Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Records of Spence, Glover and Ferguson, architects, Edinburgh, Scotland

551 259

Description Records of Spence, Glover and Ferguson, architects, Edinburgh, Scotland

Date 1930 to 1980

Collection Records of Spence, Glover and Ferguson, architects, Edinburgh, Scotland

Catalogue Number 551 259

Category All Other

Scope and Content Numbering 14,400 items, the Spence Glover & Ferguson Collection consists of drawings, photographs and slides from the Moray Place office. There are approximately 10,000 drawings in the Collection and these consist exclusively of commissions undertaken by the Edinburgh office. The fact that Spence’s professional reputation and demand for his work grew considerably after winning the competition to design Coventry Cathedral in 1951 is reflected in the distribution of projects in the Collection; the greatest number of projects date from the 1950s and 1960s. The Collection includes projects by Basil Spence between 1931 and 1946 while he was at the office of Rowand Anderson & Balfour Paul, such as the Gribloch House, Stirlingshire (1937-39); and Quothquhan Lodge, Lanarkshire (1937). Designs for local authority housing schemes include housing at Dunbar (c.1945-52), for which the practice received a Saltire Award, and Newhaven Harbour housing blocks at the Gorbals in Glasgow (1958-64). Spence was sought after as a school and university architect and work represented in the Collection includes Kilsyth Academy (1938-53); Thurso High School (1956-62); Glasgow University Natural Philosophy Department (1950-57); and Durham University Physics Building, Newcastle (1956-61). The photographic component of the Collection includes construction photographs and copies of drawings that are not part of the Collection. Projects represented include Glasgow Royal Infirmary (c.1966) and the George Square redevelopment and Library for the University of Edinburgh (c.1956-66). Spence’s role as a designer of exhibition stands and furnishings is also photographically illustrated. The slide collection documents the various stages of building Glasgow’s Abbotsinch Airport (c. 1965-66); the construction and completion of University College Dublin Library (c. 1973-75); and drawings for Mortonhall Crematorium, Edinburgh (c.1962). Many important non-Scottish projects undertaken by Spence do not feature in the Collection, either in drawings, photographic or slide form.

Archive History The Spence Glover & Ferguson Collection (Accession No. 1992/53) was gifted to the RIAS by Jim Beveridge, senior partner, when the practice was closed in 1992. The ownership was transferred to RCAHMS in 1999 as part of the McKean Collection. At the time of the closure of the Edinburgh office the business records and job files for the practice were not preserved. The Collection was catalogued and conserved as part of the Scottish Architects' Papers Preservation Project (SAPPP) between 1999 and 2004.

System of Arrangement All items for each building are grouped together into projects. Projects are then grouped by decade, with all projects numbered by the earliest decade in which they appeared. One catalogue entry has been created for each roll of ten drawings. Photographs are housed in archival quality polyester pockets within ring-bound albums. Slides are sorted into projects, numbered and stored in archival quality polyester slip pockets. These are stored in ring-bound albums and have been catalogued individually.

Related Material There is a significant quantity of related material held in other collections both in RCAHMS and elsewhere. The William Kininmonth Collection and a number of presentation drawings by Spence are held by RCAHMS. Examples of Spence’s work can also be found in the RIBA Drawings Collection and at the University of Glasgow Mackintosh School of Architecture. In February 2003 the Sir Basil Spence Archive was deposited with RCAHMS. Gifted by Gillian and Anthony Blee – Spence’s daughter and son-in-law – the Archive contains more than 40,000 drawings, photographs and manuscripts, mostly relating to English and international projects undertaken from Spence’s London offices. There are, however, business records from the Spence Glover & Ferguson practice within the Archive as well as some drawings and photographs of Scottish commissions. The collection has been expertly conserved and catalogued, and in 2007–08 was the subject of a hugely successful exhibition that ran at the National Galleries of Scotland, Dean Gallery in Edinburgh, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London and the Herbert Gallery, Coventry.

Access Conditions Access is unrestricted, except where conservation concerns exist.

