Basic Biographical Details

Name: James Smith Richardson
Born: 2 November 1883
Died: 12 September 1970
Bio Notes: James Smith Richardson was born in Edinburgh on 2 November 1883, the son of Dr James T Richardson and nephew of the anatomist Arthur Thomson. The family moved to North Berwick in 1889. Richardson was educated at Abbey School, and was articled to James Macintyre Henry c.1899-1903, during which period he studied at the School of Applied Art. His interest in archaeology was encouraged by his father from an early age and a paper on 'Prehistoric Remains near Gullane' was published in PSAS as early as 1902.

In 1903 he entered Sir Robert Lorimer's office as an assistant and in 1906 he made a study tour of English church woodwork with Aymer Vallance. In 1909 he commenced practice on his own account, from 19 Randolph Place, Edinburgh, his first significant works being woodwork at St Baldred's Church, North Berwick (1910) and the restoration from ruins of Teampull Mholuidh, Eoropie, Barvas (1911-12), when he opened an office at 4 Melville Street. He became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in Scotland in 1912 and on 2 March 1914 he was appointed part-time Inspector of Ancient Monuments in H M Office of Works under Sir Charles Peers.

The practice was closed in 1914 for the war. Richardson had been a volunteer in the Royal Scots since 1900 and was commissioned in the local battalion, serving in Ireland and France and reaching the rank of Captain.

Richardson resumed practice in Melville Street in 1919. In the Spring of 1920 he took John Ross McKay into partnership. McKay, born in 1884, had been a fellow student at the School of Applied Art. Like Richardson he had worked for Lorimer, and had returned to Lorimer's office as chief assistant after the First World War, during which he had served as a staff captain under one of Lorimer's clients, General Hunter-Weston of Hunterston. Hunter Weston had invited him to stay for a weekend and Lorimer had instructed him to decline as he did not think it appropriate that an assistant should be a guest of a client; he went, and he was either dismissed or reacted by resigning on the following Monday. It was a partnership of the disaffected as Richardson also felt embittered about Lorimer, whom he regarded as having 'pinched' one of his clients shortly after setting up in practice.

On 8 November 1920 Richardson was appointed full-time Inspector of Ancient Monuments, and in 1922 John Begg invited him to become a part-time lecturer at Edinburgh College of Art, mainly in architectural history. He did not give up his partnership, a number of clients coming to the practice as a result of his official duties, but thereafter McKay did most of the work. Richardson and McKay had their revenge on Lorimer in the matter of the Scottish National War Memorial, which Richardson opposed through the Ancient Monuments Board as its secretary - in a letter to fellow architect Robin Smith Dods, Lorimer described him as a 'wild talking irresponsible devil of a secretary' who had been 'trying hard to wreck it, incidentally with the hope of wrecking me'. In November 1922 Richardson succeeded in defeating Lorimer's scheme by erecting a canvas mock-up which Lorimer described as a 'nightmare erection' which gave no 'adequate idea of the silhouette or of its light shade or colour'. As Inspector of Ancient Monuments, Richardson brought a great many monuments into guardianship with the support of Sir John Stirling Maxwell, Chairman of the Ancient Monuments Board, and Sir Lionel Earle, Permanent Secretary of the Office of Works, working closely with the Office of Works architect J Wilson Paterson, an association which had gone sour by the 1930s with what George Hay described as 'silly quarrels'; and from the late 1930s his power and influence declined as the result of the appointment of an administrative head at the Office, D L McIntyre VC.

Between December 1924 and February 1926 Richardson & McKay were joined in practice at 4 Melville Street by Donald MacDonald MacKie (born 1897), a former pupil of Lorimer who had completed his apprenticeship with McKay after the First World War and had worked as assistant to the firm from May 1922 to May 1924. It is unclear whether a formal partnership existed or whether MacKie simply worked independently from a shared office, but MacKie left in February 1926 to live and work at his own premises of Coltbridge Studio, Murrayfield.

