© All rights reserved. The Bailie 18 June 1890 or 20 January 1897 (to be checked) (Courtesy of Iain Paterson) 

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Basic Biographical Details

Name: Baird & Thomson
Designation: Architectural practice
Started: 1858
Ended: c. 1942(?)
Bio Notes: John Baird (called by Gildard 'Primus' to distinguish him from the second John Baird, 1816-93) was born in 1798 at Dalmuir, the son of Thomas Baird, wright, and his wife Agnes. He was articled to a relative, Shepherd, who died in 1818 and Baird, only twenty and just out of his apprenticeship, took over the business and quickly built up a reputation second only to David Hamilton's.

Baird's style is marked by an extreme classical reserve and severity. From the very first his architecture was remarkably mature as could be seen at Greyfriars Church, a design not without originality. His style changed little, the posthumously completed Gartsherrie Office being far more like 1820 than 1860. Only at the McDonald Muslin Warehouses was his commercial architecture notably Italian Renaissance rather than classical. The possibilities of iron made a strong appeal to his essentially practical mind and in 1855-56 he erected the Iron Building on Jamaica Street Glasgow in conjunction with the iron-founder Robert McConnell who held the patents for the malleable iron beams used in its construction. Even in his later Gothic work he clung tenaciously to the style of the 1820s, his mansion at Urie, Kincardineshire (1855) being in the late Tudor idiom evolved by Wilkins and Burn forty years before. He refused to take part in competitions, and earned a reputation for attention to detail, probity and honesty, which brought him many commissions as valuer and arbiter.

In his private life Baird was a mason, Lodge Glasgow St John. A portrait of him by Sir Daniel Macnee (now in Glasgow Art Gallery) bears out Gildard's characterisation of him as 'a large well-built man' who 'had a presence of one that ought to be in authority'. He died at Westfield, Partick on 18 December 1859 and was buried in Glasgow Necropolis (Section Sigma lair 84). He was survived by his wife Janet Bryson or McKean, whom he had married in 1837 and who died on 24 April 1887, and his two daughters, Flora (born c. 1838) and Agnes (born c.1841).

Baird had suffered from chronic brain disease from 1855 until his death and most of the work from that period must have been effectively designed by his assistant James Thomson. Thomson had been born in Glasgow in 1835, the son of Hugh Thomson, builder and Jane Hosie. He had been articled to James Brown of Brown and Carrick c.1850. When Brown inherited the estate of Currie and the partnership was dissolved, Thomson appears to have secured a place in Baird's office, but there may have been an intervening employer as his RIBA nomination paper gives no details. Baird had taken Thomson into partnership in 1858, but the firm did not adopt the style of Baird & Thomson until after Baird died, when Thomson inherited the practice. The delay was probably to avoid confusion with the recently dissolved partnership of John Baird the Second and Alexander Thomson, but the retention of Baird's name after 1859 was not only a matter of continuity but of distinguishing the practice from that of another James Thomson in West Nile Street. Thomson briefly continued Baird's experiments in cast-iron facades with McConnal patent beams in the early 1860s but thereafter his practice, which was amongst the very largest in Scotland, focused on commercial architecture, pioneering the concept of large city office blocks with shops built for rental. These tended to be an astylar Italian Renaissance which became richer in details in the early 1890s, if somewhat repetitive in composition. He was admitted FRIBA on 3 June 1878, his proposers being John Honeyman, John Burnet and Charles Barry Junior.

Thomson married Isobel (or Isabella) Miller Aitken and they had three children: Isobel Thomson (born c. 1868), James Baird Thomson (born in 1869 or 1870) and William Aitken Thomson (born 21 September 1871). James Baird Thomson was probably educated at the Albany Academy, and joined the practice as an articled apprentice in October 1887. He became an assistant in 1891 when he designed the British Linen Bank at Whiteinch and an addition to Crossbasket House. In October 1888 he was joined by his brother William Aitken Thomson, who is known to have been educated at Albany Academy. William became an assistant in 1892 when he undertook the working drawings for the Schaw Convalescent Home at Bearsden, presumably from sketch designs by his father. Both sons were made partners in May 1899.

