Basic Biographical Details

Name: James Murdoch Hay
Designation: Architect
Born: 15 December 1823
Died: October 1915
Bio Notes: The Hays of Liverpool were born in Coldstream where their parents John Hay, joiner, and Sophia Murdoch had married on 26 July 1810. Their elder son, John, was born on 7 July 1811; the second William Hardie, on 7 December 1813; and the much younger James Murdoch on 15 December 1823. Like so many other wrights at the time their father and his brother William, and their father before them, provided architectural drawings when required.

Of the three brothers the eldest, John, was essentially self-taught and had 'indomitable perseverance and energy of purpose. His surviving letters give a vivid picture of his forthright personality. In his brother James's words 'he was educated chiefly as a surveyor in the city of Edinburgh [and] had early imbibed a strong partiality for the classic styles, and so early had be become imbued with a love of architecture, that in 1834 he was employed to design a monument in his native town on the banks of the Tweed, to the memory of Sir Charles Marjoribanks, the member for Berwickshire. Shortly after this he obtained an engagement in Liverpool… Gradually his classic leanings gave way as he watched the progress of the new style [Gothic] and his mind was thrown back on the study of medieval examples'. Less is known of the training of the second brother, William, who commenced practice at 19 St James Square, Edinburgh, in or before 1837 and became one of the architects favoured by the Free Church Building Society after the Disruption of 1843. The much younger James was probably articled to one of his brothers, and may have been sent for experience to Edmund Sharpe at Lancaster as the best informed gothic revival architect in that area as the resemblance between some of their work and that of Sharpe's assistant and partner Edward Graham Paley suggests.

By 1847 or earlier William and James were also based in Liverpool helping with the volume of business in Merseyside and Cumbria, although initially the success of the practice seems to have been almost entirely based on responding to advertisements for architects in provincial northern English and Scottish newspapers as well as the national press. They obtained the commission for the Free Church in Portree directly and won the competition for St John's Anglican Church in Perth, both in 1847; and through the influence of Peter Drummond, the Stirling seedsman, one of the leading lights in the Free Church and the founder of the Stirling Tract Enterprise, they obtained the commission for Stirling North Church in 1852, designed in a distinctly Puginian style. It made their name and their work won the generous praise of James Maclaren in 'The Building Chronicle'. Thereafter their Scottish practice was as much as based on being directly commissioned as on competitions; and although the Stirling church had been of nave-and-aisles form, their early experience as joiners stood them in good stead when they began designing T-plan and oblong wide-span preaching churches with arched laminated principals. The oblong plan churches had a convincing neo-Medieval appearance externally, modelled on Pugin's St Oswald's at Liverpool with its diagonally buttressed tower, but with very original spires. While their success was undoubtedly based on their masterly adaptation of medieval forms, their success with Low Church and Free Church congregations was also fostered by their generous espousal of evangelical and charitable causes: they were 'liberal in theology as well as politics'.

In 1854-55 the Hays built the large towered Greenock Academy without a hitch, but they were less lucky at Stirling where plans approved in 1852 were implemented in 1854, payments to the contractors were allowed to run ahead of actual work, and the contractors declared themselves unable to complete their contract in November 1855. The failure of supervision resulted from chronic over-commitment on widely scattered Scottish sites, the major commission for the new town at Silloth, and a large house in Portugal. It quickly led to the progressive loss of their Scottish practice, their win for the Edinburgh Free Tolbooth Church being cancelled in June 1856 and the commission for St Mary's Free Church, Edinburgh, where the Deacon's Court was particularly difficult, in July 1858. The final professional disaster came in 1860 when the roof of their only classical church, Augustine in Edinburgh began to push out the walls and as at the Free Tolbooth they were superseded by Bryce. The problems there again stemmed from being unable to exercise adequate supervision, James recording that John who dealt almost exclusively with the Scottish practice had been suffering a 'fatal disease', presumably cancer, which had been 'insidiously …operating over his whole system'. John died at Westbury-on-Severn on 3 November 1861, his usual residence being 25 Oxton Road, Birkenhead. The practice itself was based at Delta Chambers, Liverpool. John left a widow and an infant son, William Hardie Hay II, who became a Glasgow-based landscape painter.

