Gibbs, James

, an eminent architect, was the son of Peter Gibbs of Footdeesmire, merchant in Aberdeen, and Isabel Farquhar, his second wife; he was born about the year 1674, and was educated at the grammar-school and the Marischal college of Aberdeen, where he took the degree of master of arts. Having, however, few friends, he resolved to seek his fortune abroad; and about 1694 left Aberdeen, whither he never returned. As he had always discovered a strong inclination to the mathematics, h spent some years in the service of an architect and masterbuilder in Holland. The earl of Mar happening to be in that country, about 1700, Mr. Gibbs was introduced to him. This noble lord was himself a great architect; and finding his countryman Mr. Gibbs to be a man of genius, he not only favoured him with his countenance and advice, but generously assisted him with money and recommendatory letters, in order, by travelling, to complete himself as an architect.

Thus furnished, Mr. Gibbs went from Holland to Italy, and there applied himself assiduously to the study of | architecture, under the best masters. About 1710 he came to England; where he found his noble patron in the ministry, and highly in favour with the queen. Lord Mar introduced him to his friends as a gentleman of great knowledge in his profession; and an act of parliament having been passed about this time for building fifty new churches, Mr. Gibbs was employed by the trustees named in the act, and gave a specimen of his abilities, in planning and executing St. Martin’s church in the fields, St. Mary’s in the Strand, and several others. Being now entered on business, he soon became distinguished; and although his generous patron had the misfortune to be exiled from his native country, Mr. Gibbs’s merit supported him among persons of all denominations, and he was employed by persons of the best taste and greatest eminence. The liadcliffe library at Oxford, begun June 16, 1737, and finished in 1747; the King’s college, Royal library, and Senatehouse, at Cambridge; and the sumptuous and elegant monument for John Holies, duke of Newcastle, done by order and at the expence of his grace’s only child, the countess of Oxford and Mortimer, are lasting evidences of his abilities as an architect. Some years before his death, he sent to the magistrates of Aberdeen, as a testimony of his regard for the place of his nativity, a plan of St. Nicholas church, which was followed in the re-building of it, and which was probably among the last of his performances.

As he was a bachelor, and had but few relations, and was unknown to these, he bequeathed the bulk of his fortune, amounting to about 14 or I5,000l. sterling, to those he esteemed his friends. He made a grateful return to the generosity of his noble patron the earl of Mar, by bequeathing to his son the lord Erskine, estates which yielded 280l. per annum, 1000l. in money, and all his plate. His religious principles were the same with those of his father, a nonjuror; but he was justly esteemed by good men of all persuasions, being courteous in his behaviour, moderate with regard to those who differed from him, humane, and charitable. He died on the 5th of August, 1754, and was buried in Marybone church.

In 1728 he published a large folio of his designs, by which he realized 1500l. and sold the plates afterwards for 40O/. 1


Life originally published in the Scotch Magazine.—Walpole’s Anecdotes.