Dunoon Burgh Hall

Robert Bryden, Architect of the Burgh Hall

Robert Alexander Bryden, Architect
Born 7 July 1841
Died 14 April 1906

Robert Alexander Bryden was born at the corner of Renfield Street and West George Street in Glasgow on 7 July 1841, the son of Robert Bryden of Royal Bank Place, Glasgow and Margaret Ramage of Kirkurd, Peeblesshire, and was educated at Arthur’s Academy Dunoon and Kirkcaldy Grammar School. Apprenticed to Clarke & Bell, he was allowed to insert his name in The Glasgow Directory as ‘at Clarke and Bell’s’ by 1864. In 1865 he made an influential marriage to Elizabeth Robertson, daughter of Alexander Robertson, a Glasgow ironfounder who had retired to Dunoon, consolidating the connections Bryden already had there. In the same year he became a major in the 1st Lanarkshire volunteers. He was elected FRIBA on 20 May 1878, his proposers being John Baird, John Honeyman and William Forrest Salmon.

In the Directory of 1875-76 he appears as ‘of Clarke and Bell’, implying a very senior position within the firm if not an actual partnership; and from 1876 Bryden seems to have run a simultaneous practice within the same office at 37 West Nile Street, a situation which persisted until 1891 when he was again described as ‘of Clarke and Bell’ and is known to have been in a formal partnership with the firm, having moved with them from West Nile Street to 212 St Vincent Street in 1880|1.

Bryden’s practice remained a near-separate one with its own glazed door within the Clarke and Bell office, and even when in partnership, his work was usually publicised in his own name rather than that of the firm. He had particularly good connections in the philanthropic field and was a director of the Scottish National Sabbath School Union. In 1901 he was described as having travelled extensively on the continent – ‘more especially in Germany, the Austrian Tyrol and Italy’ – although his architecture tended to be either Gothic or a rather coarse Netherlandish free Renaissance.

The Clarke & Bell and R A Bryden partnership was dissolved in 1902. The reasons for the break-up are uncertain but may relate to the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College. Bryden was its architect and had prepared a design for a new college in 1892. He did not, however, retain the commission and in early 1901 a limited competition was held in which the invitation was to George Bell II who submitted a design by his principal assistant James Hoey Craigie. This design was placed second by the professional staff. The final catalyst seems to have been Bryden’s son Andrew Francis Stewart Bryden. Born 21 October 1876, Andrew was articled to his father’s firm from 1893 to 1898 and remained as assistant but left in 1901 to gain wider experience. When he proposed to return in 1902 there would appear to have been some disagreement: although the younger Bryden had real ability his health was somewhat unstable. The elder Bryden separated his practice from Bell’s and set up on his own with his son as chief assistant, moving out of the Clarke & Bell office at 212 St Vincent Street to one of their own at 147 Bath Street.

Robert Alexander Bryden died on 14 April 1906 at 11 Lynedoch Crescent, Glasgow, and was buried at Dunoon Cemetery. He left the then very substantial estate of £23,560 4s 5d. Andrew Francis Stewart Bryden continued the practice, taking into partnership Andrew Robertson.

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