Frank Mears

Last updated


Frank Mears
Born(1880-07-18)18 July 1880
Tynemouth, Northumberland, England
Died(1953-01-25)25 January 1953
Christchurch, New Zealand
OccupationArchitect Planner
MovementTown and Country Planning
SpouseNorah Geddes

Sir Frank Charles Mears PPRSA FRSE LLD (11 July 1880 – 25 January 1953) was an architect and Scotland's leading planning consultant from the 1930s to the early 1950s. [1]


Life and work

Memorial tablet to Frank Mears, Warriston Crematorium Memorial tablet to Frank Mears, Warriston Crematorium.JPG
Memorial tablet to Frank Mears, Warriston Crematorium

Born in Tynemouth he moved to Edinburgh in 1897 when his father, Dr William Pope Mears (1855-1901), was appointed to a lecturing post in the Anatomy Department of Edinburgh University. His mother, Isabella Bartholomew LDCPE (1853-1936), was one of the first licensed physicians in Scotland and an early Taoist author. [2] The family lived at Woodburn House on Canaan Lane in the Morningside district of Edinburgh. [3]

He trained as an architect, initially under Hippolyte Blanc (1896-1901), and then, in 1903, under Robert Weir Schultz (1860-1951). In 1906, after tours of England and the Continent, he returned to Scotland and worked under Ramsay Traquair (1874-1952). In 1908 he became an assistant to the pioneer planner Patrick Geddes (1854-1932), working on the Civic Survey of Edinburgh [4] for the first ever Town Planning Exhibition (1910).

He worked with Geddes and his daughter Norah on the creation of a Scottish National Zoological Garden 1913-14 which became Edinburgh Zoo. In 1915 he married Norah Geddes, making Patrick Geddes his father-in-law. [5]

In World War I he served with Geddes' son Alasdair in the Kite Balloon section of the Royal Flying Corps and, importantly, invented the modern[ clarification needed ] parachute (and quick release buckle) whilst serving as a Major in this role.[ citation needed ]

Mears was elected an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1936, became full academician in 1943 and served as its President 1944–50. The University of Edinburgh conferred an honorary doctorate (LLD) on him in 1945, and he was made a Knight Bachelor in the 1946 New Year Honours. [5] [6] He also advised the Department of Health on Housing in Scotland.

Frank Mears died in Christchurch, New Zealand whilst visiting his son, Kenneth Patrick Geddes Mears (1916-2001). His body was returned to Edinburgh for cremation. A memorial plaque is placed to his memory on the south side of Warriston Crematorium above a plaque to his other two sons both of whom died young: Alastair Mears (1918-1939) and John M. Mears (1921-1949).

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Great Hall of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, perspective by Frank Mears Aula 01.jpg
The Great Hall of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, perspective by Frank Mears

In 1919, Patrick Geddes was engaged by the World Zionist Organization to prepare a scheme for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Frank Mears worked as his assistant, translating his ideas into plans and architectural drawings. Between 1925 and 1929, Mears worked with the Jerusalem-based architect, Benjamin Chaikin, on designs for specific university buildings, including the Einstein Institute of Mathematics and the David Wolffsohn Library. [7] [8] [9]

Greater Dublin Reconstruction

Before the war, Mears had assisted Geddes with the mounting of the Cities and Town Planning Exhibition in Dublin and he subsequently worked with Dublin Corporation and the Irish Local Government Board on a number of schemes for garden villages in various parts of the city. Between 1922 and 1924, in the aftermath of the Irish Civil War, he prepared plans for civic renewal and the accommodation of new national institutions on behalf of the Greater Dublin Reconstruction Movement. [10]

Monuments and Memorials

In the course of his career, Mears prepared a number of schemes for monuments and memorials. With Ramsay Traquair he prepared schemes for a memorial to Edward VII & I at the foot of the Canongate (1911) and the completion of the National Monument on Calton Hill (1912). [11] In 1919 he submitted a proposal for a Scottish National War Memorial as Via Sacra following the line of Johnston Terrace on the southern slope of the Edinburgh Castle Rock. In 1926, Mears was engaged to prepare a scheme for a National Memorial to David Livingstone at Livingstone's birthplace in Blantyre. A series of relief tableaux and a World Fountain were devised in collaboration with the sculptor, Charles d'Orville Pilkington Jackson. [12] In 1950, Mears worked with his partners, H.A. Rendel Govan and Robert J. Naismith, and Pilkington Jackson on the design for the monument to his old regiment, the Royal Scots, in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. [13] [14]

