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Glasgow Architecture, Scotland

Monday, January 11, 2010

Today, I am digressing from a stream of weather related postings to focus on a work by Alexander Greek Thomson. However, before going into the architecture detail I will first provide a daily update.

Glasgow Weather: Today has witnessed some relief from the severe cold of late. Daytime temperature has moved into positive territory, our water pipes have unfrozen and some of the ice has melted. However, there are no sunny uplands on the immediate horizon, in fact we may get a snowstorm tomorrow.

Scotland Tours: Worked on a couple tours, one Speyside Whisky Tour for a group from London and one family group Ancestry Tour. Latter now confirmed. Also had an enquiry in for a combined Scotland-Ireland tour.

Alexander 'Greek' Thomson Architecture: Just by way of a brief introduction, Thomson was a renowned Glaswegian architect of the 19th century who took his inspiration from the architecture of ancient Greece. He left a large legacy of his work in and around Glasgow. My main, Catswhiskerstours website has a page dedicated to Thomson. Today, I am focusing on just one example of Thomson's work, namely the Grecian Buildings in Sauchiehall Street which date from 1867-68.This building was originally designed as a warehouse. As there was no Grecian precedent for warehouses, Thomson had to innovate with a result that displayed new forms in an old spirit.

The Grecian Buildings shown below now form the Centre for Contemporary Arts.




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Greek Thomson Architecture, Beattie Monument, Glasgow

Saturday, December 19, 2009


This morning in Glasgow the weather was in line with official forecasts, sunny and dry. So, I cycled down to Glasgow City Centre with dual object of (a) catching up on some pre- Christmas shopping and (b) tracking down another Alexander 'Greek' Thomson piece of architecture, this time at the Necropolis.

After circling the Necropolis a couple of times I eventually found my quarry which is a monument to the Reverend Alexander Ogilvie Beattie who was the first minister for the Gordon Street United Presbyterian Church and who died in 1858. Being made of sandstone, the inscription on he monument is partly eroded.

Although designed by Thomson the monument was sculpted by J & G Mossman in 1867.

Beattie was a supporter of Thomson and commissioned Thomson to build the St. Vincent Street UP Church. The building was under construction at time of Beattie's death.

The monument comprises a pylon topped with a beautiful urn rising from the base of cyclopean masonry. The monument also uses the same Grecian motifs found in many of Thomson's interiors.




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Greek Thomson Architecture, Holmwood House

Friday, December 18, 2009

This morning, the temperature in Glasgow was hovering around zero. However, in the absence of significant snow and ice I included in my morning cycle ride a visit to Holmwood House, 61-63 Netherlee Road, Glasgow. I have almost completed a portfolio of Thomson property images for a new architecture web page.

This is now a heritage property owned by Scotland's National Trust. The property dates from 1857-58 when it was built as a combined high status home and business show-room for a wealthy paper mill owner whose business was powered by the close by White Cart Water (river).

Alexander 'Greek' Thomson was one of Scotland's greatest 19th century architects. He obtained inspiration from the designs of ancient Greece without ever actually visiting that country.

By some measures, Holmwood House is Thomson's finest and most elaborate villa. A particular feature here is the wall that connects the main house with the coach house, a feature reminiscent of designs by Lutyens and Frank Lloyd Wright some forty years later. This linkage can be seen in the video clip below.

Thomson's villas have echoes of American designs, with wide eaves and strong horizontal emphasis.

At Holmwood, Thomson also designed the rich polychromatic wall decoration which is now being recovered.

This property is open to the public and is deserving of a visit.





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Greek Thomson Architecture, Bucks Head Building

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Weatherwise, today was a day of two halves; sunshine in the morning then cloud and snow in the afternoon. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong half to go out and about.

This afternoon I first of all visited Old Cathcart Cemetery to renew my portfolio of images for my separate Glasgow Ancestry Blog. However, I was stymied by the snow and and had to move on after recording details from just three memorial stones.

Next I cycled on, down into the centre of Glasgow to photograph another building in my series of buildings designed by the 19th century architect, Alexander 'Greek' Thomson.

The building featured today is the Bucks Head Building located at junction of 59-61 Argyle Street & Dunlop Street. This dates from 1863 and appears to be in a good state of repair. It is the only commercial building by Thomson in which the iron construction is expressed externally. In front of the masonry piers on the curved corner is an attenuated iron colonnade with exquisite capitals supporting an ornamental balcony.

Bearing in mind that Argyle Street is one of Glasgow's premier shopping districts , I was surprised at the lack festive/Christmas decorations and atmosphere. No shortage of footfall, however!





