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Basic Biographical Details

Name: Robert Turnbull
Designation: Architect
Born: 1839
Died: 21 October 1905
Bio Notes: Robert Turnbull was born at Mossburnford near Jedburgh in 1839, the eldest son of William Turnbull, joiner, and his wife Mary Deans. He was educated at Glendouglas School and was apprenticed to his father at the early age of eleven.

In 1863 William Turnbull either retired or died. His small family firm was continued by his sons Robert and Gideon (b1841) as R & G Turnbull, joiners and builders, at Stow near Selkirk, and on 2 September of the following year Robert married Jane Weir, daughter of James Turnbull of Cavers and his wife Jane Weir.

R & G Turnbull only have a brief existence. In 1863-64 it contracted fro the building of James Maitland Wardrop’s ambitious church at Ayton, Berwickshire, but failed to complete parts of the work within the time specified in the contract and indeed could not finish these at all as it had become insolvent. Wardrop then instructed other contractors to complete the building at the expense of Robert and Gideon Turnbull. Gideon emigrated to Canada in April 1865 leaving Robert to face the sequestration proceedings as sole partner and late in 1867 Robert was made bankrupt.

Between 1865 and 1869 Robert Turnbull appears to have been first in Edinburgh, studying at the Watt Institute, and then in Glasgow, studying at Anderson’s College, presumably part-time while in employment as a joiner or clerk-of-works. By early 1870 he was able to describe himself as ‘surveyor’ and ‘inspector of buildings’ and was in business on his own account at 175 Bothwell Street Glasgow. This business was also the address of the land surveyor and architects Kyle & Frew who may have been his employers. The Turnbull’s home address was then 38 Abercorn Street, but by 1871 they had moved to 100 West Graham Street.

In the same year, 1871, Robert Turnbull built a number of ‘villas or houses of two storeys in height with offices’ in Glenbank Road, Lenzie, on land belonging to the solicitors Murdoch & Roger who specified Alexander Thomson as architect. This was probably Turnbull’s initial introduction to Thomson and it may have been the catalyst for Gideon returning from Canada to settle in Lenzie as a builder. In that same year George Thomson left for the Cameroons. At first Alexander Thomson undertook the contractual and supervising work previously handled by his brother, but by 1873 he was overcommitted and unwell and took Turnbull into partnership to deal with such matters, the practice name becoming A & G Thomson & Turnbull. 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 Thomson’s asthma and bronchitis deteriorated and on 22 March 1875 he died, leaving Turnbull sole partner.

For more than a year Turnbull continued the practice, completing and executing projects already designed, some in a simplified form, and adapting old designs to new commissions. But in July 1876 he made a request to the Thomson Trustees for permission to take a partner and when the request was agreed to later in the year, Turnbull merged his practice with that of David Thomson who had succeeded to Charles Wilson's practice in 1863, perhaps because of the long-standing friendship between Thomson and Wilson. This arrangement lasted until 1883 when a combination of incompatibility and the recession brought about its dissolution.

Throughout this period the Turnbulls had been developing their business interests in Lenzie where they invested heavily in house property. In 1873 Robert and Jane settled there, renting a house at 8 Regent Park Square and becoming numbers of the newly-formed Free and United Presbyterian Union Congregation. Thomson & Turnbull prepared a neo-Greek design for this church, but a more conventional neo-Gothic one by Campbell Douglas & Sellars was preferred. Some afterwards Robert and Jane moved again, first to Mossbank in Hawthorn Avenue and then to Dunvegan in Harriett (now Heriot) Road, both rented as a temporary measure until they had built their own house, Ruberslaw at 11 Harriett Road, as one half of a double villa.

Jane Turnbull died childless at Ruberslaw in 1877 shortly after moving in. She was buried at the Old Aisle Cemetery in Kirkintilloch. On 6 August of the following year, 1878, at Aberlemno in Angus, Turnbull married Fanny Pattullo Watson (b.1842) the third daughter of Francis Watson, Blackhall, Aberlemno, and his wife Jane Beveridge. They had three children Jessie Mary (b.1879) Alexander Thomson (b.1880) and Francis William (b.1883) of whom Francis died young in 1890. The family remained at Ruberslaw until 1887 when Turnbull bought the much larger Glenhead House, also in Lenzie.

