Basic Biographical Details

Name: Bruce Probart Beckett
Born: 1924
Died: 8 February 2012
Bio Notes: Bruce Probart Beckett was born in 1924 in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He was educated at Rondebosch Boys High School in Cape Town. Beckett saw active service in World War II as an officer in the South African Navy and was seconded to the Royal Navy in 1944. He graduated BArch with Distinction from the University of Cape Town in 1950 and was admitted ARIBA that year.

From 1952 to 1959 he had a post as architect in the practice Lightfoot, Twentyman-James & Kent in Capetown and obtained varied experience working on schools, hospitals, hotels, hostels, offices, and factories in central and southern Africa. He emigrated to Great Britain 1959 and for the first two years worked in Welwyn Garden City with Louis de Soissons, architect to the New Town and Arthur Kenyon (of Arthur Kenyon & Partners) who worked with de Soissons for 18 years at Welwyn Garden City. Beckett undertook general New Town work which included housing area layouts and shopping centres. He also worked on telephone exchanges, offices and schools.

In 1961 he moved to a post as senior architect in the War Office. During this time he was chairman of the WD CLASP (Consortium of Local Authorities Programme) and was involved with work on barracks and housing. In 1962 he transferred to the War Office Development Group as supervising architect of the user research group, working on standards and procedures for barracks and housing, furniture and equipment as well as dealing with contractor selection procedures. In 1963 he was awarded a diploma in Town Planning.

From May to September 1963 he was worked as supervising architect for the DGRD (Directory General of Research and Development) in the Services Development Group of the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works based in Thames House, Millbank. From 1963 to 1965 he worked within the DGRD in the Housing Development Group and worked on large housing projects (5m Housing Project and the 2000 Industrialised Houses Project) supervising the work of the design team and project management. He made another move, again as supervising architect, this time to the Whitehall Development Group working on user research, the brief for writing standards for the Whitehall redevelopment project and the Parliamentary Building. From January to November 1967 he worked at Lambeth Bridge House on standards and cost limits, design studies and prototype work for the Whitehall redevelopment project.

He moved to Edinburgh on being appointed Chief Architect to the Scottish Development Department in December 1967, a position he held until retiring in 1984. In 1968 he was elected FRIBA proposed by Donald Gibson, R T Walters and R Woodcock. In the post of Chief Architect he provided architectural services for all four Scottish departments: schools (£25m p.a.) hospitals (£25m p.a.), other public buildings and housing and building construction (£140m p.a.). The last group was divided into four, three architectural units and a building inspectorate. Each unit maintained daily contact with the Department’s technical planners, surveyors and engineers. The Field Unit was concerned with an assessment of Local Authority proposals, especially complex projects for high density development and urban renewal. Contacts, especially personal contact with Local Authorities was considered important for the dissemination of information and for informal interchange of ideas. The Research and Development Unit, directed by the Scottish Development Department and the Scottish Special Housing Steering committee was chaired by the Department where by discussion of actual live projects and actual construction it was free to develop and implement new ideas. The Building and Construction Unit was concerned with building practice. By maintaining close links to the Building Research Station and similar bodies is was able to prepare guidance and memos on building efficiency and also form the basis of technical advice on Building Regulations. The Building Inspectorate provided a link between the group and development on site and acted as custodians of sound construction. They undertook ‘spot’ surveys and acted as the eyes and ears of the Department.

Beckett was active in professional matters. He was a RIAS Council member from 1971-77 and from 1984-87 and a council member of the RIBA from 1972-78. He also served on a large number of advisory bodies, being the Secretary of State for Scotland's nominee for the ARCUK and the Construction and Housing Research Advisory Council. From 1974-84 he was an assessor for the Scottish Committee of the Design Council and a Civic Trust Adjudicator from 1985-87. He also taught at the University of Cape Town and was a studio tutor at the Bartlett.

He spent his retirement in Horam and Teddington. In 2006 he resigned from the RIAS. His wife Jean died in 2009. He died on 8 February 2012 survived by his children Elizabeth, Janet, John, Malcolm and Margaret and his ten grandchildren.

During the period he was with the Directory General of Research and Development he wrote a number of bulletins including:
‘The Activity Data Method’ (HMSO)
‘The Assembly of a Building Programme’ (HMSO)
‘Industrialised Building: four case studies’ (HMSO)
‘51 (or SI?) Housing Catterick’
‘2000 Industrialised Houses: an objective report’
‘Design Team Working’


Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this :
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 420, Thames Point, Teddington, EnglandPrivate 2012 
Item 2 of 4159, Craigmount Avenue North, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1968  
Item 3 of 443, Jeffrey Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness1970 *  
Item 4 of 4Summerfield, Vines Cross Road, Horam, East Sussex, EnglandPrivate1987 *After 1994 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 2H M Office of Works (later Ministry of Works, Department of the Environment and Property Services Agency)1959 Architect 
Item 2 of 2Department of Health for Scotland (Scottish Board of Health; later Scottish Development Department)19671984Chief Architect 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3Donald Gibson17 July 1968For Fellowship
Item 2 of 3Roger Walters17 July 1968For Fellowship
Item 3 of 3Robert Woodcock17 July 1968For Fellowship


Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this :
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 2RIAS Quarterly2012SpringRoyal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) 
Item 2 of 2Scotsman17 February 2012  Death notice

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this :
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers F no 6135 (Combined Box 121)


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© All rights reserved. © courtesy of RIAS