Anderson, Robert Rowand, Sir, ARSA(res) HRSA

1834 – 1921

Erroneously recorded as being born in Forres in 1835, in fact he was born in Edinburgh in 1837. Anderson began a legal career before pursuing his passion for architecture, and was a pupil under both Alexander Christie ARSA and Robert Scott Lauder RSA at the Trustees Academy. Later he attended the Academy’s Life Class before taking up an apprenticeship in an Architect's practice. He published at a later date a volume entitled Examples of the Architecture of France and Italy, in which were garnered for the benefit of succeeding students the sketches and measured drawings made on a trip to France and Italy at this time. His earlier work was almost entirely ecclesiastical, but after the middle seventies his practice became more varied, including buildings so diverse in purpose as the New Medical School, Edinburgh, the Scottish Conservative Club, and the Central Station Buildings of the Caledonian Railway, Glasgow. Of his ecclesiastical work up to this date, the Catholic Apostolic Church, and the Campanile added to St. George’s U.F. Church, both in Edinburgh, were the best known. In recognition of his achievements as an Architect, and more especially of his great work in the design of the New Medical School, the University of Edinburgh, on the Occasion of its tercentenary celebrations in 1884, conferred on him the honorary degree of LL.D. In the later half of his long professional career Anderson Anderson carried out many important works, which greatly extended his reputation. So fully, Indeed, was his pre-eminent position in Scottish Architecture now recognised, that he was more than once invited by Government to submit designs for works of Imperial importance; the last occasion being the competition for the Queen Victoria Memorial in 1901. Shortly thereafter he received the honour of Knighthood from His Majesty King Edward VII. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery and Museum of Antiquities, commissioned from him by the donor, John Ritchie Findlay, in 1884; the restoration of Dunblane Cathedral, and the building of Mount Stuart House for the Marquess of Bute, are Anderson’s most important works during the later decades of the nineteenth century; but contemporaneously with these he carried out restorations of the Abbeys of Paisley and Culross, and of the Chapel, King’s College, Aberdeen. To this period also belong most of his decorative monuments and memorials, such as that to Montrose in St Giles’, Edinburgh, and those to the Duke of Buccleuch and Dean Ramsay in Parliament Square and Princes Street. He was elected an Associate of the Academy in 1876, but in 1883, as a protest against the neglect of Architecture in the elections to premier rank, he resigned his position and thereby led a few years later to the Mother of the Arts being assigned a more proportionate representation in both ranks. This was recognised by the Academy when, in 1896, Anderson was elected an Honorary Member. Later he was intimately associated with the establishment in 1889 of the Edinburgh School of Applied Art, which, before it was merged in the present College of Art, did much valuable work in the training, not of Architects only, but of those engaged in the Arts and Crafts generally. Anderson acted on the first Board of Management of the Art College. In connection with the School of Applied Art, Anderson instigated a collection of drawings by its students of examples of Scottish Architecture from the 12th to the 17th centuries. In 1921 the first of four quarterly parts to be published over the following five years was issued by the Board of Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland in conjunction with the Institute of Scottish Architects, and printed by George Waterston and Sons at 7/6d per part. each part comprised 15 reproductions made from these original drawings. The collection was begun by Anderson fifty years previously and was taken up by the students at the School of Applied Art. In partnership with Balfour Paul, Anderson also designed the First World War Memorial to the 42 members of the Society of Writers who lost their lives in the conflict, which was unveiled in the Signet Library, Edinburgh on 1921-01-13.

An image from the RSA collection.