Between 1875 and 1881 Alexander Thomson’s son John was in the office, first as apprentice and then as assistant. In the latter year he left for London to work for Flockhart, probably on the recommendation of James Sellars; but when he returned to Glasgow from the Royal Academy Schools in 1886 with the silver medal to his credit, he was refused re-admission to that practice, much to his mother’s disappointment. By that date Turnbull had probably bought out the interest of the Thomson trustees and was under no obligation to do so.

Turnbull was in fact running the practice as economically as possible to build up a large property portfolio in Lenzie. The rental income from which would fund his retirement. Investment ran ahead of anticipated income, the feuduties for two of his houses, Baltic and Snaefell, fell into arrears and payment of some fifty other accounts, including one to his brother Gideon, had been deferred. This provoked a petition for his sequestration to force him to settle these accounts, heard by Sheriff Substitute Walter Cook Spiers on 18 June 1894. The schedule of Turnbull’s property showed that he owned more than thirty houses in South Lenzie valued at over £24,000, while the total owned to creditors was just over £2,250. The issue was resolved by selling his own house, Glenhead valued at £2,600 and moving into rented accommodation at 8 Royal Terrace in Glasgow. The sequestration proceedings were concluded in 1898 and in 1900 the Turnbulls moved back to Lenzie where they rented Gallowhill House.

In 1901 the Thomson & Turnbull practice was merged with that of Alexander Morrison whose partnership with Campbell Douglas had been dissolved in that year, the practice title becoming Morrison Turnbull & Peacock. The sequence of the names suggests that Robert Turnbull had gone into retirement or semi-retirement and that Alexander Thomson Turnbull, now aged 23, had become a partner. The partnership with Morrison lasted less than a year and is known only from an amendment to their directory entry found by William Williamson. Morrison is said to have had a drink problem and had probably failed to bring the elderly Campbell Douglas’s clients with him as had been hoped. The practice then returned to its previous title of Thomson Turnbull & Peacock.

Robert Turnbull was active in public life: he was for fourteen years a member of the parochial board of Cadder; a Commissioner of Supply for Lanarkshire and Convener of the Cadder District Committee under the Roads and Bridges Act; and he represented the Lower Lanarkshire Ward District on Lanarkshire County Council from 1890 to 1895. He served on the County's Valuation Committee, Highways Committee, Public Health Board and the Courthouse Management Committee.

On 21 October 1905 Robert Turnbull died of pneumonia at Gallowhill House in Lenzie, where the family joinery firm was based and which was now the main centre of the Turnbull businesses. He was survived by his second wife. The elder Turnbull's death seems to have been the catalyst for Peacock deciding to emigrate to Quebec in the following year as chief draughtsman to George-Emile Tanguay. He set up office on his own account in 1910 and in the same year married Ena Stewart. He continued practice there until his death in 1937.

Alexander Thomson Turnbull was a civil engineer rather than an architect and continued the practice only briefly. All his cousin would say when interviewed in the early 1960s was that he made 'a right damned mess of it'.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 2122, Wellington Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness18731905 
Item 2 of 2Glenhead, Lenzie, ScotlandPrivate1888  

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 4A & G Thomson & Turnbull18731877Partner 
Item 2 of 4D Thomson & Turnbull18771883Partner 
Item 3 of 4Thomson & Turnbull (or A Thomson & Turnbull)18831898Partner 
Item 4 of 4Thomson, Turnbull & Peacock1898Late 1905Partner 