Richardson's partnership in Richardson & McKay came to an end in 1942 when McKay merged the practice with that of William James Walker Todd, and in 1946 he gave up teaching at Edinburgh College of Art. By those dates such activities were perhaps seen as incompatible with his full-time appointment as Principal Inspector, a post from which he retired in 1948 at the age of sixty-five. In 1949 he gave the Rhind lectures on 'The Medieval Stone Carver in Scotland', eventually published in book form in 1964.

In his retirement Richardson advised the National Trust for Scotland on the restoration of the garden at Pitmedden and lectured on its cruises; and he was consultant to the Queen Mother on the restoration of the Castle of Mey which was executed by Sinclair Macdonald. In 1952 the RSA made him Honorary Professor of Antiquities and in 1957 he established the Burgh Museum at North Berwick of which he was given the Freedom in 1967.

Richardson suffered a severe heart attack in 1969 and died at North Berwick on 12 September 1970. In person he was bespectacled, 6 feet tall, big-boned but very slim, and slightly stooped in conversation with those of lesser height. He was a master of stagecraft when lecturing on site, an accomplishment he passed on to his successor, Stewart Cruden. He had what was described as a puckish, occasionally barbed sense of humour - which could be mischievous - often expressed in cartoon and verse. He had remarkable serendipity in obscure salerooms and at auctions, sometimes acquiring for himself and sometimes for the National Museum; and as his PSAS obituarist recorded, 'helpers were drawn from all walks of life' and included not only his custodians but some rather odd vagrants who were trained to pick up interesting material from demolition sites and even dustbins.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this :
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 619 (or 14?), Randolph Place, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness1909December 1911Richardson's first independent office
Item 2 of 64, Melville Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness19121913Office closed 1914-19, due to war
Item 3 of 64, Melville Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness19191937Reopened after war and remained until 1937, the last appearance of the Richardson & McKay practice
Item 4 of 6122, George Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 19201939 or after 1940Address of HM Office of Works - as Inspector of Ancient Monuments
Item 5 of 619, Rothesay Terrace, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivatec. 1927c. 1934 
Item 6 of 654, Manor Place, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness1938  

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 5James Macintyre Henryc. 1899c. 1903Apprentice 
Item 2 of 5(Sir) Robert Stodart Lorimer19031909(?)Assistant 
Item 3 of 5H M Office of Works (later Ministry of Works, Department of the Environment and Property Services Agency)19141914 Part-time Inspector of Ancient Monuments
Item 4 of 5H M Office of Works (later Ministry of Works, Department of the Environment and Property Services Agency)1920After 1935 Full-time Inspector of Ancient Monuments
Item 5 of 5Richardson & McKay19201942Partner 

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 3J Simpson FyfeLate 19121913Assistant 
Item 2 of 3William Davidsonc. 1918 Assistant(?) 
Item 3 of 3George HayOctober 19331937AssistantIn H M Office of Works, Edinburgh

