William Burn

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

William Burn
William Burn - Scottish-born architect -20 December 1789 – 15 February 1870.png
William Burn
Born20 December 1789
Died15 February 1870(1870-02-15) (aged 80)
London, England
Known forcountry houses

William Burn FRSE (20 December 1789 – 15 February 1870) was a Scottish architect. He received major commissions from the age of 20 until his death at 81. He built in many styles and was a pioneer of the Scottish Baronial Revival.


Burn was born in Rose Street[1] in Edinburgh, the son of architect Robert Burn and his wife Janet Patterson.

William was educated at the High School in Edinburgh's Old Town.

After training with the architect Sir Robert Smirke, designer of the British Museum, he returned to Edinburgh in 1812. Here he established a practice from the family builders' yard. In 1841, he took on a pupil, David Bryce, with whom he later went into partnership. From 1844 he worked in London, where he took on his nephew John Macvicar Anderson as a partner.

In 1827 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, unusual for an architect, his proposer being James Skene. He resigned in 1845 following his move to London.

In the 1830s he was living and working at 131 George Street in the New Town.[2] He moved to London in 1844.[3]

Burn was a master of many styles, but all are typified by well-proportioned simplicity externally and frequent stunning interiors. He was a pioneer of the Scottish baronial Revival with Helen's Tower (1848), Castlewellan Castle (1856), and Balintore Castle (1859).


It has not been ascertained where Burn became a Freemason but he was the Grand Architect of the Grand Lodge of Scotland from 1827–44 when his pupil, David Bryce, was named as 'joint' Grand Architect. Both served the Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland, in that joint capacity until 1849. Thereafter, David Bryce was Grand Architect in his own right until 1876.[4]


He died at 6 Stratton Street in Piccadilly, London,[5] and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery just on the edge of the path to the north-west of the Anglican Chapel.

Trained under Burn[6][edit]

William Burn had many pupils:

David Bryce went on to perfect the Scottish Baronial Revival style of architecture.


Burn was a prolific architect and happy to turn his hand to a variety of styles. He designed churches, castles, public buildings, country houses (as many as 600), monuments and other structures, mainly in Scotland but also in England and Ireland. His works include among others:




  • Bangor Castle, County Down, Northern Ireland (1852) Elizabethan-Jacobean
  • Castlewellan Castle, County Down, Northern Ireland (1856) Scottish Baronial
  • Dartrey Castle, near Rockcorry in County Monaghan (1840s) Elizabethan-Jacobean, demolished
  • Helen's Tower, Clandeboye Estate near Bangor (1848) Scottish Baronial
  • Muckross House, Killarney, County Kerry (1843) Tudor



  1. ^ Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1789–1791
  2. ^ "Edinburgh Post Office annual directory, 1832–1833". National Library of Scotland. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  3. ^ Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland. Eds. John and Julia Keay. P.113. 1994.ISBN 0-00-255082-2
  4. ^ Grand Lodge of Scotland – Grand Lodge Office-bearers from 1737–1935. 1936. Pp.90–94. Privately Printed.
  5. ^ Former Fellows of The Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783 – 2002 – Biographical Index Part One (PDF). Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. p. 141. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X.
  6. ^ Dictionary of Scottish Architects: Burn
  7. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Lude House (LB6056)".
  8. ^ "THB 29 Murray Royal Asylum". Archive Services Online Catalogue. University of Dundee. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  9. ^ Monuments and Statues of Edinburgh, Michael T.R.B. Turnbull
  10. ^ Victorian Cliveden: history of house and gardens National Trust. Retrieved 2019-12-19.

Further reading[edit]

  • Walker, David (1984): William Burn and the influence of Sir Robert Smirke and William Wilkins on Scottish Greek Revival Design, 1810–40 in Scottish Pioneers of the Greek Revival, The Scottish Georgian Society, Edinburgh, pp 3–35

External links[edit]