The Architect - Sir Robert Stodart Lorimer

Sir Robert Lorimer
Sir Robert Lorimer
During the first three decades of the 20th century, the architect which the Scottish establishment most often turned to for its commissions was Sir Robert Lorimer (1864 - 1929), architect of St Andrew’s Garrison Church, Aldershot.  Nowadays, as he is both largely forgotten and overshadowed by his contemporary Charles Rennie Mackintosh, it is difficult to imagine the influence he once had over Scottish architecture.
Lorimer’s early career was dominated by the restoration and design of large Scottish country houses.

Wemyss Hall Formakin House
Above: the garden front of Wemyss Hall, Fife as remodelled by Lorimer between 1905 and 1907
Right: Formakin House, copying the style of an early renaissance Scottish tower house
Formakin House, dates from 1912 to 1914.  Despite its appearance it was a completely new commission not a restoration or a remodelling.  The small scale of the building (in country house terms), its use of rubble (uncut stone) and its primitive appearance, gives it an air of authenticity lacking in most Scots Baronial houses of the 19th century.  By contrast the remodelled garden front of Wemyss House is pure Edwardian architecture even if it also uses traditional Scottish techniques and materials, in particular harling or roughcast.

Below: the heavily embossed roof of the Thistle Chapel at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh as built for the Order of the Thistle
St Giles Cathedral
The latter part of Lorimer’s career was dominated with church buildings and war memorials.  His two most famous commissions were the Thistle Chapel, St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh; built as a permanent home for the Order of the Thistle (1909 to 1911) and the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle.

   War Memorial Outside    War Memorial Inside
Scottish National War Memorial - external & internal views

One work of Sir Robert Lorimer’s bears a striking resemblance to St Andrew’s Garrison Church internally, if not externally.  That is St Peter’s RC Church in Morningside, Edinburgh, a picture of which is displayed below.  Externally the churches are noticeably different as St Peter’s is built of stone, not brick.  St Peter’s Church was designed first, but the nave does not seem to have been completed until 1928 or 1929, a year or two after St Andrew’s was open.

St. Peter’s, Morningside
St Peter’s RC Church, Edinburgh
St Andrew’s Garrison Church would like to thank the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Country Life for kindly granting permission to reproduce their photographs on this web page.  Sources for above article: A History of Scottish Architecture from the Renaissance to the Present Day (published 1996) by Miles Glendinning, Ranald Macinnes & Aonghus MacKechnie, plus St Andrew’s Garrison Church of Scotland, Aldershot - A Short History (written in 1967) by David Reid.

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