|Born||20 December 1789|
|Died||15 February 1870 (aged 80)|
|Known for||country houses|
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.
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.
William Burn had many pupils:
- John Honeyman
- David Bryce
- John Lessels
- George Meikle Kemp
- Thomas Brown
- James Campbell Walker
- William Eden Nesfield
- David MacGibbon
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:
- Ardanaiseig House, near Kilchrenan, Argyll
- Balintore Castle, Angus (1859) Scottish Baronial
- The Binns, remodelled for the Dalyell family (1811) Gothic
- Blairquhan Castle, South Ayrshire (1821) Gothic
- Blantyre Monument, Erskine (1825)
- Camperdown House, Dundee (1820) Greek Revival
- Castle Menzies (1840) new wing
- Carstairs House, South Lanarkshire (1820–1823) Gothic
- Corstorphine Old Parish Church (1828) – considered too radical and returned to its medieval orientation in 1905
- Dornoch Cathedral major reconstruction (1835–1837)
- The Duke of Gordon's Monument, Elgin, Moray (1839)
- Dundas Castle, near Edinburgh (1818) Gothic
- Dunira, Perthshire (1852) demolished
- Dupplin Castle (1828) demolished
- The Edinburgh Academy (1824)
- Gallanach House, near Oban, Argyll (1814)
- Garscube House, Dunbartonshire (1827)
- Inverness Castle, Inverness (1836) Gothic
- John Watson's Institution now the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (1825) Neoclassic
- Keir Parish Church, Keirmill Village, Dumfriesshire (1813)
- Lauriston Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland, (west range only) (1827) Jacobean
- Lude House, Blair Atholl, Perth and Kinross (1837)
- Murray Royal Lunatic Asylum, Perth (1827)
- North Leith Parish Church, Madeira Street, Leith (1814) Neoclassical
- Church of St John the Evangelist, Edinburgh (1818) Gothic
- The Melville Monument in the centre of St Andrew Square, Edinburgh (1820–3) (topped by a statue by Robert Forrest)
- New Abbey Church, Dunfermline, Fife (1821)
- Madras College, St Andrews (1832) Jacobean
- Adderstone Hall, near Lucker, Northumberland (1819) Georgian Grecian
- Cliveden, Buckinghamshire
- Harlaxton Manor, Grantham, Lincolnshire
- Stoke Rochford Hall, Lincolnshire (1841–43).
- Lynford Hall, Norfolk Jacobean
- Montagu House, Whitehall, London, French Renaissance, demolished
- Prestwold Hall, Loughborough, Leicestershire (1842) Classical
- Revesby Abbey, Lincolnshire (1845), Elizabethan-Jacobean
- South Rauceby Hall, South Rauceby Lincolnshire (1842)
- The Old Deanery, Lincoln, (1847)
- Sandon Hall, Staffordshire, (1852), Jacobean
- 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
- Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1789–1791
- "Edinburgh Post Office annual directory, 1832–1833". National Library of Scotland. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland. Eds. John and Julia Keay. P.113. 1994.ISBN 0-00-255082-2
- Grand Lodge of Scotland – Grand Lodge Office-bearers from 1737–1935. 1936. Pp.90–94. Privately Printed.
- 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.
- Dictionary of Scottish Architects: Burn
- Historic Environment Scotland. "Lude House (LB6056)".
- "THB 29 Murray Royal Asylum". Archive Services Online Catalogue. University of Dundee. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
- Monuments and Statues of Edinburgh, Michael T.R.B. Turnbull
- Victorian Cliveden: history of house and gardens National Trust. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
- 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