Archibald Neil 1856-1933

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As a regular feature of our newsletters we would like to celebrate the lives of some of those who are buried at Lawnswood and have played an important role in the history of our city.

Our first story looks at Archibald Neill. Bradford born of Scottish parents, his father James was also an architect. He married Alice Jane Mann in1878. They had six children and lived at 1 Claremont Villas, Clarendon Road.

We were made aware of Neill’s significant contribution to the history of Leeds through his great grand-daughter Christina who has kindly shared some family memorabilia.

As an architect, Neill was responsible for the design of many key buildings in Leeds and further afield. His biggest commission was probably the impressive Standard Assurance Building in City Square built in 1901. This was demolished in the 1960s and No1 City Square now stands on this prominent site. He is also credited with the design of the mock Tudor style Overseers’ Office in North Lane built in 1914.

Christina told me “Looking more into Archibald’s designs I find that buildings I have passed regularly were designed by him: namely a parade of shops at 168-176 Chapeltown Road (1890) and Newton Park Union Church (built 1887). He called this huge building his “little cathedral”. It was latterly a Sikh temple but now lies derelict. These are both buildings I have always loved, little knowing my link with them”.

Newton Park Union Church Built 1887

Neill was a proud and active freemason for 54 years. He was a past Master of the Alfred Lodge and the Leeds Mercury gives details of the many members of the organisation who attended his funeral at Lawnswood. A photograph from the family album shows Neill proudly wearing his regalia. Neill went on to become the chief valuer of buildings for Leeds Corporation, a role he held into his early 70s. On his retirement he was interviewed by the Yorkshire Evening Post and spoke of the huge rise in value of central Leeds properties in the period he carried out the role, an example being that of his own office where, over the period of 20 years the rent increased from £15 to £80 a year.

Sadly Neill’s monument is badly weathered but it is still just possible to make out the inscription. He is buried with his wife Alice.

                                                                                                                                               Bev Forrest