The following is an extract from a much fuller biography of  John Honeyman which can be found in the Dictionary of Scottish Architects:


John Honeyman was born at Carlton Place, Glasgow on 11 August 1831. He was the son of a magistrate and city merchant who had residences in the city and at Belmore on the Gareloch, Dunbartonshire.

John Honeyman

John Honeyman

John attended Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh, between 1841-1846 and then went on to study an MA at the University of Glasgow.  Originally, he intended entering the church but changed his mind and after working in a London accountants office for a year, he returned to Scotland and was apprenticed to Glasgow architect, Alexander Munro.

From there, Honeyman moved to London and worked for another architect’s firm for a couple of years. After completing a short study tour of the continent and English cathedrals, he established his own practice in Glasgow and quickly acquired some influential ship building clients. His name was further made by winning a number of competitions for church designs.

Honeyman got married to Rothesia Chalmers Ann Hutchison in June 1863. Their marriage was brief as she died in March of the following year, a week after giving birth to John Rothes Charles Honeyman. In 1867 Honeyman married a second time to Falconer Margaret Kemp, the daughter of the retired Greenock merchant and shipowner James Colquhoun Kemp. He and Falconer had two sons; William Frederick Colquhoun, born 1868, and George Michael Allan, born 1872.

Over the next 10 years Honeyman’s practice thrived and grew, with commissions for churches, factories, schools, office premises, suburban mansions and country houses in and around Glasgow.

In 1868, Honeyman built Stroove, a large ‘Tudorish’ marine villa at Skelmorlie and in 1872 he bought his own yacht. During that peak period, ‘like many another lover of white sails and blue water he found that an occasional cruise of ten days or so [with his wife and sons] was the best possible means of regaining vigour and enjoying mental rest’. Other passions of these prosperous years were angling and photography.

As well as managing a growing and flourishing business, Honeyman was a prolific writer and inventor. In 1874, he was admitted to FRIBA (Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects) and after only two years he was elected to the council. In 1881-82, he was elected president of the Glasgow Institute of Architects.

But by then Honeyman’s luck had begun to run out. In 1877 his wife Falconer and her sons began to become consumptive. They spent some time in Italy to try to help her recuperate. In 1879, following the collapse of the City of Glasgow Bank1 business plummeted and Honeyman sold his yacht. (Note: Whilst Honeyman was not a shareholder, many of his clients were). Although the practice briefly recovered in 1880, the number of new commissions collapsed again in 1881 when the full impact of the bank’s losses became apparent. Falconer died in January 1881 at Stroove, which was then sold.

At this point Honeyman moved back to Blythswood Square, Glasgow where he lived with Sarah Anne – known as Anne – Horne, who was probably the governess of his two younger sons, before marrying her in 1884. Honeyman’s fourth son, Herbert Lewis was born on 12 November 1885.

Just after John’s marriage to Anne, William, John’s and Falconers eldest son, died in January 1885, aged 17. George, Falconer’s other son, died in 1888, aged just 15 or 16.

Later that year or in early 1889, Honeyman took into partnership John Keppie, then aged twenty-six, who effectively refinanced and re-founded the practice. Keppie’s former boss, Campbell Douglas,  allowed him to take the Medical School with him as a setting-up commission, and that, together with Honeyman’s other commissions, took the practice back to its previous levels.

The new partnership was supported by four assistants: Alexander McGibbon; Herbert McNair, a family friend at Skelmorlie whom Honeyman had accepted as an articled apprentice in 1888; Charles Edward Whitelaw, who had studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts; and Charles Rennie McIntosh (soon to become Mackintosh), whom Keppie had engaged in 1889. Of these Mackintosh became the lead designer following his return from the Alexander Thomson Travelling Scholarship in 1892.

By the 1890s, Honeyman was suffering from problems with his eyesight and restricted his actual design time to church work and restorations. In 1893 he designed the new church (Skelmorlie Parish/South Church) for his former congregation at Skelmorlie, gifting a stained-glass window to the memory of his second wife and sons; in 1894 he reconstructed the church at Largo; in 1894-96 he carried out the major restoration of St Michael’s Church at Linlithgow; and in 1895 he designed the enlargement of the church he attended at Bridge of Allan.  As the practice recovered, so did Honeyman’s reputation nationally: he was elected ARSA in 1892, elevated to full academician in 1895, and seriously considered for the presidency in 1902. He declined due to his eyesight.

