The Madeleine Smith Story

Thomas Gildard’s Recollections

of David Hamilton

A brief, priceless glimpse of 233-5 Buchanan Street and its occupants was provided in an article, the draught of a speech delivered near the end of the century by an old architect, Thomas Gildard, who had been a pupil of David Hamilton's. [The full speech is yet to be uploaded - please get in touch if you want more, sooner.]

Gildard wrote, "in December 1838, I was apprenticed for five years with Messrs David & James Hamilton, whose office was at the head of Buchanan Street, on the site now occupied by the Langham Hotel. The house was a self-contained one of three stories, the first a few steps above the street. On the street floor, the office was to the right of the entrance lobby and Mr Hamilton's room to the left; and behind were kitchens, servant's quarters etc. Up one stair was a very handsome room which served the purpose of both dining-room and drawing-room; and a library of a somewhat unique plan which could be connected with it. Behind, and in the floor above were bedrooms.

"Mr Hamilton was in about his seventieth year, and was a man of most impressive presence, frank and kindly in manner, and with a bearing of easy dignity. He was what is commonly or conventionally called somewhat "aristocratic" in appearance, and in social intercourse was distinguished by much grace and courtesy. He was a man eminently to be looked up to. James, his son, who had not much more than attained his majority, was tall and remarkably handsome, his fine features somewhat of an Italian cast, and his long, glossy black hair rolling in ringlets.

"When I entered the office the late Mr Rochead had been in it six months a draughtsman and my friend, Mr Baird, a year or two. As the house and office were together, the lads, as we were called, were occasionally favoured by a visit from Mrs Hamilton and her daughters; indeed, Mrs Hamilton looked in almost every morning, took a seat, and had a kindly chat with us for half-an-hour or so. It seemed almost as if we were living "in family" and although it is a long time since, there remains with me a pleasant impression of the homely, hearty kindness that I experienced from all the Hamiltons under the old-fashioned arrangement of house and office together. Occasionally we dined in state with the family and sometimes we were favoured with a Saturday excursion to some important work in progress in the country.

"Mr Hamilton had formed an excellent library of not only great books on architecture but of books illustrative of painting and sculpture. He had also many choice line engravings and other things that might be expected in the house of a family all of inborn and suave and highly cultivated taste. He was the recognised head of the profession. His position was unique and as his fame had gone beyond, he had, I might almost say, frequent visits from men of eminence in the arts, bearing letters of introduction. I remember seeing Kemp, the architect of the Scott Monument, and Mr Hamilton bringing him down stairs to see the office.

"Mr James (Hamilton), Mr Rochead and Mr Baird were alike assiduous in the instructing of the apprentices; if there was a fault at all, it was in the apprentices being dealt with too much like pupils instead of being made immediately useful.

"The office hours were from nine till seven, the hour between four and five being the interval for dinner. On Saturdays the office closed at four. There was no gas in the office and, in the winter evenings we wrought by candlelight."

(more to follow)


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