Bryce, David (DNB00)

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BRYCE, DAVID (1803–1876), architect, born on 3 April 1803, was the son of a builder in good business in Edinburgh. Educated at the high school there, the aptitude for drawing which he early displayed induced his father to devote him to the profession of architecture, and to give him a thorough practical training in his own office, from which he passed to that of William Burn, then the leading architect in Edinburgh, whose partner he soon afterwards became. The partnership was dissolved on Burn's removal to London in 1844, and Bryce succeeded to a very large and increasing practice, to which he devoted himself with the enthusiasm of an artistic temperament and untiring energy and perseverance. In the course of a busy and successful career, which was actively continued almost down to his death, he attained the foremost place in his profession in Scotland, and designed important works in most of the principal towns of that country. Bryce worked in all styles, and at first chiefly in the so-called Palladian and Italian Renaissance, but he soon devoted himself more exclusively to the Gothic, particularly that variety of it known as Scottish Baronial, of which he became latterly the most distinguished and the ablest exponent. It was in this style that his greatest successes were achieved, particularly in the erection and alteration of mansion houses throughout the country, of which at least fifty testify to his sound judgement in planning, as well as to his appreciation of its opportunities for picturesque effects. The best of his public buildings in this style are probably Fettes College and the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh; while the buildings of the Bank of Scotland, which so largely contribute to the beauty of the outline of the Old Town of Edinburgh, exhibit him at his best in the Italian style. His fame is, however, mainly due to his ability in reviving the picturesque French Gothic, now naturalised in Scotland under the name of Baronial; and, to quote from the annual report of the Royal Scottish Academy in the year of his death, 'there is no doubt that his name will long be honourably associated with much that is best and most characteristic in the domestic architecture of later times.' Bryce was a man of varied accomplishments, and, though somewhat rough in manner, of a genial and warm nature, which procured him the esteem of a large circle of friends. In the year 1835 he was elected an associate of the Royal Scottish Academy, and in the following year became an academician. He was also a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, of the Architectural Institute of Scotland, of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and officiated for several years as grand architect to the Grand Lodge of Masons in Scotland. At his death, which occurred on 7 May 1876, after a short illness from bronchitis, he left many important works in course of erection, which have since been completed under the superintendence of his nephew, who had been for some years his partner, and who succeeded to his business. He died unmarried. Bryce attained a large and lucrative practice long before the days of competitions, and he is only known to have produced one competitive design — for the Albert Memorial in Edinburgh. His idea was to erect a sort of peel tower or keen in the castle, containing a large vaulted chamber, in which a statue of the prince should be placed. Perhaps if he had been the successful candidate he might have added another attraction to the town he has done so much to adorn. A full list of his works is given in the 'Builder,' 27 May 1876, p. 608.

[Builder, vol. xxxiv. (1876); Architect. vol. xv. (1876); Scotsman (12 May 1876); Forty-ninth Annual Report of Council of the Royal Scottish Academy (1876).]

G. W. B.