James Thomson senior died on 12 February 1905 at 30 Lynedoch Street, Glasgow of syncope following a gastric haemorrhage resulting from hepatic cirrhosis, and was buried in Glasgow Necropolis (Section Epsilon lair 444). He left moveable estate of £41,792 1s 4d. His second wife, Margaret Elizabeth Aitken from Torphichen, survived him.

The practice was continued by his sons, both of whom were admitted FRIBA on 3 December 1906, their proposers being James Milne Monro and John James Burnet. Their nomination papers helpfully list their work separately indicating that James Baird Thomson was responsible for the free Renaissance Cambridge buildings and the severe warehouse designs and William Aitken Thomson the German Renaissance elevator buildings. There is no indication of either brother having studied at Glasgow School of Art or having travelled, although William probably had as contemporary accounts correctly state that the details of the Council building were taken from the Ritter Inn at Heidelberg. By 1906 the Clydesdale Bank had became an important client.

Some time before 1914 James Baird Thomson's health failed and he retired to Florida Mount, New Brighton, Cheshire, where he died on 5 June 1917. He was buried in the family lair in Glasgow Necropolis, his gravestone indicating that he had been married to Isobel Aitken Swan. His brother William Aitken Thomson continued the practice from the same office until 1929 when he relocated it to 150 Holland Street, probably to cut costs in the recession. In 1942-43 the practice was taken over by Weddel & Thomson on William Aitken Thomson's retirement. His main client in the inter-war years was the Clydesdale Bank, his last buildings being in a modern manner.

William Aitken Thomson died of cancer of the larynx on 26 November 1947 at 2 Queen's Gate, 125 Dowanhill Street, and was buried in the family lair in Glasgow Necropolis. He was survived by his wife Margaret Watson Christie (who died on 6 February 1952) and a son, Alexander M S Thomson. Another son, William James Thomson, had died on 25 February 1927 at the early age of seventeen.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architectural practice:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 5175, Hope Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness18601867 
Item 2 of 561, West Regent Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness1868 *  
Item 3 of 5201, West George Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness18681877 
Item 4 of 588, Bath Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness18771928 or 1929 
Item 5 of 5150, Holland Street, Glasgow, ScotlandBusiness1929 or 19301942 or 1943 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architectural practice (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 19John Baird 'Primus' (John Baird I)c. 1858(?)December 1859Partner 
Item 2 of 19James Thomsonc. 18581905Partner 
Item 3 of 19Neil Campbell Duff18761881Apprentice 
Item 4 of 19Arthur Fyfe18791885Apprentice 
Item 5 of 19Neil Campbell Duff18811886Assistant 
Item 6 of 19Arthur Fyfe18851885Assistant 
Item 7 of 19Thomas Andrew MillarFebruary 18981902Apprentice 
Item 8 of 19Henry Makins Tait18991901Draughtsman 
Item 9 of 19James Baird Thomson1899Before 1914Partner 
Item 10 of 19William Aitken Thomson18991942 or 1943Partner 
Item 11 of 19James Allen FrewFebruary 19001905Apprentice 
Item 12 of 19Francis George Glyn Robertson (or Frank George Glyn Robertson)1 September 19001904Apprentice 
Item 13 of 19James Allen Frew19051914Assistant 
Item 14 of 19James Bell Russell19211927Apprentice 
Item 15 of 19John CampbellFebruary 1926September 1927Apprentice 
Item 16 of 19John CampbellJuly 1928September 1928Apprentice 
Item 17 of 19Ronald Thompson CunninghamAugust 1928January 1930Junior Assistant 
Item 18 of 19Alistair Robertson Whitelaw (or Alexander Robertson Whitelaw)19291933Apprentice 
Item 19 of 19Alistair Robertson Whitelaw (or Alexander Robertson Whitelaw)19331936Junior Assistant 

