Fintry and had plagiarised his designs at Menie and elsewhere. Smith nevertheless retained the confidence of the Prince Consort and the construction of the castle in 1853-59 was followed by other buildings on the estate. By 1852 he had also officially succeeded to his father's post as Superintendent of the Town's Works, having taken on increasing amounts of work in an unofficial capacity during his father's latter years of declining health.

William Smith and Mary Blaikie had sixteen children. All eight of their surviving children were sent to the University of Aberdeen. Only the eldest, John, born 5 July 1847 became an architect. John Smith II is said to have been of 'gentle disposition and retiring habits' and 'not a man of robust frame…his health was on the whole delicate'. He married Helen Elsmie Hall, daughter of John Hall, merchant and sister of the prominent Aberdeen advocate Harvey Hall, and was taken into partnership in or about 1880, the practice title bcoming W & J Smith. Like William and Mary Smith before them, John and his wife set up house at 142 Great King Street. They had three sons and a surviving daughter who were aged 8, 6, 4 and 2 when John Smith died suddenly on 11 April 1887 after a long period of declining health, leaving 'absolutely no money at all'. When they grew up all three sons entered bank service since a university education could not be afforded, thus bringing the Smith dynasty of architects to a close. Shortly after John's death William Smith merged his practice with that of his former pupil William Kelly, the practice name now becoming W & J Smith & Kelly.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architectural practice:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 1Aberdeen, ScotlandBusiness   

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 7William Smith III  Assistant(?) 
Item 2 of 7William KellyMay 18781883Apprentice 
Item 3 of 7William Smith II18791887Senior Partner 
Item 4 of 7John Smith II18791887Partner 
Item 5 of 7James Cromar WattOctober 1879c. 1885Apprentice 
Item 6 of 7James Cromar Wattc. 1885April 1887Assistant 
Item 7 of 7James Cromar WattJune 1891(?)1893(?)Assistant 

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 141880239 Union Street  AberdeenScotlandRebuilding
Item 2 of 141880Holburn Parish Hall  AberdeenScotland 
Item 3 of 141880Militia Barracks and depot  AberdeenScotlandAdditions
Item 4 of 141881Whitehaugh House  AberdeenshireScotlandAlterations
Item 5 of 141882147-149 Union Street  AberdeenScotlandAlterations
Item 6 of 141882New Market and the layout of Market Street  AberdeenScotlandRebuilding after fire damage
Item 7 of 141883141 Union Street  AberdeenScotland 
Item 8 of 14188536-40 Market Street  AberdeenScotlandAlterations
Item 9 of 14188588 Fountainhall Road  AberdeenScotland'Possibly' by W Smith (HS) - there seems to be some doubt about this though HS says that plans are by Smith
Item 10 of 141885Original Secession Church on Skene Terrace and Crimon Place  AberdeenScotland 
Item 11 of 141885Premises for G & W Davidson on St Clement Street  AberdeenScotland 
Item 12 of 141886Police StablesAberdeen AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 13 of 141886Skene Street and Rosemount elevations  AberdeenScotland 
Item 14 of 141887Store for Tester on St Clement Street  AberdeenScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architectural practice:
Item 1 of 1Cooper, James1892A sermon on the occasion of the death Mr William Smith, architect, Aberdeen Aberdeen 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architectural practice:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 3Aberdeen Journal1 April 1887  Obituary of John Smith
Item 2 of 3Aberdeen Journal23 December 1891  Obituary of William Smith
Item 3 of 3Aberdeen Journal28 December 1891  Obituary of William Smith

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architectural practice:
 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 Helen Smith
Item 2 of 2University of AberdeenArchive of cuttings, notes and photos (bequeathed by Helen Hall Smith, 1990)