James Lindsay was an architect whose work consisted mainly of large commercial buildings in his home city of Glasgow. Although he rarely won major commissions, he regularly just missed out on the top awards.
He bequeathed the painting Head of Holy Loch by George Henry to Glasgow. Henry was one of the most influential of the ‘Glasgow Boys’ artists based in or associated with Glasgow. The painting is dated 1882 and was sold at an exhibition of The Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Art in that year for £25 and it is possible that the purchaser was James Lindsay.
James was born on 10th May 1857 to William Lindsay, victualler and Mary Duncan (1) . He attended St James Parish School and Glasgow High School. He was articled to the firm of Peat and Duncan, Glasgow for five years followed by three years as a draughtsman during which time he studied at Glasgow School of Art, and in 1876 he won the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Silver Medal. In 1880 he set up on his own at 196 St Vincent Street (where he also lived). At around this time James had become friends with James Sellars, one of Glasgow’s leading architects with many fine examples of his work surviving, and who won the competition to design The International Exhibition of 1888 in Kelvingrove Park (2).
In 1881 James was admitted as an Associate of RIBA, having been proposed by John Honeyman (whose partnership was later to include John Keppie and Charles Rennie Mackintosh), James Audley, and John Burnet. He was living at 8 Morris Place by then (3), situated to the east end of the city centre.
James married Jessie Millar Black in 1883. Jessie lived at 48 Caledonia Street, Paisley and was the daughter of Robert, a local spirit merchant (4). They had six children, three boys and three girls, and by 1891 the family was living at 48 Garnethill Street (5). James had business premises at 167 St Vincent Street in 1884 and moved to 248 West George Street around 1886 and remained there till his death in 1914 (6). James junior followed in his father’s footsteps as an architect and carried on the business at the same premises after his father’s death. James junior is probably best known for Walter Hubbard’s bakery, 508-510 Great Western Road, Glasgow, an art deco design which is currently a nightclub (7).
Among James’ many architectural commissions were several schools including Wellshot Secondary at Tollcross, Glasgow which became a primary school in 1970.
Unusual commissions were for the Glasgow Sausage Works at 240 North Woodside Road in 1895 and The City Manure Office in Parliamentary Road, Townhead (horse manure on city streets had become a major health problem in cities around the world). Possil Iron Works in 1889, Kames Free Church on the Isle of Bute of 1898 and the City of Glasgow Dyeworks of 1902 are further examples of his numerous commissions (8)
On a more ambitious scale he entered competitions for major city projects. In 1884 he submitted plans for the New Admiralty and War Office, Whitehall, London and although awarded a £600 ‘premium’ did not secure the job. In 1889 he reached second place to design Sheffield Municipal Buildings and won a £100 ‘premium’. In 1905 his design for Hutchesontown Library in Glasgow was not taken up, and in the same year he submitted a competition design for Kirkintilloch Town Hall which made second place (9).
In 1880 James submitted an entry for the new City Chambers in Glasgow. This was described at the time as a ‘mannerist Hotel de Ville with a roman temple front, huge angle mansards and a Greco-Roman tower which bears a striking, and more refined and satisfying, resemblance to that of William Young’s winning design’ (10).
He also entered the competition to design plans for the new Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum in 1891, won by the London firm of Simpson and Allen. Entries were received from many established architects, and some from ambitious youngsters including Charles Rennie Mackintosh (11).
Occasionally he designed private houses, one such being Ardenwohr at 233 Nithsdale Road, Pollockshields, Glasgow. It has been described as ‘looking remotely Jacobean with a repulsive red rock-faced finish’ (12), perhaps a little unfair as it would probably be described now as a rather handsome Victorian villa.
The Lindsays moved to 11 Moray Place in 1896 (13). This fine terrace sits alongside 1-10 Moray Place which was designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson, one of Glasgow’s most renowned architects. Thomson himself lived at number 1 from 1861 and the terrace incorporated some typical classical features e.g. the giant order of pilasters arranged along the frontage (14). The terrace which includes number 11 was added later and although sympathetic to Thomson’s work, was more eclectic in style.
Jessie Lindsay died in 1898 (15) and James continued to live at Moray Place till his own death in 1914 (16). At that time he was working on a successful commission to design The Netherton Institute (public baths and library) in Dunfermline, which was completed after his death (17). Although recognised as a talented architect who often came second best, it is ironic that success really came at the end of his life.
(1) 1857 births 644/1 857) – https://scotlandspeople.gov.uk
(2) Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, London – Biographical Details 8/4/2009
(3) ibid. 8/4/2009
(4) (1883 marriages 573/445) –https://scotlandspeople.gov.uk
(5) (census 1891 644/96/35) –https://scotlandspeople.gov.uk
(6) Post Office Directories, Mitchell Library, Glasgow
(7) Dictionary of Scottish Architects – www.scottisharchitects.org.uk, Lindsay james (junior)
(8) Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, London – Biographical Details 8/4/2009
(9) ibid. 8/4/2009
(10) www.glasgowsculpture.com, architects, Lindsay
(11) Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, London – Biographical Details 8/4/2009
(12) Williamson, Elizabeth, Glasgow. Penguin for National Trust for Scotland. 1990. (The Buildings of Glasgow Series)
(13) Post Office Directories, Mitchell Library
(14) Dictionary of Scottish Architects – www.scottisharchitects.org.uk, Thomson Alexander
(15) (1898 Deaths 644/14 489)) –https://scotlandspeople.gov.uk
(16) (1914 Deaths 644/18 276) –https://scotlandspeople.gov.uk
(17) Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, London – Biographical Details 8/4/2009