Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
Salmon, Son & Gillespie
(fl. 1830-1913)

Founded by James Salmon I (1805-88). The firm passed to his son, William Forrest Salmon (1843-1911) then to grandson James Salmon II (1873-1924, nicknamed the 'Wee Troot' - trans: Little Trout) and their former assistant John Gaff Gillespie (1870-1926) in 1898, when the firm was renamed James Salmon, Son & Gillespie.

James Salmon I was born in Glasgow and trained as an architect in the office of John Brash. Setting up his own practice in 1830, at 93 Carrick Street (as James Salmond), he produced a number of buildings of every type in Glasgow in the fashionable Renaissance, Gothic and Classical styles, and planned the suburbs of Dennistoun (1854) and Ibrox.

In partnership with Robert Black, 1843-54, and James Ritchie, 1868-72, his important buildings include:

Arthur's Warehouse, 81 Miller Street (1849); St Matthew's Church, Bath Street (1849, demolished); the domed telling room for the Union Bank, 191 Ingram Street (1853, now Corinthian); the Mechanic's Institute, 38 Bath Street (1860-1, altered 1907-9); and the Deaf and Dumb Institute, 50 Prospecthill Road (1866-8, now Langside College).

Salmon used sculpture sparingly in his designs. For the Mechanics Institute he incorporated John Greenshield's statue of James Watt which had been carved for the Institute's former home in George Street in 1834, and which was removed to the University of Strathclyde's Royal College in 1907; and for the Deaf and Dumb Institute he employed an unidentified sculptor to produce medallion heads and carverwork.

His most extensive use of sculpture was at the Union Bank, where John Thomas and James Steel produced spectacular plasterwork, and John Mossman its exterior sculpture on the Virginia Street facade.

As well as being an architect and property developer, Salmon was a co-founder, with John Mossman and others, of the Glasgow Architectural Society, 1858, and a Bailie on the town council from 1860. His distinguished career ended with his death in 1888, from injuries sustained in a fall whilst returning home from a lecture.

William Forrest Salmon trained under James Smith from 1857, and in the London office of Sir George Gilbert Scott . He became a partner in his father's firm in 1872, when the firm's name, James Salmon & Son, appeared for the first time.

During the period 1872-88, the firm's work included several schools; the polychrome brick Kingston Grain Mills, 21-3 West Street (1875-76, demolished 1978); extensions to Allan Glen's School, Cathedral Street (1887-9, demolished 1970); and a magnificent but (fortunately) unsuccessful competition design for a replacement to Robert Adam's Trades House in Glassford Street (1877).

W F Salmon's interests extended to encouraging the development of the arts and crafts at the GSA , where he served as a governor and as a tutor of architecture and modelling, and provided members of its staff and its most promising students with work on the firm's buildings.

An example of Salmon's own skill as a sculptor is the bronze Thomas Campbell Commemorative Plaque on the Nicholas Street wall of the British Linen Bank, 215 High Street (1894-5).

Despite his prominence, however, it was his son and his partner who made the greatest contribution to the city's architecture at the turn of the century.

After Charles Rennie Mackintosh they are the city's best known Glasgow Style architects and designers.

James Salmon II trained in the family firm and at GSA , and in 1890, was enrolled in the office of William Leiper , where he gained invaluable practical experience working on the completion of Leiper's Sun Life Building and Templeton's Carpet Factory. After a brief sketching tour of Italy and Switzerland, he completed his studies at GSA and rejoined his father's firm in 1895. He was made a partner in the firm in 1898.

John Gaff Gillespie, the son of a baker, was born in Govan, and served his apprenticeship with James Milne Munro whilst studying at GSA , where he was joint winner of the Alexander Thomson Scholarship with C R Mackintosh and W.J. Anderson in 1889. As a result of this, W F Salmon, who was one of his examiners, immediately invited him to join his office in 1891.

Gillespie's individuality first made its impact on the firm's designs with the Flemish Scottish Temperance League offices, 106-8 Hope Street (1893-4) and the British Linen Bank, 218 High Street (1894-5), both of which are nominally credited to W F Salmon, and which include extensive sculpture schemes (the former by Richard Ferris , the latter by James Young ). Gillespie became a partner in the firm in 1897.

With James Salmon II's return to the office, he and Gillespie embarked on one of the most astonishing and innovative periods of architectural design the city had yet seen, with the introduction of Art Nouveau, Glasgow Style and Modernist elements in their buildings.

Their contributions to the Glasgow Style include the Church Hall, St Andrew's East Church, Alexandra Parade (1899); Mercantile Chambers, Bothwell Street (1897-8); the British Linen Bank branches at 816 Govan Road (1897-99) and Argyle Street, Anderston (1899-1900), and the attic additions to the bank's headquarters at 110 Queen Street (1905, removed c. 1955).

The latter project involved the participation of sculptors Johan Keller , R Ferris and George Gregory, who provided the attic ballustrade with statues of Industry, Agriculture and Britannia, by Keller, and a splendid armorial group of the bank's shield and a pair of winged lions, by Ferris and Gregory.

Keller's model for Agriculture was exhibited at the RGIFA in 1905, and a photograph of the exhibit was published in Academy Architecture in the same year (reproduced in McKenzie (2002) (Nisbet: Lost Works), pp. 443-4).

Their most famous buildings, The Hatrack, 142a-144 St Vincent Street (1898-1900) and Lion Chambers, 172 Hope Street (1903-7) are the most adventurous of the slender, multi-storey 'elevator buildings' which appeared in Glasgow's city centre in the 1890s-1900s.

At Lion Chambers, they pioneered the use of reinforced concrete as a building material using the Hennebique system, whilst continuing the Glasgow tradition of including portraits in its sculpture scheme; the subjects being the prominent Judges Sheriff Guthrie and Lord Scott Dickson.

Both buildings have been the subjects of important restoration schemes in recent years, the Hatrack having had its eponymous lead crown reinstated in 1990, and the Lion Chambers is currently being saved from dangerous deterioration.

However, the future of their British Linen Bank and tenement, 162-70 Gorbals Street (1900) is bleak, having become a forgotten, derelict wreck despite its importance as a rare relic of the old Gorbals and as a fine example of its architects' work.

Their designs for interior decoration and architectural sculpture provided early opportunities for sculptors Albert Hodge , Johan Keller and Derwent Wood , and frequent employment for the city's architectural carvers, such as McGilvray & Ferris and James C Young .

Occasionally, they created their own decorative work such as , stained glass and sculpture, including Salmon's repoussť heraldic panels on the facade of 79 West Regent Street (1903-4), and Gillespie's models for the sculpture on Stirling Municipal Buildings (1907-14, carved by A W Young).

After 1910, the firm was dealt several blows which would bring their predominence to an end.

The first was the death of W F Salmon in 1911, from cancer, followed by a down-turn in the city's economy together with a general lack of interest in the city's designers, and the introduction of increased property taxation, as well as the growing threat of war with Germany which, when it came, would result in the severe curtailing of new building projects throughout the country.

On closing the firm in 1913, Salmon and Gillespie continued to design but neither are especially remembered for their post-Glasgow Style work.

Salmon died of cancer on 27 April 1924, and was followed two years later by Gillespie, on 7 May 1926.

Their successors, Gillespie Kidd & Coia, are noted for their churches throughout Scotland, several incorporating sculpture by Dawson , Proudfoot and Schotz .


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