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Greek Thomson Architecture, Caledonia Road Church

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This afternoon was reasonably dry and mild. So, after a spot of lunch, I cycled down to near the centre of Glasgow ( actually the Gorbals) to view and photograph the now ruined Caledonia Road Church which was designed by Alexander 'Greek' Thomson during the period 1856-57.

This was Thomson's first church but now a forlorn ruin on the edge of the Gorbals having been burned by vandals in 1965. However, all is not lost! The remains display dignity and distinction, with an elevated portico and a most unusual tower, probably inspired by modern German architecture.

These ruins are easily accessed, on what is now an island surrounded by heavy traffic.

Thomson's memorial is within a mile of this spot, at the Southern Necropolis. He was born 1817 in Balfron and died 1875. During his working life he took enormous inspiration from the architecture of ancient Greece without ever having actually visited Greece.










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Greek Thomson Architecture, Castlehill, Glasgow

Monday, December 14, 2009

Today in Glasgow we experienced some welcome relief from the fog and murk of the past 4 days or so. The sun actually managed to sneak through and provide some welcome light!

This afternoon, I went off to capture another Alexander 'Greek' Thomson property image. I had two in mind (near neighbours) but the second was obscured by a line of trees in front of the building so I was left with the just one which is located in a 'High End' part of town.

The image below shows a fine, but typical Thomson villa with its asymmetrical elevation, low-pitched roofs and wide eaves all in context of Thomson's characteristic abstracted Grecian style.

Thomson was a famous 19th century Glasgow/Scottish architect who was inspired by the architecture of ancient Greece notwithstanding which he never actually left British shores during his lifetime.


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Greek Thomson Architecture, Walmer Crescent, Glasgow

Thursday, December 10, 2009



This afternoon, I am posting images and a video clip covering Walmer Crescent, which is located at Paisley Road West, above Cessnock subway station.

This dates from 1857-62 and was designed by Alexander 'Greek' Thomson who took inspiration for his designs from the architecture of ancient Greece.

Walmer Crescent is one of Thomson's few surviving tenements, an austere composition with no ornament but relying on the balance of upright square columns and horizontal lines.

An impressive building. However, it would appear that the sandstone is in need of some remediation work.


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Greek Thomson Architecture, The Know, Glasgow

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

This morning, I continued with my search for examples of Glaswegian architecture designed by Alexander 'Greek' Thomson (1817-1875). Thomson was inspired by classical Greek architecture, particularly later in his career. Earlier he experimented with various styles such as Italian Romanesque, Scottish Baronial and Gothic. The property I visited this morning, The Know, dates from 1852 and was an early example of Thomson's round-arched Italianate style, composed around a belvedere. The villa is asymmetrical as demanded by the principles of he Picturesque and reflects influences of Scottish writer and designer, John Claudius Loudon.

Entrance


The Lodge (or Gate House)

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Greek Thomson Architecture, Moray Place, Glasgow

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

This morning, I managed to get out for a short trip down to Moray Place in Strathbungo, Glasgow South Side.

This is a small terrace of ten small houses designed by Alexander 'Greek' Thomson and dating from 1859-61. Thomson actually lived (and died) in No 1 Moray Place (video clips 1 and 2).

In this terrace (row houses) repetition and unity is evident with all the ground floor windows and doors evenly spaced and identical in size. An unbroken run of 52 square columns (see image below) on the first floor links the two projecting end houses.

I would imagine these properties, with huge expanses of glass, are not particularly energy efficient today. Just a few metres in front of this terrace runs a railway, albeit well hidden in a deep cutting.

Overall, an impressive piece of architecture. Tenements in nearby Nithsdale Road and Darnley Street were also designed by Thomson.


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Moray Place Architecture, Glasgow, Scotland

Sunday, November 29, 2009

This evening, I am returning to the theme of Alexander Greek Thomson architecture as manifested in 1-10 Moray Place, Strathbungo, Glasgow.

Just by way of a brief recap, Greek Thomson lived 1817-1875 and is a candidate for the greatest mind in Scottish architecture. Thomson believed that the architecture of ancient Greece could be the basis of truly modern architecture.

Moray Place is a terrace of ten small houses, yet the composition has an astoshing monumentality. Repetition is a key feature. The ground floor windows and doors are evenly spaced and exactly the same size while an unbroken run of 52 square columns on the first floor links the two projecting end houses. The American historian, Henry-Russell Hitchcock opined that Moray Place was "the finest of all Grecian terraces".

Greek Thomson lived and died at No 1 Moray Place.

The Moray Place terrace may have been the inspiration behind Thomson's comment "....all who have studied works of art must have been struck by the mysterious power of the horizontal element in carrying the mind away into space, and into speculations upon infinity."

Video clip to follow.

