EVERYONE knows it was the influences he drew upon which earned famous Glasgow architect Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson his enduring nickname.

But there was another reason too.

His obiturary writer in our sister title The Glasgow Herald in 1875, states: “Mr Thomson in the very outset of his career exhibited great fondness for Greek architecture, to the study of which in after years he became increasingly devoted and which formed the basis of his most successful achievements in art.

“He was so much identified with the bold and massive, yet graceful style which he had adopted that he came to be known amongst his friends as ‘Greek Thomson’ partly in compliment - and partly to distinguish him from the rather numerous brotherhood of Thomsons in the same profession in the city…”

Of all the Thomsons designing buildings in Glasgow around that time, it is Alexander who remains well-known.

Thomsons Caledonia Road Church in the Gorbals in 1955. Pic: Herald and Times

Thomson's Caledonia Road Church in the Gorbals in 1955. Pic: Herald and Times

When Thomson died after a long illness, 146 years ago almost to the day, Glasgow “lost one of her most accomplished architects,” said the newspaper article.

In a warm tribute to the original and inventive creator of some of the city’s most beautiful buildings, such as the Egyptian Halls on Union Street and the Grecian Buildings on Sauchiehall Street, the Glasgow Herald recounts his early life and work.

Born in Balfron Stirlingshire in 1817, his family moved to Glasgow when young Alexander was just seven years old.

Thomson initially worked for Robert Foote and then John Baird senior, entering into partnership with John Baird junior in 1849 and then, according to The Glasgow Herald, “he joined his brother in business under the firm of A&G Thomson.”

His works include the Caledonia Road Free Church, St Vincent Street Church and the villa Holmwood House, now owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Thomson was known to be creative and forward-thinking, using new materials such as cast iron and plate glass. He was also responsible for many medium-sized villaces and terraces of cottages throughout the city, in areas such as Pollokshields, Shawlands, Crossmyloof and Cathcart, as well as further afield in Langbank, Bothwell and Cove.

Greek Thomsons St Vincent Church. Photo by Jamie Simpson

Greek Thomson's St Vincent Church. Photo by Jamie Simpson

One of his finest works, which sits derelict in the Gorbals is the Caledonia Road Church, built in 1857. It is unconventional – its asymmetric layout follows the edges of the surrounding roads – and original - its tower, with its intricate carvings, has no historical precedents.

Thomson was among the first architects to look at ‘sustainable’ housing, redeveloping slums and creating space for people to live and breathe.

His reputation was more than local, says the Herald, adding: “Indeed, the fame of Greek Thomson of Glasgow seemed as familiar to London architects as to those of his own city. A course of lectures which, in the spring of last year, he addressed to the students of the Haldane Academy ... gave to many who heard them the impression that he was no less our ablest art critic than our greatest architect.”

Few Thomson interiors remain, but the article suggests they were also outstanding.

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“His works were all the result of the most careful study; and his interiors, with which the public are necessarily less acquainted, are as remarkable for beauty, the oilspring of truth and originality, as are his elevations and facades,” reads the report.

Greek Thomson designed many buildings around Glasgow and beyond.

Greek Thomson designed many buildings around Glasgow and beyond.

Thomson died in 1875, in the home in the terrace he had designed, leaving a wife and seven children – five daughters and two sons. He is buried in the Southern Necropolis in the Gorbals.

The obituary ends: “The professional career of Alexander Thomson marks, or rather makes, an era in the architectural history of Glasgow; and his death is a loss to art. In private life Mr Thomson was a most genial man, staunch and true to his friends and kindly and considerate to all.”