U: George Washington Browne (1853 – 1939)

In ever blessed memory of Jessie Brownlie, beloved wife of George Washington Browne, died 26th Feb 1900 in her 43rd year; and of the 3 sons, victims of the great war; George Brownlie killed at Loos 7th February 1916 in his 24th year; Hugh Edwards killed on the Somme 1st July 1916 aged 21; Leslie Aitchison severely wounded and died of illness contracted in the war, 1st September 1922 aged 32, and is buried here.

Base. Sir George Washington Browne P.R.A.S., LL.D., J.P., born 21st Sepr 1853, died 15th June 1939; Dame Louisa Emma Adams, his wife, born 19th April 1872, died 14th Octr 1931

George Washington Browne was born in Glasgow on 21 September 1853, the eldest child of Samuel Brown, a cabinet maker, and his wife Sarah Agnew.  He trained as an architect in Glasgow with Salmon Son & Ritchie before moving to London to work in 1875.  In 1877 he was the first Scot to win the Royal Institute of British Architects Pugin Studentship. He also travelled and studied in France and Belgium. In 1879 he returned to Scotland to work as principal assistant to Robert Rowand Anderson in Edinburgh at a time when Anderson was working on several major projects including the Edinburgh Medical School, Glasgow Central Station Hotel and the Conservative Club in Princes Street.  He became Anderson’s partner in 1881 and then set up in business on his own account in 1885.  

It was the start of a successful career which saw Browne win contracts to design Edinburgh Central Library (1887), the Royal Hospital for Sick Children (‘the Sick Kids’) (1892), the Caledonian Hotel (1898), the YMCA building in St Andrew Street (1914), several libraries, including those at Jedburgh, Bo’ness, Castle Douglas and Kelso, a wide variety of churches, including Braid United Presbyterian Church in Nile Grove, Morningside, and a number of banks (particularly for the British Linen Bank), as well as houses in Edinburgh and elsewhere. After the first world he was responsible for eight war memorials including those at Arbroath, Duddingston, Dunfermline and Coldstream.  His houses include The Limes in Blackford Road where he lived c.1896-1914.  In 1912 his design was selected for the King Edward VII Memorial Gates at Holyrood Palace, which were built in a reduced form after the war.  From the late 1890s to 1907 he was in partnership with John More Dick Peddie (1853-1921).  

Browne was elected an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1892 and a full Academician in 1902. He served as Treasurer 1917-24 and was elected as the first architectural President of the RSA in 1924, a post he held until he resigned on grounds of poor health in 1933.  He was closely involved in the RSA’s Centenary Exhibition in 1926, a year which also saw him awarded a knighthood, admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and awarded the honorary degree of LL.D. by the University of Edinburgh.

While in London Browne joined the Architectural Association and brought his experience there to the Edinburgh Architectural Association, of which he was an active member, giving talks at their meetings, leading excursions and being elected vice-president in 1883 and President in 1884 and 1885.  

Another body with which Browne was closely associated was Edinburgh College of Art.  The College was formed in 1906 following the merger of two separate Edinburgh colleges – the Government School of Art for Edinburgh (originally founded in 1760 by the Board of Trustees for Fisheries, Manufacturers and Improvements in Scotland as the Trustees Drawing Academy) and the School of Applied Art (founded in 1892 by Robert Rowand Anderson).  Browne and Peddie worked on the College of Art’s new red sandstone building in Lauriston Place, which was opened in 1909.  At that time, the College was divided into four Schools: Drawing and Painting, Design and Crafts, Architecture, and Sculpture. Browne was a member of the Board of Management and then head of Architecture from 1914 to 1922, when he was succeeded by John Begg, who is also buried in the Grange Cemetery.  

