Basic Biographical Details
|Name: ||Thomson & Turnbull (or A Thomson & Turnbull) |
|Designation: ||Architectural practice |
|Started: ||1883 |
|Ended: ||1898 |
|Bio Notes: ||This practice, whose only partner at least initially was Robert Turnbull, was the continuation of the firm of D Thomson & Turnbull which had taken over in turn Alexander 'Greek' Thomson's work after his death in 1877. After 1884 there was in fact no Thomson involved. |
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 architectural practice:|
| ||Address||Type||Date from||Date to||Notes|
|122, Wellington Street, Glasgow, Scotland||Business||1884 or 1885||1898|| |
Employment and Training
Employees or Pupils
Buildings and Designs
|The following books contain references to this architectural practice:|
|Williamson, William||2011||Robert Turnbull IA of Lenzie|| || || |