James E Forbes

This page has information on the architect James Edwin Forbes and his partnership with John Duncan Tate. Reference is made to other people named Forbes in the locality.

James Edwin Forbes was born August 1876 in Dalkeith Scotland. The family moved to Edinburgh where eventually James was articled in 1892 as an architectural student to George Washington Browne a significant architect in Edinburgh. In 1896, presumably having completed his indentured period, he moved to Robert Rowand Anderson’s office as assistant. During that period he studied at the Edinburgh School of Applied Art and won its traveling scholarship in 1897, spending his time in France. On his return he became in 1898 a bursar working on the National Art Survey, concentrating on ecclesiastical buildings and monuments in south-west Scotland. In 1899 he went to London as assistant to E.W. Mountford where he remained until 1901 when he won the Grissell Medal and commenced practice in Birmingham.

In 1905 he moved to London to form a successful partnership with John Duncan Tate (1880-1930) until Tate died in 1930. (Obituary "The Builder" Vol. 139, 5 Dec 1930, p968 ) Tate had been his assistant in Birmingham in 1901-02. They developed a significant domestic practice, being responsible for numerous houses in South Buckinghamshire and other parts of the Home Counties. This site describes some of those in Chalfont St Giles where James Forbes lived for much of his working life. They were also particularly active in converting old buildings to modern house. Pednor House outside Chesham is a prime local example.

Barrington Court Somerset is perhaps his most high profile role. He was working with Colonel Lyle (of Tate and Lyle fame) of Beel House in White Lion Road. Lyle was a voracious collector of architectural salvage especially historic woodwork. Initially it was stored at Beel House but then he moved to Barrington Court, Somerset. Barrington Court was the National Trust's first country house property which it acquired in 1907 but found it consumed enormous sums in its renovation. In 1917 Colonel Lyle acquired a lease from the National Trust to live there and to carry on the maintenance and rejuvenation of the house and estate. Forbes planned the renovation of house, stable block and gardens (the latter in conjunction with Gertrude Jekyll) and installed much of the architectural salvage in the process. (See listing entry on Historic England. http://list.historicengland.org.uk/resultsingle.aspx?uid=1000505 )

Forbes collaborated with Gertrude Jekyll on six other occasions across the country where he designed the house and she laid out the gardens. (Gertrude Archives held at Berkeley University Calfornia.) C He did not become LRIBa until 1910 but quickly became FRIBA in early 1916.

Forbes lived and worked at the house he designed for himself at Chalfont St Giles, The Shieling, until it was sold in 1952.

He died on 22 April 1955 in Brighton. (Obituary "The Builder" Vol. 188, 6 May 1955, p761.)

There were other people with the name Forbes in the area in particular Thomas Forbes (1862-1951) who built Rushymead House at Coleshill and was a member of Lloyds. This Thomas had a son Thomas Lawrence Forbes also of Lloyds. There is no obvious family connection to James E Forbes but this T L Forbes occupied the Tile House next to James Forbe's house The Sheiling. The elder Thomas Forbes leased Pollards Park for a short period,

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REFERENCES. Unless otherwise specified, all references given above refer to catalogue references at the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies at Aylesbury. (County Record Office)

This print is a section of the Chalfont History website.

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John Dodd ©2012   www.chalfonthistory.co.uk