Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Craig, James (d.1795)

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1325050Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 12 — Craig, James (d.1795)1887Lionel Henry Cust

CRAIG, JAMES (d. 1795), architect, was the son of William Craig, merchant in Edinburgh, and Mary, youngest daughter of the Rev. Thomas Thomson of Ednam, Roxburghshire, and sister of James Thomson the poet [q. v.] Craig was a pupil of Sir Robert Taylor [q. v.], and in 1767 sent in a ‘plan of the new streets and squares intended for the city of Edinburgh’ for a competition instituted by the authorities of that city, who were desirous of extending it by buildings laid out in a more modern style. Craig adopted as the keynote of his design some lines from his uncle's poem on ‘Liberty:’—

August, around, what public works I see!
Lo! stately streets! lo! squares that court the breeze!
See! long canals and deepened rivers join
Each part with each, and with the circling main
The whole enlivened isle——;

and therefore planned a series of exact squares and parallelograms, in which the North Loch was preserved as a long canal with formal buildings on each side. This plan, though utterly destitute of inventive ingenuity or any regard for the natural features of the ground, was accepted with acclamation by the magistracy of Edinburgh; they presented Craig with a gold medal bearing the city arms and the freedom of the city in a silver box, and his plan was engraved by P. Begbie and published in 1768 with a dedication to George III. Hence arose that portion of Edinburgh known as the New Town. One of the principal buildings erected by Craig, as part of this design, was the Physicians' Hall, ‘a chaste Grecian edifice,’ the foundation-stone of which was laid by Dr. Cullen [q. v.] in 1774, and which was destined to be an enduring monument of Craig's architectural genius. It has been since pulled down to make way for the Commercial Bank of Scotland. Craig subsequently modified his original design by introducing a circus in the centre of George Street, and in 1786 issued a quarto pamphlet with engravings, containing a scheme for a further remodelling of the Old Town. Fortunately the mania for improvement died out before this could be carried into execution. Craig died in Edinburgh 23 June 1795. There is a portrait of him seated among his architectural designs in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Wilson's Memorials of Edinburgh; Nagler's Künstler-Lexikon; Gent. Mag. (1795), lxiii. 615.]

L. C.