There is a mystery over his birth. The 1851 & 1861 census (his father was head of household in both cases) has him born in Westminster and middlesex respectively, the 1881 census (he was head of household) in scotland and the 1891 census suggests Lanarkshire. He seems to have adopted the name McIntyre, and treated it as a family name by giving it to his first born. The McIntyre clan were traditionally carpenters and so were several of the North`s in the early 19th century. Charles demonstrated a strong association with the Scottish highlands, and hid personal and professional activities indicated he was fascinated by Scotland.
In the 1861 census he was shown as living with his father at 14 harley Street as a architecr/surveyor.He became an architect and practised at High Street Chambers, 89 Borough, Southwark in 1868 and at 19 Borough High Street in 1894. In the the 1881 census he was shown as living at 31 Surrey Square, Newington with Lavinia his wife aged 36, Charles McIntyre (14), Edwin (12), George (8), Alfred (6), Donald (5), Cicely(2) Ethel Linda (1) and the sister of his wife Ethel Linda Mewton 40, unmarried. He is listed as architect/surveyor.
Lavinia`s father was a builder like Charles senior. As an architect Charles Niven refurbished the Church in Southwark, now Southwark cathedral (wher Alan Hare`s memorial service was held Go Jill North)...small world! Apparently at least part of the church had become derelict as the docks expanded. Refurbishments started in the latter half of the 19th century and no doubt Charles Niven played a key part.
Two clues to his fascination with Scotland. He built himself a house in the style of a Scotttish castle called Caisteal Tuath (gaelic for “castle of the north”) in Brockley Park, Lewisham and lived there until the mid 1990`s (Demolished in the 1970s). The 1891 census has him living there , aged 53, as surveyor, architect and author. Living with him were there with Lavinia (46), Lavinia Alice(25 where was she in 1881?) , George (26 hot water and general angineer), Alfred (26 articled architects assistant), Donald(15 Architects assisitan) and Una (8 scholar). So where were Cicely and Ethel Linda by then aged 12 and 11?
Ancestry reports that “Charles Niven McIntyre North an architect, of 15 Borough High Street, was awarded Freedom of the City of London on 8 December 1887” Charles Niven listed himself as an author and the british library records three publications:
The book of the Club of True Highlanders, in two volumes, a record of the dress, arms, customs, arts and sciences of the highlanders.
Archeology and Architecture of Southwark and elsewhere: London 1886 He notes in this that he is architect to the Wardens of st Saviours and the Parish Church of St Saviours (Southwark Cathedral in 1897)
Installation of officers of N1275 on ye Roll of ye Grande Chapiter of England
(a Menu) London 1893
He had a strong connection to one of the longest and most famous aristocratic families in Scotland, the Elphinstone family, the current Lord and lady Ephinstones being cousins to the Queen. A former Lord and Lady Elhinstone were godparents to his son George Eplhinstone North born in 1873. They lived at Carberry Towers south of Edinburgh and Chalres Niven may have been the architect to a biiliard room there. The house Charles Niven built for himself bore a striking resemblance to part of the facade to Carberry Towres. The Elphinstones were subscribers to the two volumes of the “Club of Tue Highlanders”
Charles Niven died in 1899 in traumatic circumstances. His death certificate reveals a new wife: E. North living at 2 Lester Villas, Gladstone Road, Tonbridge. However 6 months later Lavinia added a stauary declaration removing the name of “E. North widow of the deceased” and substituted Jane Martin so it looks as though he left Lavinia and lived as man and wife with Jane. His death was reported in the local paper and he was described as “draughtsman” to a local architect so may have come down in the world? He was buried in an unmarked grave in Tonbridge cemetry
Lavinia lived at 127 Grays Inn Road with her sister Ethel Linda Mewton in 1901 and died in 1910 in a nursing home and her death reveals she had been paraplegic for 19 years (Was this the reason for Charles Niven living with someone else?) Cicely, her daugter was the informant on the death certificate and lived at 67 Cadogan Gardens at the time.
A sad story. If you have more information, authentic anecdotes or photos please contact us