Arguably the greatest of Glasgow’s architects, Alexander Thomson (1817-1875) was born in the Stirlingshire village of Balfron on 9th April 1817. He created some of the most unique secular and ecclesiastical buildings of the Victorian era, blending neo-classical conventionality with Egyptian and oriental themes to produce buildings which have few equals anywhere when it comes to sheer originality. His exotic designs earned Alexander the soubriquet ‘Greek’. His father John Thomson was married twice, first to Christian Glass with whom he had 8 children and then to Alexander’s mother, Elizabeth Cooper, with whom he had a further 11 children. Alexander was number 17. In Glasgow he trained as a lawyer’s clerk but his potential as an architect was soon recognised by Glasgow architect Robert Foote who made him an apprentice after seeing some of his drawings. He left in 1849 to form a partnership with John Baird II and their first buildings began to appear from 1850, these included
Seymour Lodge in Ardsloy, the Italian Villa in Cove and
a series of villas in St Andrews Drive, Glasgow.
In 1856, Alexander went into partnership with his Brother George to form the company of A & G Thomson. As he concentrated more on design and draughtsmanship his style became more distinctive and included terraces, villas, churches and warehouses. Thomson’s work was inspired by the driving force of religion. His great-grandfather had been a Covenanter and Thomson was an elder of one of his own churches (Caledonia Road). He insisted that ‘Religion has been
the soul of art from the beginning.’