Basic Biographical Details

Name: George Donaldson Macniven
Born: 1878
Died: 18 January 1949
Bio Notes: George Donaldson Macniven was born in 1878, the son of John Macniven, publisher. He was educated at George Watson's College and articled to George Washington Browne in 1893, following him to the merged practice of John More Dick Peddie and Washington Browne in 1894. He studied at the School of Applied Art where he won a National Art Survey bursary and at Heriot-Watt, and he made a study tour in France, as well as spending a year making record drawings of historic buildings in Scotland under the direction of Robert Rowand Anderson. In 1903, he and Walter Fairbairn were taken into partnership by Alfred Greig, then the principal teacher of architecture in the School of Applied Art, where Macniven himself had had charge of an outdoor sketching class for a number of years. The practice was based at 31 York Place. When the School of Applied Art merged as part of Edinburgh College of Art in 1906, Greig's appointment came to an end, but Fairbairn secured a part-time appointment at Edinburgh College of Art and Lauder Technical School in Dunfermline.

The practice seems to have specialised in small-scale competitions, particularly for public libraries, but they also won that for a model church for the United Free Church in the Highlands, which brought a considerable number of commissions for small churches in that area. All three architects were admitted LRIBA in the mass intake of 20 July 1911 with the same proposers: John Wilson, James Bow Dunn and Thomas Duncan Rhind.

He was admitted FRIBA late 1915, proposed by Robert Lorimer, John Wilson and Alexander Lorne Campbel.

The partnership continued until 1915 when Macniven withdrew to enter government service, becoming architect (a temporary post) to the Local Government Board for Scotland. He was admitted FRIBA late that year, proposed by Robert Lorimer, John Wilson and Alexander Lorne Campbell. He was responsible for the supervision of the erection of houses for the Admiralty and the Ministry of Munitions during the First World War. He remained in the same post until 1918 when he took up the permanent post of principal architect and housing commissioner for the Scottish Board of Health, rising to Depute Chief Architect in 1929 after the reorganisation of the Board which was re-named the Department of Health for Scotland. He was promoted to Chief Architect in 1944 (RIBA obituary says 1942) until 1949. He also held the posts of consulting architect, Scottish Veterans Garden City Association and Appeals from 1945 and part-time Inspector of Historic Buildings for the Department of Health from 1944 to 1949 (some sources say 1948-49).

Macniven was a well-known tennis-player in his youth and later became an expert curler, representing his country at the game. In the latter capacity he visited Sweden in 1938 and took the opportunity to familiarise himself with recent architectural developments there. He was also a keen golfer. He died on 18 January 1949, leaving a widow, Maud Grace Hendry (daughter of Walter Hendry), whom he had married in 1922.

(See also separate entry for George Niven, who may be the same person but mistyped in sources.)


'Town Planning : the Essentials for Progress and Suggested Provisions of a Model Scheme'
Transactions of the Edinburgh Architectural Association, v10, p53

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this :
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 531, York Place, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness19031915 
Item 2 of 5Talgarth/6, Spylaw Park, Colinton, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1911 *  
Item 3 of 513, Cluny Drive, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivateBefore 1911After 1915 
Item 4 of 5Local Government Board for Scotland/125, George Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness19151918 
Item 5 of 527, West Maitland Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1925 *1939 or after 1940Gives this address in RIBA Kalendars up to 1940

* earliest date known from documented sources.

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 8George Washington Browne18931894Apprentice 
Item 2 of 8Peddie & Washington Browne1894c. 1898Apprentice 
Item 3 of 8Peddie & Washington Brownec. 19001903Draughtsman 
Item 4 of 8Greig, Fairbairn & Macniven1903April 1915Partner 
Item 5 of 8Local Government Board for Scotland19151918Depute Chief Architect 
Item 6 of 8Department of Health for Scotland (Scottish Board of Health; later Scottish Development Department)19191929 Principal Architect and Housing Commissioner
Item 7 of 8Department of Health for Scotland (Scottish Board of Health; later Scottish Development Department)19291944 Depute Chief Architect
Item 8 of 8Department of Health for Scotland (Scottish Board of Health; later Scottish Development Department)19441949Chief Architect 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 6Alexander Lorne CampbellLate 1915for Fellowship
Item 2 of 6James Bow Dunn20 July 1911for Licentiateship
Item 3 of 6(Sir) Robert Stodart LorimerLate 1915for Fellowship
Item 4 of 6(Sir) Thomas Duncan Rhind20 July 1911for Licentiateship
Item 5 of 6John Watson20 July 1911for Licentiateship
Item 6 of 6John WilsonLate 1915for Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 12Arthur Forbes Cargill17 October 1944for Licentiateship
Item 2 of 12Alexander John Macaskill Currell21 October 1941for Associateship
Item 3 of 12Alexander Allan Foote21 June 1937for Fellowship
Item 4 of 12George Edward Foote15 October 1940For Associateship
Item 5 of 12Percy Pithie HendersonLate 1930for Associateship
Item 6 of 12Charles Ross Mackenzie15 October 1940for Associateship
Item 7 of 12James Hastie MacLeod25 June 1946for Associateship
Item 8 of 12Andrew Renton15 October 1940for Associateship
Item 9 of 12Thomas RutherfordLate 1931for Licentiateship
Item 10 of 12George Swan TaylorEarly 1930for Associateship
Item 11 of 12Alexander Anderson Watson19 January 1943for Licentiateship
Item 12 of 12Joseph Weekes14 June 1926for Fellowship

