Basic Biographical Details

Name: Alfred Lightly MacGibbon
Designation: Architect
Born: 23 November 1874
Died: 4 July 1915
Bio Notes: Alfred Lightly MacGibbon, who was generally known as Fred, was born on 23 November 1874, the son of Edinburgh architect David MacGibbon, who by then was working in partnership with Thomas Ross. Fred was educated privately, spending one year only at the Edinburgh Academy in 1890. He shared his father's antiquarian interests and the years 1891-93 were probably spent helping with his father's publications on 'The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland' and learning to draw, his precocious studies of Iona being published in 'The Builder' in April 1893. It was not until 5 January 1894 that he was formally articled to his father's practice at the relatively late age of nineteen, probably because he had been helping with his father's books. In August 1894 he made a study tour of the principal cathedrals in England and in the years that followed he undertook further study tours mostly with his father, visiting northern France in the summer of 1895 and in the late summer and autumn of 1896, and Belgium in August 1897. His father intended to publish the sketches Fred made on these tours, together with those that he himself had made on his extensive tours of Europe forty years earlier, in a publication, but at sixty-six the strain of this hectic activity at home and abroad brought on a serious heart condition. Although trial proofs were made, the book never appeared, probably because photography had begun to replace drawing material in high-class book production.

By the time of the Belgian study tour Fred was in the office of Robert Rowand Anderson, his father's great friend and ally in his quarrels with the Royal Scottish Academy (which had five times refused to accept him as an associate). He completed his articles with Anderson between 21 January 1896 and 27 February 1899. Throughout the period of his articles he studied under Professor Frank Worthington Simon at the School of Applied Art and at Heriot-Watt College, passing the qualifying exam on 16 November 1900, the year in which he made a study tour of Paris. He was admitted ARIBA on 18 February 1901, his proposers being his father's long-standing friend John Wornham Penfold from Burn's office, with whom he may have spent some time before returning to Edinburgh, and Thomas Blashill and John Slater, all of London.

By that time David MacGibbon's health had severely deteriorated, and he died on 20 February 1902, survived by Jessie, Fred and his three daughters Isabella, Jessie and Rachel, the two first of whom were artists. None of the daughters married. David MacGibbon left moveable estate of 22,688, a very substantial sum at the time although his total wealth was much less than it had been when he inherited from his father; his interest in the practice passed to Fred.

After his father died Fred moved out of the family home at 23 Learmonth Terrace and took a bachelor flat at 4 India Street on the corner of Heriot Row c.1904. In 1906 he married Alice Christian Sainsbury of Isleworth, Middlesex and shortly thereafter took a house at 9 Lynedoch Place. The office remained at 65 Frederick Street where Fred was closely associated with Ross in everything he did.

As a result of MacGibbon & Ross's books, commissions flowed in for restoration work but few reached actual buildings, the biggest single disappointment being the Office of Works' refusal to sanction the restoration of the nave of Holyrood Abbey for which funds had been left by the Earl of Leven & Melville. Ross's own son, James MacLaren Ross, born in 1878 and articled to the practice at the same time as Fred in 1894, moved to the office of Ralph Selden Wornum in London for wider experience in 1899, but in the event he remained there because of the steep decline in business at home.

In 1908 Ross was appointed a founder member of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland, and threw himself into its activities with enthusiasm, writing reports as if he were a salaried employee; and on 23 November 1910 the Commission appointed Fred MacGibbon their architect, at a salary of 200 per annum for three quarters of his time, a measure of the degree to which the MacGibbon & Ross practice had declined. He was given the power to appoint at a salary of 150 a full-time draughtsman, George Patrick Houston Watson, whose association with the Commission was to last until his death in 1959. Fred's own association with the Commission was to be brief. In the summer of 1912 he became diabetic and in October 1914 he had to resign, Watson succeeding him on a full-time basis. He died at the family's country residence of Tomdhu, Kincraig on 4 July 1915, survived by Alice who took their two sons David and Thomas Alfred and daughter Helen to her mother's home at Elgin House, Isleworth, Middlesex. Visits to Learmonth Terrace were remembered as somewhat difficult as Alice was 'very English' and her mother-in-law 'very Scottish' but the children enjoyed a good relationship with their unmarried aunts despite Isabella and Rachel's deafness.

