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Location: Glasgow Guide / Glasgow Information / Famous Glaswegians / David Hamilton   

Famous Glaswegians (and those who became famous in Glasgow)<<

Hamilton, David[Born: May 11, 1768,  - Died: December 5, 1863]

Famous Glaswegians: David Hamilton - PlanWidely renowned as the 'father of Glasgow's' architecture, David Hamilton started worked as a mason prior to joining the architectural profession in his thirties. Working as an assistant to the well-known city architects Robert and James Adam, he helped on many of their Glasgow works, including the Trades House in Glassford Street (1794). It was his outstanding work on the Hutchesons' Hospital in Ingram Street (1802-5) though which helped establish him as one of the city's emerging architects. Boosted by his early successes he went on to become a prolific designer of country houses, where he made a name for himself with Scotland's aristocracy, including the Duke of Hamilton, for whom he enhanced Hamilton Palace (1825, demolished 1928). Continuing on his established theme, he went on to design country retreats for many of the city's growing and aspiring merchant class. Later, while still working for the same customer base, he diversified into working on luxurious commercial premises, town houses, stock exchange and theatre.

Like so many of his contemporaries - and indeed successors - the majority of his best work in the city has been destroyed, thus denying future generations the product of his prodigious talent. Included in these losses are:

  • British Linen Bank, 110 Queen Street (1838-9, demolished 1967-8)
  • Gorbals John Knox Church, 25 Carlton Place (1806, demolished 1968?)
  • Gothic alterations to the Tolbooth (1814, demolished c. 1921)
  • Scotstoun House, Dumbarton Road (1825, demolished c. C.19th)
  • St Enoch's Parish Church, St Enoch Square (1827, demolished 1925)
  • Theatre Royal, Queen Street (1804, demolished 1827)
  • Union Bank, Ingram Street (1841-2, now Corinthian).

Thankfully some of his works can still be viewed in their near-original splendour around the city, such works include:

  • Camphill House, Queen's Park (1810)
  • Cleland Testimonial Building (1834)
  • Gates and 'Bridge of Sighs,' Necropolis (1833, with James Hamilton)
  • Mosesfield, Springburn Park (1838)
  • Nelson Monument, Glasgow Green (1805-7, restored 2002)
  • Royal Exchange (now the renowned Gallery of Modern Art) (1827)
  • Western Club House, Buchanan Street (1840).

Hamilton had a keen competitive streak and was known to enter many of the prestigious local and national design competitions which were prevalent at the time. For one such competition in 1809, he designed an elegant, but ultimately rejected, design for Glasgow's Municipal Buildings, Courthouse and Jail in the city's Saltmarket district. Another of his aspiring outputs at that time included a bold design for the Houses of Parliament, London (1836), which gained a creditable third place among strong competition. Later he encouraged his sons James, William and John to follow in his footsteps and they were to join him in his practice. Probably the most professionally successful of his three sons was James, who went on to become his partner in 'David & James Hamilton'. John became the manager of the family's marble firm, which was a business partnership with the locally renowned William Mossman I and his partner James Cleland.

Beyond his sons, he also educated and inspired other younger architects including Wilson, J T Rochead and Thomas Gildard, who - to varying degrees of success - went on to continue the philosophy and style of their mentor into another generation of city works.

Hamilton went on to become one of the city's architectural fashionable favourites; he was a member of the Dilettante Society and played host to many of the visiting celebrities who flocked to the city during the period. In 1840, in recognising his undoubted contribution to the city's growing importance and international recognition, his contemporaries held a civic dinner in his honour, during which he was gifted a gold casket containing 500 (a considerable sum at that time!). He was remembered after his death through his works and was also subsequently portrayed in the sculptural works of more than one of the city's building.

Hamilton succumbed of an 'attack of paralysis' in 1863 and is buried in the new burial grounds of Glasgow Cathedral.


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