Browne was a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland from its establishment in 1927 until he resigned in October 1938. This position allowed him to influence the designs for St Andrews House and Edinburgh Sheriff Court in the early 1930s.  His resignation was due to his decision to leave Edinburgh in order to move to Shropshire to live with his younger daughter, Jessie Agnew Browne (1899-1970), who had married Norman Carl Preston, a plant pathologist, in 1929.  Sadly, Browne died in June 1939 only months after moving.

Browne married twice.  His first wife was Jessie Brownlie, who was born in Govan in 1857, the daughter of Robert Brownlie, a foreman shipyard joiner, and his wife Christina Scott.  They married in Glasgow on 17 August 1881 and had five children.  Jessie died at “The Limes”, Blackford Road, Edinburgh, on 26 February 1900 as the result of appendicitis and in 1905 Browne married Louisa Emma Adams, daughter of David Laird Adams, Professor of Hebrew in the University of Edinburgh.  Louisa died from cancer in 1931.

Of his five children by his first marriage, four died before him.  His elder daughter, Christina Scott Browne, born in 1883, married James Strachan McLeod (1878-1935) in 1903.  McLeod was a solicitor who served in the Imperial Yeomanry 1900 – 1902 and fought in South Africa.  He joined the Black Watch on the outbreak of war in 1914 but transferred to the Durham Light Infantry in 1915, and then to the Lancashire Fusiliers in April 1918.  He served in Europe, was wounded in 1915, gassed, awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and twice Mentioned in Despatches, and finished the war as a Lieutenant Colonel.  His brother, John Lorne McLeod (1873-1946), also a solicitor, was Lord Provost of Edinburgh 1916-19.  Christina died of heart disease in August 1920.

As recorded here, Browne’s three sons died during or soon after the war.  His two younger sons, George Brownlie Browne and Hew Edwards Browne were both killed in action in 1916 and his eldest son, Leslie Aitchison Browne died in 1922 as a result of his war service.

George Brownlie Browne was born on 27 July 1892 and was educated at Merchiston Castle School, where he was a member of the Cadet Corps.  He went to Ceylon and later southern India as a tea planter but returned home in 1915 and joined the Black Watch being gazetted a second lieutenant in May 1915. He went to France in December 1915 and was killed in action near Loos on 7 February 1916, aged 23, and was buried at Vermelles Cemetery. 

Hew Edwards Browne was born on 27 May 1895.  He attended George Heriot’s School, and became a pupil photographer before enlisting as a private in the Royal Scots in October 1914. He went to France in February 1916 and was killed in action on 1 July, the first day of the battle of the Somme, and was buried on the battlefield.

Leslie Aitchison Browne was born on 31 March 1890.  He attended Merchiston Castle School and Edinburgh University, graduating with a B.Sc. degree in 1913.  He then went to McGill University in Montreal, Canada.  After war broke out he served in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, embarking at Halifax for Europe in November 1915.  He was seriously wounded at Ypres on 4 June 1916 with shrapnel wounds to his left hand and both his thighs and was evacuated to England where he spent three months in the Royal Free Hospital in London and then another month in a convalescent hospital.  While in the Royal Free Hospital he also fell ill with typhoid. He was discharged from the army in December 1916, curiously on the grounds of his service no longer being required rather than because he was unfit for further service.  This may have been because he was about to begin work as an explosives chemist, which was how he was employed from January 1917 to June 1918.  He married (Gladys) Eugenie Goodchild at All Saints Episcopal Church, Edinburgh, on 29 September 1917.  They left for Canada in September 1918 and Leslie worked there for the Canadian government as a research chemist in agriculture. They returned to Scotland in November 1921 and Leslie died in Peebles less than a year later on 1 September 1922.  The causes of death listed on his death certificate were “Pulmonary Tuberculosis 3 years (or more) Acute Nephritis 1½ months Enteritis (over 2 years) 1 Month 2 Days”.  Three years later, in September 1925, in Pirbright, Surrey, Eugenie married Norman Arthur Skelton, a farmer in Kenya.  She died in South Africa in 1965.

U – Browne grave location