Basic Biographical Details
|Name: ||Archibald Leitch & Partners |
|Designation: ||Architectural practice |
|Started: ||1927(?) |
|Ended: ||1956(?) |
|Bio Notes: ||Archibald Leitch (generally known as Archie) was born on 27 April 1865 in Comleypark Street, Camlachie, Glasgow, the fourth of six children of Archibald Leitch, blacksmith, who may have worked at William Beardmore's nearby Parkhead Forge. Archie was educated at Hutcheson's Grammar School from 1876 to 1880, and subsequently at Anderson's College. In 1882 he joined the engineering company of Duncan Stewart & Co at their London Road Iron Works at Bridgeton Cross, becoming a draughtsman in 1887, but towards the end of the latter year he left to train as a marine engineer. Over the next three years he travelled widely, and it was probably at this period that he spent some time working in India; he also had links with family and friends in South Africa, and continued to undertake frequent travels throughout his life. |
He returned to Glasgow in early 1890, and in June that year married Jessie Black, the daughter of a dairyman who lived near his family home. He re-entered Duncan Stewart's drawing office, but left before the end of the year, after only eight months, to take a senior position as the head of the Ordering Department in the Scotland Street drawing office of Mirlees, Watson & Co, which, like Stewart's firm, specialised in the manufacture of machinery for the sugar industry. He and Jessie set up home in McLellan Street, Kinning Park but left a few years later for the cleaner air of Mount Florida, and Archie began teaching at the evening classes of the Glasgow Athenaeum, the Glasgow School Board and the Christian Institute. It was probably in the early 1890s that Leitch became a freemason.
In 1896 Leitch left Mirlees, Watson & Co to commence practice on his own account as a 'Consulting and Inspecting Engineer', taking an office at 40 St Enoch Square. He was made a member of the Institute of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland in December that year, and in February the following year applied to become an associate of the London-based Institution of Mechanical Engineers. His nomination papers state that he had recently been appointed Consulting Engineer to the Lanarkshire County Council, Middle Ward, and his proposers were all important Scottish engineers: his former employers Sir William Renny Watson (of Mirlees, Watson & Co) and Duncan Stewart; locomotive engineer Charles Davies; mining engineer John Robertson; and, perhaps most significantly, Sir William Arrol, perhaps the most prominent engineer of the time.
Soon after commencing independent practice, Leitch took into partnership Harry Davies, an experienced civil engineer who was probably the son of Charles Davies, and who had recently returned from a twenty-year period working on railway construction projects in India. Over the following years, Leitch & Davies worked mainly on industrial commissions. In March 1899 Leitch received a commission from Rangers Football Club, for the design of their new Ibrox Park stadium. The largest purpose-built football venue the world had ever seen, it opened in April 1900. Leitch proved his devotion to the team by claiming no fees for the design of the stadium.
Leitch became a full member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in March 1902, by which time his firm employed some 30 hands and he was acting for three local councils as well as for the Kroonstaad Corporation in South Africa. It was around this time that Davies returned to India, leaving Leitch to continue his practice alone. On 5 April the same year, during an England v Scotland game at Ibrox Park, disaster struck when a section of the south-west terrace collapsed, resulting in 25 deaths and some 516 injuries. Leitch, greatly scarred by the tragedy, believed it to be the fault of timber merchant Alexander MacDougall, who had used inferior timber and joints contrary to Leitch's instructions; but MacDougall was found not guilty in the ensuing trial. Despite the controversy, and after having initially approaching architect John Gordon, Rangers nevertheless decided to retain Leitch as their consulting engineer, and he went on to become the foremost designer of football grounds of his generation, working for numerous other football clubs undertaking work at most of the major grounds around Britain. He was closely involved in the world of football administration and frequently advised a number of clubs on improvements to their grounds, using his contacts to help clubs find funding.
Leitch also continued to undertake factory and consultancy work. In 1903 he commenced work on the Sentinel Works in Jessie Street, Polmadie, Glasgow's first building in reinforced concrete. He went on to become an innovator in steel construction, his first double-decker grandstand appearing in 1907. He patented a number of designs, amongst them steel crush barriers, including one version incorporating a tubular hand-rail which doubled as a pipe to supply water for pitch irrigation.
Leitch moved his office to 34 Argyle Arcade at 30 Buchanan Street in 1906. Around 1909, with Glasgow's economy in decline, he and his family left for Liverpool, which was experiencing an engineering and shipping boom. They stayed there until the early months of the First World War, when they settled at a prestigious address in London - Lonsdale House, Barnes, formerly the home of a member of the Wedgwood family. Leitch remained in practice in London thereafter.
Leitch's stadium designs developed little after the First World War, especially when compared to the concrete cantilevered stands being built in France, Italy, Germany, Argentina and elsewhere. Nevertheless, his business continued to be successful, and many of his stands remain in use today.
In 1935 Archie and Jessie Leitch made their final move, to a new semi-detached house in Cockfosters, North London. Archie retired the following year, leaving his business in the hands of his first son, Archibald Kent Leitch (Archie Junior), who was born in April 1891 and who had joined the firm before 1920 and become a partner in 1927. At that time Archie Junior was still living with his parents; he did not marry until 1938.
Archie died in his bed on 25 April 1939, leaving moveable estate of £2,111 12s 9d. He was buried in the family plot in East Sheen, alongside his two daughters, Jeannie (c.1896-c.1918) and Nancy (c.1904-1933). His son Archie Junior continued the business under the name of Archibald Leitch & Partners. Archie was also survived by his wife and by another daughter, also called Jessie, who had given him two grandchildren. The grandchildren recalled that Archie always had a twinkle in his eye and could fill a house with laughter.
During and after the Second World War, work for the practice was thin on the ground. The last listing for the firm appears in 1955; it is believed that Archie Junior retired the following year.
Private and Business Addresses
|The following private or business addresses are associated with this architectural practice:|
| ||Address||Type||Date from||Date to||Notes|
|London, England||Business|| || || |
Employment and Training
Employees or Pupils
Buildings and Designs
|The following books contain references to this architectural practice:|
|Inglis, Simon||2005||Engineering Archie: Archibald Leitch - football ground designer|| ||London: English Heritage|| |
|RCAHMS||1992||Dundee on Record|| ||RCAHMS||Dens Park Football Stadium p58|