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Alexander Greek Thomson, Glasgow Architect

Monday, November 23, 2009


This evening, I am posting information on one of Glasgow's most renowned architects, Alexander 'Greek' Thomson (1817-1875), who has left a most interesting and diverse legacy of buildings in the Glasgow conurbation.

Thomson is a candidate for the position of greatest mind in Scottish architecture. He earned the nickname 'Greek' because of his belief that the architecture of ancient Greece could be the the basis of truly modern architecture notwithstanding which Thomson never actually visited Greece.

Thomson did not slavishly copy Greek designs but used Greek architecture as a living language to inspire his own designs. He was flexible and willing to include new inventions of the day ( e.g. plate glass and cast-iron) in his buildings.

Thomson had a wide canvas working in the expanding city of Glasgow and his prodigious output included commercial, warehouses, tenements, terraces of houses (row houses), villas and churches.

Thomson had a spiritual streak (he was a devout Christian) and interested in philosophical ideas and images of Old Testament catastrophes which also influenced his work.

Thomson's early work was influenced by Italian Romanesque, Scottish Baronial. and Gothic. He subsequntly converted to the superiority of the Greek ideal.

Examples of his work include:

The St Vincent St Church, Grecian Buildings, Egyptian Halls (video below), Gordon Street Warehouse (above), Eton Terrace, The Sixty Steps, Great Western Terrace, Caledonia St Church, Millbrae Crescent and Holmwood House.

I hope to put up a web page dedicated to Thomson by end 2010.

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Greek Thomson Great Western Terrace Glasgow

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This evening, I am posting a video clip of Great Western Terrace, Great Western Road, Glasgow.

This terrace was designed by Alexander 'Greek' Thomson 1867-77 and represents Glasgow's grandest terrace and a most unusual composition in which the taller houses are placed neither at the ends nor in the centre. The design relies on repetition and careful proportion.

If in the west end of Glasgow visit this magnificent piece of architecture.


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Greek Thomson Architecture in Glasgow Winter

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

This evening, I am posting a couple of video clips of famous buildings designed by Victorian Glasgow's greatest architect, Alexander 'Greek' Thomson (1817-1875).

Thomson used ancient Greek architecture as the basis for modern architecture and left many examples of his work all over Glasgow.

The first clip below was taken at Holmwood House (1857-8). This was Thomson's finest and most elaborate villa built for the owner of the nearby paper mill.

The second clip is of the Caledonia Road Church (1856-57), Thomson's first church which is now a ruin having been burned by vandals in 1965. However, the ruins have dignity with an elevated portico and a most unusual tower. The winter sunshine and snow adds a new dimension.


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Glasgow Architecture Millbrae Crescent

Monday, January 05, 2009

This morning was bright and sunny, albeit somewhat cold. I went off to photograph 2-38 Millbrae Crescent, Langside which dates from 1876-77 and is attributed to the famous architect Alexander 'Greek' Thomson. Its flair and elegance in combining the style of rustic villas with the sublime urbanity of the terrace suggest the architect was indeed, Thomson.






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Greek Thomson Holmwood House Architecture Tour

Sunday, March 02, 2008

This afternoon, I am presenting some images of Greek Thomson's Holmwood House, Netherlee road, Glasgow.

This was built for the owner of a paper mill 1857-58 and is now in custodianship of the National Trust.

The house was built in an asymmetric style according to Picturesque principles. Thomson designed everything in the house, including the rich polychromatic wall decoration.

This property is a little gem and well worth a visit. Contact Catswhiskerstours for more information.




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More Greek Thomson Tour Glasgow

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Today, I decided to hunt down another 'Greek' Thomson design, this time the McIntyre Monument located in Cathcart Old Churchyard, Glasgow. This is a somewhat incredible and eerie place comprising a derelict church surrounded by some fascinating graves and memorials which are redolent of the Glasgow Necropolis. Depending the light, this a great place for photography.

For more information on Greek Thomson please visit the History page of my main website:

Here is a view of the church spire behind a chapel type memorial. I could not find an inscription on the latter.


Here are three images of Thomson's McIntyre Monument. This was commissioned by Thomson's friend, the builder John McIntyre, for his son's grave, and a powerful composition with a sarcophagus on the base of cyclopaean masonry. Condition is "OK" with evidence of graffiti.




Here is another view of the circular, chapel type memorial.It reminds me of the Douglas Monteith Mausoleum in the Necropolis which was based on the Knights Templar Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.

This a memorial to certain Covenanters who died for their beliefs. Within a week or so I hope to have a briefing note on the Covenanters on the History page of my main website.

Another mausoleum now partly covered in graffiti.


View of church remains.
Another view of the mausoleum mentioned above.

Another church view.

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