Basic Biographical Details

Name: George Thomson
Designation: Architect
Born: 26 May 1819
Died: 14 December 1878
Bio Notes: George Thomson was born at Balfron on 26 May 1819, the son of John Thomson and Elizabeth Cooper and a younger brother of Alexander, later known as 'Greek' Thomson. John Thomson was the bookkeeper at Kirkman Finlay's cotton works there and had previously held a similar position at Carron Ironworks. Advancement with both firms was precluded by his strict Burgher beliefs which were shared by his wife: she had come to Balfron with her brother, the Rev John Cooper. The family was educated at home, partly by Cooper, but John Thomson died in 1824 and the family had to move from Balfron to the outskirts of Glasgow. Elizabeth died in 1828, leaving the family in the care of her son William, a brilliant classical scholar who was briefly professor of humanity at the University of Glasgow.

During his youth George suffered from a respiratory complaint which had been thought to be consumption, but he had recovered by the early 1840s when he was articled to John Baird 'Primus', as his brother had been some years before. He may still have been there in 1856 when his brother took him into partnership following the amicable dissolution of his partnership with the unrelated John Baird 'Secundus', unrelated to the elder Baird. The new partnership of A & G Thomson quickly acquired influential contacts, notably the builder John McIntyre. Others were probably made through UP Church contacts.

In 1856-57 Thomson's architecture developed rapidly. The neo-Greek of Rockland achieved a much more sophisticated maturity in the Double Villa at Langside and his finest house, Holmwood at Cathcart. In the same years a more monumental but still asymmetrical Greek idiom was applied to church design at Caledonia Road UP, where both the lower façade and the tower were of Schinkelesque banded masonry. This banded treatment was extended into the adjoining tenement blocks for which he devised a repetitive bay design with pilastered first-floor aedicules and third-floor recesses containing anthemeon ornament. In the following year, 1857, this theme was further developed on a vast scale at Queens Park Terrace in which Thomson adopted his familiar device of linked Egyptian architraves set against a recessed wall plane and omitted the banded masonry. With subtle variations this formula was to remain a feature of his more upmarket tenements for the remainder of his career. The same motifs, now with a top-floor pilastrade, were to feature at Walmer Terrace and the first of his commercial blocks, 99-107 West Nile Street, both built in 1857.

In 1858 Alexander and George Thomson bought the Gordon Street UP Church in which they worshipped in order to build a showpiece warehouse with ground-floor shops - a fairly innovative concept at the time - in which the David Hamilton theme of interpenetrating pilastrades was developed into the same repetition of absolutely regular single-bay units, here much more complex in design, crowned by a deeply shadowed eaves gallery. It did indeed attract commissions for similar structures in which the same themes were further developed with an ever-increasing subtlety in which overlaid and superimposed pilastrades and dwarf eaves gallery colonnades varied the original formula. The Gordon Street development financed the Gordon Street congregation's new church in St Vincent Street, built in 1857-59, which again must have been intended as an advertisement for their services. Stylistically it marked a further advance drawing upon wider areas of antiquity than Caledonia Road, but in the event it attracted only one further church commission, that for Queen's Park Church, built in a similar but externally less ambitious idiom in 1868-69.

