13 November 1883
"This widely-known and highly-respected
citizen died yesterday morning, after an illness that had lasted off and
on for about six months.
Mr Lessels who was born in Kirkcaldy in
January 1809, attended the school of his native place at the time when it
was successively taught by Edward Irving and Thomas Carlyle.
His early ambition was to be an artist, and a
marked fondness for drawing was one of his early characteristics.
His father, however, on the recommendation of Mr Ferguson of Raith, sent
him to Edinburgh to be trained as an architect.
The first office he entered was that of Mr
Burns, where by-and bye, he became inspector of works, and in that
capacity was employed in various parts of the country.
In 1846 he began business in his own account,
and in course of time attained to the front rank of his profession, by the
members of which he was held in high regard.
Edinburgh Improvements Act
On the passing of the Edinburgh Improvements
Act he and the late Mr Cousin were appointed architects to the Trust, and
as such were called upon to take an important part in the carrying out of
the scheme that had been devised for ameliorating the sanitary conditions
of the Old Town.
In the work of the reconstruction
undertaken by the Trustees, Mr Lessels had opportunities of leaving his
mark on the architecture of the city, among the streets which he specially
designed being Jeffrey Street, whose effective elevation now forms so
prominent a feature in the eastward view from the North Bridge.
By the Improvement Trust, his opinion on any
matter under discussion was always received with the greatest deference,
the members of that body having the highest confidence in the soundness of
his judgment, which they knew, was never influenced by other than the most
Among other works accomplished by Mr
Lessels should be mentioned the laying out of the feuing plan for the
lands of Drumsheugh and the designing of St Leonard's House, Edinburgh -
considered a fine specimen of Scottish Baronial architecture.
Messrs Nelson's works at Parkside; the Smith
Institute, Stirling; the Palace Hotel, Princes' Street; the handsome
pillars at Hope Park, and Charter Hall and Blackadder House, Berwickshire,
may also be specified as testifying to his professional taste and skill.
He is one of a number of leading architects
selected to furnish competitive designs for St Mary's Cathedral, and it is
said that his drawings were within one vote of being accepted.
In leisure hours Mr Lessels continued through
life to cultivate painting, and he from time to time exhibited his
water-colour drawings of church interiors or street views that had
attracted his attention in holiday rambles on the Continent.
As a critic of works of art, he showed
Mr Lessels was for some years President of the
Edinburgh Photographic Society, an office which he only resigned quite
recently on account of his failing health.
He took a leading part in promoting the very
successful exhibition held some time since under the auspices of the
As a member of the Architectural Association,
Mr Lessels did yeoman service in connection with the exhibition which that
Society was instrumental in organising in Edinburgh about a year ago.
Scottish Society of Arts
He was vice-president of the Scottish Society
of Arts, and an hon. member of the various societies in Belgium with which
he became connected in early life in the course of frequent visits to that
As a practical architect, Mr Lessels is said
to have been amongst the first, if not the very first, to introduce open
iron fronts into Edinburgh shops - a change which, whatever may be said of
it from an aesthetic point of view, was no doubt the result of an honest
effort to meet modern business requirements.
By a large circle of friends, Mr Lessels was
held in high esteem for his many excellent business and social qualities,
not the least noteworthy of which were sterling uprightness of purpose, an
equable balance of mind, and a quiet understanding manner which rendered
intercourse with him easy and pleasant.
To an inner circle, he could on occasion
disclose a vein of genial humour; and he had ever at command a fund of
anecdote, chiefly derived from his own shrewd observation of men and
Mr Lessels was an elder and trustee in St
Bernard's Church, of which he was a useful member. He was twice
married, and is survived by a widow and family."
The Scotsman: November 13, 1883, p.5 -
with paragraph headings added by myself - Peter Stubbs
Oct 22, 2006