Basic Biographical Details

Name: Frank Wood
Designation: Architect
Born: 29 January 1900
Died: 12 June 1989
Bio Notes: Frank Wood was born in Musselburgh on 29 January 1900, the son of John Simpson Wood, butcher, and his wife Francis Adamson. He was educated at Musselburgh School where he was he was dux in 1915. His siblings suffered severely in World War I: his brothers William and Johnson were sent to Gallipoli, the former being killed and the latter badly wounded, while his sister Ellen, an American citizen and a trained nurse, was killed at sea serving with the Red Cross.

After a brief period as an assistant to a dentist, Wood was articled to William Constable of Lyle & Constable from 1915 and in the same year began at Edinburgh College of Art where he studied under George Washington Browne, Sydney Miller, James Gillespie and James Paterson. In 1917 he was called up, serving with the Royal Flying Corps. At the end of the war he was offered a commission to stay on with the Royal Air Force but decided to return to architecture.

Wood returned to Edinburgh in 1919 but was refused readmission to Constable’s office. He resumed his studies returning to Edinburgh College of Art 1919 to 1921. He was awarded a travelling scholarship and he went to study the architecture of Oxford and Cambridge. At some point he would seem to have visited France although there is no mention of it in his autobiographical notes: a superb wash survey of the Petit Trianon is still in the possession of his family. and obtaining his diploma and entering the practice of Sir George Washington Browne as an assistant in the latter year. Accomplished neo-Palladian studies for an aquarium of Edinburgh Zoo and a monumental screen wall for the Royal Bank of Scotland also survive. In parallel he studied at Heriot Watt, gaining his diploma in 1921.

While at Edinburgh College of Art wood worked for Washington Browne working on the later stages of the Edward VII Memorial gates at Holyrood, and remained with Browne until he closed his practice in 1923. Browne offered him his archive but lack of space in his flat compelled him to decline. Wood then obtained a place with Alan Keith Robertson, architect to the Scottish Education Department, whose partnership with Thomas Aikman Swan had recently been dissolved, and during his time there he made study tours in Denmark Holland and Germany. At Robertson’s he became senior assistant and, just before his death in 1925 from the effects of World War I, partner. Robertson left his interest in the parties to Wood who gifted the fees then due to Wood’s sister.

On the recommendation of Sir Thomas Hudson Beare, Professor of Engineering at Edinburgh, Wood retained Robertson’s appointment as architect to the Scottish Education Department after interview and in that capacity completed the Moredun Research Institute, built the eastern range of Suffolk Halls – and redesigned the Moray House demonstration school to meet changed requirements. Between the wars he also developed a good domestic practice designing villas costing between £1200 and £6000, most of them with emerald green Courtrai tiles. Having married Doris Crozier, a nurse at Morningside Asylum in 1930, he built his own house, named Courtrai after its tiles, at 52 Duddingston Road West in the same year. His most important private client appears to have been the Arniston Coal Company for which he designed a village hall and some housing in 1939-40.

In 1940 Wood closed his practice and joined the civil service, initially as inspector of Building Labour, a post which lasted only three months, as a result of his characteristic bluntness about wasteful deployment. He was then transferred to the Department of Health for Scotland at £700pa. At the end of the war he returned to private practice but building licensing made it difficult to make a living.

In 1946 he sought and obtained reinstatement at the Department of Health where he had a difficult relationship with the Depute Chief Architect, J Austen Bent, until the latter became Chief Technical Officer of the Scottish Special Housing Association in 1947. Because of his previous experience with the Scottish Education Department he was moved to the education Department where Gardner-Medwyn was introducing Hertfordshire type school design. When he reported technical failures with ceilings and other components he was moved back to the Department of Health on housing where he had disagreements with Mrs Blanco White over the housing standards based on Dutch prototypes then being introduced and on the tower blocks the city was then proposing in Aberdeen. As a result T A Jeffryes, chief architect to the Department of Health from 1953, changed his responsibilities to community centres and state managed hotels, and later to prisons, based in York Buildings. This move brought about depression and for a time he was persuaded to have psychiatric treatment during which he taught the other patients to play golf. On his return Jeffryes placed him with Ian G Lindsay as an investigator of historic buildings with the offer of a motor-car, but as he did not succeed in passing a driving test his activities were confined to burghs where he would invite prominent locals to dinner (for which he paid personally) as a consultation exercise on what should be listed. While with the Department of Health he was admitted LRIBA on 15 April 1947, proposed by John Ross McKay, Charles Edward Tweedie and Alfred Hugh Mottram and admitted FRIBA on 4 April 1950, his proposers being McKay and Mottram again and Leslie Grahame-Thomson. He was elected FRIAS in 1964.

After two permanent inspectors of historic buildings were recruited in October-November 1961, Wood returned to his previous duties on community centres and swimming pools. He now had a much better relationship with the new chief architect Bruce Beckett and his time was more happily spent. As ever he went rather beyond what his duties required whenever it would resolve local difficulties, designing Tayvallich Hall in Argyll, another at Ness on the Isle of Lewis where he defied the Free Church ministers, and a third at Mallaig when he received a silver salver from Lord Lovat for his trouble in the matter. He also adapted and extended a former schoolhouse at Walsay, Shetland for community purposes.