Alexander Thomson's widely recognised professional successes in the 1850s were clouded by a series of tragic events at home. In the early years of their marriage Alexander and Jane lived at 3 South Apsley Place in Laurieston. Agnes Elizabeth was born on 24 April 1849, Elizabeth Cooper on 31 January 1851 and Alexander John on 27 November 1852. But Laurieston, although then still a good address, proved vulnerable to the cholera epidemic of 1854 and on 14 March of that year Agnes Elizabeth died. Jane Nicholson, born 8 August 1854, died on 13 February 1855, George born 8 August 1855 survived only until 31 December 1856, and on 3 January 1857 Alexander John died leaving Elizabeth Cooper the only survivor from a family of five. Later in that year the Thomson household moved to Darnley Terrace, a recently completed development he had designed at Shawlands. There on 12 April Amelia was born, followed by Jessie Williamina on 10 April 1858 and the future architect son John on 20 June 1859. In 1861 the Thomsons moved again to Moray Place in Strathbungo, taking the northmost house in a two-storey terrace block built as a speculative venture in association with his measurer John Shields and the builder John McIntyre. Designed in 1859 it was predictably the finest and most original of his earlier terraces, the large end houses being advanced and pedimented with a giant order of pilasters. There Helen was born on 9 July 1861, Catherine Honeyman on 11 February 1863, and Michael Nicholson on 13 October 1864. Peter was born on 19 March 1866, but survived only sixteen days. The size of Alexander Thomson's family seems to have restricted travel. Family holidays were invariably spent in a rented house on Arran. His only recorded trip to London was in 1861 when he visited John James Stevenson, but he may well have made earlier visits. His knowledge of antiquity and of contemporary architecture seems to have been derived from a magnificent library and from the building journals, one of these being the 'British Architect', of which he was one of the founding shareholders in 1874.

In the 1860s the practice was notably prosperous, in large part as a result of the developments undertaken by the accountant Henry Leck, the cab hirer John Ewing Walker and the builder William Henderson who was the client at North Park Terrace (1863-66); 126-138 Sauchiehall Street (1864-66); 249-259 St Vincent Street (1865-67); Grecian Buildings, 252-270 Sauchiehall Street (1868-69); and Great Western Terrace (begun 1869). All of these were built with borrowed money and the practice must have suffered a notable drop in income when Henderson died in May 1870, his property being sequestrated in June. With the practice at a relatively low ebb George Thomson carried out his long-planned intention of becoming a missionary and emigrated to the Cameroons in the Spring of 1871, although he was to remain a partner until 1873.

By 1872 Alexander Thomson was in failing health because of asthma and bronchitis, and it was probably because of illness that in February of that year Henry Leck, hitherto a faithful client, commissioned first John Baird and then Peddie & Kinnear to design his building on Gordon Street, replacing an earlier Thomson scheme for a different site which had been stalled by the Caledonian Railway's proposals for Glasgow Central Station. In February 1874 Thomson took Robert Turnbull into a partnership which was backdated to October 1873, probably on account of services rendered since that date. Born in 1839, Turnbull was the son of William Turnbull, joiner and his wife Mary Deans and was more inspector of works than architect, engaged for the 'outdoor' side of the business as correspondence with the Thomson trustees in July 1876 makes clear. But through the family joinery business he did bring new clients in the Lenzie area, for which earlier Thomson villa designs were either reused or adapted. The immediate catalyst for this partnership may have been Thomson's commitment to the Haldane lectures, a series of four delivered in the Spring of 1874. These were a final statement of ideas developed in earlier lectures delivered from 1853 onwards, most of them to the Glasgow Architectural Society and the Glasgow Institute of Architects. These he had co-founded in 1858 and 1868 respectively: he was President of both, the Society in 1861 and the Institute from 1870 to 1872.

In August 1874 Thomson wrote to his brother that 'Mr Turnbull and I are getting on pretty well we are busy with a number of smallish jobs'. But in the winter of 1874-75 his asthma and bronchitis deteriorated and his decision to winter in Italy to regain his health had been left too late. Thereafter he worked mainly at Moray Place and at the time of his death on 22 March 1875 he had been working on a competition design for a town hall. This may have been for Paisley or for Annan, or more probably both: the Annan design is preserved in a relatively coarse presentation perspective made after his death.

Alexander was buried in the Southern Necropolis. George came back from the Cameroons to help settle his affairs and marry Isabella Johnston, who returned with him to the Cameroons to help run the missionary hospital he had designed and built in 1874. He died of a fever at Victoria on 14 December 1878.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 7Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire, ScotlandBusiness Before 1874 
Item 2 of 74, Bothwell Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness18571860 
Item 3 of 768, Gordon Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness18601861 
Item 4 of 7183, West George Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness18611872 
Item 5 of 7194, Dumbarton Road, Glasgow, ScotlandPrivate1862  
Item 6 of 7107, West Regent Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness18721873 
Item 7 of 7122, Wellington Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness18731873 

