Mylne, Robert

, an eminent architect, to whose memory Black Friars Bridge will be a lasting monument, was born at Edinburgh, Jan. 4, 1734. His father, Thomas Mylne, was an architect, and a magistrate of that city; and his family, it has been ascertained, held th office of master-masons to the kings of Scotland for five hundred year’s, till the union of the crowns of England and Scotland. Mr. Mylne was educated at Edinburgh, and travelled early in life for improvement in h;s hereditary science. At Rome he resided five years, and in September 1758, gained the first prize in the first class of architecture, adjudged by the academy of St. Luke, and was also unanimously elected a member of that body. On this occasion prince Altieri, distinguished for his knowledge of the fine arts, obtained from the pope the necessary dispensation, Mr. Mylne being a protestant. He was also elected a member of the academies of Florence and Bologna. He visited Naples, and viewed the interior of Sicily with an accuracy never before employed; and from his skill in his profession, and his classical knowledge, was enabled to illustrate several very obscure passages in Vitruvius. His fine collection of drawings, with his account of this tour, which he began to arrange for publication in 1774, but was interrupted by his numerous professional engagements, are still in the possession of his son, and will, it is hoped, at no very distant period, be given to the public. He was often heard to remark in his latter days, that in most of his observations and drawings, he had neither been anticipated by those who traversed the ground before him, nor followed by those who came after him.

After making a complete tour of Europe, which he began by going through France, and finished by returning through Switzerland and Holland, he arrived in London, with every possible testimonial of his talents, but without a friend | or patron. At this time plans were requested by the city of London for constructing a bridge at Black Friars, and Mr. Mylne, among twenty others, became a candidate. It was well known that one of his rivals was befriended by lord Bute, who had then great influence, but Mr. Mylne succeeded by the impartial verdict of the judges appointed to examine the respective plans; and the first stone was laid in 1761, with a pomp becoming the vast undertaking. A writer of no common talents, in the supplement to the “Encyclopaedia Britannica,” after a very close examination of the details of this structure, pronounces it to be the most perfect of any that is upon record, and at large points out the great superiority of the centering employed by Mr. Mylne. The learned author seerns, however, to suppose that this ingenious architect made a secret of his mode of centering; but few men had a more liberal spirit, or more aversion to professional quackery of every kind, and therefore, he deposited in the British Museum, an exact model of the centering employed at Blackfriars bridge, which gives a most precise and satisfactory idea of the work. When the bridge was first proposed, Mr. Mylne engaged in a short controversy with Dr. Johnson, on the form of the arch; but they were afterwards intimate friends, and in conversation agreed in a certain sturdy independence of mind which perhaps cemented that friendship. It is much to the honour of Mr. Mylne’s accuracy, as well as integrity, that Blackfriars-bridge was completed in 1765, for the exact sum specified in his estimate, namely, one hundred and fifty-three thousand pounds. On his proposals being accepted, the city committee, in February 1760, voted him an annual salary of three hundred pounds; and his farther remuneration was to be five per cent, on the money laid out on the bridge. To obtain this, however, he hud a long struggle with the city, which he maintained with his characteristic firmness and spirit; and, in answer to a question several times put to him, with no great delicacy, uniformly declared, that what he claimed, he claimed as a matter of right, and not of favour. At length, but not until 1776, his claims were allowed; on which occasion he sent to the corporation a letter of thanks.

Immediately after completing the bridge, he was appointed surveyor of St. Paul’s cathedral, by the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop of London, and the lord-mayor; | and not only directed the repairs that have been found necessary in that noble fabrick, but those temporary erections required by the anniversaries of the sons of the clergy, and that most interesting spectacle, the annual assemblage of the charity-children of the metropolis, as well as those more elegant preparations made for the visits of the royal family and the two houses of parliament in 1789, 1797, &c. &c. It was by his suggestion that the noble inscription in honour of sir Christopher Wren, ending, “Si monumentum requiras,” &c. was placed over the entrance of the choir. Among the other edifices which Mr. Mylne erected, or was concerned in the repairs, we may enumerate Rochester cathedral, Greenwich hospital, of which he was clerk of the works for fifteen years Kings- Weston*, the seat of lord De Clifford Blaze castle, near Bristol Addington, the seat of the archbishop of Canterbury; Wormlybury, sir Abraham Hume’s; Lying-in hospital, City road the duke of Northumberland’s pavillion, on the banks of the Thames at Sion general Skene’s house, in Fifeshire lord Frederic Campbell’s at Ardincaple; Inverary castle, the duke of Argyle’s; the embankment at the Temple gardens, &c. &c. He was also consulted on almost all the harbours in England. Mr. Milne died, May 5, 1811, at the New River Head, where he had long resided, as engineer to that company; an office to which he was appointed in 1762. He was interred, by his own desire, in St. Paul’s cathedral, near the tomb of his illustrious predecessor, Wren.

Mr. Mylne was a man of most extensive professional knowledge, and while his Blackfriars bridge, and many other structures shewed him an excellent practical builder, he was no less acute and eloquent on the theory of his art. His conversation, always entertaining and edifying, assumed a higher tone, when he was invited to speak on architectural subjects, the history of the Grecian or Gothic


Mr Mylne made some very great alterations and improvements at KingsWeston for the the lord De Clifford, then Mr. Southwell, who knew him at Rome, and, from his bridge at Blackfriars, conceived a very high idea of his taUnts. Concerning this seat, Mr. Mylne’s clerk used to relate the following anecdote. On Mr. Mylne’s arrival there he commenced making a plan, by which he discovered a small room in the house, to which there was no means of access, and on cutting into it they found, to their great astonishment, a quantity of old family plate, together with the records of a barony granted in the reign of Henry III. to that family, in consequence of which Mr. Southwell took the title of lord De Clifford. This room was probably shut up during the rebellion in the reign of Charles 1.

| styles, or any disputed point respecting the origin of the art. On such, almost to the latest hour of his life, we have heard him dilate with a precision and copious flow of reasoning, that would have been astonishing in the ablest men in the prime of life. His personal character is said to have had some peculiarities. Such as we have observed seemed to arise from a consciousness of superior talent, and a lofty independent e of spirit. Placed often at the head of a tribe of inferior workmen, of contending interests and passions, his orders were peremptory, and were to be obeyed without a murmur; while he could vet listen with patience, if an objection was started on reasonable grounds. What he most disliked was that adherence to custom and practice which made every improvement be considered as a dangerous, impracticable, or inconvenient innovation. Against this he bent the whole force of his authority, and always endeavoured to introduce a more liberal spirit. The common workmen, who looked up to him with some degree of terror, and whom he certainly did not always address in the gentlest terms, were amply recompensed by the care he took that, whoever were his employers, these humble artisans should be paid their wages with the utmost punctuality. Dearly as he loved his profession, he was not avaricious of its emoluments, and after all his distinguished employments, he did not die rich.

In 1770, Mr. Mylne married miss Mary Home, sister of Mr. Home, the surgeon, by whom he had nine children. Of these one son, his successor as engineer of the New River Company, and four daughters, now survive him. 1


Nichols’s Bowyer and from personal knowledge.