Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Architect, of Belfast, and later of Melbourne and Dunedin. John Millar, a son of Colonel John Millar, and his wife Eliza, was born in Belfast, either in 1807 or circa 1811.(1) His grandfather, another John Millar, was a stone and marble mason in Belfast. Young Millar appears to have entered the office of THOMAS HOPPER  THOMAS HOPPER in Edgware Road, London in about 1826;(2) it was from Hopper's address that he exhibited views of Penrhyn Castle and Gosford Castle at the Royal Academy in 1828(3) and an interior perspective of the Law Institution, Chancery Lane, in 1829.(4)

In the ten years between 1829 and 1839 Millar, whose brother Thomas was a Presbyterian minister in Cookstown, designed several Presbyterian churches - at Rosemary Street, Belfast, Castlereagh, Portaferry, Antrim and Crumlin, all neo-Greek except the last. Millar was also responsible for some domestic work and later claimed to have carried out extensive town improvement schemes. At the Belfast Association of Artists in 1836 he exhibited no less than nine drawings, which included designs for a Church of Ireland church, an 'architectural façade about to be erected on the Castle grounds opposite the Agricultural Bank, Belfast', a proposed Ulster Gallery of Fine Art and gate lodges for James Emerson Tennent at The Lodge, Belfast.(5) He also showed views of Penrhyn and Gosford - probably the ones which had been previously exhibited at the Royal Academy - and a drawing of 'Caius Marius amidst the ruins of Carthage' which was said to have won the Royal Academy's architectural students' medal. He can possibly be identified with the John Millar, engineer and architect, of North Quay, Derry, or with the John Millar, engineer, of Ulsterville, New Lisburn Road, Belfast, who are both listed in the Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory for 1852.

In 1854, after becoming bankrupt, Millar sailed to Australia, returned home, and then left again for Australia in 1855 in a ship which was wrecked at Cape Otway, Victoria. He settled in Melbourne for some years before leaving in 1863 for New Zealand, where he became engineer to the town board of Dunedin, a post from which he was dismissed in 1864, reinstated and then dismissed again. In October 1864 he lost all his possessions when his house was burned down. He was in private practice from 1866 to 1870; in the last years of his life he was again in the public service, engaged on waterworks and railways. He died in Nelson, New Zealand, on 15 November 1876 of 'hepatic disease, dropsy and exhaustion'. A man of extravagant claims, exuberant schemes and quixotic behaviour, he was survived by his widow, born Elizabeth Mary Franks, whom he had married in London when he was twenty-five; his three sons were all engineers in Australia and New Zealand.

Addresses: Work: 67 York Street, 1835; 63 York Street, Belfast, 1843-4; 7 Victoria Place, 1846.
Home: Mountpleasant, Newtownards, Co. Down, ?-1842; Ulsterville, Lisburn Road, Belfast, <=1846-1854.

See WORKS.



References

All information in this entry not otherwise accounted for is from C.E.B. Brett, 'Brett on John Millar, Architect, of Belfast', Ulster Architect, Sep/Oct 1994, 4-6, which conveys a lively sense of Millar's extravagant personality.

(1) Brett favours the earlier date as given in the records of the court house at Nelson, New Zealand, rather than Millar's own statement, on the inscription found inside one of the columns at Rosemary Street Presbyterian church, that he designed the church in 1829 when he was 18 and in the third year of his studentship. This inscription, on a large piece of slate, came to light when the church was destroyed by bombing in 1941; in it Millar claimed that his original design for the church had been 'mutilated' by the 'two quacks Duff and Jackson' but that the portico had been executed under his own personal supervision.
(2) See note 1, above.
(3) Nos. 564,1006; Brett suggests that the drawing of Gosford may be the one which is now in the Armagh Museum.
(4) No. 1084.
(5) IALE, II, 467.


17 work entries listed in chronological order for MILLAR, JOHN


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Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, FISHERWICK PLACE, PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Date: 1827
Nature: According to APSD 'erected by Mr Miller in 1827' but Huband Smith (|Belfast & its Environs|) gives it to Thomas Duff and is followed by Brett and Larmour.
Refs: APSD, B, 56

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, ROSEMARY STREET, 3RD PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Date: 1829-1831
Nature: Original design by JM, but after failure of original contractor, built by JM to designs by Duff & Jackson for £3,000. Portico designed and executed by JM . (Demolished and replaced by Masonic Hall, 1950.)
Refs: Perspective view exh. Belfast Association of Artists, 1836, no. 64; J.W. Kernohan, Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church, Belfast (1923), ?; Marcus Patton, Central Belfast: an historical gazetteer (UAHS, 1993), 276; C.E.B. Brett, 'Brett on John Millar, Architect, of Belfast', Ulster Architect, Sep/Oct 1994, 4

Building: CO. ANTRIM, KILWAUGHTER CASTLE
Date: 1830-1840
Nature: Superintending architect, with - Nelson, for successive enlargements, in accordance with plans produced earlier by John Nash.
Refs: C.E. B. Brett, 'Brett on John Millar, Architect, of Belfast', Ulster Architect, Sep/Oct 1994, 5

Building: CO. ANTRIM, ANTRIM, MILLROW, PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (1ST)
Date: 1833-1834
Nature: Greek revival style. Designed but not supervised by Millar? (Severely damaged by fire on 10 Jan 1862 and rebuilt to designs by Robert Young.).
Refs: C.E. B. Brett, 'Brett on John Millar, Architect, of Belfast', Ulster Architect, Sep/Oct 1994, 5(illus.); Laurence Kirkpatrick, Presbyterians in Ireland: an illustrated history (Booklink, 2006), 334
(illus.).
 

