Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
John Burnet & Son
(fl. 1844-1949)
Formed in 1882 between John Burnet (1814-1901) and John James Burnet (1857-1938), later becoming Burnet, Son & Campbell, 1886-97, with John Archibald Campbell (1859-1909).

John Burnet was born a soldier's son at Craighead House, Kirk O' Shotts, and trained initially as a carpenter. After becoming a Clerk of Works, he set up as an architect specializing in modest churches and houses in the Italianate and Classical styles, and large-scale commercial buildings and hospitals in the Italian Renaissance, Baronial and Gothic styles.

Burnet was the first Glasgow architect to use sculpture on a grand scale after David Hamilton , and often employed the Mossmans and their former pupils John Crawford and James Young to carve the statues, busts and other ornaments on his buildings.

These include the Seamen's Chapel, 7 Brown Street, which featured a relief of Hope Leaning on an Anchor in a niche, by Crawford (1861, demolished); Glasgow Eye Infirmary, 170-4 Berkley Street, which included a statue of a blind girl by G E Ewing (1873-4, demolished 1970s); Glasgow Stock Exchange, 159 Buchanan Street, with allegorical statues and busts by the Mossmans (1875-7) and the Merchants House, 7 West George Street, which provided Young with his first important independent (and troublesome) commission for architectural sculpture (1874).

Other notable examples of Burnet's work in Glasgow are:

The domestic Fitzroy Place, Sauchiehall Street (1847); the Bank of Scotland, 1-3 Bridge Street, which has an armorial group by Crawford (1857); Alexander's Public School, 94 Duke Street, with portrait busts also by Crawford (1858); Govan Burgh Chambers, 18-20 Orkney Street (1866-7); Woodlands Parish Church, Woodlands Gate, with Medieval saints and grotesque animals by an unidentified carver (1874); and the Western Infirmary, Dumbarton Road, whose main building was derived from Glamis Castle, and which featured a carved puma and statue which were rescued prior to the building's demolition (1874, demolished c. 1981); and Overnewton School, 50 Lumsden Street, which has a fine Glasgow coat of Arms also by an unidentified sculptor (1876-7).

His most splendid creation was the Florentine facade of Lanarkshire House, 191 Ingram Street, which replaced Hamilton's Classical-style Union Bank of 1842, but which re-used its emblematic statues by J Mossman , as well as aquiring new groups and heraldry, also by Mossman (1876, now Corinthian).

Amongst the monuments designed by Burnet is the Kirkland gravestone in Dundee, by Mossman (1871), and the Gothic tomb of George Baillie outside the south door of Glasgow Cathedral, with a portrait bust also by J Mossman (1873).

Burnet's own grave and memorial are in Glasgow's Western Necropolis.

In January 2000, after celebrating its year as European City of Architecture and Design, 1999, Glasgow ruthlessly destroyed one of Burnet's few remaining churches, the French Gothic Eglinton Congregational Church, 341 Eglinton Street, which included the destruction of pairs of fine Mossman angels and dragon gargoyles (1866).

A similar fate also befell his Elgin Place Congregational Church, 193-5 Pitt Street (1855-6), in December 2004, when a minor fire was used as an excuse to demolish the building's magnificent portico and sculpted pediment.

John James Burnet was born in Glasgow, and trained as an architect in his father's practice before studying at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and the office of Jean Louis Pascal.

Returning to Glasgow in 1877, JJ Burnet became his father's partner, as John Burnet & Son, and continued the firm's fascination with large-scale sculpture schemes on several landmark buildings in the city, the earliest of which was the Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, Sauchiehall Street, which incorporated figurative friezes and a statue of Minerva by the Mossmans and carverwork by Young (1878, demolished 1973).

JJ Burnet's other important buildings with Mossman sculpture include the Clyde Trust Building, Robertson Street (1883), and the Athenaeum, 8 Nelson Mandela Place (1886).

After Mossman's death in 1890, Burnet favoured William Birnie Rhind and WK Brown as his sculptors, employing them on important projects such as (respectively) Charing Cross Mansions, Charing Cross (1889-91); and the Athenaeum Theatre, 179 Buchanan Street (1891).

In 1894-6, Burnet was commissioned to alter his father's Glasgow Savings Bank, 99 Glassford Street, to which he added a columned attic and a magnificent, bijou banking hall at 177 Ingram Street, which includes sculpture modelled by Sir George Frampton and carved by William Shirreffs.

Contemporary with this were his alterations to R W Forsyth's warehouse at 60-70 Gordon Street, which involved the addition of a domed corner featuring a quadriga group and statues by William Birnie Rhind (1896-9).

A frequent contributor to his later buildings was Albert Hodge , who provided Burnet's Clyde Trust Building with portrait statues and two of the largest sculpture groups in the city, depicting Europa and her bull and Amphitrite and her sea horses (1905-8).

