Saint Cecilia's Hall in the Niddry Wynd Chapter III The Architect
Robert Myi.ne, F.R.S., who was born in Edinburgh in
1733 and died in London in 18x1, was the architect of St. Cecilias
Hall. At the time that he designed the hall he was only thirty-one
years of age, yet he had by that time studied architecture in Rume,
and had won, amid the acclamations of judges and spectators, the
first prize in the first class of architecture at the Academy of St.
Luke in the Eternal City. In theScots Magazine for January 1759
there appeared a long poem in piaise of the clever young architect.
The friends appreciation of Mylnes work was stronger than his
poetical powers, so that we spare the reader the entire poem, which
is not exactly within the limits of the Italian sonnet; we shall
quote, we hope, judiciously:
Rome, Sept. 23rd, 1758.
To Mr. Robert Mylne, of Edinburgh, on his obtaining
the first prize in the first class of Architecture, from the Academy
of St. Luke, at Rome, the 15 th inst.
By his friend, G. W.
Accept, dear Mylne, nor like a critic view The verse,
to merit and to friendship due ; (Concluding lines.)
To cure the nations taste be first your care;
Then Britain will for long-lost arts declare,
Will raise the structure by your hand designed,
Will rival Romeleave Rome, perhaps, behind ;
Will do you justice, and enrol your name '
First in the book of everlasting fame.
Robert Mylne came of a good old Scottish stock men
who had literally made their mark (in the form of the masons
sign) upon many an enduring building throughout the length and
breadth of Scotland. This Robert Mylne was the first of his family
to seek professional occupation outside of Scotland, but he did it
to such purpose in London that his plans were the accepted ones for
Blackfriars Bridge over the Thames, and it was he who died as the
superintendent of St. Pauls Cathedral, beneath whose majestic dome
he lies buried, close to the tomb of Wren. It was Mylne who composed
the famous Latin epitaph for the grave of his illustrious
predecessoran eloquent inscription, which concludes with the
eloquent words, 'si monumentum quasris, circumspice. He was
employed to alter portions of Rochester Cathedral and Greenwich
Hospital, and in Lichfield Street he built a house for the
world-renowned anatomist and surgeon the Scotsman, John Hunter.
The family of Mylnes may, in a certain sense, he
described as hereditary master-masons to the Kings of Scotland, as
the rhyming epitaph upon the family tomb in Old Greyfriars so
quaintly puts it. The inscription begins with a Latin eulogy of
John Milne, in the course of which we read (translating) :
'Robert, his brothers son, emulous of his virtues, as
well as his successor in office, has, out of gratitude, erected this
monument, such as it is, to his unde. He died 24th December 1667 in
the fifty-fifth year of his age.
After this come the following curious rhyming lines
Great artisan, grave senator, John Milne,
Renowned for learning, prudence, parts, and skill,
Who in his life Vitruvius art had shown,
Adorning others monuments his own
Can have no other beauty than his name.
His memory, and everlasting fame.
Rare man he was, who could unite in one
Highest and lowest occupation,
To sit with statesmen, councillour to kings,
To work with tradesmen in mechanick things,
Majestic man, for person, wit, and grace T
his generation cannot fill his place.
Near the ground we see:
Reader, John Milne, who maketh the fourth John,
And, by descent from father unto son,
Sixth master-mason to a royal race
Of seven successive kings, sleeps in this place.
Like the utterance of the friars in The Jackdaw of
Rheims, this is somewhat regardless of grammar, but we can often
understand what we cannot parse.