Thereafter William and James confined their practice to north-west England undertaking work in Scotland only when directly commissioned. A change of both style and plan is discernible in the practice even before John's death, evidently as a result of the disaster at Augustine: The wide span plans of the 1850s were superseded by galleried plans with cast-iron columns. Their style also changed: although the spires retained their distinctive proportions, their refined late Decorated tracery was replaced by hard Early Geometrical forms.

Although the practice had continued to flourish in Liverpool at a slightly reduced level, it closed after William died at West Kirby on 21 July 1901. James lived on in retirement at Foenum Lodge, Heswall until his death in October 1915. Like his elder brothers he was an outspoken radical to the end, campaigning for peace, prohibition and women's suffrage in the belief that their vote would pave the way to social reform of every description.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 2Foenum Lodge, Heswall, Cheshire, EnglandPrivate 1915 
Item 2 of 259, Canning Place, Birkenhead, Cheshire, EnglandPrivate1861 *  

* 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 3Edmund Sharpe  ApprenticePerhaps worked as apprentice to Sharpe
Item 2 of 3J, W H & J M Hay ('The Hays of Liverpool')18481861Partner 
Item 3 of 3W & J Hay18611901Partner 

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 751850sKeith HallInverurie AberdeenshireScotlandConsulted on work at house
Item 2 of 751850Portree Free ChurchPortreeSkyeInverness-shireScotlandJohn Hay nominally responsible
Item 3 of 751850St John's Schools  LiverpoolEngland 
Item 4 of 751850St John's Anglican ChurchPerth PerthshireScotland 
Item 5 of 751851North Free ChurchStirling StirlingshireScotland 
Item 6 of 751852Church at EvertonEverton LiverpoolEngland 
Item 7 of 751852Crathie Free ChurchCrathie AberdeenshireScotlandFirst church
Item 8 of 751852Helensburgh Free ChurchHelensburgh DunbartonshireScotlandOriginal building
Item 9 of 751852Liverpool Hebrews' Educational Institution and Endowed Schools  LiverpoolEngland 
Item 10 of 751852Parmount ChurchSt Helens LancashireEngland 
Item 11 of 751852Ragged SchoolStirling StirlingshireScotland 
Item 12 of 751852St Thomas's Church, HeptonstallCalderdale YorkshireEngland 
Item 13 of 75c. 1852(?)Claremont Street UP Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 14 of 751852 or 1854Christ Church Episcopal Church  EdinburghScotland 
Item 15 of 751853Balquhidder Parish ChurchBalquhidder PerthshireScotland 
Item 16 of 751853St Blane's Free ChurchDunblane PerthshireScotland 
Item 17 of 751853Wellpark Free ChurchGreenock RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 18 of 751853Wellpark Free Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 19 of 751853Wynd Free Church  GlasgowScotlandBegan the job
Item 20 of 751854Chalmers Free ChurchBridge of Allan StirlingshireScotlandOriginal building
Item 21 of 751854Greenock AcademyGreenock RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 22 of 751854St Andrews Episcopal ChurchCallander PerthshireScotland 
Item 23 of 751854St Paul's Church, TranmereBirkenhead CheshireEngland 
Item 24 of 751854Stirling High SchoolStirling StirlingshireScotlandOriginal building
Item 25 of 751854West Free ChurchAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 26 of 751855Buccleuch Free Church  EdinburghScotland 
Item 27 of 751855East Free ChurchBrechin AngusScotlandConstructed after winning design competition
Item 28 of 751855Female Industrial School and schoolhouseErrol PerthshireScotland 
Item 29 of 751855Mission ChurchGorbals GlasgowScotland 
Item 30 of 751855Music HallBradford YorkshireEngland 
Item 31 of 751855St Oswald's Church, BidstonBirkenhead CheshireEnglandNave, retaining medieval tower
Item 32 of 751855Viewforth HouseStirling StirlingshireScotland 