Employment and Training

Employers

The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 3John Baird 'Primus' (John Baird I)Early 1840sMid 1840sApprentice 
Item 2 of 3John Baird 'Primus' (John Baird I)Mid 1840s(?)1857(?)AssistantUncertain: may have remained as assistant after completing his apprenticeship
Item 3 of 3A & G Thomson18571872Partner 

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 1051856Caledonia Road UP ChurchHutchesontown GlasgowScotlandCompleted church
Item 2 of 105c. 1856Queen's Park Terrace  GlasgowScotland 
Item 3 of 1051857(?)Design for a Picturesque Villa     
Item 4 of 1051857Garnkirk Warehouse  GlasgowScotlandNew shop front and possibly interior--now destroyed
Item 5 of 1051857Holmwood HouseCathcart GlasgowScotland 
Item 6 of 1051857Maria Villa, Langside HillLangside GlasgowScotlandBegun by Baird & Thomson; finished by A & G Thomson
Item 7 of 1051857St Vincent Street UP Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 8 of 105c. 1857Tenements on Turriff Street and Eglinton Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 9 of 105c. 1857Tenements, 1-18 Walmer CrescentCessnock GlasgowScotland 
Item 10 of 1051858A & G Thomson's Warehouse  GlasgowScotlandOriginal building
Item 11 of 1051858Office Building with Shops, 99-107 West Nile Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 12 of 1051858Tenements on Pollok Street, Houston Street and Watt StreetKingston GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented
Item 13 of 1051858Tenements on St George's Road and Shamrock Street  GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented and uncertain
Item 14 of 105c. 1858Glasgow Necropolis, Steel MonumentDennistoun GlasgowScotlandUndocumented--attribution by Worsdall
Item 15 of 105c. 1858St Mary's Free Church and Manse  EdinburghScotlandUnexecuted competition design
Item 16 of 105c. 1858Tenements, 211 Eglinton Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 17 of 105c. 1858UP Church and ManseHolm of Balfron StirlingshireScotland1858 plans were unexecuted, but possibly modified for executed church
Item 18 of 105c. 1858UP ManseBalfron StirlingshireScotland 
Item 19 of 1051859156 West George Street  GlasgowScotlandAdaption of lodging house as offices, probably unexecuted
Item 20 of 1051859Chalmers Memorial Free Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 21 of 1051859(?)Manchester Assize Courts  ManchesterEnglandPossibly submitted competition design - unplaced
Item 22 of 1051859Sir Robert Peel Statue  GlasgowScotlandPlinth
Item 23 of 1051859Tenements, West Bank TerraceHillhead GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented and uncertain
Item 24 of 105c. 1859Sighthill Cemetery, Provan Monument  GlasgowScotland 
Item 25 of 105c. 1859Terrace of houses, 1-10 Moray PlaceStrathbungo GlasgowScotland 
Item 26 of 1051860s(?)Baron's Point VillaCove DunbartonshireScotlandAttribution undocumented but probable
Item 27 of 1051860Cairney Building  GlasgowScotland 
Item 28 of 1051860Tenement with Shops, 26-44 Nithsdale StreetGorbals Cross GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented by likely
Item 29 of 105c. 1860Baron's HallCove DunbartonshireScotlandAttribution undocumented but probable
Item 30 of 105c. 1860Ferndean VillaCove DunbartonshireScotlandHouse and additions- undocumented but probable
Item 31 of 105c. 1860Regent Park Feuing PlanStrathbungo GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented but probable
Item 32 of 105c. 1860Tenement, 590-612 Eglinton Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 33 of 105c. 1860Tenements and Shops on Crown Street  GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented and unclear
Item 34 of 105c. 1861183 West George Street  GlasgowScotlandReconstruction: attribution on stylistic grounds
Item 35 of 1051862Albert MemorialKensington LondonEnglandUnevecuted design
Item 36 of 1051862James Lumsden Statue  GlasgowScotlandPossibly designed plinth
