Basic Biographical Details

Name: Alexander McGill
Designation: Architect
Died: May 1734
Bio Notes: Alexander McGill was the son of George McGill, minister of Arbirlot, Angus. He was apprenticed to Alexander Nisbet, mason in Edinburgh, in June 1697. In 1710 as ‘architector’ he gained free admittance to the Edinburgh masons’ lodge. He rose to become one of Scotland’s leading architects in the early 18th century. In November 1720 he was appointed to the newly constituted post of City Architect of Edinburgh which carried a salary of Ł50 per year. However the salary was terminated as a cost-cutting exercise when there was no public work of importance in hand. McGill continued to be employed from time to time on an ad hoc basis. He had the reputation of knowing his business ‘very well’ (from business correspondence of the 2nd Earl of Bute).

McGill was associated with James Smith early in his career. Vitruvius Scoticus states that Yester House was designed jointly by the two architects. Furthermore an unexecuted design for Cullen House is endorsed as ‘Messrs Smith & McGill’s 3rd design of Cullen House’.

The association between Smith & McGill seems to have lasted until 1731, the year of Smith’s death. In 1727 McGill appears as Smith’s assignee in a lawsuit brought by Smith against the Earl of Leven for non-payment of accounts due for the building of Melvillle House. He also acted as a witness in an agreement concerning a pumping engine which Smith had installed in a coalmine of his estate of Whitehill. Smith and McGill were employed by the City of Edinburgh to inspect a defect in the quay at Leith in 1729.

McGill’s architectural style was a simple one based on that of Sir William Bruce. He seems to have been involved with Bruce in a number of ways: he completed the House of Nairne in Perthshire. At Kellie he had dealings with Alexander Edward, Bruce’s associate.

McGill generally designed houses with a rectangular main block with piended roof and regular fenestration. He did not embrace the baroque ornamentation of William Adam, although at Donibristle Chapel, one of his last work the use of blocked architraves and other features suggest the influence of James Gibbs.

McGill died in Edinburgh in May 1734.

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 271699Kellie Castle  AngusScotlandWith Alexander Edward
Item 2 of 27c. 1700Yester HouseGifford East LothianScotlandWith James Smith
Item 3 of 271708CraigiehallCramond EdinburghScotlandOrnamental gates - in association with the Earl of Mar
Item 4 of 271709Alloa ChurchAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandUnexecuted designs for rebuilding church.
Item 5 of 271709Cullen House and estate buildingsCullen BanffshireScotlandDesigns - in McGill's hand and endorsed 'Messrs Smith & McGill's 3rd design of Cullen House'.
Item 6 of 27c. 1709House of Nairne  PerthshireScotlandConsulted on the design after the death of Bruce.
Item 7 of 271710Alloa HouseAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandProposed alterations
Item 8 of 271710Town HouseStirling StirlingshireScotlandAlterations to the 'court place' in tolbooth.
Item 9 of 271714Makerston (or Makerstoun) HouseKelso RoxburghshireScotlandDesigns for re-fronting house
Item 10 of 271715Blair Drummond  PerthshireScotland 
Item 11 of 271716House of GrayInvergowrie DundeeScotlandWith Robert Strachan - involved with design
Item 12 of 271716Loudoun CastleGalston AyrshireScotlandLandscape gardening
Item 13 of 271717Bridge of Dee  AberdeenScotlandConsulted with Robert Strachan on repair of bridge.
Item 14 of 271718House, Drygate  GlasgowScotlandPartial reconstruction
Item 15 of 271718Mount StuartRothesay (near)ButeButeScotland 
Item 16 of 271719Donibristle HouseAberdour FifeScotland 
Item 17 of 271719Old Greyfriars Church  EdinburghScotlandGreyfriars West Church
Item 18 of 271719The Town's New HouseStirling StirlingshireScotlandIn conjunction with James Smith
Item 19 of 271720Donibristle House, east lodge  FifeScotlandBuild/construction
Item 20 of 271720Inveraray CastleInveraray ArgyllScotlandTemporary pavilion of lodging for 2nd Duke of Argyll. Also unexecuted designs for adding wings to old castle.
Item 21 of 271724New ChurchDumfries DumfriesshireScotland 
Item 22 of 271727Newbattle Parish ChurchDalkeith MidlothianScotland 
Item 23 of 271729Donibristle ChapelDonibristle FifeScotland 
Item 24 of 271729Donibristle House, east lodge  FifeScotlandChapel
Item 25 of 271730Brunstane HouseDuddingston EdinburghScotlandProposed alterations - perhaps not executed.
Item 26 of 271730Picardy Village  EdinburghScotlandProposed layout of village for Picardy weavers
Item 27 of 27Early 1700sOld Cullen HouseCullen BanffshireScotlandStables at rear - north/south arm


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 4DNB Dictionary of National Biography  Article by John Lowrey
Item 2 of 4Pride, Glen L1999The Kingdom of Fife2nd EditionThe Rutland Pressp38
Item 3 of 4Scott, Hew Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae Edinburgh: Oliver & Boydvolume V, p421
Item 4 of 4Scottish Record Society1929Edinburgh Register of Apprentices 1666-1700   

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1East Lothian Antiquarian & Field Naturalists' Soc1972XIII pp23-4. Article by John G Dunbar 'The Building of Yester House'.

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 3Edinburgh City ArchivesSederunt Book of the Sub-Committee for managing the Ale Duty 2 September 1729; 6 December 1725. Also Ale Duty Accounts, 1718-68.
Item 2 of 3Mount StuartBute Archives Copies of extracts at NMRS.
Item 3 of 3New Register HouseWills and Testaments28 February 1737, 28 May 1756