Edinburgh-born architect who worked in Robert Smirke's office in London (1808–11), before returning to Edinburgh to work with his father, Robert Burn (1752–1815), the designer of the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill (1807–16). William Burn's earliest commissions were for public buildings (Custom House, Greenock (1817–18), the Ledoux-like Gasworks at Tanfield, Canonmills (1824, drawn by Schinkel in 1826), County Hall, Inverness (1834–5), and many others), but his large and phenomenally successful practice consisted mainly of commissions for country-houses. Blairquhan, Ayrshire (c. 1820–4), is an example of his Tudor Gothic style, but by c.1825 Burn was designing in a Jacobethan manner that became his speciality. Scottish vernacular architecture and tower-houses were added to his sources from 1829 (Faskally, Perthshire, and Tyninghame House, East Lothian), but, from his completion of Salvin's great Harlaxton Manor, Lincs. (from 1838), his work became more ebullient, leading to his best houses, including Falkland House, Fife (1839–44), Whitehill Hall, Midlothian (1839–44), Stoke Rochford House (1841–, badly damaged by fire 2005), and Revesby Abbey (1844), both in Lincs., and Dartrey, Co. Monaghan, Ireland (1844–6), all Jacobethan, but including other styles. He also designed in the Scottish-Baronial manner in which his pupil (and later partner) David Bryce became adept: Stenhouse, Stirlingshire (1836—demolished) was an example. Although enormously prolific, Burn perhaps never quite rose to great architecture: his work was competent, very often agreeable, but sometimes veered towards the dull. He took his nephew, J. MacVicar Anderson, into partnership, who continued the practice after Burn's death, and his pupils included Eden Nesfield and Norman Shaw.
N. Allen (ed.) (1984), 3–35;Colvin (1995);Das Werk ;J. Fawcett (ed.) (1976), 8–31;Fiddes & Rowan (eds.) (1976);Girouard (1979);Macaulay (1975, 1987);Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004);Youngson (1966)