Timeline of Scottish History

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Alexander Thompson

  • Name  : Thompson
  • Born  : 1817
  • Died  : 1875
  • Category  : Architects
  • Finest Moment : Queen's Park Presbyterian Church (1867)

Born 17th child into a family numbering an astonishing 24, Thomson was born at Balfron, Stirlingshire. He was apprenticed to John Baird and lived and worked in Glasgow. He was a prolific architect, designing buildings of the types needed by a rapidly expanding Victorian Glasgow; churches, houses, terraces, warehouses, tenements, offices. Throughout his career, he showed a continuous inventiveness and experiment.

His use of Grecian patterns, often nearing the abstract, was not the only influence on his architecture, though it led to his nickname. He also shows designs with Egyptian suggestions, though more often than not, his designs are in fact very idiosyncratic, very personal.

Not only was he original in design, in his choice and experimentation in materials he often showed new ways. From the 1860s onwards, his use of iron-framed construction and facades of cast iron and glass were indications of styles to come. He is regarded as one of the great forerunners of the Modern Movement.

Well known and admired buildings designed by Thomson include a domestic terrace at Moray Place, built in 1859 but probably designed two years earlier. It has a severe, withdrawn serenity, a simplicity and lack of fussiness. Stone columns are plain oblongs of stone, no more, no less. Doors and windows are deep oblong holes in the wall.

Other fine buildings designed by him include several churches. Three United Presbyterian churches, at Caledonian Road (1856), St Vincent Street (1859) and Queens Park (1867, later demolished). The latter was one of the few serious wartime casualties that Glasgow's architecture suffered. It demonstrated Egyptian and even Indian features, though Thomson never left Britain, and even Scotland rarely.

The reputation of Glasgow as a great, if not the greatest, Victorian city of architecture, owes much to Alexander 'Greek' Thomson.