Universally regarded as the 'father of Glasgow's architecture',
he originally worked as a mason before becoming an architect when he was in his 30s.
He worked as an assistant to Robert
and James Adam
Glasgow Buildings, including the Trades House (1794).
He made his name with Hutchesons' Hospital (1802-5) and became a
prolific country house designer, often working for Scotland's aristocracy,
such as the Duke of Hamilton, for whom he redesigned Hamilton Palace
(1825, dem. 1928).
He also designed country retreats for Glasgow's wealthy merchants,
as well as their palatial commercial premises, town houses, stock exchange
Much of his finest work in Glasgow has been destroyed. Amongst the
greatest losses are:
The Theatre Royal, Queen Street (1804, dem. 1827);
a plain building at the corner of Ingram Street and Montrose Street (1805, dem.
1982); Gorbals John Knox Church, 25 Carlton Place (1806, dem. 1968?); his
Gothic alterations to the Tolbooth, Trongate (1814, dem. c. 1921); Scotstoun House,
Dumbarton Road (1825, dem. c. C.19th); St Enoch's Parish Church, St Enoch
Square (1827, dem. 1925); the British Linen Bank, 110 Queen Street (1838-9,
dem. 1967-8) and the Union Bank, Ingram Street (1841-2, altered 1876).
His surviving work includes:
The Nelson Monument, Glasgow Green
(1805-7), the world's first 'official' public memorial to the great Admiral
(restored 2002); Camphill House, Queen's Park (1810); the Royal Exchange
(now GOMA) (1827); Mosesfield, Springburn Park (1838);
the Cleland Testimonial Building (1834) and the Western Club House,
Buchanan Street (1840).
Hamilton was closely involved with the development of the Necropolis, Glasgow's greatest graveyard, for which he designed
its gates and Bridge of Sighs (1838, in collaboration with his son, James
) and the Egyptian Vaults (1837).
He also entered major local and national design competitions. In 1809,
he produced an elegant, but rejected, Classical design for Glasgow's
Municipal Buildings, Courthouse and Jail, Saltmarket (1809, later the
High Court of Justiciary) and a sprawling Tudoresque design for the
Houses of Parliament, London (1836), which was placed third.
He brought his sons, James, William (d. 1827) and John into
the firm, the former becoming his partner, as David & James Hamilton,
and the latter as the manager of his marble business, which was run in
William Mossman I
and James Cleland.
His most important pupils were
J T Rochead
, who later published reminiscences
of Hamilton's personality and practice.
A leading member of the city's beau monde, he was a member of the
and entertained the city's visiting celebrities.
Such was the high esteem in which he was held by his contemporaries,
that the city held a public dinner in his honour in 1840, during which
he was presented with a gold casket containing £500; and such has been
the endurance of his reputation, that posthumous portraits of him were
incorporated into the sculpture schemes of at least two buildings in the
One is on Wilson's former Queens Rooms, 1 La Belle Place, by
(1857), and the other is on Cruise, 178-82 Ingram Street, by
(1989). Stoddart also proposed including a statue
of Hamilton in his (unexecuted) 1993 scheme to erect a monument to the Danish sculptor,
Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1843 ), at Glasgow Cross. The plaster model for the group is on
permanent display at the offices of Page & Park in the Italian Centre.
Other representations of Hamilton include marble busts by
William Mossman I
(c. 1831), and
, reg no. S-42).
Hamilton died of an 'attack of paralysis' and was buried in the New
Burial Ground, Glasgow Cathedral.