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Basic Biographical Details
|Name: ||William Scott Morton |
|Designation: ||Architect |
|Born: ||16 March 1840 |
|Died: ||18 August 1903 |
|Bio Notes: ||William Scott Morton was born at Carluke on 16 March 1840, the son of William Morton and his wife Anne Scott. His father was a wheelwright and joiner who also undertook cabinet and violin making and painted pictures in the back-shop. |
About 1854 Scott Morton was articled to James Smith in Glasgow and took classes at the Government School of Design. In Smith's office he worked with William Leiper and John Moyr Smith on the interior work of Overtoun House at Dumbarton, and in 1857 William Forrest Salmon, son of the Glasgow architect James Salmon, joined Smith's practice as an apprentice. All four were to remain lifelong friends, Leiper Morton and Salmon being particularly close.
In or about 1859 William and Ann Morton moved from Carluke to London taking their family with them. From the age of nineteen William Scott Morton was successful in selling designs to carpet and lace manufacturers and within a few years he somehow obtained an entrée to Royal Academy circles, being employed by William Powell Frith to draw out the architecture in 'The Railway Station' 'The Marriage of the Prince of Wales' and other pictures from 1861 onwards. Similar work came his way from Sir Edwin Landseer and John Phillip. Thereafter he found employment with the interior decorating and furnishing house of Johnstone, Jeans & Co. in New Bond Street, and by 1867 he had prospered sufficiently to marry Eliza Alexander, daughter of Hugh Alexander of Arrat Mill, Brechin, and move back to Scotland. Eliza was then a schoolteacher in Berwick and it is not known how they came to meet. Willaim Forrest Salmon, who had been an assistant in the office of George Gilbert Scott in London in the mid -1860s was to marry his Jessie sister in 1872.
In 1870 Scott Morton and his younger brother John, born 1842, and a mechanical engineer, set up their own business. By 1871 or early 1872 they had settled at Dalry House, William practising as architect and designer and John in charge of the workshops of the cabinet-making, wall-paper manufacturing and interior design business of Morton & Co. In 1877 Dalry House was bought for conversion to a school and the business was moved to Tynecastle with a city centre office at 34 St Andrew Square by 1878 or early 1879. No new buildings are known from these years, much of the business being designs for carpets for Templetons of Glasgow, grates and fire-irons for the Falkirk Iron Company and other ironfounders, and stained glass, tiles and ceiling design for Shrigley & Hunt of Lancaster.
By 1881 Scott Morton had ceased to practice architecture as such. In July of that year he became the Scottish agent of Shrigley & Hunt, and late in that year and early in 1882 he undertook a short study tour of Italy where he became impressed by Spanish and Italian leather hangings. By chance an elderly London leatherworker had turned up at Tynecastle seeking employment. After much experiment, Morton & Co developed in a series of patents from 1882-1896 Tynecastle Canvas or Tynecastle tapestry, an embossed leather-like material compound of canvas and paste which could be both given the appearance of age and tinted and gilded. This had first been used at 12 Park Circus, Glasgow, in a major scheme of redecoration and enlargement carried out for Alexander Stephen and at the library at Chelsea House, Cadogan Square, London in 1874-78, where there had been insufficient old leather to complete the planned scheme of decoration. Its success at the latter resulted in a huge order for Young's Glasgow City Chambers and another for the redecoration of the picture galleries at Grosvenor House for the Duke of Westminster. To meet the demand for this material and for the embossed canvas plaster friezes patented in 1885, John and James Templeton became partners in a new company, The Tynecastle Company, for which the four storey Albert Works at Tynecastle was built to Scott Morton's designs in at least two stages, the premises being shared with the original company, by now called Scott Morton & Co. Structurally it proved less than adequate for his brother John's printing rolling and moulding machinery: Robert Scott Morton recalled that he could remember his grandmother shaking her head over it, regretting that he had not brought in a more experienced architect to build it.
William Scott Morton joined the Art Workers Build in 1886.
