John Ninian Comper was born in Aberdeen on 10 June 1864, the eldest of the five children of the Reverend John Comper, Rector of St John's Episcopal Church, Aberdeen and his wife, Ellen. His father was one of the most advanced priests in the Anglo-Catholic revival in Scotland.
Ninian Comper was raised as an Anglo-Catholic which had a dominant influence on his life.
He attended Glenalmond School, Perthshire, and spent a year at Ruskin's Art School in Oxford, before going to London where he was articled to C E Kempe, and later to G F Bodley and T Garner.
His first independent building was a chapel added to his father's church of St Margaret of Scotland, Aberdeen in 1889. The chapel, known today as "the Comper Aisle" was built in memory of Ninian's father, the Reverend John Comper. The figure of Fr John Comper, kneeling at a prie-dieu, is shown in the magnificent east window in the Comper Aisle. Fr John Comper died suddenly in the Duthie Park in Aberdeen, on the banks of the River Dee, while giving strawberries to poor children. Comper's signature of a strawberry can be seen in this window and his other stained glass works as a tribute to his father.
In the course of seventy years Sir Ninian Comper was the architect responsible for fifteen churches; he restored and decorated scores of others; and he designed vestments, banners and windows in places as far apart as China, North America, France, India, and South Africa.
It has been claimed that Ninian Comper was the greatest church furnisher since Wren. However, if he was primarily a decorator rather than an architect, his decorative art was never simply for art's sake, but for the sake of the function for which he firmly believed a church exists, namely "as a roof over an altar".
Sir John Betjeman said of him (in 1948): "His ecclesiastical tastes are rococo as well as his architectural ones; he is perfectly satisfied so long as gold leaf is heaped on everywhere."
In 1890 Ninian Comper married Grace Bucknall. They had four sons, the eldest of whom followed in the steps of his father, and became an architect — and two daughters. Grace died 1933. Ninian Comper was knighted by King George VI in 1950.
Sir John Ninian Comper died on the 22nd December 1960. His ashes were buried beneath the windows he designed in Westminster Abbey where he had been responsible also for the Warriors' chapel.
With the exception of
all Comper's work was ecclesiastical.
Churches in England with Ninian Comper's work include:-
Churches in Scotland with Ninian Comper's work include:-