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Basic Biographical Details

Name: John Thomson
Designation: Architect
Born: 26 June 1859
Died: 14 August 1933
Bio Notes: John Thomson was born at 16 Darnley Terrace, Shawlands on 26 June 1859, the eldest surviving son of the architect Alexander 'Greek' Thomson and his wife Jane Nicholson. He was educated at Langside Academy and Glasgow High School and was articled to his father's firm on 1 April 1875. His father had died in March of that year but the Thomson Trustees still had a controlling interest in the firm which was then headed by Robert Turnbull, his father's partner since 1871. In the following year the Thomson & Turnbull practice was merged with that of David Thomson who had succeeded to Charles Wilson's practice in 1863 and it was to David Thomson that John Thomson owed his early training as a Gothic architect.

At the end of his apprenticeship in April 1880 business was at a low ebb because of the collapse of the City of Glasgow Bank and Thomson sought experience elsewhere, but it was not until 1881, probably on Campbell Douglas & Sellars's recommendation, that he found a place with their former assistants Wallace & Flockhart in London. He enrolled first at the South Kensington Schools but on 4 July 1882 he enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools as a probationer, becoming a registered student on 30 December. While in London Thomson also gained experience with Professor Thomas Henry Eagles at the Royal Indian Engineering College at Cooper's Hill and with Samuel Tucker. According to his daughter, the late Mrs Stewart, he also worked for Pearson on the drawings of Truro Cathedral but this appears to have been no more than fee-paid work recruited from the more promising students when Pearson's office was under pressure. While in London Thomson travelled extensively on architectural sketching tours and in March 1885 he was awarded a letter of merit in the Soane Medallion competition. Later in that year he won the RIBA's Silver Medal with a design for 'a municipal mansion'.

Late in 1885 or early in 1886 Thomson returned to Glasgow where he was refused re-admission to Turnbull's practice, David Thomson having left in 1883. This occasioned his mother some disappointment, but in 1886 he formed a partnership with Robert Douglas Sandilands, five years his senior, who was then an employee of the Glasgow & South Western Railway's engineering department, the practice title being Thomson & Sandilands. It was probably set up with Thomson family money.

In that same year, 1889, on 11 April, Thomson married Annie M Muir, daughter of James Muir, patter designer and ward of the Shields family who lived next door to the Thomsons in Moray Place. The ceremony was at the Cockburn Hotel. Although in the first few years Thomson was the lead partner at meetings, Sandilands gradually took over the practice. It was heavily dependent on competitions for business and except for a couple of exceptional houses the private client base remained relatively small and predominantly industrial. But by the time Thomson and Sandilands were admitted FRIBA on 11 June 1906, they had carried out 1m of work since commencing practice in 1886, a very high figure for that date. Thomson's proposers were William Leiper, William Forrest Salmon, James Miller and C J MacLean. By that date Thomson had made a study tour of France.