Buildings and Designs

This architectural practice was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 125 Carbrook House   ScotlandDate unknown
Item 2 of 125 Montgomerie Drive  GlasgowScotlandLayout only - date unknown
Item 3 of 1251857Breacachadh New Castle CollArgyllScotlandCrenallations added to the central block and the wings.
Item 4 of 1251858Crown Circus  GlasgowScotlandIn partnership
Item 5 of 125c. 1858Victoria Terrace  GlasgowScotland 
Item 6 of 1251859British Linen Bank, West George Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 7 of 1251859Commercial building, 138-140 West George Street  GlasgowScotlandCompleted shortly after Baird's death.
Item 8 of 1251859(?)Gartsherrie Offices  GlasgowScotland 
Item 9 of 1251860sAshton Terrace  GlasgowScotland 
Item 10 of 1251861Greenock Provident BankGreenock RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 11 of 1251862Premises, 94 High StreetPaisley RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 12 of 1251863217-221 Argyle Street  GlasgowScotlandWith Robert McConnell, ironfounder
Item 13 of 1251864Gallowflat HouseRutherglen LanarkshireScotlandAdditions
Item 14 of 1251865(?)City PoorhouseCraiglockhart EdinburghScotlandSecond premiated competition design (£100 premium) - unclear whether James Thomson of Baird & Thomson or James Thomson of West Nile Street
Item 15 of 1251866Belhaven Terrace East  GlasgowScotlandNos 1-16
Item 16 of 12518701-12 Princes TerraceDowanhill GlasgowScotland 
Item 17 of 1251870Belhaven Terrace West  GlasgowScotland 
Item 18 of 1251871Orr Ewing Building, West George Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 19 of 1251871Tenements with shops, Bridgeton Cross  GlasgowScotland 
Item 20 of 1251872City of Glasgow Bank Branch  GlasgowScotland 
Item 21 of 1251873Crown TerraceDowanhill GlasgowScotlandNos 3-11
Item 22 of 1251873Warehouse, 26-34 Argyle Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 23 of 1251874Abraham Hill's Trust School  GlasgowScotland 
Item 24 of 1251874Queen's Park Free Church and hall  GlasgowScotland 
Item 25 of 12518751 and 5-8 Queen's Gardens  GlasgowScotland 
Item 26 of 1251875Hozier Street SchoolBridgeton GlasgowScotlandAdditions
Item 27 of 1251875Hunter Barr and Co's Premises  GlasgowScotland 
Item 28 of 1251875Thomson Street School  GlasgowScotland 
Item 29 of 1251876101-103 St Vincent Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 30 of 1251876Offices and shops, 130-136 St Vincent Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 31 of 1251877Crossmyloof School  GlasgowScotland 
Item 32 of 1251878Garnethill SchoolGarnethill GlasgowScotland 
Item 33 of 1251878MacLean's Hotel  GlasgowScotland 
Item 34 of 1251878Scottish Union and National Insurance, West George Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 35 of 1251879Royalty Theatre and Commercial Premises  GlasgowScotlandDesigned complex of commercial premises comprising offices and warehouses over shops.
Item 36 of 125188071-79 Buchanan Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 37 of 1251880Crown TerraceDowanhill GlasgowScotlandNos 12-17
Item 38 of 1251880Grand Hotel, Charing Cross  GlasgowScotland 
Item 39 of 125c. 188078-82 Union Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 40 of 1251882Sick Children's Dispensary  GlasgowScotlandUnsuccessful competition design
Item 41 of 1251883Balfunning HouseBalfron StirlingshireScotlandHouse and probably East Lodge and stable
Item 42 of 125c. 18831-9 Marlborough Terrace  GlasgowScotland 
Item 43 of 1251885111-113 West Regent Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 44 of 1251885Hartwood AsylumShotts LanarkshireScotlandUnsuccessful competition design