Rural Development

Mears was keenly interested in rural issues and in 1926 he played a key role in the establishment of the Association for the Preservation of Rural Scotland (APRS). He was critical of the insensitivity of the Ministry of Transport's proposal to drive a modern trunk road through Glencoe [15] and, in response to representations by the APRS, the Ministry agreed to face its engineering works in Glencoe in local stone and to respect the local land form in its designs for road improvements throughout the Highlands. [16] In 1930, Mears and Charles Denny Carus-Wilson were appointed consultant architects for five new road bridges on the A82: over the River Kiachnish (1932) between North Ballachulish and Fort William; and over the River Oich and at Invergarry (1932), at Invermoriston (1933) and at Fort Augustus (1935) in the Great Glen. In 1935, Mears was appointed consultant architect for a new crossing of the River Dee at Allenvale in Aberdeen, to relieve congestion on the historic Brig o Dee upstream. Work began on his design for a three-span reinforced concrete bridge faced in Kemnay granite in 1938 and the new crossing was opened as the George VI Bridge in 1941. [17]

In 1932, Mears and Leslie Grahame-Thomson prepared model designs for rural houses on behalf of the APRS. [18] 71 cottages to their design were built in Roxburghshire. Mears also prepared plans and designs for a number of housing schemes in Peebles, including developments at Neidpath Road (1935) and Connor Street (1936). In 1933, Mears and Carus-Wilson were engaged to design the Lucy Sanderson Cottage Homes, an early sheltered housing development in Galashiels. [19]

Towards the end of his career, Mears addressed the problem of rural depopulation in its most acute form in a strategy for the planning and redevelopment of the County of Sutherland. In a plan strongly influenced by Frank Fraser Darling's Preliminary Report on the West Highland Survey (1948), [20] he advocated a strategy based on the regeneration of the crofting economy through measures such as land rehabilitation, tenure reform, investment in agriculture, forestry and fishing, and the encouragement of small rural industries based on indigenous resources. [21]

The Development of Edinburgh

In 1931 he prepared a "Plan for Edinburgh" and in 1935 founded the first Town Planning course at the Edinburgh College of Art whilst Head of the School. Drawing on the work he had undertaken for the Civic Survey of Edinburgh, he wrote a number of articles on the planning of medieval settlements and the development of Edinburgh from Roman times. [22] [23] [24]

Central and South-East Scotland

In 1943, Mears was asked to prepare a regional plan for catchments of the Rivers Forth and Tweed. His Interim Report on Population Trends in March 1945 identified sharply contrasting challenges in the two catchments. [25] Future developments indicated in the Report of the Scottish Coalfields Committee at the end of 1944 suggested that, in anticipation of a large increase in population, the problem in the Forth Basin would be to find sites for a number of large new communities without overwhelming existing towns, while avoiding as far as possible good agricultural land and areas liable to subsidence. [26] In the Tweed Valley the problem was not so much one of "town" planning as of discovering ways of arresting the decline in population by the provision of improved housing and social facilities where these were lacking, and by the introduction of balancing industries to supplement those of agriculture and weaving. The Regional Plan for Central and South-East Scotland, one of three major regional plans for Scotland's post-war reconstruction, was published in 1948. [27]

Greenock Plans Ahead

Council flats in the Vennel, Greenock, designed by Frank Mears Greenockflats.jpg
Council flats in the Vennel, Greenock, designed by Frank Mears

