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Mr Alexander Thomson (also known as 'Greek', 'Greek')

Alexander "Greek" Thomson (9 April 1817 – 22 March 1875) was a prominent Scottish architect renowned for his innovative and highly influential designs in the 19th century. Born in Balfron, Stirlingshire, Thomson left an indelible mark on the architectural landscape, earning him the nickname "Greek" Thomson due to his fascination with classical Greek architecture.

Thomson's early life was marked by a deep interest in art and architecture. He began his formal education at the University of Glasgow, where he studied under the renowned architect and professor John MacCulloch. Thomson's exposure to classical Greek architecture during these formative years would shape his future work significantly. He began work in a writer's office before he was noticed by the Glasgow architect Robert Foote, who took him on as an apprentice. He then worked in the office of the architect John Baird I (1798-1859), with whom he stayed for ten years, becoming chief draughtsman.

After completing his studies, Thomson embarked on his architectural career in Glasgow. Thomson set up his own practice in Glasgow in 1848, and after several partners he finally settled with Robert Turnbull (1838-1905) and the firm was known as A. and G. Thomson and Turnbull.

The firm had begun by building villas in the suburbs of Glasgow and along the Clyde estuary. These were designed in a variety of styles including the Gothic and Romanesque. By the mid-1850s Thomson had developed a refined and abstracted Grecian manner. He was never a conventional Greek revivalist and often adapted precedents from Greece, Egypt, and elsewhere.

It has been argued that more than any other architect, Thomson gave a distinct character to Glasgow in his designs for warehouses, commercial buildings, and terraces of houses and tenements. His commercial buildings included the Egyption Halls in Union Street (1870-72), while his domestic work encompassed the Great Western Terrace (1867-77) and Queen's Park Terrace, Eglington Street (1856-60).

Thomson also undertook monumental urban churches for United Presbyterian congregations. The only one to survive intact is the St Vincent Street Church (1857-9), with its tall and exotic steeple.

He drew inspiration from the classical Greek orders and adapting them to the contemporary needs of the time. One of his earliest commissions was the Grecian Chambers on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow, showcasing his adept ability to fuse classical elements with a modern aesthetic.

Throughout his career, Thomson designed a variety of buildings, including residential homes, churches, and commercial structures. His residential designs, such as the villas in Moray Place and Great Western Terrace, exemplified his mastery in creating harmonious and balanced compositions.

One of Thomson's most celebrated works is the Caledonia Road Church (now known as St. Andrew's in the Square), completed in 1851. The church exemplifies his unique approach to architecture, blending classical principles with innovative structural solutions. The distinctive tower and steeple of the church remain iconic symbols of Thomson's style.

Thomson's influence extended beyond his architectural practice. He was a prolific writer and lecturer, contributing significantly to the architectural discourse of his time. His book "Theoretical and Practical Architecture" provided insights into his design philosophy and principles, further solidifying his reputation as a thought leader in the field.

Despite his undeniable talent and impact, Thomson faced financial struggles throughout his career. His later years were marked by personal and professional challenges, leading to a decline in his architectural practice. He passed away on 22 March 1875, leaving behind a legacy that continues to inspire architects and enthusiasts alike.

The enduring significance of Alexander "Greek" Thomson's work is evident in the preservation efforts dedicated to his buildings. The Alexander Thomson Society, founded in 1991, actively promotes the recognition and conservation of his architectural legacy. Thomson's impact on the field is also acknowledged by architectural historians and practitioners who continue to study and appreciate the timeless beauty of his designs.

He died in 1875 and was buried in an unmarked plot at the Southern Necropolis in Glasgow.


  1. Stamp, Gavin. (1999). "Alexander Thomson: The Unknown Genius." Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  2. McKean, Charles. (2000). "Alexander Thomson: The Practicalities of the Mind." Glasgow: Blackie.
  3. The Alexander Thomson Society. "About Alexander Thomson." Retrieved from

Stamp, G (2004) 'Thomson, Alexander [Greek Thomson] (1817-1875)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oxford

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