Basic Biographical Details

Name: John Baxter
Designation: Architect
Died: 14 July 1798
Bio Notes: John Baxter was the son of John Baxter, architect, who had died about 1770. In 1761 his father sent John and his brother Alexander to Italy to study architecture. In Rome the younger John Baxter was reputed to have become a respected figure in the group of foreign artists there. He entered one if not more architectural competitions and in March 1766 he was made an honorary member of the Academy of St Luke. Like his father Baxter was a protégé of Sir John Clerk and became acquainted in Rome, just near the end of his stay, with Alexander Runciman, another Clerk protégé, who went on to decorate ‘Ossian’s Hall’ at Penicuik on his return to Scotland. In the Vatican there is a painting of the two Baxter brothers with Runciman and another artist, possibly Fuseli, which must date from 1767.

While he was in Rome, Baxter had some chimney-pieces made to his designs by Italian sculptors. They may have been destined for Penicuik but they were damaged in the carriage to Scotland.

Once he had returned to Scotland he almost immediately took over the family business. Like his father he was both architect and contractor. His Roman experience almost certainly taught him a more sophisticated drawing and design style. However unlike his contemporary Robert Adam he did not have flair and drive and was not particularly innovative. His designs for two spires, at Peterhead townhouse and at Bellie Church are derived from a type developed by James Gibbs and his Merchants’ Hall in Edinburgh owes much to Robert Adam.

Baxter had a range of clients and his work took him widely over Scotland. He worked for the Duke of Gordon and in the 1780s was involved in a dispute with the Duke. He dabbled in a small piece of private speculation. He feued an area of ground at Greenside at the top of Leith Walk. He seems to have erected a row of houses there. In 1785 these were advertised for sale or for let. One had been taken by Mrs Pringle, perhaps soon after it was completed and another was occupied by Baxter himself. The former was presumably let or sold but Baxter retained the other one for his own occupation until his death. However Baxter was not successful in disposing of the whole area. After Baxter's death his son sold the remaining ground to Robert Haldane in 1800. The latter intended to build houses on it. In 1801 another advertisement appeared in the 'Caledonian Mercury' in which the northern most house was advertised for sale or let again. After Mrs Pringle, Lord McLeod rented it followed by Peter Murray, advocate, and David Johnston of Lathrisk.

The catalogue of the sale of Baxter’s drawings and other works of art after he died is revealing. The sale included a large collection of prints, ‘Old Master’ drawings, paintings by Alexander and John Runciman and a number of busts, basso relieves, antique plaster casts and so on. There were numerous drawings by Baxter himself including a set of plans for a ‘sepulchral chapel’ made in Rome, probably for the ‘concorso’ of the Academy at Parma in 1764.

Baxter died at his house Greenside Well on 14 July 1798. After John Baxter senior’s death, Mayshade House, Loanhead seems to have been occupied by Alexander Baxter, the younger son of Baxter senior. He tried to let the house out in 1790. It is not clear if this was successful but his sister-in-law, John Baxter's widow, died there in 1813. Jean Baxter, the youngest daughter of John Baxter (died 1798) and his wife Janet, died there in 1862. Baxter's son John worked for the East India Company.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 3Princes Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/businessc. 1773c. 1776 
Item 2 of 3Greenside Well, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/business(?)c. 1784  
Item 3 of 3Mayshade House, Loanhead, Midlothian, ScotlandPrivatec. 1784  

