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Basic Biographical Details

Name: (Sir) Frank Charles Mears
Designation: Architect
Born: 11 July 1880
Died: 25 January 1953
Bio Notes: Frank Charles Mears was born in Tynemouth on 11 July 1880, the son of Dr William Pope Mears who was to become lecturer on anatomy at the University of Edinburgh and Isabella Mears who was sister of John Bartholomew, the Bartholemews having been farmers of Duntarvie on the Hopetoun Estate since the mid 17th century. He was educated at George Watson's College and articled to Hippolyte Jean Blanc from 1896 to 1901. During that period he studied at the School of Applied Art under Frank Worthington Simon and Stewart Henbest Capper, and at Heriot-Watt College. In 1902 he undertook an extended study tour in France and England, the journals of which are in the National Library of Scotland, and he was awarded the Soane Medallion in 1903.

In the same year he joined Robert Weir Schultz's office as an assistant and began entering competitions, the drawings for several of which survive in the British Architectural Library. In 1904 he won the Pugin studentship, which he devoted to the manor houses of Somerset, taking an important series of photographs. He returned to Scotland in 1906 as assistant to Ramsay Traquair, but in 1908 he became an assistant to Sir Patrick Geddes on the Survey of Edinburgh for the Town Planning Exhibition of 1910, part of his duties being Secretary of Patrick Geddes's Outlook Tower.

Mears commenced practice on his own account in 1910 with an office at 105 Hanover Street, his home address then being Woodburn House in Canaan Lane. He maintained an informal partnership with Geddes and his daughter Norah, born 1887, a landscape architect, their first collaborative work being the Scottish National Zoological Park in 1913-14. The Mears practice then moved to larger premises at 4 Forres Street, but after the outbreak of war intervened, Mears served in France and Belgium as a captain in the Royal Flying Corps with the Kite Balloon Service for which he invented the Mears Parachute.

Mears married Norah Geddes in July 1915. From about 1919 he collaborated with Geddes on the architectural aspects of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Einstein Institute and the Wolfson Library being built to Mears's designs by 1926. The project was abandoned in 1929 with the domed Great Hall regrettably unbuilt. It was to have been a Byzantine-influenced design of the Schultz school. In parallel he began teaching architecture at Edinburgh College of Art under John Begg, who had been appointed head of school in 1922 and who, along with Thomas Forbes Maclennan and Charles Denny Carus-Wilson, proposed Mears for Fellowship of the RIBA, to which he was admitted on 29 June 1927.

In 1928 the Mears practice moved to 3 Forres Street. Mears then took into partnership Charles Denny Carus-Wilson (born 1886), who came from Sevenoaks. He had studied at the Architectural Association Schools from 1904 to 1905 before being articled to John Belcher in 1906-08, and had travelled in Norway and Sweden and passed the qualifying exam in 1909, being admitted ARIBA on 29 November of the same year. His proposers were Belcher, William Howard Seth-Smith and Hugh Patrick Guarin Maule, all of London. Like Mears, Carus-Wilson taught at Edinburgh College of Art. His partnership with Mears was dissolved in 1934 when the practice became simply F C Mears, architect and moved to 44 Queen Street in 1935.

In 1926-27 Mears formed the Association for the Preservation of Rural Scotland and with Leslie Grahame-Thomson he designed a standard rural cottage, 71 of which were built in Roxburghshire. In March 1931 he produced 'The City of Edinburgh: Preliminary Suggestions in Regard to the Development and Replanning of the Central Area'. In 1935 he founded the Town Planning Course at Edinburgh College of Art with himself as head of school, and in the same year he had a large hand in the Department of Health's second report on housing in Scotland as a member of its Scottish Architectural Advisory Committee. Town Planning became an increasingly large part of the practice, plans being commissioned for parts of Greenock, Glasgow and Stirling before the Second World War and county plans for Midlothian, East Lothian, Fife, Aberdeenshire and Sutherland after the war. Mears also acted as a consultant on the town planning of Dublin and Kingstown in 1914 and of Jerusalem in 1919, and worked on the general plan for Inverlochy village, near Fort William, in 1927. His plan for Central and South-east Scotland was published in 1949, and a historical essay on Mediaeval town planning was published in the Journal of the Town Planning Institute in November 1923.

Mears was elected ARSA in 1936, full academician in 1943 and was its President 1944-50 after an unusually short interval of a single year as academician. The University of Edinburgh conferred an LLD on him in 1945 and in 1946 he was knighted in the New Year's Honours List. His later years were clouded by the death of his third son, Flying Officer John M Mears, killed aged 28 in an air accident at Turnhouse in 1949: their second son Alasdair had died aged 14 of TB in 1932. In 1942 Mears was a member of the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee. He also served on the Scottish Coalfields Committee.

