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Sir Robert Lorimer


This gallery commemorates 150 years since the birth of Sir Robert Stodart Lorimer who was born in Edinburgh on 4 November 1864. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy and then the University of Edinburgh before taking an apprenticeship in 1885 with Sir Robert Rowand Anderson (1864-1929) and his partner Hew Montgomerie Wardrop (1856-1887). In 1889 Lorimer left Edinburgh for London to join the practice of George Frederic Bodley (1827-1907), a leading architect in the Arts and Crafts movement. He later worked briefly in the office of James Marjoribanks MacLaren (1853-1890) before returning to Scotland having won his first commission, to restore Earlshall, Leuchars, in 1891. In 1893 Lorimer opened an office at 49 Queen Street, Edinburgh, where he remained until 1913.

Lorimer is renowned as being one of Scotland’s leading country house architects during the first two decades of the 20th century. He took a ‘traditionalist’ approach to architecture, drawing influence from the past whilst adhering to the Arts and Crafts ethos of simple facades built from local materials and rejecting the highly ornamental fashions of the mid-nineteenth century. Lorimer’s commissions included small domestic dwellings such as a series of cottages at Colinton (1897-1923); large country houses such as Rowallan, Ayrshire (c. 1901-6), Ardkinglas, Argyll (1906-12) and Formakin, Renfrewshire (1903-20); restorations and renovations such as Craigmyle, Torphins, Aberdeenshire (1901-10) and Pitkerro, Broughty Ferry, Dundee (1902-10); and remodelling of interiors such as those at Aberlour House, Moray (c.1893) and Marchmont House, Berwickshire (c.1913-17). His skill as an interior and furniture designer as well as an architect is also apparent in ecclesiastical commissions such as the Thistle Chapel, St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh (c.1911), a project which earned Lorimer a knighthood in 1911.

By 1919, Lorimer had been appointed an official architect to the Imperial War Graves Commission, and in this capacity designed over 300 memorials in villages, towns, and schools in Scotland and England as well as cemeteries in Greece, Macedonia, Italy and Egypt. The largest, and perhaps the best known of these commissions, was the Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh Castle (c.1919-27), for which he received a second knighthood.

From c.1913 Lorimer’s practice was based at 17 Great Stuart Street, Edinburgh. In 1927, Lorimer’s office manager John Fraser Matthew (1875-1955) was assumed into partnership and the practice was renamed Lorimer & Matthew. On Lorimer’s death in 1929 John Matthew continued the practice alone until succeeded by his son, Stuart Russell Matthew (1912-1996) in 1946.

The Lorimer & Matthew Collection at RCAHMS has accumulated over a period of forty years from more than twenty accessions. A large initial deposit of office drawings was made by the Matthew family in 1968, and RCAHMS continued to receive donations for the collection between the years 1978 and 1995, all of which were catalogued and conserved as part of the Scottish Architects' Papers Preservation Project (SAPPP) between 1999 and 2004. Over the course of SAPPP a number of additional donations were received but were not included in the project. More still has been added in recent years and RCAHMS has also purchased material with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland. Notable accessions include the remaining part of the Lorimer Collection; a plaster maquette for the Naval War Memorials at Clatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth; and a set of Lorimer’s sketchbooks.

The Lorimer & Matthew Collection is rare in comparison to many of RCAHMS collections from other architectural practices from this period due to its comprehensive nature. The collection covers the full range of Lorimer’s practice, from cottages and country houses to churches, war memorials and interiors. Architectural drawings and photographs make up the body of the Collection, supplemented by further office material such as account books, certificate books, notebooks and ledgers, files of correspondence, diaries and sketchbooks. The collection also contains a number of architectural maquettes and a cabinet of drawing instruments.