The John Milne to whom his nephew erected this
monument, and who died in 1667, was the great-great-grandfather of
the architect of St. Cecilias. John Mylne had been master-mason to
Charles I. and to Charles II., and for the latter monarch had drawn
up plans for the Palace of Holyrood which were never executed. He,
however, did much work in Scotland. In Edinburgh, he repaired the
old crown-like steeple of St. Giles; built Christs Church at the
Tron,in the High Street; erected the fortifications at Leith; and,
in what are now the gardens of Holyrood, executed a very beautiful
sun-dial which exhibits C.R. & M.R., for Carolus Rex and
(Henrietta) Maria Regina. In Forfarshire he built Panmure House for
the second Earl of Panmure, and in Newcastle-on Tyne erected the
Church of St. Nicholas. Johns brother, Alexander, a sculptor, was
buried in the Chapel-Royal at Holyrood. In consequence of
alterations prior to Queen Victorias visit in 1850, this tomb came
to be outside the limits of the Chapel as it now stands, but a large
flat stone with a commemorative inscription was placed over the
John Mylne, the tombstone states, was sixth
master-mason to a royal race of seven successive kings. Can we
corroborate this? The founder of the family was a John Mylne (1481),
appointed master-mason to James in., and it was his son, Alexander,
who filled the post in the court of James v. Thus, from James m. of
Scotland to Charles 11. of Great Britain there were six kings; but
if we remember that it is John Mylnes tiephew, Robert, who erects
the tomb, and is speaking to the reader in the epitaph, we see that
he is including his own service to James VII. and II., i.e. the
seventh king from James Ill.
This Robert, the great-grandfather of the architect
of St. Cecilias, was a most important old Edinburgh builder or
architect, for it was only in his time that the two offices began to
be distinct. He served under Charles II., James II., William and
Mary, and Queen Anne, and it was he who built the more modern
portion of Holyrood Palace, of which Sir William Bruce of Kinross
was architect. Upon the inner surface of one of the north-west
pillars of the piazza of the quadrangle we can yet see, fvn. ee. ro. milne. m. m.
i. jvl. 1671, which, expanded, is read, 'Finished by Robert Mylne,
Master-Mason, First July 1671.
He also built, in 1690, to accommodate the rapidly
increasing population, Mylnes Court on the north side of the
Lawnmarket, and further down, on the same side in the High Street,
Mylnes Square, lately demolished, in both of which localities
resided for the next one hundred and fifty years some of the most
ancient of our noble families. Mylnes Battery on the north-west
corner of the Castle Rock, as well as the latest portion of the
Royal Lodgingsas they were always calledin the quadrangle of the
Castle, were both erected by Robert Mylne in 1679. This same Mylne
was the first man to enable pure water to be brought from the
country into the city of Edinburgh. He constructed pipes from Tods
well at Comiston which brought the water into several cisterns at
various heights in the city, one of these being at the head of the
The grandfather of Robert Mylne of St. Cecilias,
William Mjlne of Leith, who died in 1728, and is also buried in Grej
friars, was architect and master-mason in the royal household, but
his name does not seem to have been associated with any great work
in Edinburgh. His son, however, Thomas Mylne of Powderhall (the
father of our Robert), was a most active and notable Edinburgh
character. He was the first to be styled Royal Architect, and was
surveyor to the city of Edinburgh.
He designed and built the old Royal Infirmary, in its
day the worthy home of an ever-worthy charity, founded during the
provostship of one of the most patriotic and far-sighted of
Edinburghs sons, Sir George
Drummond. A son of his, William, brother to Robert,
has his name associated with a very important architectural feature
of Edinburgh, viz. the old North Bridge, the foundation-stone of
which was laid in 1763. William Mylne was likewise concerned in the
construction of old Jamaica Street Bridge over the Clyde. It is
curious that both of these bridges have been recently rebuilt, the
new North Bridge of Edinburgh having been opened for traffic in
September 1897, and the new Glasgow Bridge on May 24th, 1899. He
settled in Dublin, where his greatest undertaking was the
constructing of the waterworks, and he lies buried in St.
Catherines Church in that city. Thus St. Cecilias Hall was
designed by a man of no insignificant family, but the scion of a
race inseparably bound up with the civic history and material
progress of Scotland and her capital.
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