Item 45 of 125c. 1885Gartshore HouseTwechar DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 46 of 125c. 1885Lorraine Gardens  GlasgowScotland(in partnership with James Baird Thomson and William Aitken Thomson)
Item 47 of 1251886Belmont CastleMeigle PerthshireScotlandReconstruction and extension of late-18th-century castellated house after fire; interior fitted out with French boiseries by decorators from Paris; new stable court built
Item 48 of 1251886Tenement, Forth StreetPollokshields GlasgowScotland 
Item 49 of 1251886Tenement, Forth StreetPollokshields GlasgowScotland 
Item 50 of 125188771-79 Buchanan Street  GlasgowScotlandPartial rebuilding, and addition of attic
Item 51 of 1251889Shop and warehouse for Matthew Pettigrew  GlasgowScotland 
Item 52 of 1251890Birkwood HouseLesmahagow LanarkshireScotlandAlterations and addition of new wing
Item 53 of 1251890Logan School of Domestic Economy  GlasgowScotland 
Item 54 of 1251890Standard Life Buildings  GlasgowScotland 
Item 55 of 125c. 1890Royal Glasgow Asylum for the Blind  GlasgowScotlandWorkshops, school and residential blocks
Item 56 of 1251891British Linen BankWhiteinch GlasgowScotland 
Item 57 of 1251891Crossbasket HouseHigh Blantyre LanarkshireScotlandAdditions
Item 58 of 1251891Glasgow Necropolis, Monument to Charles Clark MacKirdyDennistoun GlasgowScotland 
Item 59 of 1251891Schaw Convalescent HomeBearsden GlasgowScotland 
Item 60 of 1251892Clydesdale BankDumfries DumfriesshireScotland 
Item 61 of 1251892Clydesdale Bank, 340-344 Argyle Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 62 of 125189365 Carlton Place  GlasgowScotlandConversion to bank
Item 63 of 1251893Lightburn Infectious Deseases Hospital  GlasgowScotland 
Item 64 of 1251894Beaconsfield  GlasgowScotlandAdditions - including tower
Item 65 of 1251894Kinnaird HouseLarbert StirlingshireScotland 
Item 66 of 1251894St George's Church Hall, 25 Bath Street  GlasgowScotlandHall added
Item 67 of 1251894Winton BuildingsAyr AyrshireScotlandAlterations
Item 68 of 1251895Overtoun House, West Lodge and gatepiersDumbarton DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 69 of 1251895Woodfield Mansion House  Edinburgh (near)Scotland 
Item 70 of 125c. 1895Glasgow Necropolis, Monument to Neilson of ArnewoodDennistoun GlasgowScotland 
Item 71 of 1251896Lancashire Insurance Company Offices, West George Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 72 of 1251896Lesmahagow Cemetery, Monument to the late General David Elliot MacKirdyLesmahagow LanarkshireScotland 
Item 73 of 125Before 1897Auchinraith HouseBlantyre LanarkshireScotlandAlterations and additions
Item 74 of 125Before 1897Buildings for the Old Man's Friend Society  GlasgowScotland 
Item 75 of 1251898Building for William Connall & Co  GlasgowScotland 
Item 76 of 1251898Cambridge Buildings, 202-212 Sauchiehall Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 77 of 1251898Clydesdale Bank  GlasgowScotlandGround floor rebuilt
Item 78 of 1251898Drymen Parish ChurchDrymen StirlingshireScotlandAlterations
Item 79 of 1251898Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901Kelvingrove GlasgowScotlandCompetition design - unplaced ('James Thomson' responsible - it is unclear whether this James Thomson or another was responsible)
Item 80 of 1251898Kilmaronock ChurchKilmaronock DunbartonshireScotlandAlterations, including refurnshing
Item 81 of 1251898Muirhead & Company, 200 Sauchiehall Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 82 of 1251898New Factory, 110-112 Ingram Street and Montrose Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 83 of 1251898St Vincent Chambers  GlasgowScotland 
Item 84 of 1251899Clydesdale BankGreenock RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 85 of 1251899Clydesdale BankStirling StirlingshireScotlandJames Baird Thomson mainly responsible
