David MacGibbon lived from 2 April 1831 to 20 February 1902. He was an architect and a partner in the practice of MacGibbon and Ross best known today for their comprehensive multi-volume books about Scotland's castles and churches. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
David MacGibbon was born in Edinburgh, where his father, Charles MacGibbon, ran a building company. He was educated at the Royal High School, and later studied at the University of Edinburgh, though he did not graduate. In 1851 he gained a position in the London office of the architect William Burn, and subsequently made a number of study tours to Europe. In 1856 he worked with his father, producing house designs. He went into practice on his own in 1858, becoming the architect to the Edinburgh Merchant Company and working on a number of Edinburgh's schools. He also became the architect of the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1861, and designed a considerable number of bank branches for them.
MacGibbon employed architect Thomas Ross as his assistant in 1862, and in 1872 they went into partnership, forming the firm of MacGibbon and Ross. In 1880 MacGibbon was elected President of the Edinburgh Architectural Association. During his tenure he gave a series of lectures on the architecture of Scottish castles, the product of several years' work making field visits and producing sketches.
From this initial work came a much more ambitious project, and from then on, as well as working on their architectural commissions, MacGibbon and Ross spent a considerable amount of time travelling the length and breadth of Scotland making sketches and collecting information about the country's architectural heritage. This resulted in two of the best publications ever written about Scottish architecture. The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland appeared in five volumes between 1887 and 1892, while The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland appeared in three volumes from 1896 to 1897. Both remain essential works of reference for anyone interested in Scottish castles or churches.
In 1865, MacGibbon married Jessie Rintoul and they had two sons and three daughters. In 1884 the family were on holiday when a sandbank collapsed, killing MacGibbon's son William, and seriously injuring his daughter Rachel. To aid her recovery the family moved to the French Riviera, though MacGibbon spent part of his time in Scotland helping Ross complete the surveys for their two great books. He also found time to produce The Architecture of the Riviera in 1888. He published The Five Great Churches of Galloway in 1899, but during that year fell ill and was unable to travel to receive an honourary degree from the University of St Andrews in person. He died in 1902.