Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Aitchison, George

AITCHISON, GEORGE (1825–1910), architect, born in London on 7 Nov. 1825, was son of George Aitchison by his wife Maria Freeman. After education at Merchant Taylors' School (1835–41), he was articled in 1841 to his father, then architect to the St. Katharine Dock Co. Entering the schools of the Royal Academy in 1847, he graduated B.A. at London University in 1851, and began in 1853 an architectural tour which led to his acquaintance in Rome with George Heming Mason [q. v.]. Mason introduced him to Frederic Leighton [q. v. Suppl. I]. Concluding the tour with William Burges [q. v.], he returned to London in 1855 and four years later was taken into partnership by his father, to whose practice and appointment he succeeded in 1861, becoming subsequently joint architect to the London and St. Katharine Docks Co. In 1865 Leighton, the friend of his lifetime, gave him the opportunity of designing his house and studio in Holland Road, South Kensington (now Leighton House), to which the Arab Hall was added at a later date. Aitchison's other principal works were the hall of the Founders Co. (1877); offices for the Royal Exchange Insurance Co., Pall Mall (1886); decorations for the apartments of the Princess Louise at Kensington Palace; and the board room for the Thames Conservancy (1868), with a frieze by Leighton. He was examiner in architecture and the principles of ornament at the Science and Art Department, South Kensington, and for many years district surveyor for East Wandsworth and Tooting. Aitchison was elected A.R.A. in 1881 and R.A. in 1898. He had already become professor of architecture to the Academy, a post which he resigned in 1905. From 1896 to 1899 he was president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and during his presidency (1898) was awarded the royal gold medal. His work as an architect, always scholarly, is chiefly marked by his promotion of higher standards of internal decoration and by his collaboration with other artists in such work. He was a wide reader, a good talker, and the collector of an interesting library.

His numerous writings were mostly professional lectures, presidential addresses, or communications to architectural journals. He edited and wrote an introduction to Ward's 'Principles of Ornament' (1892), and was a contributor of several memoirs to this Dictionary, including those of Sir Charles Barry, Francis Hall, and George Homing Mason.

Aitchison resided and worked at 150 Harley Street, where he died, unmarried, on 16 May 1910. An excellent portrait by Sir L. Alma-Tadema, R.A., which was exhibited at the Academy in 1901, hangs in the room of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

[Journal Royal Inst. of Brit. Architects, xvii., 3rd series (1909-10), 581; The Times, 17 May 1910; personal knowledge.]

P. W.