© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue  

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Basic Biographical Details

Name: Thomas Hamilton
Designation: Architect
Born: 11 January 1784
Died: 24 February 1858
Bio Notes: Thomas Hamilton was born in Glasgow on 11 January 1784, the son of Thomas Hamilton, wright and builder in Edinburgh and later Glasgow. The family were back in Edinburgh by 1794 when Thomas Hamilton senior became a burgess. In 1795 Thomas junior began at the Royal High School where he received a classical education.

In 1801 he was apprenticed to his father and spent the subsequent ten years working for him and for his uncle John Hamilton who was also a builder. In 1819 he became a burgess. His first known ‘architectural design’ dates from 1815 when he exhibited it at the Edinburgh Exhibition Society. The following year he entered the competition for the completion of Robert Adam’s Old College. Playfair secured the commission but Hamilton published his designs in a pamphlet ‘Observations explanatory of the new designs for completing the College of Edinburgh’. In March 1817 he published proposals for a large scale road development scheme to open up the Old Town to the south and to the west. These ideas were not immediately acted upon but in 1827 the Edinburgh Improvement Commissioners.

Hamilton’s career was established when he won the competition for the Burns Monument at Alloway. The design is based on the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, which Hamilton must have known from books. He claimed to have a wide knowledge of all the best books on Greek Roman and Gothic architecture when he applied unsuccessfully for the post of Superintendent of the City Works in 1819. However in his next major work, the new High School, he demonstrated his ability as a designer of monumental public works. It was immediately recognised as an important addition to the city. The Hopetoun Rooms in Queen Street followed shortly thereafter which C R Cockerell described as ‘admirably disposed’.

Hamilton is thought of as a designer in the Greek Revival style but he also produced several Gothic churches and one Romanesque one. These do not equate with his Greek style buildings nor do his essays in domestic Tudor. However the municipal steeple in Ayr in traditional Scottish style and there are Baroque elements at the Dean Orphanage (Dean Gallery) which are handled well. In town planning his ideas for the south and west approaches to the Old Town led to his appointment as architect to the Edinburgh Improvement Commissioners in 1827. He carried out two major works in this capacity, the George IV and King’s Bridges and their associated approaches. However he resigned in 1834 because of squabbles within the Commission and financial difficulties.

Hamilton was a Fellow of the Institute of Architects from 1836 to 1846. He was a founder member of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1826 and was treasurer from then until 1829 and again from 1845. He was involved in the building of the galleries on the Mound and wrote ‘A Report relative to Proposed Improvements on the Earthen Mound at Edinburgh’ which was printed by the Improvement Commissioners. He was a member of the committee for the erection of the John Knox Monument in 1846. In 1850 he published ‘A Letter to Lord John Russell ….on the Present Crisis relative to the Fine Arts in Scotland’ which gave his views on what could be done to promote art in the city and ‘the architectural adornment of the Mound’.

In 1855 he won the Gold medal at the Paris International Exhibition, exhibiting drawings of the proposed new galleries on the Mound and of John Knox’s Church which he had been commissioned by the City to build on Castle Hill in 1829. The foundation stone was laid that year but in 1831 the scheme had to be abandoned. The site was eventually taken by Tolbooth St John’s in 1841 which was built to the designs of James Gillespie Graham.

Hamilton had married in 1813. He died at 9 Howe Street on 24 February 1858 aged 73 after a short illness. He suffered from deafness in his later years and his will shows that his affairs were confused. He was buried in Calton Cemetery in the lair of his uncle who had died in 1812. He seems to have had three sons and two daughters. Apart from his son Peter, his only pupils were John Henderson who died in 1862 and John Starforth. In the brief obituary which appeared in the 'Leeds Intelligencer', three designs were mentioned: the Royal High school, the grand lines of approach on the north side of the town and the College of Physicians.

There is a portrait of Hamilton in the Royal Scottish Academy and a caricature in Crombie’s ‘Modern Athenians’. Some of Hamilton’s drawings survive in the National Gallery of Scotland.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 5Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness   
Item 2 of 541, York Place, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1825  
Item 3 of 557, York Place, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1828After 1841 
Item 4 of 569, Great King Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1841  
Item 5 of 59, Howe Street, EdinburghPrivateBefore 18511858 

Employment and Training

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 2John Starforth Before 1844ApprenticeDates unknown
Item 2 of 2John Hendersonc. 18311835Assistant 

