James Sellars (1843 – 1888) Glasgow-born architect who helped design Spiers School in Beith and other buildings throughout North Ayrshire.

Born on the 2nd of December 1843, James Sellars was a Glasgow-born architect. The son of a house-factor, James had an apprenticeship at the age of 13, with the architect Hugh Barclay in 1857. This lasted until 1864 when he joined the office of the architect James Hamilton, who had significant practices in Belfast and Glasgow. James continued in assistant roles until he received his big break in joining the offices of Campbell Douglas in 1870 and was partner by 1872. 

He earned his partnership by defeating seventy-five others to win an international competition to produce a monument to the late Lord Provost Robert Stewart, the man responsible for establishing Glasgow’s first permanent supply of fresh water from Loch Katrine. Incredibly, the result was overturned and the competition was re-advertised at half the original outlay which he won again! He was admitted to the Glasgow Institute of Architects in March 1872, his certificate being signed by Alexander Thomson and John Baird. 

So what did he do for North Ayrshire? 

He helped to design Netherhall House in Largs, which was built in 1875 for Lord Kelvin of Largs. In the 90’s the house was converted into luxury apartments which remains its function to this day. 

Perhaps his most considerable contribution to architecture in North Ayrshire was his role in designing Spier’s School in Beith. The foundation stone of the school was laid in September, 1887 and the school opened to pupils one year later, on the 22nd of September 1888. This would be one month before the death of James Sellars. 

The school itself was closed on the 30th of June, 1972 and was eventually demolished in 1984, almost a century after construction. 

James Sellars attempted to keep a low profile in regards to his growing fame and even declined an offer of Knighthood, claiming he “couldn’t live up to it”. It was noted that he took a particular interest in the housing of the working classes and the poor, an interest which probably resulted in his several commissions for welfare buildings. 

At the Glasgow International Exhibition (1888) Sellars was cut by a rusty nail, which had pierced his boot. He died of blood poisoning at his house, 9 Montgomerie Crescent on 9 October 1888 and was buried on the 11th at Lambhill Cemetery, Glasgow. 

His wider works in Ayrshire included Ayr Town Hall in 1877 and Alloway Parish Church in 1876. In Glasgow he designed ‘Frasers’ in Buchanan Street in 1883.