Basic Biographical Details

Name: George Shaw Aitken
Born: 1836
Died: 29 August 1921
Bio Notes: George Shaw Aitken, the brother of Robert Walker Aitken (qv), was born in London in 1836, the son of Robert Shaw Aitken, silversmith, and Margaret Walker. Following the death of his father, about 1850 he entered the office of John Dick Peddie of Edinburgh as a pupil and on Peddie’s recommendation he was admitted to the Trustees' Academy on 19 April 1852 but left again in July of the same year. He appears to have remained with Peddie as an assistant until 1859. Leaving Edinburgh, G S Aiken briefly found employment with Charles Wilson of Glasgow and Lockwood and Mawson of Bradford. By the early months of 1860 he had arrived in Manchester and was working in the offices of Alfred Waterhouse, recently successful in the major open competition for Manchester Assize Courts.

In 1858 Aitken was one of the founders of the Edinburgh Architectural Association and was elected its first president. He wrote its History and Reminiscences of which a typescript copy with a portrait is preserved in the EAA Library at the RIAS. In December 1860, the Manchester Architectural Association, (open to all with an interest in architecture, including pupils and assistants) was founded, but seemingly generated little interest in the local press. However, the inaugural meeting, held on 17th December 1860 was reported at length in the Builder. Both George Shaw Aitken and Robert Walker Aitken were founder members, G S Aitken becoming its first President.

The 1861 Census shows G S Aitken residing at 7 Marlborough Terrace, in the Chorlton-on-Medlock district of Manchester, together with his mother, Margaret Aitken, his brother Robert Walker Aitken and an unmarried aunt, Ellen Walker. However, by 1864 the brothers were recorded as living at Hassendean Cottage, Monton, near Eccles, but only Robert W Aitken was listed as an architect in the Trades Directory for that year (G S Aitken presumably still employed as an assistant). Their decision to move to this rural location some six miles from Manchester has yet to be explained. In 1866 the brothers jointly designed an Independent Chapel and Schools in Altrincham but the following year Robert Aitken joined W R Corson in partnership in Manchester.

About 1869 G S Aitken returned to Scotland when he joined James Maclaren in Dundee, becoming a partner in 1873. In 1878, the partnership was broken: according to the last partners in the Maclaren firm, William Salmond and Stuart O Barron, the breakup was the result of specifying stone from James Maclaren's Ferrybank estate at Cupar which proved unreliable, and, together with the recession following the failure of the City of Glasgow Bank in that year, severely damaged the practice. Aitken thereafter continued in independent practice in Dundee until 1881 when lack of business caused him to return to Edinburgh. During that period he won some fame by achieving a place in the final ten in the second competition for Glasgow Municipal Buildings in 1881.

In Edinburgh he undertook much literary and lecturing work, publishing the Abbeys of Arbroath, Balmerino and Lindores in 1883. and was appointed lecturer on the History of Architecture at the Heriot Watt College in 1890. From the mid-1890s he formed some sort of co-operative arrangement with the Professor Patrick Geddes, although this resulted in only two significant commissions, one from Lord Rosebery and the other from Geddes's Town and Gown Association. A sketch scheme for the enlargement of The Albert Institute, Dundee, accompanies a report by Geddes to the City Librarian, A. H. Millar, preserved in Dundee Central Library.

George Shaw Aitken was also an accomplished artist and was an exhibitor of water colour drawings at numerous art galleries.