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 1091863Ayton Parish ChurchAyton BerwickshireScotlandActed as contractor in the firm Robert & Gideon Turnbull
Item 2 of 1091870sTenements, Albert Drive, Forth Street and Glenapp Street  GlasgowScotlandHS Attribution
Item 3 of 1091870s(?)Villa, 27 Victoria RoadLenzie DunbartonshireScotlandHS attribution
Item 4 of 109c. 1870(?)Commercial building, 38-44 St Enoch Square  GlasgowScotland 
Item 5 of 10918731-11 Great Western Terrace  GlasgowScotlandContinued building of terrace
Item 6 of 109187384-112 Nithsdale Road  GlasgowScotlandAttribution by 'Buildings of Scotland'
Item 7 of 1091873Block of Tenements on Scotland Street, Sleads Street and Stanley Street  GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented
Item 8 of 1091873Edgehill HouseLangside GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented but probable
Item 9 of 1091873Tenements on Cecil StreetHillhead GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented but probable
Item 10 of 1091873Waverley Terrace  GlasgowScotlandFinished tenement
Item 11 of 1091873Westbourne Terrace  GlasgowScotlandFinished terrace
Item 12 of 109c. 1873Craigton Cemetery, Cleghorn-Thomson Monument  GlasgowScotlandAttribution by McFadzean
Item 13 of 109c. 1873Tenements with Shops, 504-554 Maryhill Road  GlasgowScotland 
Item 14 of 109c. 1873Terrace of Houses, 680-701 Great Western Road  GlasgowScotlandFinished terrace--Attribution undocumented but probable
Item 15 of 109c. 1873Warehouses and Shops on Alston and Gordon Streets  GlasgowScotland 
Item 16 of 109c. 1873Westbourne House for John F MaclarenKelvinside GlasgowScotland 
Item 17 of 1091874Block of Tenements and Shops at Gorbals Cross  GlasgowScotland 
Item 18 of 1091874(?)Cockburn Hotel  GlasgowScotlandAdditions--Attribution undocumented but probable
Item 19 of 1091874Parkhall UP ManseDuntocher DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 20 of 1091874RyslandNewton Mearns RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 21 of 1091874Sighthill Cemetery, Stewart Monument  GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented
Item 22 of 1091874Tenements, 79-87 Smith StreetHillhead GlasgowScotland 
Item 23 of 109c. 1874(?)18-25 Moray Place  GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented: probably not by Thomson but too good for Turnbull himself
Item 24 of 109c. 1874Lenzie UP ChurchLenzie Dunbartonshire/LanarkshireScotlandUnexecuted Romanesque design, probably adapted from an early Thomson design
Item 25 of 109c. 1874Tenement with Shops, 106-132 Gorbals Street  GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented but probable
Item 26 of 1091875Alexandra Hotel  GlasgowScotlandAdditions and alterations to existing building to form hotel
Item 27 of 1091875Annan Town HallAnnan DumfriesshireScotlandUnsuccessful competition design
Item 28 of 1091875Block of tenements and shops on Beaufort Gardens  GlasgowScotlandProbably designed by Thomson and completed by Turnbull after his death; later block shows slight design modifications
Item 29 of 1091875CraigardDullatur DunbartonshireScotlandAttribution undocumented and uncertain
Item 30 of 1091875(?)Double villa, Norwood and HillcroftDullatur DunbartonshireScotlandAttribution undocumented and uncertain
Item 31 of 1091875Dunblane Hydropathic InstitutionDunblane PerthshireScotlandDesign only - not built; consulted after cost of original Peddie & Kinnear scheme exceeded capital of company
Item 32 of 1091875DunluceDullatur DunbartonshireScotlandAttribution undocumented and uncertain
Item 33 of 1091875(?)KynachanDullatur DunbartonshireScotlandAttribution undocumented and uncertain
Item 34 of 1091875OakfieldLenzie Dunbartonshire/LanarkshireScotlandAttribution undocumented but very likely by Turnbull
Item 35 of 1091875Offices, Ingram Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 36 of 1091875(?)Richmond HouseDullatur DunbartonshireScotlandAttribution undocumented and uncertain
Item 37 of 1091875(?)Stanley House/GlensideDullatur DunbartonshireScotlandAttribution undocumented and uncertain