In October 1952 Mears and his wife Norah sailed for New Zealand to visit their surviving son, Kenneth, who had a medical practice in Christchurch, the practice being left in the care of his senior assistants, Robert J Naismith and H A Rendel-Govan. He became ill soon after his arrival in New Zealand and died there on 25 January 1953. His home address at that date was Whitehouse, Inveresk.

Mears was one of the most influential figures of his generation, known as 'Daddy' to his staff and students. He was a tall military-looking figure of commanding appearance 'old, responsible and avuncular' (George Lawrence) and 'profoundly wise' (Sir Robert Matthew).

Robert Naismith and H A Rendel-Govan became partners in the practice after the death of Mears, the practice name then being Sir Frank Mears & Partners and the practice was transferred to 46 Northumberland Street which expanded into no 44 in 1968.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 7Woodburn House, Canaan Lane, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1910 *  
Item 2 of 7105, Hanover Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1910Before 1914 
Item 3 of 7Outlook Tower, Castlehill, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate(?)c. 1910c. 1927 
Item 4 of 74, Forres Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessBefore 19141928 
Item 5 of 714, Ramsay Garden, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1927 *  
Item 6 of 73, Forres Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness19281935With Carus-Wilson
Item 7 of 744, Queen Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness1935After 1951 

* 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 6Hippolyte Jean Blanc18961901Apprentice 
Item 2 of 6Robert Weir Schultz1903Before 1907Assistant 
Item 3 of 6Sydney Mitchell & WilsonAfter 1903Before 1907Assistant 
Item 4 of 6Ramsay Traquair19061908(?)Assistant 
Item 5 of 6Patrick Geddes19081910Assistant 
Item 6 of 6Mears & Carus-Wilsonc. 19281934Partner 

