Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
John James Stevenson
(1831-1908)
After initially studying theology he turned to architecture after a tour of Italy.

He trained in Edinburgh under David Bryce and in the London office of George Gilbert Scott.

In Glasgow he formed a partnership with Campbell Douglas, 1860-69, then moved to London where he entered into partnership with Edward Robert Robson, 1870-5.

Specialising in domestic buildings he pioneered the Queen Anne Revival at his own home, Red House, 140 Bayswater (1871, dem.), and published House Architecture in 1880.

He also designed a number of ecclesiastical buildings, several schools for the London School Board and projects for Oxford University.

He designed several Gothic churches in Glasgow before and after his departure including:

Kelvinside Parish Church, 731-5 Great Western Road (1862, now Oran Mor); MacDonald Free Church, 100 Maitland Street, which featured an outside pulpit (1861-2, dem. c. 1964), and the Kelvin Stevenson Memorial Church, Belmont Street Bridge, which features a crown spire modelled on that of the 16th Century King's College Chapel, Aberdeen, and a profusion of carved animals by an unidentified sculptor (1898-1902).

A rare example of his secular work in the French Renaissance-style in Glasgow is the commercial building at 67-79 St Vincent Street (1875-8), which originally had pairs of standing figures in its Lescot-style pediments and a series of portrait heads above its ground floor until the 1960s.

Elsewhere in Scotland, he designed churches at Gilmerton (1880), Crieff (1881), Perth (1883) and Stirling (1900).

A rare example of Stevensons' designs for monuments is the large-scale monument in Largs Cemetery in Ayrshire, to the Glasgow merchant James Stevenson, of Hailie, which commemorates the maker of the Stevenson Road between Lakes Nyana and Tanganika in Africa (1906).

Built in Portland Stone and facing the Firth of Clyde, the design for the monument was exhibited at the RA , and illustrated in the Builder, in October 1906.

Long believed to have been a relative of the novelist Robert Louis Stevenson and the railway engineer George Stephenson, the architect was infact related to neither, as confirmed by his great, great nephew, Hew Stevenson.

The team at glasgowsculpture.com is grateful to Mr. Stevenson for his permission to reproduce the architect's portrait.


Sources:

  • Information and portrait from Hew Stevenson, e-mail to Gary Nisbet, 18th April 2005);
  • Builder [Obit] 9 May, 1908, p. 551;
  • BN , vol. 58, 14 February, 1890, pp. 236, 256;
  • RIBA Journal [Obit] vol. 15, 1907-8, pp. 455, 482;
  • Builder, vol. 91, 27 October, 1906, p. 468 (ill.);
  • Gomme & Walker ;
  • Worsdall (1981) ;
  • Worsdall (1982) ;
  • Dixon & Muthesius.

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