Hamilton, Thomas (1784-1858) (DNB00)

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HAMILTON, THOMAS (1784–1858), architect, son of Thomas Hamilton, was born in Edinburgh in 1784, 'served a regular apprenticeship as an operative carpenter with his father, and afterwards acted as his father's assistant' (Hamilton, Letter to the Lord Provost, 1819). He 'conducted some extensive buildings' for his uncle, John Hamilton, and on his own account carried on business as an architect and builder (ib.) H. W. Williams ('Grecian Williams'), the landscape-painter, described him as 'a careful and correct draftsman' (Attestations, &c. p. 12).

In November 1816 Hamilton submitted designs in competition for the completion of the Edinburgh College Buildings, but those of Play fair were chosen. He printed and circulated observations on his two designs on 19 Nov. of the same year. His design for the Burns memorial to be erected at Alloway, near Ayr, was selected on 26 Jan. 1818, and after some unavoidable delay the building was commenced on the anniversary of the poet's birth, 25 Jan. 1820. The monument (Grecian) was completed on 4 July 1823. Hamilton was an unsuccessful candidate in 1819 for the post of superintendent of public works in the city of Edinburgh. In 1825 he designed the Knox monument in the Glasgow necropolis, a lofty column of Doric architecture, the first stone of which was laid on 22 Sept. (The figure was by Robert Forrest.) On 28 July 1825 was laid the first stone of the Edinburgh High School on the Calton Hill (Grecian Doric, a copy of the Athenian Temple of Theseus), built from designs by Hamilton, and considered one of the chief ornaments of the city. It was opened on 23 June 1829. Two drawings ot it were exhibited in the Royal Scottish Academy in 1827 (plates in Cassell, Old and New Edinburgh, ii. 113; Britton, Modern Athens, p. 48 ; and elevation in Donaldson, Handbook of Specifications, p. 260). In 1827 he laid out the new lines of approach and thoroughfares on the south and west sides of the castle, including George IV Bridge, which was completed on 15 Aug. 1827. In 1828 the town buildings and beautiful spire at Ayr were erected from his designs. The buildings were considerably enlarged and altered in 1880-1, when the present town hall was added. In 1829 he prepared designs for 'John Knox Church' (with aspire resembling that of Antwerp Cathedral) to be built at the top of the Lawnmarket, Edinburgh. The foundation-stone was laid on 29 Sept. 1829, but the work was not proceeded with, and in 1842 the assembly hall was erected on the site, from designs by James Gillespie Graham [q. v.] (see Scotsman, 23 May 1882, p. 7). Drawings of the proposed church were in the Royal Scottish Academy in 1831 and 1858. In 1830 Hamilton gratuitously supplied the design for the Burns monument on the edge of the Calton Hill, opposite the high school (from the monument of Lysicrates at Athens, and the Temple of the Sibyls at Tivoli). This was intended as a receptacle for Flaxman's statue of Burns, but since the removal of that statue to the National Gallery its place has been filled by Brodie's bust of the poet and many interesting relics. A view of the monument, together with the high school, was exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1858 (plate in Old and New Edinburgh, ii. 112). In 1831 he designed the two churches to be erected by the town council at the entrance of the west approach (Donaldson, Specifications, p. 210), and in 1833-6 the orphan asylum at the Dean (plate in Stark, Picture of Edinburgh, p. 219). In September 1834 he erected within a fortnight the pavilion for the Grey festival in Edinburgh, a description of which he read at the Institute of British Architects, London, on 20 June 1836 (Transactions of Institute of British Architects, 1835-6, vol. i. pt. i. p. 65, with engraved plan and section. The drawings, five sheets, are in the institute library). Dr. Guthrie's free church, St. John's, in the Netherbow (now Victoria Street), commenced in 1838 (memorial-stone laid by the lord provost on 17 April 1839), and opened on 19 Nov. 1840 (see Witness, Saturday, 21 Nov. 1840), was built from his designs, and in 1839 the parish church at Alyth, Perthshire (Norman, with lofty tower). In 1844 he designed the monument on the Calton Hill to the political martyrs of 1793 (an Egyptian obelisk), and the hall of the Royal College of Physicians in Queen Street was completed from his designs in 1846 (plate in Illustrated London News, October 1845, p. 232). In 1848 he restored the old Gothic church of St. Mary, South Leith (cf. Old and New Edinburgh, iii. 219, 220, plate p. 220).