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 10Henry Charles Bernead    
Item 2 of 10John Ramsay Armstrong19131914Draughtsman 
Item 3 of 10Norman Alexander Gordon Neil1921c. 1928Assistant 
Item 4 of 10William OgilvieBefore 1924(?)c. 1928(?) It seems likely that Ogilvie was employed by Mears since they shared the same address
Item 5 of 10Charles Ross MackenzieAfter 1934Before 1940Assistant(?)office experience during studies
Item 6 of 10Alexander Buchan WylieJuly 1935July 1936Assistant 
Item 7 of 10Richard Fraser19381939Assistant 
Item 8 of 10Frederick William Bolton Charles19441948Assistant 
Item 9 of 10Antony Curtiss Wolffe19481955AssistantPlanning assistant
Item 10 of 10Robert James NaismithEarly 1940s Assistant 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3John Begg29 June 1927for Fellowship
Item 2 of 3Charles Denny Carus-Wilson29 June 1927for Fellowship
Item 3 of 3Thomas Forbes Maclennan29 June 1927for Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 74William Robertson Annan3 April 1939for Associateship
Item 2 of 74John ('Jack') Baird16 March 1943for Associateship
Item 3 of 74John Bannerman12 December 1939for Associateship
Item 4 of 74Isobel Hogg Kerr BeattieMid 1931for Associateship
Item 5 of 74Joseph Duncan Beaumont18 January 1944for Associateship
Item 6 of 74Kenneth Andrew Begg1929for Associateship
Item 7 of 74John Raymond Bell6 February 1939for Associateship
Item 8 of 74Maurice Joseph Brown3 April 1939for Associateship
Item 9 of 74Helen Mary Bryce4 December 1933for Associateship
Item 10 of 74Hamish Eadie Burden16 May 1944for Associateship
Item 11 of 74Arthur Forbes Cargill17 October 1944for Licentiateship
Item 12 of 74David CarrLate 1930for Associateship
Item 13 of 74Theodore Shealtiel Clerk1 October 1943for Associateship
Item 14 of 74(Professor) Ralph Cowan16 July 1940for Associateship
Item 15 of 74Arthur Tattershall Crane18 November 1941for Associateship
Item 16 of 74Eric Hutton Crosbee10 January 1938for Associateship
Item 17 of 74Guy Davis17 November 1942for Associateship
Item 18 of 74George Brown Deas8 May 1939for Fellowship
Item 19 of 74John Ferguson Donaldson30 November 1936for Associateship
Item 20 of 74Alan Douglas13 April 1943for Associateship
Item 21 of 74George Edward Foote15 October 1940For Associateship
Item 22 of 74Colin Campbell Fraser9 February 1937for Associateship
Item 23 of 74John Strachan FraserEarly 1932for Associateship
Item 24 of 74John Lyon Gauldie9 May 1938for Associateship
Item 25 of 74Elspeth Grizel Gifford (Mrs Hugentobler; Mrs Baker Baker)27 June 1944for Associateship
Item 26 of 74John Hardie Glover7 March 1938for Associateship
Item 27 of 74Alexander Esmé Gordon (or Esmé Gordon)2 December 1935for Associateship
Item 28 of 74Alexander Murray Graham8 March 1937for Associateship
Item 29 of 74Thomas Sharp Grossert16 December 1941for Associateship
Item 30 of 74David Gardiner HardieEarly 1932for Associateship
Item 31 of 74Hugh Hawson (junior)1931for Associateship
Item 32 of 74James William HillsEarly 1931for Associateship
Item 33 of 74Philistas Rognvald Howard Stoughton Holbourn21 October 1941for Associateship
Item 34 of 74Marion Hope Inglis (née Lawrie)16 May 1944for Associateship
Item 35 of 74(Sir) William Hardie Kininmonth Early 1931for Associateship
Item 36 of 74Hugh Sinclair MacdonaldEarly 1930for Associateship
Item 37 of 74James Macgregor22 June 1936for Fellowship
Item 38 of 74Charles Ross Mackenzie15 October 1940for Associateship
Item 39 of 74Donald MacDonald Mackie31 October 1930for Licentiateship
Item 40 of 74Benjamin Murray Manson18 July 1938for Associateship
Item 41 of 74Alexander Theodore Marshall3 April 1939for Associateship
Item 42 of 74John Fraser MatthewMid 1931for Licentiateship
Item 43 of 74Stuart Russell Matthew4 April 1938for Fellowship
Item 44 of 74Philip Edward Joseph McManus (later Phillip or Philipp Edouard McManis)30 November 1936for Associateship
Item 45 of 74Alan McWilliam11 December 1945for Associateship
Item 46 of 74John Burn MoffatLate 1931 or early 1932for Associateship
Item 47 of 74John Eric Moore4 April 1938for Associateship
Item 48 of 74Frederick Alistair Morrison10 May 1937for Associateship
Item 49 of 74Rona Helen Inch Morrison (Mrs Allan)30 November 1936for Associateship
Item 50 of 74Robert Scott Morton3 December 1934for Associateship
Item 51 of 74James Mackie MurrayEarly 1930for Associateship
Item 52 of 74Robert James Naismith21 October 1941For Associateship
Item 53 of 74Norman Alexander Gordon NeilLate 1931for Associateship
Item 54 of 74Angus Moncur Neilson3 December 1934for Associateship
Item 55 of 74Alec Nisbet20 June 1938for Fellowship
Item 56 of 74John Ogilvie18 July 1938for Associateship
Item 57 of 74Jackson Nisbet Pollock9 February 1936for Associateship
Item 58 of 74Vishwa Nath Prasad20 July 1936for Associateship
Item 59 of 74Alan Reiach3 December 1934for Associateship
Item 60 of 74James Robertson13 May 1935for Associateship
Item 61 of 74William Alexander Bruce Robertson10 January 1938for Associateship
Item 62 of 74Patrick Henry Dudgeon Ronaldson2 December 1935for Associateship
Item 63 of 74William Leslie Roworth3 April 1939for Associateship
Item 64 of 74Alfred Sinclair5 December 1927for Associateship
Item 65 of 74(Dr) Frederic ('Eric') Robert Stevenson 10 January 1938for Associateship
Item 66 of 74William Tulloch SutherlandEarly 1933for Associateship
Item 67 of 74Leslie Grahame Thomson (or Leslie Grahame-Thomson; later Leslie Grahame MacDougall)21 June 1937for Fellowship
Item 68 of 74William Innes Thomson14 January 1935for Associateship
Item 69 of 74John Guthrie Tulloch9 February 1937for Associateship
Item 70 of 74Alexander Wentworth Varcoe4 January 1935For Associateship
Item 71 of 74(Professor) Edward Walter Rail Waugh8 May 1939for Associateship
Item 72 of 74Alexander Buchan Wylie9 January 1939for Associateship
Item 73 of 74Henry Wylie (or Harry Wylie)9 January 1940For Associateship
Item 74 of 74James Dickson Young30 November 1936for 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 65 Inveresk LodgeInveresk MidlothianScotlandInstructed Scott Morton & Co on interior work (presumably this Mears?) - date unknown
