|Name: ||James Craig |
|Designation: ||Architect |
|Born: ||31 October 1739 |
|Died: ||23 June 1795 |
|Bio Notes: ||James Craig was born in Edinburgh on 31 October 1739, the son of William Craig, merchant, and his wife Mary Thomson who was a sister of the poet James Thomson. From 1748 he was a pupil at George Watson’s Hospital. The fact that he attended a charitable institution suggests that Craig’s father was not a wealthy man. In 1755 he was articled to Patrick Jamieson, a mason in Edinburgh and deacon of the Incorporation of Wrights and Masons. Unlike some of his contemporaries he did not have the means to make the Grand Tour, nor could he afford to set up business as a master mason. Craig’s first essay in architecture was in 1763 when he submitted a proposal to build a bridge across the drained Nor’ Loch to encourage the development of the land belonging to the city to the north. He was a good draughtsman, in July that same year he was employed to draw a plan and elevation of the proposed North Bridge in Edinburgh, which seems to have been designed by George Fraser. The purpose of this plan was to attract tenders. It was published in the ‘Scots Magazine’. |
Also in 1763 Craig was the winner of the competition for laying out the New Town of Edinburgh. Seven entries were received and Craig’s plan was judged to be the best. A main reason for its success was the plan made good use of the contours of the site. However it was not considered to be without fault by the assessors who included Sir James Clerk and John Adam. William Mylne also proposed some amendments and it was not until three years later in July 1767 that the revised plan was formally approved. The original plan and the final plan with amendments were published in successive editions of John Laurie’s ‘Plan of Edinburgh’ published in 1766. The main difference was the original central square with streets radiating out at the corners to the perimeter of the houses was replaced by squares at each end of the New Town. The changes meant that there were no awkward triangular plots as Craig’s original plan would have created. Craig had no hand in the design of the elevations in the New Town. Initially buildings simply had to conform to standard heights and building lines.
Craig was awarded a gold medal and freedom of the city which had been promised to the winner of the competition. In October 1767 Craig travelled to London and presented King George III was a copy of the revised plan, which is now lodged in the British Library.
Craig’s best architectural design was that for the Physicians Hall in George Street, Edinburgh. In 1786 Craig published a further plan showing the layout of roads leading to the South Bridge in a pamphlet entitled ‘Plan for Improving the City of Edinburgh’. The layout included a crescent and an octagon and showed more inventiveness than the scheme for the New Town. The plan, if it had been adopted which it was not, would have involved extensive demolition.
Craig was not responsible for any of the buildings in the New Town. It has generally been accepted that Craig was responsible for the layout and the design of the houses in St James's Square (see Cruft and Fraser, 1995), although the feuing plans which were published in various versions do not show elevations but only the ground plan of the square and surroundings. However in the absence of firm documentation, whether or not Craig designed the houses must remain somewhat uncertain. St James's Square was a privately commissioned speculation by the solicitor Walter Ferguson, WS. It was not completed for a number of years. The elevations were treated as a uniform composition with severe and elegant detailing.
In the mid-1770s Craig was sufficiently busy to employ James Begg as draughtsman. He was involved in the early stages of the Observatory project the foundation stone of which was laid in 1776.
Craig was involved in a scheme for the plan for the grid of streets in Blythswood and Meadowflatt in Glasgow which seems to have originated in plans drawn up in 1792 for Colonel Campbell of Blythswood and the City authorities. Nothing was done until after 1800 and Craig had no hand in the architectural character of the area.
Craig never achieved the status of architects like Robert Adam and Robert Mylne nor did he have an extensive practice. After 1781 he was always borrowing money and he died in debt. (His assets were valued at £102 17s 10d and his debts amounted to about £250).This was partly due to the fact that he did not evolve to incorporate the new neo-classical style and details. He continued to design in the Palladian manner with some rococo details. However his character may also have been to blame. He was arrogant and intractable. Colvin quotes the ‘Scottish Register’ of 1795: ‘he was unfortunate, owing chiefly perhaps to some visionary idea of consequence which he fancied he was entitled to indulge on account of his relationship to Thomson the poet, a connection which he vainly flattered himself was to procure him consideration and employment, and to supersed in him the necessity of prosecuting those sober plans for success in life which prudence requires of other men’.
Craig died unmarried in the West Bow, Edinburgh on 23 June 1795. His library can be reconstructed from the inventory prepared by the Edinburgh auctioneer Cornelius Elliot. His books included a number of publications covering the architectural orders and theory, building manuals and pattern books and also books whose intellectual content would inform a keen mind anxious to be involved in the Edinburgh Enlightenment.
