Sir George Washington Browne PPRSA 1853-1939
Elected ARSA: 30 March 1892
Elected RSA: 12 February 1902
The death of our distinguished former President took place at The Lodge, Sambrook, Shropshire, the residence of his daughter, on 15th June. Born in Glasgow in 1853, his education and early training as an architect were acquired in that city. Continuing his apprenticeship in London, he gained while there the Pugin Travelling Scholarship, the first time this award had been made to a Scotsman.
Settling in Edinburgh in 1879 he became principal assistant to Dr. Rowand Anderson during five of the busiest years of the practice of that eminent architect. A short time after the dissolution of this firm he was selected by competition as the architect of the Edinburgh Public Library for the site
on George IV Bridge, this being the first of the Carnegie Libraries in Scotland.
Subsequently a good deal of his work lay in Library design and he published a monographon this special subject. He was architect for the Edinburgh Sick Children’s Hospital and operating theatres for the Royal
While in partnership with the late J. M. Dick Peddie, the firm was responsible for a numberof banks and insurance buildings, including the Standard Life Insurance Company in George Street, the Scottish Provident Assurance Society, and the Scottish Equitable, both in St. Andrew Square.
For the important project of a new Thames bridge, opposite St, Paul’s, his drawings were premiated and he was appointed architect for the construction. Unfortunately, the fulfilment of the scheme was delayed by the outbreak of war in 1914 and ultimately abandoned.
One of his last important commissions was the Scottish National Memorial to King Edward VII. comprising the enclosure and gates of the forecourt at Holyroodhouse, with a statue of the King by Harry Gamley, R.S.A.
Sir George was elected an Associate of the Academy in 1892 and an Academician in 1902. He became Treasurer in 1917, and in 1924 was chosen as President in succession to Sir J. Lawton Wingate, this being the first occasion that any member other than a painter had occupied the Chair. The honour of Knighthood followed in 1926. Owing to advancing weakness he resigned in 1933.
Dignified and capable Sir George commanded the unfailing respect of every member of the Academy. His conduct of business was excellent and his formal addresses, as when referring to the periodic losses in our membership, were models of diction.
The anniversary of the Hundredth year of the institution of the Academy took place during his tenure of office. To mark this event, and also as a token of personal esteem, the University of Edinburgh laureated Sir George
with the Degree of LL.D. He was a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and a past President of the Scottish Institute of Architects ;
Hon. R.A., R.H.A., R.S.W., R.C.A., and a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland since its institution in 1927. On the day of his death he had attained fifty years’ membership of the Edinburgh Merchant Company.
Sir George had resided in Edinburgh at 1 Randolph Cliff until recently. He was twice married and is survived by a married daughter. Two sons were killed in the European War of 1914-1918 and a third, who enlisted with the Canadian Forces, died as a result of gas poisoning contracted while on service.
It was peculiarly fitting that the Funeral Service of Sir George should take place in the Library of the Academy where he had presided with such quiet impressiveness for ten years. The coffin, brought north from England, had been placed in position the previous night in front of the Presidential Chair. The Very Rev. Charles L. Warr, C.V.O., D.D., Dean of the Order of the Thistle and Chaplain to the Academy, conducted the service in presence of relatives and members of the Academy. The interment took place in the Grange Cemetery.
RSA Obituary from the 1939 RSA Annual Report