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Basic Biographical Details

Name: Thomas Turnbull
Designation: Architect
Born: 1825
Died: 23 February 1907
Bio Notes: Thomas Turnbull was born in Glasgow in 1825, the only son of Joshua Turnbull, solicitor. He was orphaned at an early age and articled to a Turnbull cousin who was a house carpenter (his RIBA obituarist says 'to learn the building trade'), perhaps the same family as that to which Alexander Thomson's future partner Robert Turnbull belonged, in 1839. After completing his articles in 1842 Turnbull found a place in the office of David Bryce, first as a clerk of works and then as both clerk of works and draughtsman. Thereafter he found employment as a clerk of works with the architect-builders Arthur and George Holme in Liverpool, probably in anticipation of his emigration in 1851 to Melbourne, Australia where he practised in 'the digging townships' for nine years. In 1861 'attracted by the news from California' he sailed for San Francisco where he entered into a partnership with an established architect there, ____ England. England died in 1867 or 1869 (sources vary), and Turnbull continued the practice alone thereafter. During his time in San Francisco Turnbull was Hon Secretary of the Architectural Association there and designed Trinity Church, Market Street Presbyterian Church, Bancrofts printing works and 'a large number of warehouses and city residences'. His obituarist reports that they were responsible for 'many important buildings that were in existence until the recent earthquake' of 1868.

Turnbull's health failed 'under pressure of American professional tactics' and his physician advised him to rest from business and take a long sea voyage. He left his family in San Francisco and landed in Auckland, New Zealand in the late summer of 1871. He then went south and settled briefly in Dunedin before deciding that his professional future lay in Wellington as the seat of colonial government. He secured a government post as assistant to ____ Clayton, the colonial architect, disposed of his San Francisco practice and removed his family to Wellington. In the following year he commenced practice on his own account and was hugely successful in winning competitions for public buildings and obtaining commissions for hotels, office buildings, warehouses and factories: most of these were in an accomplished free Renaissance manner with superimposed orders reflecting American rather than Scottish practice. His Gothic churches and lesser buildings in New Zealand were usually built of timber.

Turnbull was admitted FRIBA on 7 January 1884, his proposers being the Aberdonians David Ross of Dunedin and Frederick William Burwell of Invercargill, and William Wilkinson Wardell of Sydney. Turnbull was architect to the Wellington Education Board and first president of the Wellington Association of Architects.

Turnbull took his youngest son William into partnership in 1891. He died on 23 February 1907.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 6Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness18251842(?) 
Item 2 of 6Melbourne, AustraliaBusiness18511861 
Item 3 of 6San Francisco, California, United States of AmericaBusiness1861  
Item 4 of 6Auckland, New ZealandBusiness18711871 or 1872 
Item 5 of 6Dunedin, New ZealandBusiness1871 or 18721871 or 1872 
Item 6 of 6Wellington, New ZealandBusiness1871 or 18721907 

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 4David Bryce1842 Clerk of Works 
Item 2 of 4David BryceAfter 1842 Draughtsman 
Item 3 of 4England & TurnbullAfter 1861Before 1869Partner 
Item 4 of 4Thomas Turnbull & Son1891 Partner 

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 1William Turnbull18821890Apprentice 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3Frederick William Burwell7 January 1884for Fellowship
Item 2 of 3David Ross7 January 1884for Fellowship
Item 3 of 3William Wilkinson Wardell7 January 1884for Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3George Alexander Troup3 December 1906for Fellowship
Item 2 of 3William Turnbull8 January 1906for Fellowship
Item 3 of 3Nathaniel Young Armstrong Wales3 June 1901for Fellowship


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 3Historic buildings of New Zealand Historic buildings of New Zealand: North Island   
Item 2 of 3Ober, Justine (57A Carlton Mill Rd, Christchurch) Robert Turnbull Unpulished dissertation on Turnbull for Canterbury University 
Item 3 of 3The cyclopedia of New Zealand The cyclopedia of New Zealand   

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1RIBA Journal27 July 1907 London: Royal Institute of British Architectsp627 Obituary


© All rights reserved.  Glasgow Institute of Architects 

© All rights reserved. Glasgow Institute of Architects