Administrative History Basil Urwin Spence (1907-1976) was born in Bombay, India, and received his education there until the age of twelve. In 1919 he was enrolled in George Watson’s College, Edinburgh as a boarder and in 1925 began his training at Edinburgh College of Art, initially in painting and sculpture and subsequently in architecture. In 1927 he was elected to the RIAS Council as a student member and was awarded the Certificate in Architecture in 1928. The following year Spence found employment as an assistant in the London office of Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944). He attended evening classes at the Bartlett School of Architecture whilst in London and also produced perspective drawings for Leslie Grahame Thomson (later MacDougall) (1896-1974) during this period. In June 1931 Spence received a Diploma in Architecture from Edinburgh College of Art as well as a Royal Institute of British Architects Silver Medal for the best architectural student, the Rowand Anderson Silver Medal, and an honorary mention for his sketches and measured drawings of Gothic buildings submitted for the Pugin Studentship Competition. Two years later he was awarded the Pilgrim Studentship. In 1932 Spence formed a partnership with a friend from his student days, William Kininmonth. The practice operated from the office of Rowand Anderson & Balfour Paul and was immediately successful, the partners specialising in modernist commissions as well as presentation work for practices such as Williamson & Hubbard of Kirkcaldy, W J Walker Todd and Reginald Fairlie. In 1934 Kininmonth and Spence became partners in Rowand Anderson & Balfour Paul, and the practice was renamed Rowand Anderson Paul & Partners. Around this time Spence was also employed at Edinburgh College of Art on a part-time basis as a studio instructor. Following service during the Second World War, Spence made a brief return to Rowand Anderson Paul & Partners before leaving to form his own practice with Bruce Robertson in 1946. Known as Basil Spence & Partners, the firm was based at 40 Moray Place, Edinburgh. John Hardie Glover, who joined the practice as an assistant in 1947, was made a partner in 1948. Andrew Renton became a partner in 1949 and Peter Ferguson in 1951. Spence moved to London in 1952 after winning the competition to design Coventry Cathedral in 1951. He initially operated as Basil Spence & Partners from Canonbusy, London, before dividing the practice under the titles Sir Basil Spence OM RA and Basil Spence Bonnington & Collins. The Edinburgh office remained at 40 Moray Place under the auspices of Glover and was renamed Basil Spence Glover & Ferguson. Spence maintained links by means of monthly visits, and by retaining overall control of design output. Andrew Merrylees became a partner followed by Jim Beveridge in 1968. Ferguson died in 1969 and Hardie Glover retired in 1974. John Legg was consequently promoted to partnership. Spence was widely celebrated during his lifetime for his architectural work. He was awarded an OBE in 1948, but it was during the 1950s and 1960s that his personal and professional popularity expanded dramatically. Between 1958 and 1960 he was president of the RIBA from 1961 to 1968 served as Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy. He received a knighthood in 1960 (primarily for his work on Coventry Cathedral); the RIBA award for distinction in town planning in 1961; a London Royal College of Art Honorary Diploma in 1962 and the Order of Merit in 1962. He was also awarded the French Academy Architecture Gold Medal, the Order of St Lucca, Italy; and numerous Honorary Fellowships in the USA, Canada, Rhodesia, South Africa and East Africa. He died in Suffolk on 19 November 1976, after which his London practice name was changed from Sir Basil Spence OM RA to The Sir Basil Spence Partnership, later renamed Blee Ettwein Bridges and finally the Anthony Blee Consultancy, based at 32 Duncan Terrace, London [2009]. In 1984 Spence Glover & Ferguson’s senior partner Andrew Merrylees left the firm to set up his own practice. John Legg and Jim Beveridge continued the business until 1992, when Beveridge retired. The remainder of the practice’s work was taken over by John Legg’s firm Legg Associates and it was at this time that the practice name Spence Glover & Ferguson finally disappeared.

Accession Number 1992/53


Collection Hierarchy - Collection Level

Collection Level (551 259) Records of Spence, Glover and Ferguson, architects, Edinburgh, Scotland

Preview Category Catalogue Number Title Date Level
All Other 551 259/1 Projects from the 1930s 1930 Group Level
All Other 551 259/2 Projects from the 1940s 1940 Group Level
All Other 551 259/3 Projects from the 1950s 1950 Group Level
All Other 551 259/4 Projects from the 1960s 1960 Group Level
All Other 551 259/5 Projects from the 1970s 1970 Group Level
All Other 551 259/6 Projects from the 1980s 1980 Group Level
All Other 551 259/7 Projects from the 1990s Group Level
On-line Digital Images On-line Digital Images SC 437325 The Church of St. Ninian and St. Martin, Whithorn. Item Level

People and Organisations