Basic Biographical Details

Name: John William Small
Designation: Architect
Born: 3 October 1851 or 8 October 1851
Died: 1911
Bio Notes: John William Small was born in the parish of Liff and Benvie in Angus on 3 (or 8) October 1851, the son of George Small, joiner, and his wife Catherine Anderson who had inherited properties in Hawkhill, Wilkie's Land and Fleuchar Street, Dundee, from John and Christopher Kerr, the joint Town Clerks of Dundee.

Small was articled to an unidentified architect in Dundee, but by 1870 his outstanding draughtsmanship had secured him a place in the office of Robert Rowand Anderson: in that year he produced a survey of Craigmillar Castle which was published, and in 1872 he was Anderson's supervising assistant at the restorations of St Vigean's Church. From that same year, if not earlier, he began entering competitions, and exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy. From Anderson's office he gained a senior's assistant's post with Peddie & Kinnear, probably about 1873-1876. During that period he lived at Rosemount Buildings (1873), 1 St David's Terrace (1875) and 16 Caledonian Place (1876).

In 1876 Small commenced independent practice with a sizeable commission for a country mansion which was built and exhibited at the RSA in 1877, but this has not been identified, but as he had no other work he became an assistant with William Scott Morton to gain experience on interior design and high quality woodwork. The country house commission, and probably also his marriage to Margaret Isabella Myles, born 24 September 1854 and living at 1 Fordie Lane Invergowrie led to a significant improvement in his circumstances. She appears to have had some sort of inheritance or marriage settlement. In that same year, 1876, Small became a freemason at Edinburgh Lodge St Andrew no 36 and in the following year set uphouse at a more up-market address, 18 Picardy Place, and published his first book, 'Scottish Woodwork of the 16th and 17th centuries' which proved popular and went into a second edition in 1878.

In 1880 Small commenced full independent practice as architect and interior and furniture designer at 56 George Street in Edinburgh, now with an even more prestigious house at 3 Charlotte Square. In the same year he published 'Leaves from my Sketchbooks' and was admitted a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in Scotland, publishing papers in its proceedings from 1881. By 1882 he was on the sketchbooks committee of the Edinburgh Architectural Association to which he gave a lecture on furniture design and manufacture which may have provided useful publicity for his forthcoming book 'Ancient and Modern Furniture' published in the following year and although the account of his career in the 'Stirling Sentinel' does not refer to it, he appears to have been the John William Small who was the author of 'The Castles and Mansions of the Lothians', illustrated one hundred and three high quality photographic plates.

The latter book may have involved higher outlays than Small could afford and in the severe recession following the final call on the shareholders of the City of Glasgow Bank in 1881 his George Street practice may have proved unsustainable. By April 1884 he had moved to Beith to manage Matthew and John Pollock's furniture works. Together with Robert Balfour, another furniture maker there, they had probably been his principal clients and it may simply be a matter of moving where the business was: but it must also have been to gain experience of managing a furniture works as after little more than a year, in 1885 or early 1886, he had started manufacturing furniture on his own account in Stirling, initially at 65-67 Wallace Street and then in purpose-built premises Forth Street where he had taken a feu in Cow Park from Cowan's Hospital. This took the title of The North British Art Furniture Works and at its peak employed some thirty cabinetmakers and a number of part-time female polishers: a substantial part of its business appears to have been for the 3rd Marquess of Bute's refurnishings at Falkland. A neat cubic villa with rectangular bays, Heathfield, was built for Small's own occupation on the adjoining site some time before 1890. Small's initial success in Stirling encouraged him to enter politics. H became a part proprietor of a local newspaper, The Stirling Sentinel, and he was elected to the Town Council and made a burgess in 1887: this however proved counter productive as his public support for a Caledonian Railway bill incurred the enmity of Provost Yellowlees and Treasurer Gray who were supporters of rival proposals from the Stirling and Western Railway. He was 'hounded from office' but re-elected in November 1891 and appointed Master of his Lodge, Ancient no 30.

Although back in January 1891, probably in attempt to expand his company's business, he became the partner of Edward Howell in Alexander, Howell & Small, house and ship furnishers, 108 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, with a capital of 15,000 in 5 shares. This went into liquidation within six months and between September and December 1892 the stock of the North British Art Furniture Works was sold off. In 1892 a notice appeared in the press that he and his wife had registered a deed, in the register of deeds, in terms of the Married Women's Property (Scotland) Act 1881. The date of this notice, and the addresses in the notice, suggest that the deed was drawn up at the time of marriage, and made public to protect her property at a time when he seems to have been financially embarrassed.

An attempt to revive business in February 1893 failed despite the patronage of the 3rd Marquess of Bute and Small thereafter pursued an only moderately successful career as an architect and decorator until 1897 -98 when he was living at Ardlair, Fairfield Road, Inverness which was rented from a Mr James Grant, having secured the post of 'principal traveller' to a firm of cabinetmakers there. During this period when business was at a low ebb Small again turned to book production, 'Old Stirling' appearing with lithograph illustrations in 1897 and 'Scottish Market Crosses' in 1900 aft6er several years of survey.

