Rowand Anderson, Sir Robert (1834-1921)

Sir Robert Rowand Anderson RSA (5 April 1834 – 1 June 1921) was a Scottish Victorian architect. Anderson trained in the office of George Gilbert Scott in London before setting up his own practice in Edinburgh in 1860. During the 1860s his main work was small churches in the ‘first pointed’ style that is characteristic of Scott’s former assistants. By 1880 his practice was designing the most prestigious public and private buildings in Scotland.

His works include The Scottish National Portrait Gallery; Dome of Old College, Medical Faculty and McEwan Hall, Edinburgh University; Central Hotel at Glasgow Central station, the Catholic Apostolic Church in Edinburgh and Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute for the 3rd Marquess of Bute.

Anderson was born at Liberton, outside Edinburgh, the third child of James Anderson, a solicitor, and Maragaret Rowand. Educated at George Watson’s College, he began a legal apprenticeship in 1845, and briefly worked for his father’s firm. He began to study architecture in 1849, attending classes at the Trustee’s Drawing Academy (which later became Edinburgh College of Art), and was articled to architect John Lessels (1809-1883).

In 1857 he took a two-year post as an assistant to George Gilbert Scott, in his office at Trafalgar Square, London. Here he worked alongside many influential architects, including Giles Gilbert Scott. He then spent time travelling and studying in Europe, working briefly for Pierre Cuypers in Roermond, Netherlands.

In 1860 Anderson returned to Edinburgh, and began working as an architect with the Royal Engineers, undertaking works on coastal defences, and the 78th Highlanders memorial outside Edinburgh Castle. For Giles Gilbert Scott he supervised the construction of St James church in Leith, which led to further commissions from the Scottish Episcopal Church, including Christ Church, Falkirk (1862), All Saints, Brougham Place, Edinburgh (1864), St Andrew’s church in St Andrews (1866), St John’s, Alloa (1866), and St James, Cupar (1866). All of these were carried out alongside his work for the Royal Engineers, and show the influence of Scott’s church designs.

Anderson set up his own independent practice in 1868. His first significant commission came in 1871, for the restoration of St Vigeans Parish Church, Angus. He went on to win the competition to design the Catholic Apostolic Church in Edinburgh. Anderson joined the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, where he met future clients including the Marquis of Bute. In 1873 a short-lived partnership with David Bryce began, but was dissolved only months later.

In 1874 he was invited to submit designs for a competition for the University of Edinburgh Medical Faculty and graduation hall. He undertook further study tours to Europe, resulting in the winning Italian Renaissance style design which was finalised in 1877. The design secured Anderson’s election to the Royal Scottish Academy, although the Medical School was not completed until 1886, and the McEwan Hall not until 1897. His next major commission came soon after, in 1876, when he was appointed as architect for Glasgow Central Station. In 1878 Anderson designed a new Mount Stuart House (1878-1896) in an Italian Gothic style for the Marquis of Bute, following the destruction by fire of the previous house. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery (1884-1889) was designed in a similar style, and also executed in red sandstone.

In 1881 Anderson made his employee George Washington Browne a partner, and two years later the firm became Wardrop, Anderson and Browne, following the death of Maitland Wardrop and the merger of his practice with Anderson’s. However, Browne left in 1885, and Hew Wardrop died in 1887, leaving Anderson as sole partner again. Notable architects employed within the Anderson practice included Robert Weir Schultz, Robert Lorimer, A.G. Sydney Mitchell, and James Jerdan.

During the 1880s, Anderson’s style became increasingly influenced by Scottish historical architecture, possibly as a result of his friendship with architectural historians MacGibbon and Ross. The Scottish influence is evident in the Normand Memorial Hall, Dysart (1882), Ardgowan Esate Office, Greenock (1886), and the Pearce Institute, Govan (1892).

From the 1890s, restoration became the focus of Anderson’s architecture, as major commissions declined. He had already undertaken work at Iona Abbey and Jedburgh Abbey in the 1870s, and now restored Dunblane Cathedral and Paisley Abbey. He became more involved in teaching, helping to set up a School of Applied Art in 1892. In 1903 this merged into the new Edinburgh College of Art, with Anderson as a trustee.

In his later years Anderson became difficult to work with, and was perceived as arrogant. Another partnership, formed in 1899, was dissolved following lawsuits in 1902. Rowand Anderson and Paul was formed in 1904, with Andrew Forman Balfour Paul, son of Sir James Balfour Paul, the Lord Lyon. He was knighted in 1902 for his work at the Scottish royal residence, Balmoral Castle. By 1916 he was ill, although he founded the Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (later the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland) in that year, and donated his own Rutland Square townhouse to be used as its headquarters.

Anderson’s architectural practice was carried on as Rowand Anderson and Paul, until Basil Spence and William Kininmonth joined in 1934, forming Rowand Anderson and Paul and Partners. Paul died in 1938, and Spence left in 1945, leaving Kininmonth to carry on as Rowand Anderson, Kininmonth and Paul, which was still in operation in the late 1960s.