Item 2 of 65 Sheriffmill BridgeElgin MorayshireScotland 
Item 3 of 651906Khartoum Cathedral  KhartoumSudanAs assistant to Robert Weir Schultz
Item 4 of 651911St John's Masonic Chapel  EdinburghScotlandRestoration
Item 5 of 651912National MonumentCalton Hill EdinburghScotlandScheme for completion - with Ramsay Traquair
Item 6 of 651913Leven Town Planning SchemeLeven FifeScotland 
Item 7 of 651913Scottish National Zoological Park  EdinburghScotlandLayout with Patrick Geddes
Item 8 of 651913Scottish National Zoological Park, BookshopCorstorphine EdinburghScotland 
Item 9 of 651914Blencathra County Sanatorium  CumberlandEnglandUnspecified work
Item 10 of 651914Theosophical Society Headquarters  LondonEnglandCollaborated with E L Lutyens on second stage of design
Item 11 of 651919Hebrew University  JerusalemPalestineDesigned in association with Patrick Geddes
Item 12 of 651919Scottish National War Memorial approach  EdinburghScotland 
Item 13 of 651919The Palestine Archaeological Museum  JerusalemIsraelDate of first drawings - designs unexecuted
Item 14 of 651920Housing for former servicemenKillester DublinEire 
Item 15 of 651920St Giles Cathedral, 5th Battalion Royal Scots First World War Memorial  EdinburghScotland 
Item 16 of 65c. 1920Jewish National LibraryMount Scopus  Israel 
Item 17 of 651922Scheme for the Bahai Community  AllahabadIndiaWith Patrick Geddes
Item 18 of 651923DalbreckGullane East LothianScotland 
Item 19 of 651923National Cathedral  DublinEire 
Item 20 of 65192425 Bridge Road, gates and railings  EdinburghScotlandAssisted Phoebe Traquair in the design of the railings and gates
Item 21 of 651925First Church of Christ ScientistInverleith EdinburghScotlandOrgan screen
Item 22 of 651925Scottish National Zoological Park, Tropical Bird and Reptile HouseCorstorphine EdinburghScotland 
Item 23 of 651927David Livingstone Memorial BuildingsBlantyre LanarkshireScotlandRestoration and layout of park
Item 24 of 651927Huntly House  EdinburghScotlandRestoration as museum
Item 25 of 651927Scottish National Zoological Park, north sectionCorstorphine EdinburghScotland 
Item 26 of 651928Scottish Mountaineering Hut, Ben NevisFort William Inverness-shireScotland 
Item 27 of 651929Scottish National Zoological Park, Monkey HouseCorstorphine EdinburghScotland 
Item 28 of 651930Aberchalder Bridge over the River Oich  Inverness-shireScotland 
Item 29 of 651930Bridge over the River OichAberchalder Inverness-shireScotlandWith Blyth & Blyth as consulting engineers
Item 30 of 651930Lucy Sanderson Cottage HomesGalashiels SelkirkshireScotland 
Item 31 of 65c. 1930Bridge carrying re-aligned A862 over Alt DoeFort Augustus Inverness-shireScotland'Probably' (HS)
Item 32 of 65c. 1930Dirleton Parish ChurchDirleton East LothianScotlandSupervised the reorganisation of the interior or perhaps just the installation of new stained glass
Item 33 of 65c. 1930Whitebridge, new Bridge  Inverness-shireScotland'Probably' (HS)
Item 34 of 651931Prototype houses for rural housing   ScotlandIn conjunction with Leslie Grahame Thomson
Item 35 of 651932Bridge over the River GarryInvergarry Inverness-shireScotland'Probably' (HS)
Item 36 of 651932Spean Bridge over the River Spean  Inverness-shireScotlandBridge widened
Item 37 of 651933Drumnadrochit Bridge  Inverness-shireScotlandBridge widened
Item 38 of 651933Invermoriston BridgeInvermoriston Inverness-shireScotlandMears & Carus-Wilson as architects; Blyth & Blyth as enginners
Item 39 of 651934Fort Augustus Bridge over the River OichFort Augustus Inverness-shireScotlandSir Frank Mears as architect, Blyth & Blyth as engineers
Item 40 of 651934Gladstone's Land  EdinburghScotlandRestoration
Item 41 of 651934(?)Tenement, 91 CastlegateJedburgh RoxburghshireScotlandHS attribution
Item 42 of 65Before 1934Ardgour ChurchArdgour Inverness-shireScotlandPulpit, communion table and chairs
Item 43 of 65c. 1934Connor Street housing schemePeebles PeeblesshireScotland 
Item 44 of 651935HostelLoch Eck ArgyllScotland'Plans and site settled'
Item 45 of 651936King George VI Bridge over the River Dee  AberdeenScotland 
Item 46 of 651936Scottish National Zoological Park buildings, Corstorphine Hill HouseCorstorphine EdinburghScotlandRestaurant formed
Item 47 of 65c. 1936Housing, Shore StreetThurso CaithnessScotlandLayout and plans for reconstruction of the old town
Item 48 of 65193741 Broad StreetStirling StirlingshireScotland 
Item 49 of 651937Allenvale Bridge  AberdeenScotland 
Item 50 of 651937Bridge over the River Awe, Taynuilt  ArgyllScotland 
Item 51 of 6519381, 3, 10 and 21 Broad StreetStirling StirlingshireScotlandIn collaboration with Stirling Burgh Architect
Item 52 of 65193852-68 Baker StreetStirling StirlingshireScotland 
Item 53 of 65193870-78 Baker StreetStirling StirlingshireScotland 
Item 54 of 651938Hermon Evangelical ChurchStirling StirlingshireScotlandIn conjunction with the Stirling Burgh Architect ('probably' - HS)
Item 55 of 65c. 1938Terrace of houses, Bow StreetStirling StirlingshireScotland'Probably' - in collaboration with the Stirling Burgh Architect
Item 56 of 651939Drumelzier Parish HallDrumelzier PeeblesshireScotland 
Item 57 of 651944Newbattle CollegeEskbank MidlothianScotlandDevelopment scheme for new communities
Item 58 of 651945Woodlands Hall (The Mansion House)Leadhills LanarkshireScotland 
Item 59 of 651948Lower North Water BridgeMontrose (near) AngusScotlandWith F A Macdonald & Partners
Item 60 of 651950Royal Scots Regiment Monument  EdinburghScotland 
Item 61 of 651950West Princes Street Gardens, Royal Scots Memorial  EdinburghScotland 
Item 62 of 651951Department for the University Court  EdinburghScotland 
Item 63 of 651951Second Church of Christ Scientist  EdinburghScotland 
Item 64 of 651951University of Glasgow, main quadranglesGilmorehill GlasgowScotlandDevelopment plan - not executed
Item 65 of 651953Spittal's HospitalStirlingStirlingshireScotland Restoration