Hamilton was one of the original founders of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1826, and acted as treasurer till 1829. As member of the council he arranged for the purchase of the works of W. Etty, R.A., which remain one of the most important possessions of the National Gallery of Scotland. Owing to disagreements among the members (cf. Hamilton, Letter to Lord J. Russell, pp. 10, 11) he 'abstained for several years from active interposition in the Academy's affairs,' but acted as auditor in 1841. In November 1845 he was requested to attend the council meetings, and was again elected treasurer. In 1847 both he and Play fair prepared designs for a building for the Academy's exhibitions (held since 1835 at the Royal Institution, and now in the National Gallery), but the suggested site on the Mound proved unprocurable. He continued to discharge his duties as member of council till within a few days of his death. He was a fellow of the Institute of British Architects in London from 1836 to 1846. In 1830 he wrote 'A Report relative to Proposed Improvements on the Earthen Mound at Edinburgh,' which was ordered to be printed (12 April) by the commissioners of city improvements, illustrated by a plan and two views. In November 1830 he made measured drawings of the houses on the east and west sides of the West Bow, previous to the operations of the commissioners, which were published by the Architectural Institute of Scotland in 'Illustrations of Scottish Buildings' (Transactions, 1861-2). In 1855 he exhibited in the Paris exhibition drawings of the proposed galleries on the Mound, of John Knox's church (proposed), and of the high school, and was awarded a gold medal of the second class. He published a 'Letter to Lord John Russell, M. P., ... on the Present Crisis relative to the Fine Arts in Scotland,' 1850 ; being a brief history of the Royal Scottish Academy, with Hamilton's 'views of what ought to be done for the promotion of art in this city, and for the architectural adornment of the Mound,' illustrated with plan, sections, and views, lithographed by Fr. Schenck. A perspective view of the pro- posed buildings was in the Scottish Academy in 1849.

Hamilton died, after a few days' illness, at 9 Howe Street, Edinburgh, on 24 Feb. 1858, aged 73. He was greatly esteemed in his business relations, and beloved for his kindly disposition and cultivated mind. His son Peter, who was also his pupil, was subsequently drawing-master at the Birmingham school, but joined his father towards the close of his life. He died in December 1861. In Crombie and Douglas's 'Modern Athenians,' plate 36, there is a representation of Thomas Hamilton, but it is too much of a caricature to be regarded as an accurate portrait.

[Authorities quoted in the text; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Dict. of Architecture; Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland; Crombie and Douglas's Modern Athenians, pp. 142-4; obituary notice in Annual Report of Royal Scottish Academy for 1858; Anderson's Hist, of Edinburgh, pp. 382, 399, 596; Cassell's Old and New Edinburgh (J. Grant), ii. 110, 111, iii. 67; Irving's Book of Scotsmen; Ward & Lock's Guide to Glasgow, pp. 59, 60; Report of the Senatus Academicus of the Univ. of Edinburgh upon the Plans for Completing the Buildings of the College, p. 1; Attestations referred to in a Letter to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh from Thomas Hamilton, January 181 9, p. 2; Autobiog. of Thomas Guthrie, D.D., i. 386; Scotsman, 1829, pp. 398, 406, 632; Stark's Picture of Edinburgh, p. 250; Hamilton's Letter to Lord J. Russell, pp. 4, 14, 23, 24; Gent. Mag., 1858, pt. i. p. 451; Wilson and Chambers's Land of Burns, i. 43, 44, ii. 2; Cat. of Drawings, &c., in Royal Institute of British Architects; Builder, 1855 p. 149, 1858 p. 146; Cat. of Library of Royal Institute of British Architects; Cat. of Advocates' Library; Brit. Mus. Cat. of Printed Books; information from J. Hutchinson, esq., R.S.A.]

B. P.