Basic Biographical Details

Name: James Leslie
Designation: Engineer
Born: 25 September 1801
Died: 29 December 1889
Bio Notes: James Leslie was born on 25 September 1801, the son of Alexander Leslie, architect-builder of Largo, Fife. He was educated at local parish schools and at Mackay's Academy, Edinburgh, and studied at the University of Edinburgh. In 1818 he was articled to William Hugh Playfair. However, he decided to become a civil engineer rather than an architect, and left Playfair in 1824 to work in the offices of G & J Rennie in London.

He returned to Scotland to take up an appointment as Clerk of Works to the Leith Dock and Harbour Commissioners in 1828, and in 1832 secured the post of Resident Engineer for the Dundee Harbour Works. Thereafter he continued to practise as a civil engineer specialising in harbour and water works, moving to Edinburgh in 1846 as Engineer to the Edinburgh Water Company.

He later acted as Engineer to the Dundee Water Company, which was taken over by the Town Council in 1869, and was involved with proposals for its water supply at that period, along with John Frederic La Trobe Bateman. The town's water commissioners appointed Bateman as their engineer and provided him with reports by the burgh engineer John Fulton and the Edinburgh engineer James W Stewart of Stewart & Menzies who recommended drawing water from the River Isla, and from Leslie who recommended the Loch of Lintrathen as providing a better and purer supply. Bateman concurred with Leslie's recommendation and produced a scheme which received the royal assent in 1871; but the commissioners then obtained a further report from Stewart who recommended substituting a direct line of cast-iron pipes instead of the gentler fall achieved by a combination of pipes, reservoirs and aqueducts proposed by Bateman. At a meeting of the commissioners in October Stewart's direct line was approved, although William Robertson, its mill engineer convener, strongly dissented. In an unsolicited report of January 1872 Bateman set out the problems of the unprecedented pressures which would arise from Stewart's scheme and proposed a direct line of his own with lesser gradients: he also refuted allegations of extravagance. Leslie then proposed a partial modification of Stewart's scheme but Stewart declined to change it, as did the Commissioners. The pipes burst and the joints leaked as Bateman and Robertson predicted and the scheme had to be modified under powers obtained in the Dundee Water (Additional Powers) Act of 1874.

Although he did not practise officially as an architect, he did design buildings from time to time, including Wood's Hospital, Largo (1830) and Dundee Custom House (1839-40). By 1872 he had taken his son Alexander Leslie (born 1844) into partnership as J & A Leslie.

James Leslie died in Edinburgh on 29 December 1889, and is commemorated by a monument in the Dean Cemetery. His practice was continued by his son Alexander and his son-in-law Robert Carstairs Reid, who appears to have been taken into partnership a couple of years earlier, as J & A Leslie & Reid. The son died in 1893. James's grandson Alexander Leslie (1881-1921) and great-grandson of the same name (1910-82) were also civil engineers.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this engineer:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 1Dundee, ScotlandBusiness   

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this engineer (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 2J & A LeslieBefore 1872c. 1887Partner 
Item 2 of 2J & A Leslie & Reidc. 18871889Partner 

Buildings and Designs

This engineer 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 371830Wood's HospitalUpper Largo FifeScotlandRebuilding
Item 2 of 371832Earl Grey Dock  DundeeScotlandActed as Superintending Engineer
Item 3 of 371833Camperdown Dock  DundeeScotlandTide harbour begun (not completed)
Item 4 of 371833Victoria Dock (with Swing and pedestrian bridges)  DundeeScotlandFollowing Thomas Telford's projections
Item 5 of 37c. 1834Telford Light  DundeeScotlandWith Thomas Telford as consultant
Item 6 of 371837Harbour workshops and patent slip  DundeeScotland 
Item 7 of 371838Methil Harbour and DocksMethil FifeScotlandRestoration
Item 8 of 371839Arbroath HarbourArbroath AngusScotlandWet Dock and New Harbour
Item 9 of 371839Dundee Custom House and Harbour Chambers  DundeeScotlandCollaborated with John Taylor on original building (Leslie was mainly responsible for the plan)
Item 10 of 371839Leven BridgeLeven FifeScotland 
Item 11 of 371843Auldbar Castle  AngusScotlandBridge and new approach
Item 12 of 371843Kirkcaldy Harbour, East PierKirkcaldy FifeScotlandAddition
Item 13 of 371845Finlathen Aqueduct  DundeeScotland 
Item 14 of 371846Burntisland Harbour, pier, engineering workshop and conversion of manse to hotelBurntisland FifeScotlandExtension of pier
Item 15 of 371846Leith Docks, Old East DockLeith EdinburghScotlandImprovements
Item 16 of 371847Burntisland Harbour, improvementsBurntisland FifeScotland 
Item 17 of 371848Aqueduct over the Fithie BurnBurnside of Duntrune AngusScotland 
Item 18 of 371848Gagie Lodge, filters and aqueductGagie AngusScotlandFilters lodge and aqueduct
Item 19 of 371848Pile LighthouseFerryport-on-Craig FifeScotland'Probably' (HS)
Item 20 of 371848Wellbank, Little Gagie Farm, aqueductMurroes AngusScotland 
Item 21 of 37c. 1853Dock Buildings, Old Custom House and ancillary buildingsMontrose AngusScotland 
Item 22 of 371856Sea wall, north of St Andrews CathedralSt Andrews FifeScotland 
Item 23 of 371861HarbourStranraer WigtownshireScotlandEast Pier
Item 24 of 371872West Wemyss harbourWest Wemyss FifeScotlandWet dock
Item 25 of 371872West Wemyss, harbourWest Wemyss FifeScotland 
Item 26 of 371873Clepington Sluice ChamberClepington DundeeScotland 
Item 27 of 371873Lawton Reservoir with cottage, railings and gates  DundeeScotland 
Item 28 of 371874Clatto Reservoir  DundeeScotland 
Item 29 of 371875Alnwickhill ReservoirLiberton EdinburghScotland 
Item 30 of 371879Gladhouse ReservoirTemple MidlothianScotland 
Item 31 of 371879Water TowerDalkeith MidlothianScotland 
Item 32 of 371880Edgelaw ReservoirCarrington MidlothianScotland 
Item 33 of 371880Rosebery Reservoir  MidlothianScotland 
Item 34 of 371882Williamwath BridgeDalton DumfriesshireScotlandSuperstructure
Item 35 of 371887Store reservoir on the Gask BurnRoscobie (Rescobie?) (near) FifeScotland 
Item 36 of 371888Alnwickhill ReservoirLiberton EdinburghScotlandSecond phase completed
Item 37 of 37Before 1889Lintrathen Reservoir, Main Lodge with stable  AngusScotlandWas the principal engineer on this job but lodge etc were by James Watson CE


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this engineer:
Item 1 of 4Colvin, H M1995A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-18403rd editionNew Haven and London: Yale University Press 
Item 2 of 4Institution of Civil Engineers2002Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers V.1 and 2 
Item 3 of 4Pride, Glen L1999The Kingdom of Fife2nd EditionThe Rutland Pressp175
Item 4 of 4Scotlands People Website Wills & Testaments  Edinburgh Sheriff Court Wills Sc70/4/243 and Inventories SC70/1/282