JJ Burnet also employed Hodge on his London buildings after setting up an office there in 1905, and later became re-aquainted with Sir George Frampton on his competition winning King Edward VII Gallery, British Museum, for which Frampton produced a pair of magnificent, recumbent lions, and for which Burnet was knighted by King George V, in 1914.

His other important buildings with sculpture outside Glasgow include RW Forsyth's Department Store, Princes Street, Edinburgh, with sculpture by Birnie Rhind and W Reid Dick (1906).

After World War I, Burnet was appointed to the Imperial War Graves Commission and designed the cemeteries and war memorials at Port Tewfik; Gallipoli; and Jerusalem, and was responsible for the design of Glasgow's Cenotaph in George Square, which features recumbent lions by Ernest Gillick (1921-4).

Closely related, stylistically, to the Cenotaph, is Burnet's Hunter Memorial, University of Glasgow, which includes a figure of St. Mungo and portrait medallions of the surgeons and anatomists, William and John Hunter, by GH Paulin (1924).

John Archibald Campbell joined the Burnets as an apprentice in 1877, and studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts from 1880 until returning to Glasgow in 1883.

In 1886, he rejoined he Burnets as a partner, from which time the firm was known as Burnet, Son & Campbell. Lasting a decade, the partnership became one of the most successful and influential in the West of Scotland, until 1897, when it was dissolved after the younger Burnet became exasperated with Campbell's drinking.

During this time the partners' individual contributions to the firm's designs became difficult to separate, although it is generally acknowledged that Burnet was the office's creative driving force, as well as the better placed professionally to secure important commissions through his associations with Glasgow's architectural and artistic fraternity, and the city's business community.

The firm's major projects at this time included the competition winning Barony Church, 1 Castle Street (1886), whose Cathedral-like interior features sculpture by William Vickers (1900).

Practicing on his own from 1897, Campbell continued to work in the Burnet 'in-house style' of tall, narrow 'elevator' buildings characterized by wide window arches and articulated front gables, such as at Dundas House, 164-8 Buchanan Street (1898), and the colossal, American influenced 157-67 Hope Street, his masterpiece, which employed Burnet's favourite motif of columned attic galleries under broad eaves (1902).

Campbell was also a noted designer of houses, many of which, including his own weekend bachelor retreat, were in Bridge of Weir. His Glasgow home was in 7-23 Kirklee Road, an elegant Scots Renaissance terrace of his own design (1900-9), which is distinguished by its shallow domed corners hugged by tall chimneystacks and canted bay windows; features which Campbell was to use again on his commercial buildings at 157-67 Hope Street and at 71-5 Robertson Lane (1899-1901), and which were to become immediately recognizable as characteristics of his own 'in-house style' (1900).

He consolidated his position as one of the city's most innovative and 'modern' architects with his American influenced Edinburgh Life Assurance Building, 122-6 St. Vincent Street, which features heraldry by HH Martyn (1904), and his Northern Insurance Building, St Vincent Street (1908-9), the first building to be built in Glasgow in Portland Stone rather than sandstone.

At the end of his life, Campbell entered into a brief partnership with AD Hislop in 1909, but this was brought abruptly to an end with Campbell's death that same year.

Burnet, meanwhile, had created three of the most opulent Beaux Arts and American influenced office buildings in the city:

Atlantic Chambers, 43-7 Hope Street and Waterloo Chambers, 15-20 Waterloo Street, both of which incorporate sculpture by R Ferris (1899-1900), and McGeoch's Warehouse, 28 West Campbell Street, whose figurative work was modelled by Phyllis Archibald and carved by Holmes & Jackson (1905, demolished 1971).

After partnering Norman Aitken Dick (1883-1948), as Burnet, Son & Dick, between 1909 and 1919, Burnet promoted his chief assistant, Thomas Tait (1882-1954) to a partnership, and concentrated mainly on his London Practice and the refinement of his American influences in a series of large-scale commissions, such as Loyd's Bank, Cornhill (1927-9) and the Unilever Building (1929-32).

His greatest Glasgow buildings of the period were the War Memorial Chapel, University of Glasgow (1923) and the North British & Mercantile offices, St. Vincent Street, which features sculpture by Archibald Dawson and his collegues Jack Mortimer, Andrew Willison and Edward Graham (1926-9).

By the time Burnet died in 1938, Tait had already become the firm's principal designer, having made his reputation with his Modernist designs for the pylons of Sydney Harbour Bridge (1924) and St. Andrew's House, Edinburgh (1936-9).

As Burnet, Tait & Lorne, the firm's most important, and best loved, commission in Glasgow was for the Empire Exhibition of 1938.

Held in Bellahouston Park, its buildings and grounds were an exuberant showcase for the latest ideas in Modernist architecture and the work of Scottish sculpture's 'Old Guard', Dawson , Proudfoot , Carrick , Schotz and Whalen , although most of their work was destroyed or dispersed after the exhibition closed.


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