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Basic Biographical Details

Name: Thomas Raffles Davison
Designation: Architect, Artist
Born: 1853
Died: 5 May 1937
Bio Notes: Thomas Raffles Davison was born in Stockton-on-Tees in 1853, the second son of a Congregational minister. Educated privately at Shrewsbury, he showed a rare talent for drawing from an early age and it was partly for this reason that he was articled to the architect W H Spaull in Oswestry. On completion of his articles he worked for a time as architectural assistant in offices in Nottingham and in the office of H J Paull of Manchester.

Although he subsequently carried out some minor architectural commissions on his own account, it was his drawing skills that would lead him to become the leading architectural illustrator of his generation. His attractive presentation of architect’s designs, particularly in competition drawings, made his services much sought after and in this way Davison made the acquaintance of many of the county’s leading architects. Writing in 1927, Sir Aston Webb commented “To architects he has been known for nearly half a century for his peculiar power in transferring their elevations and sections into perspective form, not only understandable by the layman but truthfully portraying the design of the architect.” His work was exhibited at the Modern Gallery in 1907, at some point after 1919 in New York and in the RIBA Galleries in 1924.

Davison’s arrival in Manchester in the 1870's coincided with a move by a number of leading Manchester architects to set up an architectural magazine to rival the Builder which they perceived (probably correctly) as purely the mouthpiece of the London architectural profession. Thus in 1874 “The British Architect and Northern Engineer” was born, to act, initially at least, as a showcase for the work of Manchester architects. Davison soon became a major contributor to the magazine, followed by his appointment as editor in 1878, a position he held for almost forty years until its merger with the Builder in 1916. However, it proved impossible to sustain a purely provincial architectural magazine. The first company was wound up in 1876 and within a few years publication was transferred to London.

His connection with the magazine provided Davison with the opportunity, unusual at the time, to travel widely in the United Kingdom and Europe while providing the opportunity to indulge his love of sketching. During his professional life Davison made thousands of such drawings, many of which were published in the British Architect, under the title “Rambling Sketches.” Whilst editor of of the British Architect, Davison also published a number of books including “Pen and Ink Notes, Glasgow Exhibition" dedicated to Queen Victoria, and his work was frequently exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions. In 1896, his contribution to the profession was recognised when Raffles Davison he became an Honorary Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Following the merger with the Builder, Raffles Davison continued to act in a consultative capacity for some years, his retirement marked by the publication in 1927 of his “Record of Life and Work from 1870 to 1926,”with a forward by Sir Aston Webb and introduction by Sir Reginald Blomfield RA. The guarantors for this book included many of the leading architects of the day.

Raffles Davidson died on 5 May 1937, aged 84. at his home, “Whistler’s Hollow,” Woldingham, the house he had designed over thirty years earlier. Perhaps speaking of his own career, Davison had commented, “It would be idle to deny that to an architect the allurement of the art of drawing is sometimes divergent from his architecture. The consolation is that some men are so allured that they end up making very good drawings which are stimulative and useful, whilst they are saved from doing some very bad architecture.”


'Rambling Sketches'

'Modern Homes' (Bell & Company)

'Pen & Ink Notes, Glasgow Exhibition' (dedicated to Queen Victoria, published by Virtue & Co.)

'Memorials of the Past'
'Port Sunlight'
The Arts Connected With Building: Lectures On Craftsmanship And Design Delivered At Carpenters Hall (1909) Editor T Raffles Davison.
Lectures Delivered By R. W. Schultz, C. F. A. Voysey, E. Guy Dawber, Laurence A. Turner, F. W. Troup, A. Romney Green, M. H. Baillie Scott, Charles Spooner and J. Sharkie Gardner.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect, artist:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 1135, Bouvrie Street, Fleet Street, London, EnglandBusiness  Address of 'British Architect and Northern Engineer'
Item 2 of 111, St Peter's Square, Manchester, EnglandBusiness18771878Described as 'artist'
Item 3 of 117, Cross Street, Manchester, EnglandBusiness(?)1878After 1883Office address of 'The British Architect' (of which Raffles was editor)
Item 4 of 11372 , Great Cheetham Street East, Higher Broughton, Lancashire, EnglandPrivate1881 *  
Item 5 of 11114, Fleet Street, London, EnglandBusinessBefore 1881After 1883Office address of 'The British Architect' (of which Raffles was editor)
Item 6 of 1115, King William Street, Strand, London, EnglandBusinessBefore 1885After 1887Office address of 'The British Architect' (of which Raffles was editor)
Item 7 of 1122, Bedford Street, London, EnglandBusiness1889 * Office address of 'The British Architect' (of which Raffles was editor)
Item 8 of 1133, King Street, Covent Garden, London, EnglandBusinessBefore 1901After 1914Office address of 'The British Architect' (of which Raffles was editor)
Item 9 of 11Kingshaw, Woldingham, Surrey, EnglandPrivatec. 1905c. 1906 
Item 10 of 11Whistlers' Hollow, Woldingham, Surrey, EnglandPrivateBefore 1914(?) *After 1924(?) 
Item 11 of 114, Catherine Street, Strand, London, EnglandBusinessc. 1919c. 1933Address of 'Builder'

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Buildings and Designs

This architect, artist 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 31920Stornoway Town Improvement SchemeStornowayLewisRoss and CromartyScotland 
Item 2 of 31926(?)King's College, Elphinstone Hall  AberdeenScotlandPrepared perspective exhibited at Royal Scottish Academy later reproduced in the Builder
Item 3 of 31927Stornoway War MemorialStornowayLewisRoss and CromartyScotlandIn conjunction with Viscount Leverhulme


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect, artist:
Item 1 of 3British Architectural Library, RIBA2001Directory of British Architects 1834-1914   
Item 2 of 3Raffles Davison, Thomas1927Raffles Davison: Hon Associate of the RIBA: a record of his life and work from 1870 to 1926 Hon editors: Maurice E Webb and Herbert Wigglesworth (Foreword by Sir Aston Webb) 
Item 3 of 3Who's Who in Architecture1926    

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect, artist:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 3Builder7 May 1937  Obituary, p967
Item 2 of 3Builder14 May 1937  Obituary p1024
Item 3 of 3RIBA Journal22 May 1937v44London: Royal Institute of British Architectsp753 - memoir of Davison by W T Plume

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect, artist:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Courtesy of Neil DarlingtonInformation sent via DSA website Biography and other information sent September 2009.
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Drawings Collection Mainly drawings of English and Continental subjects but a at least one Scottish subject (Trinity Hall, Aberdeen, sketch of a mahogany chair).


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© All rights reserved.