A portrait of James Craig is in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The painting shows Craig with a plan of the New Town on his lap (with a central octagon) and his drawing for the Physicians Hall at his feet, indicating what he considered to be his more important works.
|This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):|
| ||Date started||Building name||Town, district or village||Island||City or county||Country||Notes|
| ||Hopetoun estate, farm buildings|| || ||West Lothian||Scotland||Signed drawings|
|1763||New Town plan|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland|| |
|1763||North Bridge|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland||Scheme submitted - under direction of George Frazer. Scheme engraved subsequently.|
|After 1763||Holyrood, Abbey Court and Physic Garden|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland|| |
|After 1765||Building beside the General Post Office|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland|| |
|1769||35 St Andrew Square|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland||New staircase and alterations|
|1769||Mount Stuart||Rothesay (near)||Bute||Bute||Scotland||Design for alterations drawn up. Not executed. |
|1769||St Andrew's Church|| || ||Dundee|| ||Prepared plans for St Andrew's Church which Samuel Bell developed and executed. RCHAMS (1992) Dundee on Record, p17|
|1770||Mountquhanie||Kilmany|| ||Fife|| ||Proposed alterations|
|1770||Survey of the Island of Inchcolm||Inchcolm|| ||Fife||Scotland||Survey|
|1771||Lazaretto||Inverkeithing|| ||Fife||Scotland||Designs drawn up. |
|1773||St James's Square|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland||May have been responsible for elevations but not absolutely certain.|
|1773||Tern Hall ||Atcham|| ||Shropshire||England||Topographical drawing. |
|1773||University of St Andrews, Chapel of St Salvator||St Andrews|| ||Fife||Scotland||Replacement of vault by timber roof. |
|1774||Circus in the New Town|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland||Amended version of the New Town plan including circus at the intersection of Frederivck Street and George Street.|
|1774||Merchant Street|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland||Plan and elevation for building on feus offered.|
|1775||Dalkeith House|| || ||Midlothian||Scotland||Proposed addition of wings|
|c. 1775||Inveresk Church, Mounment to John Fullerton (d.1775)||Inveresk|| ||Midlothian||Scotland|| |
|1776||Physicians' Hall|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland|| |
|1776(?)||The Old Observatory, Calton Hill|| || ||Edinburgh|| || |
|1777||Ballast Quay||Leith|| ||Edinburgh||Scotland||Submitted offer. William Jamieson also submitted offer.|
|1777||Greyfriars Churchyard, Urn in memory of Provost Kincaid|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland|| |
|1777||St Giles Cathedral|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland||Various proposed alterations in 1777 - not executed. However Craig given contract in 1780 for various works including refitting of High Church (i.e. choir) with Gothic pulpit, galleries etc.).|
|1778||Botanic Garden with gardener's house and screen walls and entrances || || ||Edinburgh||Scotland||Various proposals for the Garden - wall monuments, additions to West Stove, alterations to entrance and gardener's cottage. Also enlargement of the East Stove (hothouse) which was executed. |
|1778||Signet Library|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland||Unexecuted design for library and new hall for the Writers to the Signet|
|1779||Botanic Gardens, memorial urn to Carl Linnaeus|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland|| |
|1779||Tenements flanking Physicians' Hall|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland||Made drawings for these feus - building eventually built to designs of William Smith builder.|
|1779||Tenements, Libberton's Wynd|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland||Survey plans drawn up as part of a legal dispute |
|1780||Gun battery||Leith|| ||Edinburgh||Scotland|| |
|1780||The Bridewell Prison||Calton Hill|| ||Edinburgh||Scotland||Craig paid for plans for a Bridewell (two schemes). Craig's designs engraved in 1780 and later published in a pamphlet which is related to a later proposal by Provost David Steuart on the subject of a Bridewell. Later pamphlet dated 1782. Both proposals seem to have been for a site on the old City wall. |
|1781||Building at rear of Tontine Building|| || ||Glasgow||Scotland||Plans for Coffee house, Tavern and other buildings of the Tontine Society drawn up.|
|1781||Music Hall and Assembly Rooms|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland||Directors of Assembly Rooms considered purchasing Physicians' Hall but decided against this. Craig was a subscriber to the fund - in the hope that he might obtain the job? But he acted as one of the assessors along with Captain Andrew Frazer. Craig drew up a 'rude sketch' but did not formally enter competition.|
|1781||The College|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland||Submitted estimates for a new classroom to be situated below the College Museum.|
|1785||Callendar House||Falkirk|| ||Stirlingshire||Scotland||Proposed internal alterations for William Forbes.|
|1786||Island of May Lighthouse|| || ||Fife||Scotland||Survey of lighthouse and plans for alterations and report on the building.|
|1786||Scheme for development of road from Register House to Nicolson Street|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland||Published pamphlet for scheme which included main thoroughfare as well as new roads leading to it, with octagon of flats and shops arounf the Tron Kirk. |
|1788||Kirkcaldy Harbour||Kirkcaldy|| ||Fife||Scotland||Plans drawn up for improvement.|
|1788||Square for Robert Hope|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland|| |
|1788||The Buchanan Monument||Killearn|| ||Stirlingshire||Scotland|| |
|1792||Layout of streets in Blythswood and Meadowflatt|| || ||Glasgow||Scotland||Craig asked by Glasgow Town Council to make a plan of Meadowflatt as he was being already employed to make a plan for Colonel Campbell of Blythswood of his building ground. The Council deemed it an advantage to have the streets corresponding with one another.|
|The following books contain references to this architect:|
|Colvin, Howard||2008||A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840|| ||London: YUP. 4th edition|| |
|Cruft, K and Fraser, A (ed)||1995||James Craig 1744-1795|| || || |
|New DNB|| ||New Dictionary of National Biography|| || ||Article by Kitty Cruft and Andrew Fraser|
|RCAHMS||1992||Dundee on Record|| ||RCAHMS||p17|
|Walker, Frank||1982||The Glasgow Grid|| ||Markus, (ed) Order in Space and Society|| |
|Youngson, A J||1966||The Making of Classical Edinburgh|| ||Edinburgh University Press|| |