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 43c. 1740Haddo House Estate, coach house and stable block  AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 2 of 43c. 1764Design for a sepulchral chapel     
Item 3 of 431769Gordon CastleFochabers MorayshireScotland 
Item 4 of 43After 1769Gordon Castle estate, farm buildingsFochabers MorayshireScotlandFarm buildings
Item 5 of 43Before 1769Hallhead House or Castle  AberdeenshireScotlandRepairs or alterations, probably in connection with its use as a farmhouse.
Item 6 of 43c. 1769Mortonhall House and stables  EdinburghScotland'Plans and elevations of the house of Mortonhall'
Item 7 of 43c. 1770Penicuik HousePenicuik MidlothianScotlandMinor alterations, including remodelling of three central windows to rear elevation
Item 8 of 431771Callander ChurchCallander PerthshireScotland 
Item 9 of 431771St Patrick's RC Church  EdinburghScotland 
Item 10 of 431772Gordonstoun, house and lodge  MorayshireScotlandAlterations, mainly internal.
Item 11 of 431772Salmon Fishing complex, dwelling houseTugnet MorayshireScotlandProbably John Baxter
Item 12 of 431774Dalnacardoch InnBlair Atholl PerthshireScotland 
Item 13 of 431774Gartchonzie Bridge over River TeithCallander PerthshireScotland 
Item 14 of 431774Kenmore Bridge Over River TayKenmore PerthshireScotland 
Item 15 of 431775ChurchForres MorayshireScotlandPlan for new church - perhaps not executed?
Item 16 of 431775Fochabers New TownFochabers MorayshireScotland 
Item 17 of 431777Cullen House and estate buildingsCullen BanffshireScotlandInternal alterations including large bow window on south front for 4th Earl's drawing room
Item 18 of 431778Country House   ScotlandDesigns for addition of portico and wings
Item 19 of 431779Gartmore House  PerthshireScotlandAlterations
Item 20 of 431780Eglinton Castle, house and stables  AyrshireScotlandCastellated gateway
Item 21 of 431780House, Greenside Well  EdinburghScotlandBuilt as personal speculation
Item 22 of 431781Ellon Castle (Old) and gaden featuresEllon AberdeenshireScotlandAlterations to old house of Ardgirth - now largely demolished
Item 23 of 431785Scheme of development at foot of Leith Walk  EdinburghScotland 
Item 24 of 431785Tron Church  EdinburghScotlandAlterations for road widening in connection with the South Bridge and Hunter Square. Shortening of church by one bay to east and west and reduction of the south aisle to a slight pedimented projectionwith detail carefully matching original.
Item 25 of 431787Dunphail House  MorayshireScotlandDesigns drawn up - not executed
Item 26 of 431788ManseFochabers MorayshireScotlandBuildings of Scotland attribution and date
Item 27 of 431788Merchant Company Hall  EdinburghScotland 
Item 28 of 431788Peterhead Town HousePeterhead AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 29 of 431788Royal Bank of Scotland  EdinburghScotland 
Item 30 of 431790Fearn Abbey Church, Monument to Admiral Sir John Lockhart RossFearn Ross and CromartyScotland 
Item 31 of 431790Town HouseFochabers MorayshireScotland 
Item 32 of 431791Duns CastleDuns BerwickshireScotlandGothic gateway
Item 33 of 431791Gordon CastleFochabers MorayshireScotlandCastellated west lodge. Stables and coachhouse.
Item 34 of 431791Picardy Village  EdinburghScotlandDrew up three sets of plans for new development, presumably the area at the top of Leith Walk
Item 35 of 431792Avontoun Mansion and West LodgeLinlithgow West LothianScotland 
Item 36 of 431792Duns CastleDuns BerwickshireScotlandStables
Item 37 of 431794Duns CastleDuns BerwickshireScotlandProposed alterations to house
Item 38 of 431794Inveresk Churchyard, Monument to Sir Archibald HopeInveresk, Musselburgh MidlothianScotland 
Item 39 of 431795Bellie KirkFochabers MorayshireScotland 
Item 40 of 431796Music Hall and Assembly Rooms  EdinburghScotlandPlaster roses added for chandeliers in ballroom.
Item 41 of 431797Balmuto CastleBurntisland FieScotlandAdditions (demolished 1962)
Item 42 of 431798Glenfiddich Lodge  BanffshireScotlandAlterations
Item 43 of 431800Buildings, 1-8 Baxter's Place and Greenside Lane  EdinburghScotlandColvin states that it was John Baxter the builder who died in 1837 who designed and built these houses. However we know that the more important Baxter family owned land at Greenside Well around the corner so it seems very likely that they were initially responsible for the houses - and perhaps completed by the other John Baxter?


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 8Colvin, H M1995A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-18403rd editionNew Haven and London: Yale University Press 
Item 2 of 8Institution of Civil Engineers2002Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers V.1 and 2 
Item 3 of 8Simpson, Ann M1971The Architectural Work of the Baxter Family in Scotland 1722-98 Edinburgh University, unpubished dissertation. 
Item 4 of 8Stillman, D1973British Architects and Italian Architectural Competitions, 1750-1780xxxviJournal of the Society of Architectural Historians 
Item 5 of 8Williamson1773Williamson's Directory for the City of Edinburgh, 1773-1774   
Item 6 of 8Williamson1774Williamson's Directory for the City of Edinburgh, 1774-1775   
Item 7 of 8Williamson1775Williamson's Directory for the City of Edinburgh, 1775-1776   
Item 8 of 8Williamson1784Williamson's Directory for the City of Edinburgh   

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 10Caledonian Horticultural Society Minutes31 July 1886   
Item 2 of 10Caledonian Mercury21 October 1790   
Item 3 of 10Caledonian Mercury19 July 1798  Death notice
Item 4 of 10Caledonian Mercury9 April 1801   
Item 5 of 10Caledonian Mercury23 August 1813   
Item 6 of 10Caledonian Mercury5 February 1885   
Item 7 of 10Caledonian Mercury19 February 1885   
Item 8 of 10Dundee Courier25 October 1862   
Item 9 of 10Scottish Georgian Society Bulletin1973ii Article by Ann and James Simpson 'John Baxter, Architect, and the Patronage of the Fourth Duke of Gordon'.
Item 10 of 10The Book of the Old Edinburgh Club XXV pp29-30

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 3Edinburgh City ArchivesEdinburgh Dean of Guild1800/12*WARRANT GRANTED: 24 June 1800 [no warrant].
Item 2 of 3Edinburgh City Libraries (Cowan Bequest)Baxter sale catalogue  
Item 3 of 3National Library of ScotlandManuscript CollectionBound volumes no 51Gordon Cumming Papers