Item 37 of 1051862North Park Feuing Plan  GlasgowScotland 
Item 38 of 1051862Warehouse, 135-137 Argyle Street  GlasgowScotlandAdditions
Item 39 of 105After 1862(?)Grafton LodgeCove DunbartonshireScotlandAttribution undocumented but probable
Item 40 of 105c. 1862Eton TerraceHillhead GlasgowScotland 
Item 41 of 10518631-9 Northpark TerraceHillhead GlasgowScotland 
Item 42 of 1051863Buck's Head Buildings  GlasgowScotland 
Item 43 of 1051863Ferndean VillaCove DunbartonshireScotlandGates and boundary wall
Item 44 of 1051863Lilybank HouseHillhead GlasgowScotlandIncorporating house of c.1850
Item 45 of 1051863Offices, 160 West George Street  GlasgowScotlandAdditions
Item 46 of 105c. 1863Strang Monument  GlasgowScotlandUndocumented--attribution by Worsdall
Item 47 of 1051864A & G Thomson's Warehouse  GlasgowScotlandRebuilt to original design after fire
Item 48 of 1051864Block of Tenements with Shops, 126-138 Sauchiehall Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 49 of 1051864Headstone for Family of Reverend James ThomsonBalfron StirlingshireScotland 
Item 50 of 1051864Langside AcademyLangside GlasgowScotland 
Item 51 of 1051864Natural History MuseumSouth Kensington LondonEnglandUnsuccessful competition design
Item 52 of 1051864Terrace of houses, 11-17 Moray Place  GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented and uncertain
Item 53 of 1051864Warehouse and Shops, 3-11 Dunlop Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 54 of 105c. 1864Sunny OaksLangbank RenfrewshireScotlandNew art gallery or music room and lodge: attribution undocumented but APSD refers to Langbank
Item 55 of 1051865Block of Tenements on Scotland Street, Sleads Street and Stanley Street  GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented
Item 56 of 1051865Tenements with Shops, 249-259 St Vincent Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 57 of 105c. 1865Holmwood HouseCathcart GlasgowScotlandGardener's cottage and main gates
Item 58 of 10518671-11 Great Western Terrace  GlasgowScotlandBegan terrace
Item 59 of 1051867Grecian Buildings  GlasgowScotland 
Item 60 of 1051867McIntyre Monument, Cathcart Old Parish Cemetery  GlasgowScotland 
Item 61 of 1051867St Vincent Street UP Church  GlasgowScotlandHall completed
Item 62 of 105c. 1867Glasgow Necropolis, Beattie MonumentDennistoun GlasgowScotland 
Item 63 of 105c. 1867Glasgow Necropolis, Rev George Marshall Middleton MonumentDennistoun GlasgowScotland 
Item 64 of 1051868Queen's Park UP Church and Hall  GlasgowScotland 
Item 65 of 1051868Tenements with Glass Roofed Streets  GlasgowScotlandUnexecuted ideal scheme
Item 66 of 1051868Waverley Terrace  GlasgowScotlandStarted tenement
Item 67 of 105c. 1868Glasgow Necropolis, Inglis MonumentDennistoun GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented but probable
Item 68 of 1051869Blackie & Son Printing Works  GlasgowScotlandSouth part of main block - now demolished
Item 69 of 1051870Couper Monument, Cathcart Old Parish Cemetery  GlasgowScotlandAttribution now undocumented and unclear, but likely
Item 70 of 1051870Egyptian Halls  GlasgowScotland 
Item 71 of 1051870Loch Katrine Monument  GlasgowScotlandUnexecuted competition design
Item 72 of 1051870National Bank of Scotland, Argyle Street Branch  GlasgowScotlandAlterations to shop to form bank with new ground-floor frontage
Item 73 of 1051870Westbourne Terrace  GlasgowScotlandStarted terrace
Item 74 of 105c. 1870Tenement, 278-282 Cumberland Street  GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented but probable
Item 75 of 105c. 1870Tenements on Pleasance StreetShawlands GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented and uncertain
Item 76 of 105c. 1870Tenements, 303-321 Maryhill Road  GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented but probable
Item 77 of 105c. 1870Terrace of Houses, 680-701 Great Western Road  GlasgowScotlandStarted terrace--Attribution undocumented but probable
