Educated at Edinburgh
University. Trained in office of Rowand Anderson and assistant to G.F. Bodley in
London. Began practice in Edinburgh 1892; carried out important country house
and restoration work, also Thistle Chapel, St. Giles Cathedral (1909-11). Was
knighted in 1911. Appointed Principal Architect for Italy, Macedonia and Egypt
21/09/1918. Designed 12 cemeteries in Italy, including Barenthal and Cavaletto,
also Memorials at Giavera and Savona; 8 cemeteries in Macedonia (Greece) and
Memorials at Lake Doiran (Walter Gilbert, sculptor) and Monastir Road; 8
cemeteries in Egypt, including Chatby, Hadra (Alexandria) and Old Cairo. Also
designed 5 war cemeteries in Germany, at Cologne, Hamburg, Worms, Cassel and
Berlin. Appointed Principal Architect for the U.K. June 1921 and designed Nval
memorials at Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth. Left Commission 31/12/1927. Also
designed Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh (1924-27). died 1929.
information above was kindly supplied by Gavin Stamp and used with his permission
Lorimer was born in
Edinburgh, the son of James Lorimer, who was Regius Professor of Public Law at
Edinburgh University from 1862 to 1890. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy and
later at Edinburgh University. He was part of a gifted family, being the younger
brother of painter John Henry Lorimer, and father to the sculptor Hew Lorimer.
In 1878 the Lorimer family acquired the lease of Kellie Castle in Fife and began
its restoration for use as a holiday home.
Lorimer began his architectural career in 1885 working for Sir Robert Rowand
Anderson in Edinburgh, and in 1889 for George Frederick Bodley in London,
returning to Edinburgh to form his own practice in 1891 with his first major
restoration commission at Earlshall in Fife for a friend of his parents.
He was influenced by Scottish domestic architecture of the 16th and 17th
centuries and the Scots Baronial style of Kellie Castle where he had spent much
time as a young man. From his time in Bodley's office, Lorimer was influenced by
the ideas of William Morris, and went on to become a committed exponent of the
Arts and Crafts approach to architecture. He assembled a collaborative group of
artists and craftsmen who, collectively, often contributed to his various
commissions and to the manufacture of furniture sent to the Arts and Crafts
exhibitions in London. In 1896 he was elected to the Art Workers Guild.
Lorimer designed a series of cottages in the Arts and Crafts style in the
Colinton area of Edinburgh, the so-called "Colinton Cottages". Constructed using
traditional methods and materials, each cottage included a garden layout and
interior design, including furniture, in keeping with the Arts and Crafts
concept. By 1900, eight cottages had been built and four others were under
As his reputation grew the scale of his commissions increased, including major
alterations and additions to important houses in various styles, culminating in
three entirely new country houses designed in his personal interpretation of
Scots Baronial; at Rowallan, Ayrshire (1903), Ardkinglas, Argyllshire (1906),
and Formakin, Renfrewshire (1912). Of these, Ardkinglas, on Loch Fyne was the
only one built as originally designed and, Lorimer having been given carte
blanche, represents his masterpiece.
His important restorations at this time include Lennoxlove House, Haddington
(1912) and probably his most evocative; at Dunderave, Argyllshire (1912) on the
Ardkinglas estate. He could take a house of modest character and give it a
strong personality, such as Pitkerro, Forfarshire (1902) or Briglands, Kinross
(from 1903), particularly where he found the raw materials sympathetic, but he
could also disregard existing architectural qualities in a way that modern
conservation practice would question, if he felt the result justified its
replacement, such as at Hill of Tarvit, Fife (1907) where he demolished a
previous house probably by Sir William Bruce, or at Marchmont, Berwickshire
(1914) where he re-configured an altered house by William Adam (from 1750),
ignoring Adam's design.
He was called in to a number of properties to carry out a range of improvements,
such as minor alterations, design of interiors and furnishings, work to
ancillary buildings, and garden designs and features. A good representative of
this sort of work is Hunterston Castle in Ayrshire (1912).
The outbreak of World War
I restricted the demand for large new houses and his attention shifted to
smaller scale projects, war memorials, and restorations. He already had a
reputation as one of Scotland's leading restoration architects following the
restoration of Earlshall and Dunderave, and he went on to carry out significant
alteration and restoration works at
Dunrobin Castle in
Sutherland following a
fire (1915), and at Balmanno Castle in Perthshire (1916), said to have been the
only one of his commissions he would like to have lived in.
Although much of his work,
and reputation, was in the sphere of domestic architecture, Lorimer also carried
out significant public works. Principal amongst these include his design for the
new chapel for the
Knights of the Thistle in
St Giles' Cathedral,
Edinburgh in 1911. He received a
knighthood for his
efforts and went on to gain the commission for the
Scottish National War Memorial
Edinburgh Castle in 1919,
subsequently opened by the
Prince of Wales in 1927.
Lorimer was also
St Andrew's Garrison Church, Aldershot,
completed 1927, a large Army church dedicated to the soldiers of the Church of
Scotland and kindred churches who lost their lives in World War One. One of his
last works (completed posthumously) was
Knightswood St Margaret's Parish Church,
Glasgow, which was dedicated in 1932.
Lorimer became President
of the professional body in Scotland, the
Incorporation of Architects in Scotland,
and it was during his tenure in office that the body received its second
royal charter, permitting
use of the term 'Royal' in the title. Lorimer was a fellow of the
North British Academy of Arts.
He died in Edinburgh in 1929.
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