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James Smith Richardson LLD (1883-1970)

James Smith Richardson was born in Edinburgh on 2 November 1883. His father moved the family to North Berwick in 1889 and James attended the local High School before being apprenticed to the achitect James MacIntyre Henry and then Sir Robert Lorimer.  He began a practice on his own account as early as 1909.

The young James Richardson

Private James Richardson

On 2nd March 1914, Richardson was appointed the first Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Scotland. However, as a member of the 8th (Territorial) Battalion Royal Scots he volunteered for active service a few months later when war broke out. He was commissioned into the newly raised 2/8th Battalion with which he remained for much of the war. The 2/8th was a home service battalion, providing drafts and training recruits for the overseas forces. It also took on the home security role vacated by the 1/8th and so James served with them in Scotland, England and Ireland. He remained with the battalion for much of the war but also served in France and ended the war as a captain.

In the event, his military career had extended over at least 18 years!

Like many young men he had enlisted in the volunteer movement as soon as he could, at the age of 17, with the then 7th Volunteer Battalion, training in North Berwick and camping with the battalion for two weeks every summer. This he fitted in around attending the RSA drawing classes in Edinburgh and professional architectural training with the architect Robert Lorimer. He also branched into design, producing a carved wooden chancel screen for St Baldred’s Church, North Berwick, and archaeology, becoming a Fellow of the Society of Scottish Antiquaries in 1912. In 1911, he illustrated a guide to North Berwick written and published by his father.

North Berwick's War Memorial

North Berwick’s War Memorial

After the war he took up again his post as Inspector, part time at first. At this time he designed North Berwick’s War Memorial. His post as Inspector of Monuments became full time from November 1920 and he held it until retirement in 1948. He used the opportunity to establish the principles of conservation and display for the fabric of the historic monuments that came within the care of the Crown: effectively the estates, buildings and ancient monuments under the care of today’s Historic Scotland and Royal Commission. Much of the interpretation (and excavation) was the work of Richardson himself, both on-site and through the medium of the Ministry of Works guidebooks: he compiled at least 16 of these works.

Excavation at North Berwick

Excavation at North Berwick

After retirement he continued to practice as a consultant: Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was one of his clients after her purchase of the Castle of Mey. In 1953 the RSA made him honorary Professor of Architecture (complementing an honorary Ll.D from St Andrews in 1948). He convinced North Berwick Town Council to establish a museum and became its enthusiastic volunteer curator (and hence the ‘father’ of the current East Lothian Council Museum Service). A familiar figure to all in North Berwick, ‘the Doctor’ died in 1970.

8 thoughts on “James Smith Richardson LLD (1883-1970)”

  1. colin ballingall says:

    Hello David

    Do you happen to know if you had an ancestor called James Richardson who was a blacksmith in Edinburgh c 1816.



    1. David Richardson says:

      Sorry about the delay – only just seen this.

      Definitely not a relative, I’m afraid. The only adult male Richardson in my family at that time was overseer/factor at Winton House, Pencaitland.

  2. HelenB says:

    Thanks for replying to Louise about this – that’s very helpful, and interesting for us too. Intriguing to see the Pencaitland connection, even though it’s not very close to North Berwick (certainly pre-car/bus!)

  3. David Richardson says:

    Sorry Louise – you are not related to this James Richardson

    He is my great uncle and lived in the upper part of our house in North Berwick when I was a boy.

    We can trace our Richardsons back to the early 18th century in Berwickshire.

    James’ great grandfather moved to East Lothian at the end of that century to become overseer/factor at Winton House, Pencaitland.

    1. Jamie Roberts says:

      James Richardson was my grandmother’s stepfather, having married my great grandmother Frances Douglas (nee Stevenson) after she was widowed in the First World War. We have some wonderful sketches he drew to entertain my aunt when she was a child. My grandmother, who lived in North Berwick for many years and was always proud of her stepfather’s role in setting up the town’s Museum, recently passed away in May 2017 at the age of 102.

      1. David Richardson says:

        Jamie – very late in the day for this reply, but do you know when Frances married James, when they divorced and why? My 90 year old aunt says that James was not an easy many to live with but we know no more. I cannot remember meeting your grandmother or great aunt as a boy, though I was always aware of their existence, but my understanding is that they always got on with James, no matter what occurred between their mother and him. Do you know any more?

  4. David says:

    Hello Louise

    I’m afraid we don’t know much about the Richardsons’ antecedants – beyond the Edinburgh connection in James’ father’s generation. However, if you find a connection be sure to let us know!

  5. Any information on James Smith Richardson and his family tree??

    My Great Grandfather on my ‘fathers side of the family was a James Richardson from Alloa. Are these any relation for my ‘family tree’.

    Louise ( Richardson )
    macloui1 (at)

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