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 501817Burns MonumentAlloway AyrshireScotland 
Item 2 of 501820Norwich Insurance Company's office  EdinburghScotland 
Item 3 of 501824Rentons, 10-15 Princes Street  EdinburghScotlandScheme for building at 2 Princes Street (later renumbered) and West Register Street.
Item 4 of 501825Glasgow Necropolis, John Knox Monument  GlasgowScotland 
Item 5 of 501825Royal High School  EdinburghScotland 
Item 6 of 501826Lathallan House  StirlingshireScotland 
Item 7 of 501826Terrace of houses, Castle Terrace  EdinburghScotland 
Item 8 of 501826Town HouseKinghorn FifeScotland 
Item 9 of 501827Ayr Town HallAyr AyrshireScotlandOriginal building
Item 10 of 501827British Hotel and Hopetoun Rooms  EdinburghScotlandHopetoun Rooms built
Item 11 of 501827Compstown House (or Cumstoun House)Twynholm KirkcudbrightshireScotlandOriginal house
Item 12 of 501827George IV Bridge and associated town planning  EdinburghScotland 
Item 13 of 501827Houses, Claremont ParkLeith EdinburghScotland 
Item 14 of 501827King's Bridge  EdinburghScotland 
Item 15 of 50c. 1827Arthur Lodge  EdinburghScotlandStylistic attribution
Item 16 of 50c. 1827The Hopetoun Rooms  EdinburghScotland 
Item 17 of 50c. 1828KirkhillGorebridge MidlothianScotland 
Item 18 of 50182943 George Street  EdinburghScotlandGround floor. Remodelling.
Item 19 of 501829Blackwood's office, George Street  EdinburghScotlandBuilding refaced
Item 20 of 501829Gogar Churchyard, Monument to Sir Robert and Lady ListonGogar MidlothianScotland 
Item 21 of 501829New Greyfriars School  EdinburghScotland 
Item 22 of 501829SchoolKinghorn FifeScotland 
Item 23 of 501830Ayrshire BankAyr AyrshireScotland 
Item 24 of 501830Burns Monument  EdinburghScotland 
Item 25 of 501830Valleyfield Mills, Monument to French PrisonersPenicuik MidlothianScotland 
Item 26 of 50c. 1830Villa, Claremont Park and Claremont Road  EdinburghScotlandOriginal building
Item 27 of 501831Dean Orphan Hospital  EdinburghScotland 
Item 28 of 501831ManseColdstream BerwickshireScotland 
Item 29 of 501831Wallace TowerAyr AyrshireScotland 
Item 30 of 50183393 George Street  EdinburghScotlandGround floor
Item 31 of 501834Earl Grey Pavilion  EdinburghScotland 
Item 32 of 501835Seabank HouseShore Road, Aberdour Fife  
Item 33 of 50c. 1835(?)Shop, 15 Princes Street  EdinburghScotland 
Item 34 of 501836Alyth Parish ChurchAlyth PerthshireScotland 
Item 35 of 501839House, 7 North St Andrew Street  EdinburghScotlandConversion of house into shop
Item 36 of 501841Trinity Episcopal ChapelDunfermline FifeScotland 
Item 37 of 501843Free St John's Church  EdinburghScotland 
Item 38 of 501843Musselburgh Free ChurchMusselburgh MidlothianScotland 
Item 39 of 501844Calton Old Burying Ground, Monument to Political Martyrs of 1794  EdinburghSingapore 
Item 40 of 501844Free ChurchLinlithgow West LothianScotland 
Item 41 of 501844Royal College of Physicians  EdinburghScotland 
Item 42 of 501846New North Free Church  EdinburghScotland 
Item 43 of 501846Roxburgh Free Church  EdinburghScotland 
Item 44 of 501847St Mary's Church and churchyardLeith EdinburghScotlandRebuilt incorporating 15th century remains. Hammerbeam ceiling.
Item 45 of 501849Cowdenbeath Parish ChurchCowdenbeath FifeScotland 
Item 46 of 501850Free ChurchDunbar East LothianScotland 
Item 47 of 501850Kennoway Parish ChurchKennoway FifeScotland 
Item 48 of 501851Kinghorn Parish ChurchKinghorn FifeScotlandPlans prepared for new building - not executed?
Item 49 of 501857Dunbeath Castle  CaithnessScotlandAddition.
Item 50 of 5018588-12 Castle Terrace  EdinburghScotlandNMRS claims the drawings in Watherston Collection are by Hamilton


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 9APSD The Dictionary of Architectureed Wyatt PapworthThe Architectural Publication Society (8v 1852-1892) 
Item 2 of 9Colvin, H M1995A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-18403rd editionNew Haven and London: Yale University Press 
Item 3 of 9Fisher, Ian Thomas Hamilton dissertationMSS in NMRS  
Item 4 of 9Hamilton, Thomas1819Attestations referred to in a letter to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh   
Item 5 of 9New DNB New Dictionary of National Biography   
Item 6 of 9Pride, Glen L1999The Kingdom of Fife2nd EditionThe Rutland Pressp41, p49, p73
Item 7 of 9Rock, Joe1984Thomas Hamilton   
Item 8 of 9Walker, David1984Scottish Pioneers of the Greek Revival  Chapter entitled 'Thomas Hamilton' by Ian Fisher.
Item 9 of 9Youngson, A J1966The Making of Classical Edinburgh Edinburgh University Press 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 9Builder1858i p146
Item 2 of 9Builder1859xvii  
Item 3 of 9Caledonian Mercury22 February 1847   
Item 4 of 9Gentleman's Magazine1858i p451
Item 5 of 9Leeds Intelligencer6 March 1858  Obituary
Item 6 of 9Leeds Intelligencer6 March 1858   
Item 7 of 9Northern Warder and General Advertiser...7 May 1846   
Item 8 of 9RIAS Quarterly192620Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS)Article by T H Hughes.
Item 9 of 9The Book of the Old Edinburgh Club1923xii Article by F C Mears: Measured drawings of Lawnmarket and Castlehill made by Thomas Hamilton, Architect'.

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1Census records onlineCensuses  


© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue  

© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue