Basic Biographical Details

Name: John Dobson
Designation: Architect
Born: 9 December 1787
Died: 8 January 1865
Bio Notes: John Dobson was born at Chirton, North Shields, County Durham on 9 December 1787, the son of a prosperous market gardener of the same name. Initially his father trained him as a gardener, sending him to the Earl of Strathmore's Gibside estate for experience. His skill as a botanical artist brought employment from a damask manufacturer while still in his early teens and as soon as he was old enough he went to Newcastle to study landscape painting under the Italian refugee Boniface Musso or Musi as he was known in Newcastle, the painter John Martin being a fellow pupil.

Dobson then studied mechanical and architectural drawing under a Mr Hall of Stamfordham who was bridge surveyor for Northumberland. This gave him a knowledge of civil engineering which was to prove useful later. In 1804 he commenced an architectural apprenticeship with David Stephenson in Newcastle and at the end of it he went to London where he studied watercolour under John Varley and became friendly with the painter Robert Smirke RA and his sons Robert and Sydney.

Late in 1809 or early 1810 Dobson returned to Chirton to commence independent practice. He was immediately successful, securing major commissions in Newcastle and North Shields, and moved to Newcastle where he settled permanently in 1812. At some point early in his career he made a study tour in France which probably contributed significantly to his mastery of neo-classical design.

In 1816 Dobson married Isabella Rutherford at Gateshead. She was a skilful amateur watercolourist. Two sons of the marriage, John and Alexander Ralph, became assistants in the practice. John trained under his father but Alexander was articled to Sydney Smirke who married Dobson's eldest daughter Isabella in 1840.

Dobson had an enormous practice which embraced public buildings, country house work, bridge building, harbour works, warehouses, and railway stations notably that at Newcastle with its pioneer arched trainsheds. He was admitted FRIBA on 28 June 1845, his proposers being Anthony Salvin, Sydney Smirke, Thomas Leverton Donaldson and William Burn.

In October 1854 Dobson lost the more promising of his two sons, Alexander, who was killed in the Gateshead explosion and fire in that month. Although by then sixty-seven he remained in practice and was elected first president of the Northern Architectural Association in 1859, but in 1862 he suffered a severe stroke and retired to Ryton. Late in 1864 he returned to his house and office at New Bridge Street, Newcastle where he died on 8 January 1865. Although he left his drawings and instruments to his surviving son John, the practice was sold to Thomas Austin who continued it is partnership with Robert James Johnston, previously in George Gilbert Scott's office.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 2Chirton, North Shields, County Durham, EnglandPrivate/business18101812 
Item 2 of 2New Bridge Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, EnglandBusiness18231862 

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 1David Stephenson1804 Apprentice 

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 1Campbell Douglasc. 18471855 or 1856Assistant 

Buildings and Designs

This architect 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 41827GortanloiskDunoon (near) ArgyllScotland 
Item 2 of 41850Ladykirk House, North Lodge  BerwickshireScotland 
Item 3 of 41852DildawnRhonehouse KirkcudbrightshireScotlandAlterations and additions - probably porch added about this time.
Item 4 of 41856Glamis Castle  AngusScotlandChimneypiece from Gibbside in billiard room which may date from John Dobson's alterations there.


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 2Colvin, Howard2008A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840 London: YUP. 4th edition 
Item 2 of 2Faulkner, Tom and Grey, Andrew1987John Dobson Newcastle Architects 1878-1865 Tyne and Wear Museums Service 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 4Builder14 January 1865   
Item 2 of 4Building News13 January 1865   
Item 3 of 4Glasgow Herald29 December 1865   
Item 4 of 4Newcastle Daily Journal16 January 1865  Gives full job list