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Basic Biographical Details

Name: Gordon Thomas Tait
Designation: Architect
Born: 20 March 1912
Died: 3 October 1999
Bio Notes: Gordon Thomas Tait was born in London on 20 March 1912, the eldest son of Thomas Smith Tait and his wife Constance Hardy. Despite a desire to become a sculptor, he was persuaded instead to follow his father into the profession of architecture, and studied at the Architectural Association with his younger brother Kenneth from 1930 to 1935. In 1933-34 he acted as clerk of works under his father's partner Francis Lorne on the Mount Royal flats in London's Oxford Street, during which time he amused himself sketching the workmen on the project. In 1935 and 1936 he found employment as an assistant first to Alliston & Drew and then to Hugh Minty, and in 1936 he re-joined his father's firm of Burnet Tait & Lorne, working on the Glasgow Empire Exhibition of 1938 and on housing schemes. He was admitted ARIBA on 3 April 1939, his proposers being his father, Minty and Joseph Emberton. His FRIBA nomination papers suggest that he was made a partner in the practice in that year, but soon afterwards he joined the RAF and served in Rhodesia during the Second World War, reaching the rank of squadron leader.

After the war the practice was in some financial difficulty as a result of the sharp decline in business, the death of Ludovic Gordon Farquhar and the cancellation of the Colonial Office commission. Gordon Tait gradually took over the London practice from his father who remained a partner up to the time of his death; the younger Tait was admitted FRIBA in 1948, Basil Spence being among his proposers. From that year his main residence was at Bedford Square.

Francis Lorne remained in charge of the Edinburgh office until he moved to South Africa c.1949. In order to inject new capital Gordon Tait reluctantly took on new partners F Kennedy Axten, E A Blade, H G Hammond and C Spencer Willmott - not all of whom he liked - in the London practice, its title changing to Sir John Burnet Tait & Partners (later abbreviated to Burnet Tait). The turbulent post-war economic conditions soon gave way to a massive increase in commissions, particularly for corporate headquarters buildings, schools and housing: the practice also expanded overseas, opening an office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where it built the King Faisal Hospital.

Gordon Tait took an active part in public life as a conservative councillor in Paddington and as Master of the Worshipful Company of Masons. He married twice: first in 1934 to Patricia, by whom he had two children. The elder of these, Gavin, continued the practice. Patricia died in 1960. By his second wife, Marion, Tait had three children.

Tait retired in 1979 at the age of sixty-seven. He left London to live at Ladymead, East Harting, Petersfield, which he had bought in 1962 as a weekend and holiday home, and where he assembled an important collection of vintage cars and rode. He also owned and raced a sailing dinghy - a Flying Fifteen - which he kept at Hayling Island, conveniently close to Petersfield.

In his later years Tait suffered somewhat from back problems, but characteristically remained on his feet. He died on 3 October 1999. He was married twice, first in 1934 to Patricia who died in 1960 and by whom he had two sons and second in 1977 to Marion by whom he had three children. He was a man of impressive presence, bearded in his youth but with a military moustache after the war. Although described by obituarists as quiet and retiring, which in some respects he was, he was forthright and no-nonsense in manner, going straight to the crux of any issue.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 31, Montague Place, London WC1, EnglandBusiness1939 *  
Item 2 of 310, Bedford Square, London, EnglandPrivate/business19481978 
Item 3 of 3Ladymead, East Harting, Petersfield, Hampshire, EnglandPrivate19621999Weekend and holiday home

* 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 6(Sir) John Burnet, Tait & Lorne19341935AssistantAssisted his father in Glasgow, and subsequently worked in London under Lorne
Item 2 of 6Alliston & Drew1935Before 1936Assistant 
Item 3 of 6Robert James Hugh MintyAfter 19351936Assistant 
Item 4 of 6(Sir) John Burnet, Tait & Lorne1936After 1939Assistant(?)Gradually took over the practice
Item 5 of 6(Sir) John Burnet, Tait & LorneAfter 1939c. 1949Partner 
Item 6 of 6(Sir) John Burnet, Tait, & Partners1947 Partner 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 5Joseph Emberton3 April 1939for Associateship
Item 2 of 5Robert James Hugh Minty3 April 1939for Associateship
Item 3 of 5(Sir) Basil Urwin Spence1948for Fellowship
Item 4 of 5Thomas Smith Tait3 April 1939for Associateship
Item 5 of 5Thomas Smith Tait5 May 1948For Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 4George Gilroy Graham1 March 1955For Associateship
Item 2 of 4Thomas Kenneth Jack1 October 1969For Fellowship
Item 3 of 4Horace George Marsh10 March 1956for Associateship
Item 4 of 4Leonard George PargiterEarly 1953For 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 3 Joseph Tritton SchoolBattersea LondonEnglandProbably responsible for revision of scheme
Item 2 of 31933Mount Royal Flats  LondonEnglandAs assistant clerk of works under his father, Thomas Smith Tait
Item 3 of 31936Glasgow Empire Exhibition, masterplanBellahouston GlasgowScotlandWorked with his father, Thomas Smith Tait on masterplan


Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1Herald, The4 December 1999  Obituary p18

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Information from Gordon Tait's son Russell Tait, per Dawn McDowell
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers A no7182 (combined box 177); F no4395 (combined box 12)


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© All rights reserved. Scottish Architect and Builder's Journal 1938