Small's formal departure from Stirling was marked by a 'farewell dinner' in July 1898 by which date he had been in Inverness for nearly a year although his wife still owned the properties in Forth Street. But by 1901 he was again practising as an architect from 33 Mill Lane, Montrose, and it was probably at that date there were discussions about a partnership with the Dundee architect William Gauldie, a family friend with Invergowrie connections who was twenty-five years his junior. In the event Small emigrated to Johannesburg in 1902, leaving Gauldie to execute his designs for the market cross at Culross. Johnston gives his address as Hopkins Street, Bellevue East, Rustenburg. He died there in 1911 (David Jones) but Johnston records his death as being 1930, perhaps that of a son, as Sinclair Gauldie (born 1918) did not think Small had been alive in his lifetime.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 1363, Rosemount Buildings, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/business(?)18731875 
Item 2 of 131, St David's Terrace, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/business(?)1875  
Item 3 of 1316, Caledonian Place, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness18761877 
Item 4 of 1318, Picardy Place, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/business(?)1878  
Item 5 of 1356, George Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 18781883 
Item 6 of 133, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1880c. 1883(?) 
Item 7 of 1365-67, Wallace Street, Stirling, Stirlingshire, ScotlandBusiness18851886 
Item 8 of 1320, Murray Place, Stirling, Stirlingshire, ScotlandPrivate1885c. 1887 
Item 9 of 1313, Dumbarton Road, Stirling, Stirlingshire, ScotlandBusiness18851891 
Item 10 of 1320-24, Forth Street, Stirling, Stirlingshire, ScotlandBusiness18861891 
Item 11 of 13Heathfield/26, Forth Street, Stirling, Stirlingshire, ScotlandBusinessc. 18871898 
Item 12 of 13Ardlair, Fairfield Road, Inverness, Inverness-shire, ScotlandPrivate18971899 
Item 13 of 1333, Mill Lane, Montrose, Angus, ScotlandBusinessc. 19001902 

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 221872St Columba's Parish ChurchOban ArgyllScotlandCompetition design - not successful
Item 2 of 221873John Knox Monument   ScotlandDesign exhibited
Item 3 of 221877Country mansion   Scotland 
Item 4 of 221878Congregational ChurchCoatbridge LanarkshireScotland 
Item 5 of 221882House at Laigh ParkArdrossan AyrshireScotlandInterior work - mantelpiece wall for dining room
Item 6 of 221882House near Manchester  ManchesterEnglandDesign of some interiors - side board wall of dining room
Item 7 of 221882St Duthac's ChurchTain Ross and CromartyScotlandMonuments to Thomas Hogg and Patrick Hamilton on east wall
Item 8 of 221883Earnock HouseHamilton LanarkshireScotlandInterior of dining room - mantelpiece end of dining room
Item 9 of 221884Dunlop Parish ChurchDunlop AyrshireScotlandNorma Smith states that John William Small was responsible for 1884 work but Buildings of Scotland indicate that the work was by John Small of Beith.
Item 10 of 22c. 188422 James StreetStirling StirlingshireScotland 
Item 11 of 221886HeathfieldStirling StirlingshireScotland 
Item 12 of 221886North British Art Furniture Works factoryStirling StirlingshireScotland 
Item 13 of 221886North British Art Furniture Works showroomsStirling StirlingshireScotland 
Item 14 of 221889Church of the Holy RudeStirling StirlingshireScotlandRefurnishing of east chuurch and probably new organ case. Removed on reunification of church
Item 15 of 221889North ChurchStirling StirlingshireScotlandRenovation and part refurnishing, under supervision of John Allan, architect, Stirling
Item 16 of 221889Sauchie Parish ChurchSauchie StirlingshireScotlandRedecoration and refurnishing
Item 17 of 221890Kirkintilloch Parish ChurchKirkintilloch Lanarkshire/DunbartonshireScotlandAlterations
Item 18 of 22c. 1891Stirling High SchoolStirling StirlingshireScotlandFurnishing of writing room in new wing
Item 19 of 221896Church of the Holy RudeStirling StirlingshireScotlandRestoration of Moir of Leckie vault in west church and reduction by one bay to expose nave walls. Rowand Anderson appointed to supervise at suggestion of John Allan, architect
Item 20 of 221896Inglis Memorial Hall and LibraryEdzell AngusScotlandCompetition design - unsuccessful
Item 21 of 221896North British Art Furniture Works factoryStirling StirlingshireScotlandRebuilt as two-storey flatted dwellings after no buyer found for factory. Advertised from 27 September 1891 onwards
Item 22 of 221902Market CrossCulross FifeScotlandNew shaft and head, and restoration of base - designer with Gauldie as executant architect


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 2Pride, Glen L1999The Kingdom of Fife2nd EditionThe Rutland Pressp28
Item 2 of 2Smith, Norma1991John William Small: his life and work University of St Andrews MA dissertation 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 3Edinburgh Gazette9 September 189210395 p1033
Item 2 of 3People's Journal7 March 1883  Article entitled 'How art furniture is made'
Item 3 of 3Stirling Sentinel26 July 1898  Summary of his career at his farewell dinner

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Courtesy of Rob CloseInformation via 'Contact Us' on website Sent January 2012
Item 2 of 2Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Personal information from Sinclair Gauldie