|Bio Notes: ||James Robb Scott was born in the Gorbals, Glasgow on 11 February 1882, the illegitimate son of the 30-year-old architect Andrew Robb Scott and the teenager Mary Fletcher. His parents married two years later in 1884. |
James Robb Scott was articled to Leadbetter & Fairley of Edinburgh c.1900 before joining the office of Belcher & Joass in London: John James Joass was a fellow Scot, and may have provided the introduction. Scott was promoted to chief architectural assistant there before leaving to join the London & South West Railway in 1907. He is noted as the Railways' chief architectural assistant in the period of the reconstruction of Waterloo Station between 1909 and 1923. The engineer J W Jacomb-Hood (1822-1900) and A Q Szlumber had designed the roof and platforms, but Scott designed the large office range and the impressive Victory Arch, a main entrance and war memorial to the fallen employees of the Railway. The office range housed the architects' office of the L&SWR and later Southern Railways after the amalgamation of the 123 British railway companies into four principal companies in 1923.
As chief architect to the Southern Railway, Scott designed, or was in charge of the design team of the stations at Ramsgate (1925), Bromley (1925), Byfleet and New Haw (1927), Ramsgate Dumpson Park (1928), Exmouth (1929), Wimbledon (1930), Wimbledon Chase (1930), Hastings (1931), Bishopstone (1936), Surbiton (1937), Richmond (1938), Malden Manor (1938), Horsham (1938), Chessington North (1939) and Chessington South (1939). Other stations designed by the company around this period include Woking, Margate, Kingston, Southampton Central, Tolworth and Southampton. There is some dispute as to Scott's actual involvement in these works: it has been remarked that the notable difference in style between his early classical Baroque of Waterloo Station and the later modernistic/art deco designs of the 1920s and '30s require that the buildings were designed by the team rather than Scott himself. Often the architectural drawings for the stations are unsigned, and it has been suggested that Scott's chief assistant from c.1923 to 1927, Edwin Maxwell Fry (1899-1987), may have had a hand in some of the early classical designs along with a team of young architects that went on to undertake the 1930s commissions. Fry is scathing about Scott in his autobiography, describing him as 'a lumbering Scotsman only waiting for the salmon rivers to rise' who 'fell into my hands like a ripe plum as by one of these sudden spurts of decisive action I took over the hotel design that was beyond him, and was installed by the Chief Engineer as his deputy and working factotum … and I immediately set about reinforcing the time-serving staff of old bodies with all the friends and acquaintances I could lay hold of. There was plenty of work and one by one I signed on an assortment of young men who transformed the place of lingering fears and deceptions…' However, there is no direct evidence for Scott not being the architect of these stations, and much of Fry's biography cannot be taken on trust.
Unusually Scott never became a full member of the RIBA, only becoming a Licentiate. He married in 1908 in Richmond, Surrey and in 1914 he was living at 29 Moormead Road, St Margarets-on-Thames. He died in 1965.
(Biographical notes derived from text by Steven M Robb)