Aitken died at Liberton on 29 August 1921.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this :
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 11112, Thirlestane Road, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate 1910None shown after 1910
Item 2 of 117, Marlborough Terrace, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester, EnglandPrivate1861 Census
Item 3 of 11Hassenden Cottage , Monton, near Eccles, Lancashire, EnglandPrivate/business18641867 
Item 4 of 111, Viewforth place, Dundee, ScotlandPrivate18701871Presumably home address when an assistant with James Maclaren
Item 5 of 1110, Bank Street, Dundee, ScotlandBusiness18731878Maclaren and Aitken partnership
Item 6 of 11Commercial Buildings/87, Commercial Street, Dundee, ScotlandBusiness18781881Independent practice
Item 7 of 11Maryfield Cottage, Broughty Ferry, Dundee, ScotlandPrivate18801881P O Directory
Item 8 of 1149, Queen Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness1881 or 1882(?) Independent practice
Item 9 of 11116, George Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness18891890 
Item 10 of 1149, Queen Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness18911905 
Item 11 of 1133, Castle Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness19061917Last entry in 1917

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 7John More Dick Peddiec. 1850 ApprenticeLater draughtsman
Item 2 of 7Lockwood & Mawson1859 Assistant ArchitectBradford
Item 3 of 7Charles Wilson1859 Assistant ArchitectGlasgow
Item 4 of 7Alfred Waterhouse1860 Assistant ArchitectManchester
Item 5 of 7Aitken and Aitken1866 Partnerwith his brother, Robert Walker Aitken
Item 6 of 7James Maclarenc. 1869(?)c. 1873Chief Assistant 
Item 7 of 7Maclaren & Aitken1873c. March 1879Partner 