The great works of Honeyman’s last years were his restorations of Brechin (1898 – 1902) and Iona (1902 – 1904) Cathedrals.

By the time the Brechin work was complete, Honeyman had officially  retired as of 1 January 1901. He allowed Keppie and Mackintosh to buy him out over three years by taking a half share of the profits for the years 1902, 1903 and 1904, an arrangement which was perhaps more generous than he could afford but which ensured that Mackintosh did not have to find any capital. But in real terms he did not retire as he was still working on the restoration of Iona Cathedral for the Cathedral Trustees as well as consulting occasionally on ecclesiastical work during those years.

Throughout his years of blindness Honeyman was assisted by his son Herbert. Although a boarder at Glenalmond he spent as much time as possible with his father as companion and guide, describing and researching for him.  Upon finishing school, Herbert was articled to Burnet’s firm and although, very shy and old-fashioned for his years, he excelled both at work and at Glasgow School of Architecture. He won the travelling bursary in 1907, spent the years 1908 and 1909 travelling in England and France, and won the RIBA silver medal essay prize in 1911. Herbert opened his own office in 1909 but despite his father’s support it did not prosper.

In his final years, Honeyman spent his time writing and publishing architectural papers.

In December 1913 Herbert closed his Glasgow practice and joined the firm of Graham & Hill in Newcastle. The decision to take a job so far from home was probably driven by the need for money.

When John Honeyman died of pneumonia a few weeks later on 8 January 1914 he had only £20 left in his bank account and no other property or investments. An insurance policy for £1,000 provided for Anne, who went to live with Herbert in Newcastle. Honeyman was buried with his first two wives at Glasgow Necropolis.

Honeyman’s eldest son John Rothes Charles emigrated to Canada in 1885 and settled at Pense, Saskatchewan. He served in the Mounted Police for 5 years but subsequently became newspaper reporter and later deputy commissioner of agriculture for the province of Saskatchewan. He finally took the post in 1908 of librarian in Regina Public Library. He died in British Columbia in August 1938.

Source: Dictionary of Scottish Architects – John Honeyman

Note:  The City of Glasgow Bank is now largely known for its spectacular collapse in October 1878, ruining all but 254 of its 1,200 shareholders, whose liability was not limited.

John Honeyman work by years:

Date StartedBuilding NameTown/ VillageCountryNotes
1866Skelmorlie BankSkelmorlieScotlandAlterations
1870North HayleeSkelmorlieScotlandPlan of ground
1871Homecraig VillaSkelmorlieScotland
1872Halketburn CottageSkelmorlieScotland
1872A House in SkelmorlieSkelmorlieScotlandLaundry Extension
1873The Beeches / EverlieSkelmorlieScotland
1873OakcraigSkelmorlieScotlandNew Build?
1873Skelmorlie HouseSkelmorlieScotland
1874House for John InnesScotland
1874Moreland HouseUpper SkelmorlieScotlandEncapsulation of original house of 1862
1874Skelmorlie ManseSkelmorlieScotland
1876Beech HouseSkelmorlieScotland
1876Skelmorlie CastleSkelmorlieScotland
1878Skelmorlie Boarding SchoolSkelmorlieScotland
1879Craignahuille / Craig-Na-Huile / RockbankUpper SkelmorlieScotlandAlterations? New Build?
1881Heywood – DemolishedSkelmorlieScotland
1882Beech HouseSkelmorlieScotland£980 of alterations and new dining room
1893Morland HouseUpper SkelmorlieScotlandAdditions
1893Skelmorlie & Wemyss Bay South Parish ChurchSkelmorlieScotland
1897Skelmorlie BankSkelmorlieScotlandAlterations
1898Skelmorlie & Wemyss Bay South Parish ChurchSkelmorlieScotlandPulpit and other fittings