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 44 19 Rothesay Terrace  EdinburghScotlandAlterations - date unknown
Item 2 of 44 19-25 Rothesay Terrace  EdinburghScotlandAlterations to no 19
Item 3 of 441904Rood WellStenton East LothianScotlandProposed restoration
Item 4 of 44190919 Claremont Crescent  EdinburghScotlandAlterations and additions
Item 5 of 441909BellevueColdstream BerwickshireScotlandAlterations and additions
Item 6 of 441909FamptonNorth Berwick East LothianScotlandAddition for Miss Mitchell
Item 7 of 441909Roller Skating RinkNorth Berwick East LothianScotland 
Item 8 of 441910St Baldred's Episcopal ChurchNorth Berwick East LothianScotlandWooden chancel screen with gates; 'angel screen' at side chapel; memorial panelling at pulpit and mural tablet
Item 9 of 441911Blair AdamNorth Berwick East LothianScotlandAdditions, including new stair
Item 10 of 441911St Moluag's Church, EoropieBarvasLewisRoss and CromartyScotlandRestoration of ruins
Item 11 of 441912Hill HouseBalerno MidlothianScotland 
Item 12 of 441912Seafield HouseWest Barns East LothianScotland 
Item 13 of 44c. 1912Dean CastleKilmarnock AyrshireScotlandConsulted with Ingram and Brown
Item 14 of 441914Erskine UF Church, Robinson MemorialAnnan DumfriesshireScotland 
Item 15 of 441919Dungallan HouseOban (near) ArgyllScotlandNew entrance, bathrooms, dormer window etc
Item 16 of 441919War memorialOban ArgyllScotland 
Item 17 of 441919 or c. 1920North Berwick War MemorialNorth Berwick East LothianScotlandFrom obituary and Dean of Guild. B of S says he designed it, with Alexander Carrick carrying out the carving
Item 18 of 44192179 Great King Street  EdinburghScotlandAlterations
Item 19 of 441922Belhaven HouseBelhaven East LothianScotlandAlterations
Item 20 of 441922Caley Picture House  EdinburghScotland 
Item 21 of 441923Dunfermline War MemorialDunfermline FifeScotlandCompetition design - not successful?
Item 22 of 441923Feuing, North Berwick MainsNorth Berwick East LothianScotland 
Item 23 of 441923Squash Court, 12 Abercromby Place  EdinburghScotland 
Item 24 of 441924BeltonGullane East LothianScotland 
Item 25 of 441924Dirleton Parish ChurchDirleton East LothianScotlandAlterations
Item 26 of 441924Frosts, 67-81 Shandwick Place  EdinburghScotlandReconstruction, including shopfront
Item 27 of 441924NungateNorth Berwick East LothianScotlandHS claims that Richardson was responsible
Item 28 of 441924The GatehouseNorth Berwick East LothianScotland 
Item 29 of 441925AuchindouneLiberton EdinburghScotland 
Item 30 of 441925Kinleith MillCurrie MidlothianScotlandAlterations
Item 31 of 44192630 Moray Place  EdinburghScotland 
Item 32 of 441926BlanerneNorth Berwick East LothianScotland 
Item 33 of 441926House for Mrs BeveridgeDirleton East LothianScotland 
Item 34 of 441927Fowler's Motor GarageNorth Berwick East LothianScotland 
Item 35 of 441929Dean CastleKilmarnock AyrshireScotlandNew gatehouse, courtyard walls and other work
Item 36 of 441929House for Miss Bruce IonaArgyllScotland 
Item 37 of 441929Houses for G FowlerNorth Berwick East LothianScotland 
Item 38 of 441930Linlithgow Palace, fountainLinlithgow West LothianScotlandReconstruction of fountain in courtyard
Item 39 of 44Before 1931New Abbey, Sarcophagus Monument to Devorgilla  KirkcudbrightshireScotlandDesign based on sketch by Richardson, as Inspector of Ancient Monuments
Item 40 of 441933Loch Doon CastleDalmellington AyrshireScotlandCastle moved under his superintendence
Item 41 of 441934Edzell Castle and gardensEdzell AngusScotlandLayout and planting of garden. As Inspector of Ancient Monuments.
Item 42 of 441936Melrose Abbey, Commendator's HouseMelrose RoxburghshireScotlandRestoration - J Wilson Paterson and/or J Smith Richardson responsible (sources vary)
Item 43 of 44c. 1950Castle of MeyCanisbay CaithnessScotlandConsultant to Queen Mother for scheme executed by Sinclair Macdonald
Item 44 of 441956Pitmedden HouseUdny AberdeenshireScotlandFountain reconstructed from fragments and oversaw the reconstruction of parterres. Creation of Great Garden after initial planting by George Barron.


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this :
Item 1 of 2Post Office Directories     
Item 2 of 2RIBA1939The RIBA Kalendar 1939-1940 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this :
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1Proceedings of the Soc. of Antiquaries of Scotland1960102 vii-x, 1969/1970: obituary

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this :
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Personal information supplied to David M Walker by R G Cant, Alfred G Lochhead, Stewart Cruden, and George Hay.