Buildings and Designs

This 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 54 Amsterdam Exchange  AmsterdamNetherlandsCompetition design - date not known
Item 2 of 54 Young Men's Christian AssociationBrechin AngusScotlandDate not known
Item 3 of 541866Independent Chapel and SchoolsAltrincham CheshireEnglandAitken and Aitken
Item 4 of 541869Tenement blockBroughty Ferry DundeeScotlandPossibly involved, as chief assistant to James Maclaren
Item 5 of 541871Dundee Town House  DundeeScotlandThird premiated competition design for extension (City Chambers) - £20 - submitted while in James Maclaren's employment but before formation of partnership
Item 6 of 541872UP ChurchDudhope DundeeScotlandRedecoration
Item 7 of 541873Barnhill Convalescent HomeBarnhill DundeeScotlandBegun by Maclaren, completed in partnership
Item 8 of 541873Broadford Free ChurchBroadfordSkyeInverness-shireScotland 
Item 9 of 541873Offices for Don Brothers Buist  DundeeScotlandBegun by Maclaren and completed in partnership
Item 10 of 54After 1873Bearhill HouseBrechin AngusScotlandReconstruction and additions
Item 11 of 541874BeechwoodLochee DundeeScotlandIce house
Item 12 of 541874ChellwoodMonifieth AngusScotland 
Item 13 of 541874Clepington ChurchHilltown DundeeScotlandCompetition design? Mission chapel according to Gifford built by Maclaren & Aitken at this date.
Item 14 of 541874Clepington Church Hall  DundeeScotlandCommission for church lost to Alexander Johnston
Item 15 of 541874East SchoolBroughty Ferry DundeeScotland 
Item 16 of 541874Good Templar HallBroughty Ferry DundeeScotland 
Item 17 of 541874Improvement Act Tenements, Victoria Road  DundeeScotlandWon competition: Responsible for design
Item 18 of 541874Lindsay Street Works  DundeeScotlandBy Aitken
Item 19 of 541874North of Scotland Bank  DundeeScotlandReconstruction by Maclaren
Item 20 of 541874TighnduinMonifieth AngusScotland 
Item 21 of 541874West SchoolWest Ferry DundeeScotland 
Item 22 of 54c. 1874South SchoolBroughty Ferry DundeeScotland 
Item 23 of 541875Balgay Hill Bar  DundeeScotland 
Item 24 of 541875Queen Street UP ChurchBroughty Ferry DundeeScotlandMostly by Aitken
Item 25 of 541875St Aidan's ChurchBroughty Ferry DundeeScotlandOrgan chamber
Item 26 of 541875Tenements on Rosefield Street  DundeeScotland 
Item 27 of 541876Abbey ChurchArbroath AngusScotlandAlterations including new windows and new vestibule.
Item 28 of 541876Colliston Parish ChurchColliston AngusScotlandBroad transepts and E gable added
Item 29 of 541876East Free Church ManseBroughty Ferry DundeeScotlandBy Maclaren
Item 30 of 541876Tayfield SteadingGlencarse PerthshireScotlandAdditions
Item 31 of 541877Calcutta Buildings  DundeeScotlandMainly by Aitken. Gifford gives Maclaren as architect.
Item 32 of 541877Ethelstone HouseWest Ferry DundeeScotlandNew house and offices
Item 33 of 541877Northern Assurance Buildings  DundeeScotland 
Item 34 of 541877TircarraBarnhill DundeeScotland 
Item 35 of 541878BallinardBroughty Ferry DundeeScotlandAddition?
Item 36 of 541878Boys' Industrial SchoolDownfield DundeeScotland 
Item 37 of 541878Ryehill UP Church  DundeeScotlandBegun in partnership, completed by G S Aitken in independent practice.
Item 38 of 541878Shiell & Small's Chambers  DundeeScotlandRebuilding
Item 39 of 541879CraigowanBroughty Ferry DundeeScotlandMainly by Aitken
Item 40 of 541879The Bouffet Restaurant  DundeeScotland 
Item 41 of 541880Bank of Scotland  DundeeScotlandGround floor and Banking Hall, alterations and additions
Item 42 of 541880Corona HouseBroughty Ferry DundeeScotland 
Item 43 of 541880Glasgow Municipal Buildings  GlasgowScotlandCompetition designs for second competition - placed in second tier of final ten
Item 44 of 541880Lindsay Street Works  DundeeScotlandAlterations
Item 45 of 541880St Katherine'sLiberton EdinburghScotlandEntrance moved to present position
Item 46 of 54c. 1890Gracemount HouseLiberton EdinburghScotlandAdditions.
Item 47 of 541895Riddle's Court and Close, 322-328 Lawnmarket and 5-6 Victoria Terrace  EdinburghScotlandAlterations including pend entrance
Item 48 of 541896Lady Stair's House  EdinburghScotlandRestoration and rebuilding
Item 49 of 541898Edinburgh Daily Review Offices  EdinburghScotlandReconstruction of Bryce building
Item 50 of 54c. 1900Offices of the North of Scotland & Orkney & Shetland Steam Navigation CompanyLerwickMainlandShetlandScotland 
Item 51 of 541906Memorial publication to Rev John Smith of Broughton Place UF Church, Edinburgh    deisgned pictorial memorial
Item 52 of 541906National Gallery Scheme  EdinburghScotlandProposal for completion of National Monument on Calton Hill as a National Gallery. Appeal launched November 1906.
Item 53 of 54c. 1910Scheme for cloister and block linking Ramsay Garden to Mound Place  EdinburghScotland 
Item 54 of 541914St Katherine'sLiberton EdinburghScotlandLarge addition.


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this :
Item 1 of 4Post Office Directories     
Item 2 of 4RCAHMS1992Dundee on Record RCAHMSp18
Item 3 of 4Walker, David W1995Glasgow Municipal Buildings Competition 1880-1882 Unpublished MA dissertation, University of St Andrews; copy in NMRSGlasgow Municipal Buildings competition designs
Item 4 of 4Who's Who in Architecture1914    

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this :
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 5Architectural ReviewOctober 1921v50 Obituary
Item 2 of 5Builder29 December 1860  p842 - First meeting of the Manchester Architectural Association
Item 3 of 5Builder9 September 1921  Biographical information
Item 4 of 5Builder10 April 1959  listed as first pres. of Edinburgh Architectural Association in 'Edinburgh Architectural Assocation: An Excellent Year Book' p679
Item 5 of 5Dundee Advertiser29 June 1893  Letter of clarification on the death of James Maclaren

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this :
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Edinburgh City ArchivesEdinburgh Dean of Guild  
Item 2 of 2RIAS Collection, NMRS, RCAHMSHistory and Reminiscences of the Edinburgh Architectural Association