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 8Boardman, Philip1978The Worlds of Patrick Geddes: Biologist, Town Planner, Re-educator,
 London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 
Item 2 of 8British Architectural Library, RIBA2001Directory of British Architects 1834-1914   
Item 3 of 8Glendinning, Miles1997Rebuilding Scotland: The Postwar Vision, 1945-75  Tuckwell Press Ltdp6 Royal Scots Regiment Monument
p9 Image of Baker Street redevelopment
Item 4 of 8Glendinning, Miles and Muthesius, Stefan1994Tower Block: Modern Public Housing in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland Yale University Press: New Haven and Londonp381, Gazetteer 2. Baker Street
Item 5 of 8Johnson, Jim and Rosenburg, Lou2010Renewing Old Edinburgh: the Enduring Legacy of Patrick Geddes Glendaruel: Argyll Publishingp194-196 (with map of proposals regarding replanning and development of central Edinburgh)
Item 6 of 8Post Office Directories     
Item 7 of 8Purves, Graeme A S1983An introduction to the work of Sir Frank Mears Unpublished research paper, Heriot Watt University 
Item 8 of 8Scottish Biographies1938  E J Thurston (pub.) 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 10Builder2 March 1951  p332
Item 2 of 10Builder30 March 1951  p469
Item 3 of 10Builder9 March 1951  p367
Item 4 of 10Builder18 May 1951  p719
Item 5 of 10Edinburgh Evening Dispatch9 March 1944  Biographical note
Item 6 of 10Edinburgh Evening Dispatch26 January 1953  Obituary
Item 7 of 10Edinburgh Evening News26 January 1953  Obituary
Item 8 of 10Glasgow Herald3 October 1942  p2
Item 9 of 10Official Architecture and PlanningApril 1954  p160-2 Baker Street
Item 10 of 10RIAS QuarterlyMay 1953no 93Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS)Obituary by H A Rendel Govan

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 3Courtesy of Richard Widdowson, great nephew of Isabella MearsInformation from DSA website Sent September 2009
Item 2 of 3Courtesy of Roger Mears, grandson of Sir Frank Mears Information sent via 'Contact Us'page on the website Sent May 2010
Item 3 of 3RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers F no2513 (box 7)


© All rights reserved. © and courtesy of Roger Mears 

© All rights reserved. © and courtesy of Roger Mears