Throughout the 1880s and 1890s demand grew for private houses, steam yachts and railway carriages, particularly for Egyptian, Argentian and South African railways. Offices and showrooms were opened in London, Manchester and for a short time around 1890, Melbourne, Australia; and in the summer of 1889 Scott Morton's eldest son, William Stewart Morton, born 1868 and then aged twenty-one sailed for New York to explore the possibility of marketing Tynecastle Canvas in the United States. By November of that year he had opened a showroom at West 23rd Street and made contact with the leading interior decorating houses in Detroit, Michigan, Cleveland Ohio and Philadelphia and other cities. Although he successfully exhibited at the Boston Architectural Exhibition in 1890 and business was immediately obtained from Cornelius Vanderbilt and John Sloane, his proposal to manufacture in the United States to overcome the problem of a sharp increase in import duty was not taken up as the Templetons were not prepared to provide the £10,000 of additional capital which would have been required. On 24 December 1890 Stewart Morton sailed for home, having established a network of agents across America and Canada.
On his return, Stewart joined his father and uncle John in the management of the Tynecastle Works, his brother Robert, born 1870, taking charge of the London showrooms. Scott Morton moved to London in 1895, having bought The Cedars in Highgate where the stables were converted into a studio. He remained the lead designer for both companies until his sudden death while on holiday at Newtonmore on 18 April 1903. At that date his Edinburgh residence to which he returned fairly frequently was 14 Merchiston Gardens. Eliza survived him, dying on 11 August 1917.
The businesses were continued by his sons, but Robert died early in 1905. The surviving sons, Stewart who died in 1933 and the much younger Alexander (Alec), born 1877, died 1965, concentrated on the Edinburgh businesses which were severely affected by the 1931 recession at the time of Stewart's death. As Stewart's son, Robert was then a student at Edinburgh College of Art and preferred to practice as an architect, his place as a director was taken by David Ramsay who had been an apprentice in the early years of the century. After the retirement of Alec Morton and of David Ramsay in 1948 the business was continued by the exceptionally able Peter Miller who had been apprenticed to the firm in 1931 at the age of sixteen. The remaining activities of the Tynecastle Company were merged with the parent company in 1958 and the continuing decline in demand for high quality work resulted in the firm going into receivership when it was taken over by Whytock & Reid.
The firm's records survive but differentiating between commissions for which they made the designs and those executed for others is not always possible. William Scott Morton's own abilities as an architect are best seen at 25 Learmonth Terrace, Edinburgh where he was wholly responsible for the interior work within a shell designed by the Leith architect, James Simpson, in 1893.
Private and Business Addresses
|The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:|
| ||Address||Type||Date from||Date to||Notes|
|Dalry House, Edinburgh, Scotland||Private/business||1871||1877||House and office|
|Albert Works, Tynecastle, Edinburgh, Scotland||Business||c. 1877||c. 1903|| |
|34, St Andrews Square, Edinburgh, Scotland||Business||1878||1880|| |
|14, Booth Street, Manchester, England||Business||1890 *|| || |
|32, Flinders Lane West, Melbourne, Australia||Business||1890 *|| || |
|14, Rathbone Terrace, Edinburgh, Scotland||Business||Before 1890||1903|| |
|The Cedars, Highgate, London, England||Private||1895||1903|| |
|Cedars Studio, Highgate, London, England||Business||1895||1903|| |
|39, Deansgate Arcade, Manchester, England||Business||1902 *|| || |
|14, Merchiston Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland||Private||1903 *|| || |
* earliest date known from documented sources.
Employment and Training
Buildings and Designs
|The following books contain references to this architect:|
|Beauty's Awakening|| ||Beauty's Awakening: The Centenary Exhibition of the Art Workers' Guild|| ||Brighton Museum September -November 1984, Royal Pavilion Brighton|| |
|Hardie, Elspeth||1988||William Scott Morton, Artist Craftsman and Decorator|| ||Antique Collector, March 1988|| |
|Hardie, Elspeth||1990||Tynecastle Tapestry in the United States|| ||Antique Collector, May 1990|| |
|RCAHMS||2004||Creating a Future for the Past: the Scottish Architects' Papers Preservation Project|| ||Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland||pp97-100|
© All rights reserved. Edinburgh Architectural Association 1907 Exhibition Catalogue