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 321902House for Charles RobertsonColinton EdinburghScotland 
Item 2 of 321903Carnegie Public LibraryMotherwell LanarkshireScotlandWon competition and was commissioned
Item 3 of 32After 1903Alvie UF ChurchAlvie Inverness-shireScotland 
Item 4 of 32After 1903Aultbea UF ChurchAultbea Ross and CromartyScotlandWith executant architects Mackenzie & MacDonald
Item 5 of 32After 1903Bonnyrigg Infant SchoolBonnyrigg MidlothianScotland 
Item 6 of 32After 1903Glenurquhart UF ChurchGlenurquhart Inverness-shireScotland 
Item 7 of 32After 1903House for James MacdonaldCallander PerthshireScotlandIn private practice
Item 8 of 32After 1903Kinloch UF ChurchKinlochLewisRoss and CromartyScotland 
Item 9 of 32After 1903Parson's Green UF Church HallsRestalrig EdinburghScotlandIn independent practice
Item 10 of 32After 1903Rosehall UF ChurchRosehall SutherlandScotland 
Item 11 of 32After 1903UF ChurchMuir of Ord Ross and CromartyScotland 
Item 12 of 321905Prestonpans Public LibraryPrestonpans East LothianScotlandCompetition design, not selected
Item 13 of 321905Whitehaven Public LibraryWhitehaven CumberlandEnglandWon open competition to secure job
Item 14 of 321906Kippenross HouseDunblane StirlingshireScotlandStaircase
Item 15 of 321907Maxton Public LibraryMaxton RoxburghshireScotland 
Item 16 of 321907Strathy Lochs UF Church and manseStrathy Lochs SutherlandScotlandWith Sinclair MacDonald as executant architect
Item 17 of 321908Bonnyrigg Public LibraryBonnyrigg MidlothianScotlandWon open competition to secure job
Item 18 of 321909Bruan UF ChurchBruan CaithnessScotlandWith Sinclair MacDonald as executant architect
Item 19 of 321909Cockpen Parish Council OfficesBonnyrigg MidlothianScotland 
Item 20 of 321909Latheron UF ChurchLatheron CaithnessScotland 
Item 21 of 321909Rogart UF ChurchRogart SutherlandScotland 
Item 22 of 321909UF ChurchBrora SutherlandScotland 
Item 23 of 32191011-15 Victoria Street  EdinburghScotlandFurther two storeys added
Item 24 of 321910Tobermory UF ChurchTobermoryMullArgyllScotland 
Item 25 of 321912The RowansColinton EdinburghScotlandAdditions and alterations
Item 26 of 321914Liberal ClubInnerleithen PeeblesshireScotlandAlterations and additions to villa for conversion to Libreral Club. Macniven in independent practice.
Item 27 of 321914TalgarthColinton EdinburghScotland 
Item 28 of 32Before 1914Loganbank HouseGlencorse MidlothianScotlandInternal reconstruction and decoration
Item 29 of 32After 1915HospitalGretna DumfriesshireScotland 
Item 30 of 32After 1915HospitalAnnan DumfriesshireScotland 
Item 31 of 32After 1915Housing for the AdmiraltyGourock RenfrerwshireScotland 
Item 32 of 32After 1915Housing for the Ministry of Munitions  LanarkshireScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this :
Item 1 of 4Glendinning, Miles2008Modern architect: the life and times of Robert Matthew RIBA Publishingp54, 59, 66
Item 2 of 4Post Office Directories     
Item 3 of 4Scottish Biographies1938  E J Thurston (pub.) 
Item 4 of 4Who's Who in Architecture1914    

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this :
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 4Builder4 February 1949  Obituary
Item 2 of 4Dundee Courier27 March 1915  p2
Item 3 of 4Edinburgh Evening News29 December 1944  Note on his retirement
Item 4 of 4RIBA JournalMarch 1949 London: Royal Institute of British ArchitectsObituary p244

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this :
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2National Monuments Record of Scotland/NMRS, RCAHMSNMRS Library Information from form filled in by Macniven lent by Ian Macniven, 27 West Maitland Street, Edinburgh
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers L v19 no1441; F no1588 (microfilm reel 13)