Sandilands died on 10 December 1913. In April of the following year Thomson entered into a partnership with his former pupil Alexander Hood MacLeod, who was at that date his chief assistant. The new partnership of Thomson Sandilands & MacLeod never engaged in large-scale competition work as it had done during Sandilands's lifetime. Initially it was based mainly on church work and private clients, mostly old ones retained from the earlier years of the practice, but from 1928 onwards it had a substantial warehouse clientele in the Glassford Street, Wilson Street and Candleriggs area. Thomson retired following a serious stroke in 1931, his wife having predeceased him much earlier on 13 August 1917. There were two sons and two daughters of the marriage but one of the daughters died in infancy in 1897. The family took long summer holidays in Arran where Thomson's interests were primarily natural history and photography, particularly colour photography after it was introduced, and sketching. He died at 19 Monreith Road on 14 August 1933, leaving estate of 5,970 11s 2d. His second son James had predeceased him as a result of a shooting accident in Rhodesia in May of that year.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 716, Darnley Terrace, Shawlands, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate26 June 1859 Place of birth
Item 2 of 71, Moray Place, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate1888  
Item 3 of 7121, West Regent Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusinessBefore 1888After 1890 
Item 4 of 7241, West George Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusinessBefore 18941905 or 1906 
Item 5 of 74, Jane Street, Blythswood Square, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness1905 or 1906After 1913 
Item 6 of 7Ingleneuk, Monreith Road, Newlands, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate1906 *  
Item 7 of 7248, West George Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusinessBefore 1919After 1930 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 6A & G Thomson & Turnbull18751877Apprentice 
Item 2 of 6D Thomson & Turnbull1877April 1880Apprentice 
Item 3 of 6Wallace & Flockhart1881Before 1885Assistant 
Item 4 of 6Samuel TuckerAfter 1881Before 1886Assistant 
Item 5 of 6Thomson & Sandilands1886April 1914Partner 
Item 6 of 6Thomson Sandilands & MacLeodApril 19141931Partner 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 4William Leiper11 June 1906for Fellowship
Item 2 of 4C J MacLean11 June 1906for Fellowship
Item 3 of 4James Miller11 June 1906for Fellowship
Item 4 of 4William Forrest Salmon11 June 1906for Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 6William Raymond Boyd BertramLate 1928 or early 1929for Associateship
Item 2 of 6William Wallace FriskinEarly 1914for Associateship
Item 3 of 6Alexander Gardner30 November 1925for Fellowship
Item 4 of 6Alexander Gairns Laskie24 June 1912for Licentiateship
Item 5 of 6Robert Henderson Motion15 October 1930for Licentiateship
Item 6 of 6Thomas Blair Moncrieff Wightman1917for Associateship