In 1940, Mears was appointed planning consultant to the Corporation of Greenock. In a plan entitled Greenock: Portal of the Clyde (1947) he argued that the scale and character of future housing development, social facilities and services should reflect the industrial potential offered by the town's strategic location on the Firth of Clyde. [28] Patrick Abercrombie's Clyde Valley planning team had identified a serious deficiency of open spaces in the lower part of the town. [29] Mears proposed redevelopment at lower densities, the creation of new industrial areas and the accommodation of the displaced population in a constellation of new neighbourhoods laid out in the Kip Valley on American Parkway lines to create a "federal Garden City". He also prepared layouts and designs for council housing in Greenock and a scheme for the redevelopment of part of the town centre which had been badly damaged by wartime bombing. His work in the burgh was the subject of a documentary film entitled Greenock Plans Ahead (1948), directed by the photographer Hamilton Tait and narrated by Frank Phillips. [30]

University of Glasgow

In 1951, Mears submitted proposals for the expansion and redevelopment of the University of Glasgow. His scheme involved a major expansion to the north of University Avenue into Hillhead, with new buildings arranged around a system of courts and quadrangles and linked by tree-lined footpaths. [31]


Mears was employed across Scotland and was also involved in significant projects in Ireland and Palestine:

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Basil Spence</span> Scottish architect

Sir Basil Urwin Spence, was a Scottish architect, most notably associated with Coventry Cathedral in England and the Beehive in New Zealand, but also responsible for numerous other buildings in the Modernist/Brutalist style.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Patrick Abercrombie</span> English town planner (1879–1957)

Sir Leslie Patrick Abercrombie was an English town planner. Abercrombie came to prominence in the 1930s and 40s for his urban planning of the cities of Plymouth, Hull, Bath, Edinburgh and Bournemouth, and later for his radical plan to rebuild the post-war city of London.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Patrick Geddes</span> British scientist and town planner (1854-1932)

Sir Patrick Geddes was a British biologist, sociologist, Comtean positivist, geographer, philanthropist and pioneering town planner. He is known for his innovative thinking in the fields of urban planning and sociology.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sciennes</span> Human settlement in Scotland

Sciennes is a district of Edinburgh, Scotland, situated approximately 2 kilometres south of the city centre. It is a mainly residential district, although it is also well-known as the site of the former Royal Hospital for Sick Children. Most of its housing stock consists of terraces of four-storey Victorian tenements. The district is popular with students, thanks to its proximity to the University of Edinburgh. Its early history is linked to the presence in the area of the 16th-century Convent of St Catherine of Scienna, from which the district derives its name.

Percy Edwin Alan Johnson-Marshall CMG was a British urban designer, regional planner and academic. Born in India, he was educated at Liverpool University, and worked initially with local authorities in the south of England. In 1959 he took a post as senior lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, and was appointed Professor of Urban Design and Regional Planning in 1964.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ramsay Garden</span> Building in Edinburgh, Scotland

Ramsay Garden is a block of sixteen private apartment buildings in the Castlehill area of Edinburgh, Scotland. They stand out for their red ashlar and white harled exteriors, and for their prominent position, most visible from Princes Street.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joseph Barsky</span>

Joseph Barsky was an architect in Ottoman and Mandatory Palestine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Architecture of Scotland</span> Overview of the architecture of Scotland

The architecture of Scotland includes all human building within the modern borders of Scotland, from the Neolithic era to the present day. The earliest surviving houses go back around 9500 years, and the first villages 6000 years: Skara Brae on the Mainland of Orkney being the earliest preserved example in Europe. Crannogs, roundhouses, each built on an artificial island, date from the Bronze Age and stone buildings called Atlantic roundhouses and larger earthwork hill forts from the Iron Age. The arrival of the Romans from about 71 AD led to the creation of forts like that at Trimontium, and a continuous fortification between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde known as the Antonine Wall, built in the second century AD. Beyond Roman influence, there is evidence of wheelhouses and underground souterrains. After the departure of the Romans there were a series of nucleated hill forts, often utilising major geographical features, as at Dunadd and Dunbarton.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Malcolm Fraser (architect)</span> Scottish architect

Malcolm Fraser is an architect from Edinburgh, Scotland. He was the founder of Malcolm Fraser Architects, a firm of architects based in the Old Town of Edinburgh from 1993. The company entered liquidation on 21 August 2015 and Fraser worked with Halliday Fraser Munro Architects before setting up anew with Robin Livingstone as Fraser/Livingstone Architects in January 2019.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Macintyre</span> Scottish architect (1940–1997)

Robert Hamilton Macintyre TD RIBA ARIAS was a Scottish architect with a particular interest in church architecture and in the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. He was a champion of causes to improve the arts facilities and architecture of Inverness, the Highland capital.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Architecture in modern Scotland</span> Buildings in Scotland during the 20th and 21st century

Architecture in modern Scotland encompasses all building in Scotland, between the beginning of the twentieth century and the present day. The most significant architect of the early twentieth century was Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who mixed elements of traditional Scottish architecture with contemporary movements. Estate house design declined in importance in the twentieth century. In the early decades of the century, traditional materials began to give way to cheaper modern ones. After the First World War, Modernism and the office block began to dominate building in the major cities and attempts began to improve the quality of urban housing for the poor, resulted in a massive programme of council house building. The Neo-Gothic style continued in to the twentieth century but the most common forms in this period were plain and massive Neo-Romanesque buildings.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Architecture of Scotland in the Industrial Revolution</span> Buildings of Scotland in the Industrial Revolution

Architecture of Scotland in the Industrial Revolution includes all building in Scotland between the mid-eighteenth century and the end of the nineteenth century. During this period, the country underwent an economic and social transformation as a result of industrialisation, which was reflected in new architectural forms, techniques and scale of building. In the second half of the eighteenth century, Edinburgh was the focus of a classically inspired building boom that reflected the growing wealth and confidence of the capital. Housing often took the form of horizontally divided tenement flats. Some of the leading European architects during this period were Scottish, including Robert Adam and William Chambers.

Charles d’Orville Pilkington Jackson RSA, FRBS, FRSA was a British sculptor prominent in Scotland in the 20th Century. Throughout his career he worked closely with the architect Sir Robert Lorimer. He is most noteworthy for his creation of one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks, the statue of Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Hurd</span>

Robert Philip Andrew Hurd was an influential conservation architect. His original aim was to be an architectural author specialising in traditional forms. He came to Scotland in 1930 and worked at the Edinburgh College of Art for two years as assistant to the architect and planner Frank Mears. He was an early and highly respected conservation architect and wrote and broadcast on Scottish architecture, planning and reconstruction.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alexander Cullen (architect)</span> Scottish architect and town planner

Alexander Cullen FRSE OBE (1892–1963) was a Scottish architect and town planner operating in the 20th century. In 1951 he became President of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS). He was noted as a sensitive designer within rural Scotland.

John Wilson OBE FRSE FRIBA FISA (1877–1959) was a 20th-century Scottish architect who influenced the design of state-subsidised local authority housing in Scotland after 1917 and as Chief Architect advised the Scottish Department of Health on hospital design.

The 1906–07 Scottish Districts season is a record of all the rugby union matches for Scotland's district teams.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Norah Geddes</span>

Norah Geddes (1887–1967) was a Scottish landscape designer.

Anna Geddes was an English social environmental activist, musician and partner in the work of Patrick Geddes. Whilst married to Patrick Geddes, she provided organizational and intellectual support to many of his projects, and they traveled extensively during their work together.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">New College Settlement</span> Church in Edinburgh, Scotland

The New College Settlement was a student settlement based on the Pleasance in the Southside of Edinburgh, Scotland. Founded by students of New College in 1893, its work continued until 1952.


  1. Purves, Graeme (1999), Frank Mears: A Pioneer of Scottish Planning, The Saltire Society Newsletter, Autumn 1999, pp. 25-26
  2. "Isabella Mears Archives".
  3. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1897-8
  4. Geddes, P. (1911), The Civic Survey of Edinburgh, Transactions of the Town Planning Conference of the Royal Institute of British Architects, 10–15 October 1910, RIBA 1911
  5. 1 2 (Sir) Frank Charles Mears, Dictionary of Scottish Architects
  6. "No. 37407". The London Gazette . 28 December 1945. p. 2.
  7. Dolev, Diana (2016), The Planning and Building of the Hebrew University, 1919-1948: Facing the Temple Mount, Lexington Books, pp. 25-44 & 59-86
  8. Purves, Graeme (2000), A Vision of Zion, in The Scottish Review Number 21, Spring 2000, pp. 83-91
  9. Dolev, Diana (1998), Architectural Orientalism in the Hebrew University - The Patrick Geddes and Frank Mears Master-Plan, Assaph. Section B: Studies in art history, pp. 217-234
  10. de Blacam, H. (1923), Greater Dublin, The Illustrated Review, pp.149-152
  11. Mears, F.C. & Traquair, R. (1912), 'Public Monuments', in The Blue Blanket: An Edinburgh Civic Review, vol. 1, no. 1, January 1912
  12. MacNair, James I. (1951), The Story of the Scottish National Memorial to David Livingstone, The Scottish National Memorial to David Livingstone Trust, Blantyre
  13. 'A monument to commemorate the past services of the Royal Scots Regiment', The Architect and Building News, 28 April 1950
  14. 'Monument to the Royal Scots Regiment, The Architect and Building News, 26 June 1952
  15. Mears, F.C. (1928), The Work Goes Forward in Scotland, The Architects' Journal, 14 November 1928, pp. 661 & 662
  16. Hedderwick, R.M. (1985), Some Recollections of the Earlier Days of the Association for the Preservation of Rural Scotland, APRS Annual Report 1985, pp. 14 & 15
  17. Scottish Bridges of Sir Frank Mears, The Architect and Building News, 10 March 1950
  18. Association for the Preservation of Rural Scotland (1932), Annual Report, pp. 9 - 13
  19. Lucy Sanderson Homes, The Architect and Building News, 17 August 1934, pp. 192-194
  20. Fraser Darling, Frank (1948), Preliminary Report of the West Highland Survey
  21. Mears, F.C. (1951), County of Sutherland: Interim Report on Planning and Redevelopment, Sutherland County Council, June 1951
  22. Mears, F.C. (1919),Primitive Edinburgh, Scottish Geographical Magazine 1919, pp. 298 - 315,
  23. Mears, F.C. (1928), The Growth of Edinburgh, Quarterly of the Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, No. 28, Winter 1928, pp. 123 - 126
  24. Mears, F.C. (1928), The Planning of Medieval Cities, Transactions of the Edinburgh Architectural Association, Vol. 9, pp.81 - 90
  25. Mears, F.C. (1945), Interim Report on Population Trends in Relation to Industrial Development and Housing Needs, Central and South-East Scotland Regional Planning Advisory Committee, Edinburgh, March 1945, pp. 5 - 6
  26. Scottish Home Department (1944), Report of the Scottish Coalfields Committee (Cmnd. 6575), December 1944
  27. Mears, F.C. (1948), A Regional Survey and Plan for Central and South-East Scotland, Central and South-East Scotland Regional Planning Advisory Committee, Edinburgh
  28. Mears, F.C. (1947), Greenock, Portal of the Clyde: An Outline Plan for Redevelopment, The Corporation of Greenock
  29. Abercrombie, P. & Matthew, R.H. (1949), The Clyde Valley Regional Plan, HMSO, p.113
  30. Tait, Hamilton (1948), Greenock Plans Ahead , Corporation of Greenock, National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive Reference: 1691
  31. Mears, F.C. (1951), The University of Glasgow: Expansion and Redevelopment
  32. Dolev, Diana (2016). The Planning and Building of the Hebrew University, 1919–1948: Facing the Temple Mount. Lexington Books. pp. 71–74. ISBN   9780739191613 . Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  33. Dolev, Diana (2016). The Planning and Building of the Hebrew University, 1919–1948: Facing the Temple Mount. Lexington Books. pp. 67–69. ISBN   9780739191613 . Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  34. Mears, F.C. (1931), The City of Edinburgh: Preliminary Suggestions Prepared for Consideration by the Representative Committee in Regard to the Development and Replanning of the Central Area of the City in Relation to Public Buildings, Corporation of the City of Edinburgh
  35. Mears, F.C. (1938), The Re-Construction of Central Stirling, Journal of the Town Planning Institute, May 1938, pp. 226 - 229

Online references

Further reading