James Murray (architect)

James Murray of Kilbaberton, (d.1634), was a Scottish master wright and architect. He served as the King's Master of Works under James VI, and Charles I. He was one of the first men in Scotland to be called an architect.[1]


His father James Murray (d.1615) was a gunner and wright in Edinburgh castle and made master wright in 1584.[2] Murray senior was appointed Overseer of the King's Works in Scotland on 4 May 1601 and on the same day James Murray younger was made principal master wright and gunner, as his father had been. The younger James was appointed Overseer in 1605, when his father resigned the post, and two years later was appointed principal Master of Works in Scotland, succeeding David Cunningham of Robertland.[3]

In April 1603 Murray provided James VI with "certain billiards and billiard balls."[4]

On 28 September 1608, Murray chased Finlay Taylor, a baillie of the Canongate, with a drawn sword in the Abbey Close near Holyroodhouse.[5]

Murray was granted land near Juniper Green, outside Edinburgh, in 1612. Between 1622 and 1623 he designed and built Baberton House as his home here.[3] The innovative symmetrical u-plan house still stands, although it was extended in the 18th century. Murrays initials, together with those of his wife, Katherine Weir, appear on the house.[6]

King James gave orders for repairs to the royal palaces in Scotland in 1616, anticipating his visit in 1617. At Holyrood, Murray was to take down and repair the roof of the lodging above the outer gate called the Chancellor's Lodging, demolish the lodging in the Palace of Holyrood House called the Master Steward's chamber, rebuild Roger Aston's chamber and Chancellor Maitland's kitchen in the Duke's transe, and demolish lean-to buildings to improve the courtyard. At Stirling Castle, he was to demolish buildings between the inner and outer gate, re-roof the inner gate or fore-work, re-roof the king's kitchen, and rebuild the court kitchen, bakehouse, and pantry. At Falkland Palace, he was to re-roof the king's and queen's galleries overlooking the garden from the east quarter, and make a bartisan or wall-walk on a new lead roof, and repair the whole palace, making repairs and new doorways and windows as required.[7]

The north range or quarter of Linlithgow Palace had collapsed in 1607. In February 1619 Murray received permission to demolish part of the remaining masonry adjacent to the north-west corner.[8] November 1619 there was a dispute amongst his workforce at Linlithgow, the Privy Council of Scotland intervened and the mason John Service was imprisoned in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, and ten other masons were ordered to work for Murray under the conditions he set. Murray was asked by the Privy Council to calculate how much lead would be needed to cover the roof of the new north range at Linlithgow, and he arranged to buy 3,000 stone weight of lead from an Edinburgh merchant.[9]

In 1620 he was asked to investigate the scheme of Emanuell Meether who wanted to set up a glass manufactuary in Edinburgh, and subsequently joined a commission to judge glass made at Wemyss.[10]

The accounts mention that Murray and the gardener William Watts were responsible for "platting and contriving his Majesy's new garden and orchard" at Stirling Castle in 1629.[11] The garden includes a surviving octagonal mount called the King's Knot.[12]

Murray drew up plans for Parliament House in Edinburgh in 1633, and the building was constructed to his design over the following years.[3] As Master of Works he was also in charge of works at Linlithgow Palace, the reconstruction of Holyrood Palace prior to the coronation of Charles I, and additions to the Great Hall at Edinburgh Castle. He is said to be the principal designer of Malleny House in Balerno, although the house was not completed until after his death.[13]

In 1633, at the coronation of Charles I, Murray was knighted. He died in December of the following year.[3]


  1. ^ McWilliam, p.54
  2. ^ Gordon Donaldson, Register of the Privy Seal: 1581-84, vol. 8 (Edinburgh, 1982), p. 311 no. 1854.
  3. ^ a b c d Colvin, p.567
  4. ^ Letters to King James the Sixth from the Queen, Prince Henry, Prince Charles etc (Edinburgh, 1835), p. lxxxvi
  5. ^ Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, vol. 8 (Edinburgh, 1887), 166, 673.
  6. ^ (Historic Environment Scotland & LB6129)
  7. ^ David Masson, Register of the Privy Council of Scotland: 1613-1616, vol. 10 (Edinburgh, 1891), pp. 517-8.
  8. ^ David Masson, Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, vol. 11 (Edinburgh, 1894), p. 522.
  9. ^ Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, vol. 12 (Edinburgh, 1895), p. 120, 335.
  10. ^ Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, vol. 12 (Edinburgh, 1895), pp. 374, 428, 439-40.
  11. ^ John Imrie & John Dunbar, Accounts of the Masters of Works, vol. 2 (Edinburgh, 1982), pp. 242-3.
  12. ^ Marilyn Brown, Scotland's Lost Gardens (Edinburgh, 2015), pp. 178-182.
  13. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "MALLENY HOUSE WITH WALLED GARDEN, BOTHY, IRONWORK, GATES, GATEPIERS, GREEN COTTAGE AND STABLES (Category A Listed Building) (LB27172)". Retrieved 18 June 2022.


Preceded by Master of Work to the Crown of Scotland
Succeeded by
Anthony Alexander