He was born in the town of Aukland near Durham in northern England, in July 1822 the son of John Henry Starforth or Starford, and his wife Elizabeth Moor. He was apprenticed as an architect under Thomas Hamilton in the 1830s (based in Edinburgh (probably aged 14). Around 1840 he moved to the firm of Burn & Bryce, staying with David Bryce when William Burn left to set up in London in 1844.
He set up an independent practice around 1850, specialising in churches and country villas and farmsteads. In 1864 he entered the competition for the Scottish National Albert Memorial (now in Charlotte Square). Although unsuccessful his drawings were displayed in the 1886 Edinburgh Exhibition on The Meadows.
He was married to Helen Henderson (d.1916). They had two daughters and three sons, including Robert H. Starforth, who continued his father’s architectural practice but was of lesser note. Helen moved to Ayr following her husband’s death.
Works of Note
- Remodelling Crossmichael Church (1852)
- Patriothall, Stockbridge, Edinburgh (1859)
- Greyfriars Church in Dumfries (1865)
- Coltbridge School, Edinburgh (1868)
- Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary (1869)
- Trinity UP Church, Greenock (1869)
- Peebles Free Church (1871)
- Design for Villa Residences (1866)
- London Road Church, Edinburgh (1874)
- Remodelling of Cummertrees Parish Church (1875)
- Greenock Poorhouse and Asylum (1875)
- Tranent school (1876)
- Knox Academy (1877)
- Peebles Hydro (1878)
- UP Church, Summerside Street, Edinburgh (1878) (demolished 1977)
- UP Church, Eye Place, Edinburgh (1879) (demolished)
- Moffat Church, plus hall and manse (1882-5)
- UP Church and Hall, Kelso, Scottish Borders (1885)
- Chapel at Craigdarroch House (1889)
- Old Parish Church, Nairn (1893) final completion (1897) overseen by Honeyman and Keppie.
- The Architecture of the Farm (1853)
- Villa Residences and Farm Architecture (1865)
- Designs for Villa Residences (1866)
- The Architecture of the Park (1890)
- Goold, David. "Dictionary of Scottish Architects - DSA Architect Biography Report (January 25, 2017, 5:01 pm)". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
- Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1897-8
- Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh, by Gifford McWilliam and Walker
- "Mackintosh Architecture: The Catalogue - browse - display". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
- "Starforth". Retrieved 25 January 2017.