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 541881(?)Queen's Park UP Church and Hall  GlasgowScotlandNew organ and screen and renewal of colouring
Item 2 of 541887Terraced house, Kenmure Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 3 of 541888Design for a municipal mansion     
Item 4 of 541888Design for a villa     
Item 5 of 541888Lanark Fever HospitalLanark LanarkshireScotland 
Item 6 of 541888Tenement for W & J Brown  GlasgowScotland 
Item 7 of 541888UP ChurchGlenluce WigtownshireScotlandWon competition and secured job
Item 8 of 54After 1888Tenement for John Shand  GlasgowScotland 
Item 9 of 541889City of Glasgow District Asylum for Pauper LunaticsGartcosh GlasgowScotlandWon competition and secured job
Item 10 of 541889Design for a school     
Item 11 of 541889Design for a theological college     
Item 12 of 541889Stirling High SchoolStirling StirlingshireScotlandCompetition design- possibly not considered as not meeting the Stirling area residential test
Item 13 of 541891Whithorn UP ChurchWhithorn WigtownshireScotland 
Item 14 of 541892Workshop for Alexander Stewart  GlasgowScotland 
Item 15 of 541893Old Parish ChurchNairn NairnshireScotlandCompetition design - not successful
Item 16 of 541894Royal Insurance Company Building  GlasgowScotlandCompetition design submitted - design selected and secured job.
Item 17 of 541895RhuadsgeirPollokshields GlasgowScotland 
Item 18 of 541895St James Board SchoolCalton GlasgowScotland 
Item 19 of 541897Govan Town Hall and Municipal BuildingsGovan GlasgowScotlandWon competition and secured job
Item 20 of 541898Ardrossan and Saltcoats Infectious Diseases HospitalArdrossan AyrshireScotlandCompetition design - placed third
Item 21 of 541898Bangour Village AsylumUphall West LothianScotlandCompetition design for asylum - not successful, though was awarded a premium
Item 22 of 541898Four semi-detached housesNewlands GlasgowScotland 
Item 23 of 541899Cartwright Memorial HallBradford YorkshireEnglandCompetition design
Item 24 of 541899Springburn & Cowlairs District HallsSpringburn GlasgowScotlandCompetition design - placed second
Item 25 of 54c. 1899Stobhill HospitalSpringburn GlasgowScotlandSecond premiated competition design (150 premium), but awarded commission
Item 26 of 541900Eastern District Hospital  GlasgowScotlandCompetition design - not successful (placed second)
Item 27 of 541900Glasgow Royal Infirmary  GlasgowScotlandCompetition design - placed second
Item 28 of 54Late 1900 or early 1901Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College  GlasgowScotlandCompetition design submitted after invitation - unsuccessful
Item 29 of 541901Netherton of CormistonBiggar LanarkshireScotland 
Item 30 of 541901Parish Council Offices  GlasgowScotland 
Item 31 of 541902FisherwoodBalloch DunbartonshireScotlandUnexecuted design?
Item 32 of 541902Possil Park Paint Works  GlasgowScotland 
Item 33 of 541903St Columba's ChurchGovan GlasgowScotland 
Item 34 of 541903Warehouses for the City Improvement Trust  GlasgowScotland 
Item 35 of 541904Govan Combination Poorhouse and AsylumGovan GlasgowScotlandNurses' home and two additional ward blocks
Item 36 of 541904Manchester Royal Infirmary: Oxford Road site  ManchesterEnglandCompetition design for extension - not successful
Item 37 of 541904Oil Works  GlasgowScotland 
Item 38 of 541904Warehouses for the City Improvement Trust  GlasgowScotlandMay be earlier date i.e. 1901 - see Builder reference
Item 39 of 541906Mitchell Library  GlasgowScotlandCompetition entry - not successful
Item 40 of 541907Birmingham Council House extension and Art Galleries  BirminghamEnglandCompetition design for extension - not successful
Item 41 of 541907Perth Town HallPerth PerthshireScotlandCompetition design - unsuccessful
Item 42 of 541908Stables, cattle and sheep pens for Brechin Brothers  GlasgowScotland 
Item 43 of 541910Hutchesons' Girls' School  GlasgowScotlandWon in competition
Item 44 of 541912Commercial building, 32-34 Queen Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 45 of 541912Erskine UF Church and HallBattlefield GlasgowScotlandNew church hall built and used as temporary church; church itself remained unexecuted
Item 46 of 541912Queen's Park Higher Grade School  GlasgowScotlandConstruction begun - left incomplete
Item 47 of 541912Warehouse for Simons Jacobs & Co and extension  GlasgowScotlandUpper floor of Brunswick Street section and new building after fire at 87-89 Candleriggs
Item 48 of 541915New Bridgegate Church  GlasgowScotlandHall
Item 49 of 541922New Bridgegate Church  GlasgowScotlandChurch
Item 50 of 541925Mosspark Parish ChurchMosspark GlasgowScotland 
Item 51 of 541925Premises for Ralston & McKell  GlasgowScotlandBuilding reinforced with steel and attic added
Item 52 of 541926Queen's Park Higher Grade School  GlasgowScotlandRevised scheme; not completed
Item 53 of 541929Premises for W D Todd & Son  GlasgowScotlandDrawings dated - reconstruction
Item 54 of 541931Warehouse, Ingram Street and Hutcheson Street  GlasgowScotlandAlterations and additions


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 5Glasgow Contemporaries1901Glasgow Contemporaries at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century   
Item 2 of 5Johnston, W T2003Artists of Scotland Officina Publications CDROM 
Item 3 of 5Mireylees, Suzanne2005In the shadow of Gartloch: The life and work of John Thomson & Robert Douglas Sandilands Unpublished PhD thesis, University of St Andrews 
Item 4 of 5Post Office Directories     
Item 5 of 5Williamson, William2011Robert Turnbull IA of Lenzie   

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1RIBA Journal19 May 1934v41London: Royal Institute of British Architectsp716 - obituary

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Information on marriage and death from research by Iain Paterson
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers F v17 p55 no1124 (microfilm reel 12)


© All rights reserved.  courtesy of RCAHMS. Licensor www.rcahms.gov.uk 

© All rights reserved. courtesy of RCAHMS. Licensor www.rcahms.gov.uk

© All rights reserved.  Glasgow Institute of Architects 

© All rights reserved. Glasgow Institute of Architects

© All rights reserved.  Courtesy of RCAHMS. Licensor www.rcahms.gov.uk (Glasgow Contemporaries at the Dawn of the XXth Century) 

© All rights reserved. Courtesy of RCAHMS. Licensor www.rcahms.gov.uk (Glasgow Contemporaries at the Dawn of the XXth Century)