Item 38 of 1091875(?)Terrace of Houses, 1-11 Victoria TerraceDullatur DunbartonshireScotlandAttribution undocumented and uncertain
Item 39 of 1091875(?)WoodendDullatur DunbartonshireScotlandAttribution undocumented and uncertain
Item 40 of 109Before 1875(?)Glasgow Necropolis, Blackie MonumentDennistoun GlasgowScotlandProbably an adaptation of a previously unused design
Item 41 of 109Before 1875(?)Glasgow Necropolis, Mitchell MonumentDennistoun GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented but probable
Item 42 of 109Before 1875(?)House, 336-338 Albert DrivePollokshields GlasgowScotlandProbably designed by Thomson and executed by Turnbull after his death; does not appear in David Thomson's job list and probably begun pre-partnership
Item 43 of 109Before 1875(?)Tenements on High Street and Glasgow RoadRutherglen LanarkshireScotlandAttribution undocumented but possible: not in David Thomson's job list, suggesting a start date before 1876
Item 44 of 109Before 1875(?)Tenements with Shops on Titwood PlaceStrathbungo GlasgowScotlandProbably designed by Thomson and executed by Turnbull after his death
Item 45 of 109Before 1875(?)Terrace of Four Houses, 84-92 Millbrae Crescent  GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented but probable: does not appear in David Thomson's job list, suggesting a start date before 1876
Item 46 of 109Before 1875(?)Terrace of Houses, 2-38 and 40-46 Millbrae Crescent  GlasgowScotlandPossibly designed by Thomson and carried out by Turnbull after his death
Item 47 of 109Before 1875(?)WingfieldStrathaven LanarkshireScotlandAttribution undocumented but possible
Item 48 of 109c. 1875(?)Craigard and Warwick CroftLenzie Dunbartonshire/LanarkshireScotlandAttribution undocumented but possibly by Thomson
Item 49 of 109c. 1875(?)Double Villas on Heriot RoadLenzie Dunbartonshire/LanarkshireScotlandAttribution undocumented: probably by Turnbull
Item 50 of 109c. 1875(?)Warwick Croft and villa at 43 Alexandra RoadLenzie DunbartonshireScotlandHS attribution
Item 51 of 1091876Craigton Cemetery, Sprott Monument  GlasgowScotlandProbably by Turnbull
Item 52 of 1091876Scotia Leather Works  GlasgowScotlandOriginal building and additions
Item 53 of 1091876Two Blocks of Commercial Premises on Watson Street  GlasgowScotlandProbably an earlier Thomson design erected posthumously by Turnbull
Item 54 of 109c. 1876Warehouse with Shops on Watson Street and Gallowgate  GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented: unlikely to be by Thomson, but possibly by Turnbull
Item 55 of 1091877Double villa, Heriot Road (Ruberslaw and ___)Lenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 56 of 1091877Innamore LodgeCarsaigMullArgyllScotland 
Item 57 of 1091877Melbourne HouseClydebank DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 58 of 1091877Monument to Jane Weir Watson Turnbull (neé Turnbull), Old Aisle CemeteryKirkintilloch DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 59 of 1091877Sir Peter Coats Memorial Church, MinishantMaybole AyrshireScotland 
Item 60 of 1091877Turnbull Monument, Auld Aisle CemeteryKirkintilloch DunbartonshireScotlandAdaption of Thomson design by Turnbull for his first wife, who died in 1877
Item 61 of 109c. 1877Tenements on Lorne Terrace  GlasgowScotlandFurther closes completed after Thomson's death
Item 62 of 109c. 1877Warehouse, countinghouse etc, 89-92 Miller Street  GlasgowScotlandProbably based on an Alexander Thomson design - on grounds of style
Item 63 of 1091878Chryston Parish ChurchChryston LanarkshireScotland 
Item 64 of 1091878Grantly TerracePollokshaws GlasgowScotlandPossibly by Turnbull
Item 65 of 1091878St John the Evangelist Episcopal churchJohnstone RenfrewshireScotlandFurther work
Item 66 of 1091879Thornliebank Memorial Public halls and club roomsThornliebank RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 67 of 1091880s(?)Villa, 48 Townhead StreetStrathaven LanarkshireScotland 
Item 68 of 1091880GlengairStrathaven LanarkshireScotland 
Item 69 of 1091880InvershielLenzie Dunbartonshire/LanarkshireScotland 
Item 70 of 1091880Tenement, Darnley StreetPollokshields GlasgowScotland 