Item 86 of 1251899Dumbarton Municipal BuildingsDumbarton DunbartonshireScotlandIn partnership
Item 87 of 1251899Liverpool London and Globe Insurance Office  GlasgowScotland 
Item 88 of 125After 1899Buildings for the Old Man's Friend Society  GlasgowScotlandAdditions and alterations
Item 89 of 125After 1899Clydesdale BankBeith AyrshireScotland 
Item 90 of 125After 1899Clydesdale BankCastle Douglas KirkcudbrightshireScotland 
Item 91 of 1251900Bridgegate Parish Church  GlasgowScotlandDesign made. In partnership
Item 92 of 1251900Feuing plan of Mirrlees estateKelvinside GlasgowScotland 
Item 93 of 1251900Glasgow Royal Infirmary  GlasgowScotlandCompetition design - unplaced
Item 94 of 1251900Great Western Hotel and TerraceOban ArgyllScotlandAlterations and installation of lift (with electric motor house at rear of hotel)
Item 95 of 1251900Standard Life Buildings  GlasgowScotlandMinor alterations
Item 96 of 1251902Clydesdale BankDunfermline FifeScotland 
Item 97 of 1251902UF Church HallDumbarton DunbartonshireScotlandChurch hall and link to church
Item 98 of 1251903North British Hotel  GlasgowScotlandAlterations and top floor.
Item 99 of 1251904Clydesdale BankBo'ness / Borrowstouness West LothianScotland 
Item 100 of 1251904Tobacco Warehouse, James Watt Street  GlasgowScotlandAdditions - new Brown Street façade
Item 101 of 1251905Clydesdale BankAlloa ClackmannanshireScotlandAlterations
Item 102 of 1251905Clydesdale BankLarbert StirlingshireScotlandAddition
Item 103 of 1251906Buildings for the McAlpin Nursing Home  GlasgowScotland 
Item 104 of 125190836 Jamaica Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 105 of 1251908Clydesdale BankBridge of Weir Renfrewshire  
Item 106 of 1251908Royal Glasgow Cancer Hospital, McAlpin Nursing Home  GlasgowScotland 
Item 107 of 1251909Standard Life Buildings  GlasgowScotlandTop storeys added
Item 108 of 1251913Clydesdale Bank, 10-12 James StreetHelensburgh DunbartonshireScotlandReconstruction and enlargement
Item 109 of 1251914Wire Rope Factory  GlasgowScotland 
Item 110 of 1251915Clydesdale BankOban ArgyllScotlandNew premises
Item 111 of 1251920Clydesdale BankKilbirnie AyrshireScotland 
Item 112 of 1251924UF Church, Berryknowes Road  GlasgowScotland 
Item 113 of 1251932Clydesdale BankGreenock RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 114 of 1251933Clydesdale BankFalkirk StirlingshireScotland 
Item 115 of 1251934Clydesdale Bank, 163-165 Argyle Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 116 of 1251934Clydesdale Bank, St Enoch Square  GlasgowScotland 
Item 117 of 1251934Clydesdale Bank, Wellington Street  GlasgowScotland 
Item 118 of 1251935Bank of ScotlandCrieff PerthshireScotland 
Item 119 of 1251935Clydesdale BankAyr AyrshireScotland 
Item 120 of 1251935Clydesdale BankHamilton LanarkshireScotland 
Item 121 of 1251936Clydesdale BankOban ArgyllScotlandAlterations
Item 122 of 1251936Clydesdale BankTroon AyrshireScotland 
Item 123 of 1251938Clydesdale BankSaltcoats AyrshireScotland 
Item 124 of 1251939Clydesdale BankDumbarton DunbartonshireScotland 
Item 125 of 1251967Wellpark School  GlasgowScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architectural practice:
Item 1 of 1Walker, Frank Arneil1986South Clyde Estuary: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to Inverclyde and Renfrew  p83

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architectural practice:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 3Builder18 February 1905  Obituary of James Thomson Senior
Item 2 of 3The Bailie18 June 1890   
Item 3 of 3The Bailie20 January 1897   


© All rights reserved. The Bailie 18 June 1890 or 20 January 1897 (to be checked) (Courtesy of Iain Paterson) 

© All rights reserved. The Bailie 18 June 1890 or 20 January 1897 (to be checked) (Courtesy of Iain Paterson)