Basic Biographical Details
|Name: ||H & F Thomson |
|Designation: ||Architectural practice |
|Started: ||1908 |
|Ended: ||c. 1914 |
|Bio Notes: ||Henry (Harry) Thomson was born in Dundee in 1880, the son of James Thomson, then an assistant in the Burgh Engineer's office in Dundee, and educated at Dundee High School. He was articled to John Murray Robertson in 1896, and took classes at the Technical Institute. He remained with Murray Robertson until the latter's death in early 1901 when he commenced practice in Dundee on his own account, but continued to assist Robertson's successor James Findlay part-time with the completion of Robertson's Medical School building until 1902. |
In 1906, having obtained the commission for the King's Theatre in Dundee, Harry engaged his brother Frank Drummond Thomson, then in London, to design it. Frank was born in 1882 and was also educated at Dundee High School. About 1898 he was articled to Thomas Martin Cappon. He did not like Cappon or his work - 'you can't imagine how I felt having to draw out such terrible stuff' - but in Cappon's senior assistant, William Gillespie Lamond, he found a good teacher; and like his brother he attended the Technical Institute where another disciple of Lamond's, Patrick Hill Thoms, ('the best [architect] we ever had in Dundee') had begun teaching architecture. About 1902 Frank moved to London as assistant to Niven & Wigglesworth, working mainly with Niven on the Dundee Courier Building. His salary was augmented by evening and weekend work from his father who was appointed City Architect in 1905 following the death of William Alexander in the previous year, and City Engineer after the dismissal of William Mackison in 1906.
Frank was musical with a good singing voice and was thoroughly familiar with London's theatreland. He thus already had some knowledge of the practical requirements of designing a major touring theatre like the King's. He bought a copy of Sachs 'Modern Theatres and Opera Houses', and designed it from his London lodgings; and in the later stages he was taken into partnership by his brother, some time before the opening on 15 March 1909. This enabled him to marry and set up house in Cupar. Some time previously Harry had set up his own household at 5 Yew Bank Avenue, Broughty Ferry. Before the theatre was completed the original promoter, who had a link with the D'Oyly Carte Company, had embarrassed himself and his backers deserted him, the project being taken over by another local syndicate, United County Theatres. This company brought in an untraced English consultant named Ward (perhaps an assistant in one of the larger theatre architects' offices) to complete it with more elaborate plasterwork ('all right if you like that kind of thing').
Harry was admitted LRIBA in the mass intake of 20 July 1911, proposed by William Fleming Wilkie and the Dundee Institute of Architects, but Frank was never to seek membership. In that same year, 1911, the partnership won the competition for St John's Cross Church, a burgh church transferred to the Blackness area and shortly thereafter Frank moved to Daisybank, Maryfield where he lived for the rest of his life. But by the beginning of the First World War the partnership had run into difficulty. Harry was more socialite than worker, and although the practice had prospered he had borrowed heavily from his brother, partly to finance his move from Yew Bank Avenue to Oakley Place in Queen Street. Their problems came to a head over unpaid tradesmen, a matter which went to court where Frank had to give evidence which contradicted that of his brother. The practice was damaged by the publicity the case received and the partnership was dissolved: 'he broke it, I didn't, I always regretted it' Frank observed some forty years later, although Harry's debts had never been repaid. After the war Harry and Frank practised independently but on 2 November 1921 Harry died from a fall in the stairwell of a Broughty Ferry hotel when leaning out to turn off a gaslight.
Private and Business Addresses
|The following private or business addresses are associated with this architectural practice:|
| ||Address||Type||Date from||Date to||Notes|
|26, Castle Street, Dundee, Scotland||Business||c. 1909||After 1911|| |
Employment and Training
Employees or Pupils
Buildings and Designs
|The following books contain references to this architectural practice:|
|Horan, Martin||2001||The King's, God's and Commoners|| || || |
|The following archives hold material relating to this architectural practice:|
| ||Source||Archive Name||Source Catalogue No.||Notes|
|Professor David M Walker personal archive||Professor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material|| ||Copy of letter from Trixie Thomson to Historic Buildings and Monuments 10 July 1990; personal information from Frank Thomson and Gertie and Trixie Thomson and W Sinclair Gauldie|