Item 71 of 1091880Winton House  GlasgowScotland 
Item 72 of 109c. 188014-16 Glenbank RoadLenzie DunbartonshireScotland'style of' (HS)
Item 73 of 109c. 1880Villa, 65 Kirkintilloch RoadLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 74 of 1091881Arden and DalveenLenzie Dunbartonshire/LanarkshireScotlandAttribution undocumented but possibly a reworking of Thomson's design
Item 75 of 1091881Auchendrane  AyrshireScotlandExtension - possibly by him
Item 76 of 1091881Blocks of Tenements on Sandbank Street  GlasgowScotlandAttribution undocumented - possibly by Turnbull reworking Thomson's designs for other sites
Item 77 of 1091881Villas, 28 Victoria Road and 16 Glenhead RoadLenzie DunbartonshireScotlandHS attribution
Item 78 of 109c. 1881Glasgow Municipal Buildings  GlasgowScotlandCompetition design entered under the pseudonym Bourgeris
Item 79 of 109Before 1884HazelwoodLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 80 of 109Before 1884SunnysideLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 81 of 109c. 1884ArdenleaLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 82 of 1091885Gavinburn Board Schools at ClydebankOld Kilpatrick DunbartonshireScotlandWon competition to secure job
Item 83 of 109c. 1885Villa, 15 Glasgow RoadUddingston LanarkshireScotland'Probably' (HS)
Item 84 of 109c. 1885Villa, 3 Victoria RoadLenzie DunbartonshireScotlandAttribution by HS
Item 85 of 1091888Lorn TerracePollokshields GlasgowScotland 
Item 86 of 109After 1888WillowbankLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 87 of 109Before 1888Ancrum CottageLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 88 of 109Before 1888AuchinlochLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 89 of 109Before 1888HighburyLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 90 of 109Before 1888SnaefellLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 91 of 109c. 188851-59 Partickhill Road  GlasgowScotlandAttribution by 'Buildings of Scotland' - now shown to be wrong
Item 92 of 109Before 188Baltic CottageLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 93 of 109Late 1880sGrove Park, 11 housesLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 94 of 109Late 1880sHouses, Victoria RoadLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 95 of 1091892Lenzie Golf Club pavilionLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 96 of 1091894Old ManseDunlop AyrshireScotlandAlterations
Item 97 of 109Before 1894Albert villaLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 98 of 109Before 1894Ava CottageLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 99 of 109Before 1894BeaconsfieldLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 100 of 109Before 1894GowanbraeLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 101 of 109Before 1894LochviewLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 102 of 109Before 1894SherwoodLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 103 of 109Before 1894WestfieldLenzie DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 104 of 1091895Kelvinbridge Artistic Stationery Works  GlasgowScotlandAddition
Item 105 of 1091897Tenements in London Road  GlasgowScotland 
Item 106 of 1091898Kelvinbridge Artistic Stationery Works  GlasgowScotlandAddition
Item 107 of 1091898Villas, Glasgow RoadPaisley RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 108 of 1091904Gavinburn Board Schools at ClydebankOld Kilpatrick DunbartonshireScotlandadditions
Item 109 of 1091905Double cottagesLenzie DunbartonshireScotlandMay not have been involved.


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 3McFadzean, Ronald1979The Life and Work of Alexander Thomson London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 
Item 2 of 3McWilliam, Colin1978Lothian (The Buildings of Scotland)  Additional research by Iain Paterson
Item 3 of 3Williamson, William2011Robert Turnbull IA of Lenzie   

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Letter from Jean Francois Caron re Peacock 18 January 2001; personal recollections of Mrs W K Stewart


© 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)