Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
David Hamilton

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 on their 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 and theatre.

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 association with William Mossman I and James Cleland.

His most important pupils were Charles Wilson , J T Rochead and Thomas Gildard , 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 Dilettante Society 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 city.

One is on Wilson's former Queens Rooms, 1 La Belle Place, by John Mossman and Walter Buchan (1857), and the other is on Cruise, 178-82 Ingram Street, by Alexander Stoddart (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 Patric Park (n.d., GMAG , reg no. S-42).

Hamilton died of an 'attack of paralysis' and was buried in the New Burial Ground, Glasgow Cathedral.


Works in our Database:
1: Glasgow Green (Calton),
In the centre of the north-west division
Lord Nelson Obelisk (1806)
Designer: D Hamilton; Builder: A Brockett
#174 2: Ingram Street (Merchant City),
Hutchesons' Hall, 158 Ingram Street
Statues of George and Thomas Hutcheson
(c.1649, statues; 1802-5, building)

Sculptor: J Colquhoun;
Architect: D Hamilton; Builder: K Mathieson
3: Royal Exchange Square (City Centre),
Former Royal Exchange, now Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art
Magnificent Capitals (1827-32)
Sculptor: J Fillans (for Hall McLatchie); Architect: D Hamilton
4: Royal Exchange Square (City Centre),
Former Royal Exchange, now Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art
Glasgow Arms Mosaic in Pediment (1996)
Sculptor: N deSaint-Phalle; Architect: D Hamilton
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