Ross gave some of his drawings to the University of Aberdeen in his lifetime as a result of his interest in the work of Dr W Douglas Simpson. After his death his son James MacLaren Ross destroyed most of the practice papers but those relating to the books and to Commission business were given to the National Library. The drawings David and Fred MacGibbon had at home had entered the RIAS collection somewhat earlier in two tranches: some were given to Sir Rowand Anderson as a memento after David died in 1902 and the remainder were given by Rachel after her mother died on 25 July 1926 and the house at 23 Learmonth Terrace was sold and its contents dispersed.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 7Tomdhu, Kincraig, Inverness-shire, ScotlandPrivate  MacGibbon family country residence
Item 2 of 7Ashfield/121, Grange Loan, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1874  
Item 3 of 717, Learmonth Terrace, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1881November 1886 
Item 4 of 723, Learmonth Terrace, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivateNovember 1886c. 1904 
Item 5 of 765, Frederick Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness1901 *1914 
Item 6 of 74, India Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivatec. 19041906 
Item 7 of 79, Lynedoch Place, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1906  

* 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 5MacGibbon & Ross5 January 18941896Apprentice 
Item 2 of 5Wardrop & Anderson21 January 189627 February 1899Apprentice 
Item 3 of 5John Wornham Penfoldc. 1900(?)Before 1901(?)Assistant(?)May have been assistant to Penfold around the time he took the qualifying exam in London in 1900, but this is not certain
Item 4 of 5MacGibbon & RossFebruary 1902October 1914Partner 
Item 5 of 5Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS)23 November 1910October 1914Architect 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3Thomas Blashill18 February 1901for Associateship
Item 2 of 3John Wornham Penfold18 February 1901for Associateship
Item 3 of 3John Slater18 February 1901for Associateship

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 211898Bangour Village AsylumUphall West LothianScotlandCompetition design for asylum - not successful, though was awarded a premium
Item 2 of 211900Beauly PrioryBeauly Inverness-shireScotlandRestoration
Item 3 of 211902Crianlarich United Free ChurchCrianlarich PerthshireScotland 
Item 4 of 211902Kinross House and Home Farm  Kinross-shireScotlandRestoration of house and formal gardens, including fitting our of saloon. Stable court remodelled in late 17th century style from plain court of c.1780
Item 5 of 211903Balavil HouseKingussie Inverness-shireScotlandRestoration of house and formal gardens
Item 6 of 211905Kirkwall CathedralKirkwallMainlandOrkneyScotlandSurvey made prior to competition
Item 7 of 21c. 1905Kinross House and Home Farm  Kinross-shireScotlandTown gateway and lodges
Item 8 of 211906Holyrood Abbey  EdinburghScotlandProposed restoration of nave
Item 9 of 211907Restalrig Parish Church, King's Chapel and St Triduana's aisleRestalrig EdinburghScotlandRestoration
Item 10 of 21Before 1907(?)7 Eglinton Crescent, billiard room  EdinburghScotlandDate uncertain - may have been before A L Macgibbon was taken into partnership
Item 11 of 21Before 1907Scott Monument  EdinburghScotlandDesign for unspecified work - possibly improvements to setting; date of design not known, may have been before A L Macgibbon was taken into partnership
Item 12 of 211908Edinburgh Academy, laboratory lecture theatre  EdinburghScotland 
Item 13 of 211908Free Church Offices and Savings Bank  EdinburghScotlandRepairs
Item 14 of 211908Lady Glenorchy's Church and halls  EdinburghScotlandHalls and base of tower
Item 15 of 211909Melrose Parish ChurchMelrose RoxburghshireScotlandCompetition design for reconstruction - not successful
Item 16 of 211910City Churches, St Clement's Church and St Mary's Tower  DundeeScotlandProposed restoration of St Mary's crown and refacing of St Clement's - job taken over by Macgregor Chalmers but not carried out
Item 17 of 211910Kailzie HouseTraquair/Kirkburn PeeblesshireScotlandAlterations
Item 18 of 211911Carberry TowerInveresk, Musselburgh MidlothianScotlandPartial rebuilding (and restoration of sundial)
Item 19 of 211911Church of the Holy RudeStirling StirlingshireScotlandRestoration of nave; also pulpit incorporating earlier parts. Removal of Gillespie Graham/s plaster vault.
Item 20 of 211911Duart CastleCraignure (near)MullArgyllScotlandSketch scheme for restoration and reports. Also advised on Burnet scheme and it was this scheme which was executed
Item 21 of 211912Peffermill House  EdinburghScotlandRestoration


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 2Walker, David1984The Architecture of MacGibbon & Ross: The Background to the Books Breeze, David (ed.): 'Studies in Scottish Antiquity', Chapter 16, pp391-449 
Item 2 of 2Who's Who in Architecture1914    

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1RIBA Journal6 November 1915 London: Royal Institute of British Architectsp16 Obituary

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 recolllections of Elizabeth Hume Ross, retold by the late Stewart H Cruden and the late Dr David Ross; of Mrs Theodore Durrant, Thomas Ross's granddaughter; of the late Dr Thomas Alfred MacGibbon, Thetford, Norfolk, son of Alfred Lightly MacGibbon; and of David MacGibbon, Berlin, elder son of Alfred Lightly MacGibbon
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers A v14 p128 no1363 (microfilm reel 18)