Item 33 of 751856Aberdeen Grammar School  AberdeenScotlandUnsuccessful competition design
Item 34 of 751856Free Church College  GlasgowScotlandUnsuccessful competition design
Item 35 of 751856Free Church, Main StreetCambuslang LanarkshireScotland 
Item 36 of 751856Free St John's Mission ChurchGallowgate GlasgowScotland 
Item 37 of 751856Free Tolbooth Church  EdinburghScotlandWon design competition but commission subsequently given to Bryce after Hays' failure to produce full report by 9 June
Item 38 of 751856St James Episcopal SchoolLeith EdinburghScotland 
Item 39 of 751856St Mary's Free Church and Manse  EdinburghScotlandReceived original commission and went through several stages of design; subsequently dropped, and a competition held
Item 40 of 751856St Vincent's Episcopal Church  EdinburghScotland 
Item 41 of 751857Augustine Church  EdinburghScotland 
Item 42 of 751857Free Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 43 of 751857Holy TrinitySt Helens LancashireEngland 
Item 44 of 751857Kingswells Free ChurchKingswells AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 45 of 751857Presbyterian Church, Rock FerryBirkenhead CheshireEngland 
Item 46 of 751857St John's Free ChurchGourock RenfrewshireScotlandNave and tower base.
Item 47 of 751857Street layouts and Italianate terracesSilloth CumberlandEngland 
Item 48 of 751858Church of ScotlandBerwick-upon-Tweed NorthumberlandEngland 
Item 49 of 751858Corn ExchangeKirkcaldy FifeScotland 
Item 50 of 751858St HilaryWallasey CheshireEnglandRebuilt, retaining medieval tower
Item 51 of 751858St Mary's Church and SchoolStoke-on-Trent StaffordshireEngland 
Item 52 of 751859Maule Memorial Free Church, TarfsideGlenesk AngusScotland 
Item 53 of 751860Bothwell Free ChurchBothwell LanarkshireScotland 
Item 54 of 751860Leven Free ChurchLeven FifeScotland 
Item 55 of 751860Stirling Tract DepotStirling StirlingshireScotland 
Item 56 of 75c. 1860Craigbuckler House  AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 57 of 751861St John the DivineFrankby CheshireEngland 
Item 58 of 751862Liverpool Exchange  LiverpoolEnglandUnsuccessful competition design
Item 59 of 751862United Presbyterian ChurchMoffat DumfriesshireScotland 
Item 60 of 751863Holy TrinityStartforth YorkshireEngland 
Item 61 of 751864Caldy ManorCaldy CheshireEnglandAlterations and additions
Item 62 of 751864Trinity Presbyterian Church, ClaughtonBirkenhead CheshireEngland 
Item 63 of 751865Chester Town HallChester CheshireEnglandCompetition design exhibited
Item 64 of 751865Holy Trinity ChurchClaughton LancashireEngland 
Item 65 of 75Before 1865Memorial window to the late John Hay, Esq   England 
Item 66 of 75c. 1865'Residence in Portugal'   Portugal 
Item 67 of 751866St James's ChurchHaydock LancashireEngland 
Item 68 of 751866St Peter's ChurchGreat Asby WestmorlandEngland 
Item 69 of 751867Christ ChurchAughton LancashireEngland 
Item 70 of 751876St James's ChurchWest Derby LiverpoolEnglandAddition of chancel
Item 71 of 751877Fountainbridge Evangelical Union ChurchFountainbridge EdinburghScotland 
Item 72 of 751883Free ChurchLanark LanarkshireScotland 
Item 73 of 751883Hope CottageLanark LanarkshireScotland'probably' (Hay)
Item 74 of 751886Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, first competition  LiverpoolEnglandSubmitted plans uninvited and was not considered by Christian
Item 75 of 751897Dunbar Parish ChurchDunbar East LothianScotlandReconstruction, and addition of chancel


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 1Walker, David M2002Presbyterian Variations on Themes by Sharpe and Pugin:The Scottish Work of the Hays of Liverpool Architectural Heritage XIII, Journal of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, pp99-127 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1Liverpool Post and Mercury15 October 1915  Obituary