In person Wood was about 5 feet 10 inches in height, always neatly suited in a slightly old-fashioned way with a badge in his lapel, quite distinguished looking, always concentrating intently on the business in hand, with a razor sharp mind. As a civil servant he was somewhat maverick in his refusal to compromise on housing standards, and his independence of mind extended from a personal campaign for better pay for nurses to supporting Sir William Kininmonth against Sir Robert Matthew in the dispute as to who should design the Edinburgh Opera House. Although intolerant of the medical profession with his own remedies which included regular fasting, he was chairman of the Kingston Clinic.

In the mid-1960s Wood was found to require a colostomy while on holiday at Grantown-on-Spey and was taken by ambulance to Foresterhill at Aberdeen. It did not affect his longevity. He died of a chest infection at the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh on 12 June 1989. His wife had predeceased him.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 273, George Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/business(?)c. 1930 *After 1947 
Item 2 of 254, Duddingston Road West, Portobello, Midlothian, ScotlandPrivate1930 or 1931 *After 1964 

* 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 3George Washington Browne19211922Assistant 
Item 2 of 3Alan Keith Robertson19231925Chief Assistant 
Item 3 of 3Department of Health for Scotland (Scottish Board of Health; later Scottish Development Department)1944c. 1945Architect 

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 3Thomas Newhall Duncan19271929Senior Assistant 
Item 2 of 3David Gray KirkAfter 1931Before 1932Junior Assistant 
Item 3 of 3Stanley White Edgar19341935Assistant 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3John Ross McKay4 April 1950for Fellowship
Item 2 of 3Alfred Hugh Mottram4 April 1950for Fellowship
Item 3 of 3Leslie Grahame Thomson (or Leslie Grahame-Thomson; later Leslie Grahame MacDougall)4 April 1950for Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 4Stanley White Edgar12 October 1954For Licentiateship
Item 2 of 4James Ferguson 9 October 1956For Licentiateship
Item 3 of 4George Gilroy Graham1 March 1955For Associateship
Item 4 of 4Neil Burke Moir8 January 1957For Fellowship

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 24 Duddingston House  EdinburghScotlandAlterations and repairs to stableblock
Item 2 of 241923Suffolk Road Halls of Residence, Moray House  EdinburghScotlandHostels for women students - completed to Robertson's designs (east ranges)
Item 3 of 241924Moredun Research Institute  EdinburghScotlandInitially as assistant to Alan Keith Robertson and latterly responsibly for the continuation of Robertson's practice after his death in 1925
Item 4 of 24After 1925Restaurant for D S Crawford  EdinburghScotland 
Item 5 of 24c. 1927Villa, New StreetMusselburgh MidlothianScotland 
Item 6 of 241929Melville Castle  MidlothianScotlandRestoration
Item 7 of 241929Moray House Training College, Demonstration School and Nursery School  EdinburghScotlandDemonstration school
Item 8 of 24c. 1930Courtrai, Duddingston Road WestDuddingston EdinburghScotland 
Item 9 of 24c. 1930Ravensheugh, Duddingston Road West  EdinburghScotland 
Item 10 of 24c. 1930(?)Villa, Arboretum Road  EdinburghScotland 
Item 11 of 24c. 1930Villa, Barnton AvenueBarnton EdinburghScotland 
Item 12 of 24c. 1931Villa, 574 Queensferry Road  EdinburghScotland 
Item 13 of 24c. 1932***The ShoreLeith EdinburghScotland 
Item 14 of 24c. 1932Housing development for the Arniston Coal CompanyGorebridge MidlothianScotland 
Item 15 of 24c. 1932Villa, Braid Hills Avenue  EdinburghScotland 
Item 16 of 24c. 1934Moray House Training College, Demonstration School and Nursery School  EdinburghScotlandNursery school
Item 17 of 24c. 1934Villa, Ravelston Dykes  EdinburghScotland 
Item 18 of 24c. 1935Villa, 40 Fairways  EdinburghScotland 
Item 19 of 24c. 1935Villa, Duddingston Road WestDuddingston EdinburghScotland 
Item 20 of 241938Moredun Research Institute  EdinburghScotlandAdditions
Item 21 of 241939Village hall for the Arniston Coal CompanyGorebridge MidlothianScotland 
Item 22 of 241940Housing for the Arniston Coal Company   Scotland 
Item 23 of 24After 1944Laboratory for the diseases of animals  EdinburghScotland 
Item 24 of 241968House for J S WoodMilton DunbartonshireScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 2Post Office Directories     
Item 2 of 2RIBA1939The RIBA Kalendar 1939-1940 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 4Courtesy of Crichton WoodTypescript memoirs and collection of drawings  
Item 2 of 4H M Register HouseDeath Register  
Item 3 of 4Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Personal information from Frank Wood
Item 4 of 4RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers L no 6093 (Combined Box 119); F no4529 (combined box 20)