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, COLLEGE SQUARE EAST, ACADEMICAL INSTITUTION
Date: 1834
Nature: JM architect of extensions to same? Contractor: Matthew Mackenzie.
Refs: Copy letters from Adam McClean to Mr Millar, architect, of York St, Belfast, and notes made at sub-committee meetings, Apr-May 1834, in PRONI, SCH/524/7B/72/2,4,5,11 (see PRONI e-catalogue).


Building: CO. DOWN, CASTLEREAGH, PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Date: 1835
Nature: Greek revival church with belfry in form of Monument of Lysicrates in Athens.
Refs: C.E. B. Brett, 'Brett on John Millar, Architect, of Belfast', Ulster Architect, Sep/Oct 1994, 5(illus.)

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, BELFAST CASTLE
Date: 1836
Nature: JM exhibits 'Geometrical drawing of part of an architectural facade about to be erected on the Castle grounds opposite the Agricultural Bank, Belfast'.
Refs: Belfast Association of Artists, 1836, no. 104

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, ULSTER GALLERY OF FINE ART (PROPOSED)
Date: 1836
Nature: JM exhibits 'view of interior of entrance hall & stone vestibule leading to the staircase of antique sculputre'.
Refs: Belfast Association of Artists, 1836, no. 185

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, LODGE (THE)
Date: 1836ca
Nature: JM exhibits two designs for 'entrance lodge of the Tudor period' and 'park entrance in the Grecian style, about to be erected' for James Emerson Tennent.
Refs: Belfast Association of Artists, 1836. nos. 212, 213

Building: CO. DOWN, HOLYWOOD, MARINO, WARD'S COTTAGES (007)
Date: 1837
Nature: 'several houses in detached situations, and chiefly in the Elizabethan style of architecture, are now in progress of erection on the Cultra estate, by Thomas Ward Esq., after designs by Millar'.
Refs: S. Lewis, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837), II, 6; C.E. B. Brett, 'Brett on John Millar, Architect, of Belfast', Ulster Architect, Sep/Oct 1994, 5,6(illus.)

Building: CO. ANTRIM, CRUMLIN, MAIN STREET, PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Date: 1839
Nature: Gothic. Signed 'Millar Architect' on underside of lintel.
Refs: C.E. B. Brett, 'Brett on John Millar, Architect, of Belfast', Ulster Architect, Sep/Oct 1994, 5; C.E.B. Brett, Buildings of County Antrim (UAHS, 1996), 54(illus.);  illus. in Laurence Kirkpatrick, Presbyterians in Ireland: an illustrated history (Booklink, 2006), 338.


Building: CO. DOWN, PORTAFERRY, PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Date: 1839-42
Nature: Greek revival church with hexastyle portico. Builders: William & Robert McDowell. (contract £1050).
Refs: Contract, 1 Jul 1839 between committe of church and William and Robert McDowell, builders, Killyleagh, in PRONI, CR3/24/1/6 (JM named as architect, see PRONI e-catalogue);  Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal 5 (Feb,1842), 67 (quoting Downpatrick Recorder; C.E. B. Brett, 'Brett on John Millar, Architect, of Belfast', Ulster Architect, Sep/Oct 1994, 5,6(illus.); Simon Walker, Historic Ulster Churches (Institute of Irish Studies, 2000), 85(illus.)

Building: CO. ANTRIM, GARRON TOWER
Date: 1847
Nature: Prepares designs for proposed bathing lodge for Marchioness of Londonderry.
Refs: Signed, undated 'Plan of a proposed bathing lodge for the Marchioness of Londonderry' in PRONI, D2977/6/4C (see PRONI e-catalogue).

Building: CO. ANTRIM, GARRON TOWER
Date: 1849
Nature: JM reports (in capacity of supervising architect?) on progress of construction of Garron Tower for Marchioness of Londonderry and proposes additional engineering works to screen tower from public road.
Refs: Report by John Millar, for Lady Londonderryon the progress of construction work at Garron Tower.1 Jan 1849, in PRONI, D2977/54/3/1-3 (see PRONI e-catalogue).

Building: CO. DERRY, DERRY, DOCKS
Date: ?
Nature: JM claimed to have made proposals for same.
Refs: C.E. B. Brett, 'Brett on John Millar, Architect, of Belfast', Ulster Architect, Sep/Oct 1994, 6

Building: CO. ARMAGH, TANDRAGEE CASTLE
Date: ?
Nature: Proposed additions in Renaissance style for Duke of Manchester.
Refs: C.E. B. Brett, 'Brett on John Millar, Architect, of Belfast', Ulster Architect, Sep/Oct 1994, 6;  Kevin V. Mulligan, The Buildings of Ireland: South Ulster (2013), 543.

Building: CO. DERRY, DERRY, WATER SUPPLY & DRAINAGE
Date: ?
Nature: JM claimed to have made proposals for same.
Refs: C.E. B. Brett, 'Brett on John Millar, Architect, of Belfast', Ulster Architect, Sep/Oct 1994, 6