Item 78 of 105c. 1870Villa, 7 Dirleton AvenueShawlands GlasgowScotlandUndocumented attribution by McFazdean on stylistic grounds
Item 79 of 1051871Chalmers Memorial Free Church  GlasgowScotlandAddition of hall
Item 80 of 1051871Glasgow Necropolis, Malloch/Blyth MonumentDennistoun GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented and uncertain
Item 81 of 1051871Glenbank TerraceLenzie Dunbartonshire/LanarkshireScotlandFeued by Murdoch & Rodger, writers, who specified Thomson as architect: developed by Robert Turnbull; retained 4 houses in Glenbank Terrace
Item 82 of 1051871Mission Hall for Missionary Association of the Caledonia Road ChurchHutchesontown GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented and uncertain
Item 83 of 1051871Royal Insurance Buildings  GlasgowScotlandAlterations to street front, estimated to cost £700
Item 84 of 1051871Sighthill Cemetery, Muir Monument  GlasgowScotland 
Item 85 of 105c. 1871Block of Tenements with Shops, 126-138 Sauchiehall Street  GlasgowScotlandConversion to hotel
Item 86 of 105c. 1871CastlehillPollokshields GlasgowScotland 
Item 87 of 105c. 1871EllislandPollokshields GlasgowScotland 
Item 88 of 105c. 1871Tenements on Lorne Terrace  GlasgowScotland 
Item 89 of 1051872Cowcaddens Cross Buildings  GlasgowScotland 
Item 90 of 1051872Design for terrace of houses  GlasgowScotland 
Item 91 of 1051872Double Villa on Albert Road and Lethington Avenue  GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented and uncertain
Item 92 of 1051872Double Villa on Camphill AvenueLangside GlasgowScotland 
Item 93 of 1051872House, 105-107 West Regent Street  GlasgowScotlandExtension and alterations for commercial use
Item 94 of 1051872Royal Horse BazaarHillhead GlasgowScotland 
Item 95 of 1051872Scottish Exhibition Rooms  GlasgowScotlandConversion to coach house and stables
Item 96 of 1051872The Sixty Steps  GlasgowScotlandSome sources claim the steps and adjacent wall were designed by Greek Thomson. However more recent research inidcates that this is not the case and that the scheme was part of the larger engineering undertaking (with Queen Margaret Bridge) for John Ewing Walker.
Item 97 of 105c. 1872Egyptian Halls  GlasgowScotlandSix cast-iron lamp standards, cast by the saracen Foundry of Walter Macfarlane & Co, Glasgow - since removed
Item 98 of 105c. 1872Tenements on Govan Road and Carmichael Street  GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented but probable
Item 99 of 1051873Chalmers Memorial Free Church  GlasgowScotlandChurch enlarged
Item 100 of 1051873Tenement with Shops on King Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 101 of 105Before 1873Customs House  GlasgowScotlandInternal alterations
Item 102 of 105c. 1873Shore Road Bridge over Dowall BurnCove DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 103 of 1051875Dunblane Hydropathic InstitutionDunblane PerthshireScotlandDesign only - not built; consulted after cost of original Peddie & Kinnear scheme exceeded capital of company
Item 104 of 1051875Offices, Ingram Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 105 of 105c. 1875(?)Warwick Croft and villa at 43 Alexandra RoadLenzie DunbartonshireScotlandHS attribution

References

Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
 Author(s)DateTitlePartPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 4Scotlands People Website Wills & Testaments  Edinburgh Sheriff Court Wills Sc70/4/182 and Inventories Sc70/1/198
Item 2 of 4Stamp, Gavin (ed)1999The Light of Truth and Beauty: The Lectures of Alexander 'Greek' Thomson, Architect, 1817-75   
Item 3 of 4Stamp, Gavin and McKinstry, eds1994'Greek' Thomson Edinburgh University Press, 1994 
Item 4 of 4Thomson, John Ebeneezer Honeyman1881Memoir of George Thomson, Cameroon mountains Edinburgh (in NLS XX.6/3) 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1Glasgow HeraldFebruary 1879  Death notice