Contractors and Suppliers

Nicky Imrie

Overview     ^

B/W photograph of Brechin Cathedral during restoration, 1901–2

Little work has been carried out to date on the contractors who contributed to the emergence of Glasgow as a great Victorian city. The job books of John Honeyman & Keppie / Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh during the Mackintosh years 1889–1913 (hereafter JHKM), held at The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, provide an important microcosm of information on contractors, and additional suppliers of goods and services. For most projects, the books provide dates, details of tenders submitted, successful contractors, and payments. 1

Contractors and Suppliers     ^

Over 520 selected contractors, and an additional 130 suppliers of goods and services, were involved in the more than 250 projects recorded in the JHKM job books between 1889 and 1913 (a small group of some 20 projects were also carried out by the firm but for some unknown reason were not recorded in the job books). The majority of the contractors and suppliers were based in or near Glasgow. No fewer than 90 of them, and six measurers (quantity surveyors), worked with JHKM regularly: 40 firms worked on 10 or more projects; 16 on over 20 projects; and four on over 35 projects, suggesting a high level of reliability, understanding and loyalty between architects and tradesmen. 2

'New Buildings in Glasgow', an article in the Builders' Journal & Architectural Engineer in November 1906, provides a snapshot of contractor activity between 1901 and 1906. It shows that a number of JHKM's more frequent collaborators were among the most active of the day. Cited in the article are several contractors who worked on over 20 new buildings for JHKM: tilers and marble-cutters Galbraith & Winton contributed to eight; structural engineers Redpath, Brown & Co. and plasterers George Rome & Co. to six; masons Alex Muir & Sons and lift engineers A. & P. Steven to four each; and plumber William Anderson, painters J. B. Bennett & Son, glaziers C. & J. Malloch and slaters John McOwat & Son to three each. 3

Galbraith & Winton were probably the most sought-after firm of their type in the city. Their prestigious commissions included the supply and installation of marble baths and a fountain in the Russian Imperial yacht, Livadia (1880) and the provision of marble and mosaic work in Glasgow City Chambers in 1888–9. 4 Many contractors exhibited at the city's International Exhibitions of 1888 and 1901; some won medals, or were involved in the construction and fitting out of Glasgow's most important new buildings – achievements promoted in their advertisements. 5

A number of the Glasgow contractors who regularly appeared in the job books distinguished themselves in their profession and in the public, architectural and artistic life of the city. Some examples are given here. Hugh Locke Anderson, founder of painters and decorators H. L. Anderson & Co., served on the Council of the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts. His sons, Robert Locke and Steuart, served as officials of the Association (later Federation) of Master Painters in Scotland in the early 1890s and early 1900s. 6 Joiner John Craig was elected Deacon of the Incorporation of Wrights at Glasgow's Trades' House in 1891. 7 In 1889, William Gilfillan, manager of tile and marble-cutting firm Galbraith & Winton, joined the Board of the Architectural Section of the Glasgow Philosophical Society. 8 John Scott, of painters A. & J. Scott, was President of the Glasgow Federation of Master Painters in 1899–1900, and actively involved in technical education for trainees, and in establishing common professional standards in Glasgow. 9 Plasterer James Caird of James Caird & Co.served initially as a Councillor and then from 1891 to 1898 as Provost of the Police Burgh of Partick. 10 Charles Carlton, of painters Charles Carlton & Son, was elected to Glasgow Corporation in 1911 as member for the Blythswood Ward – the location of many architects' and contractors' offices – and served as convenor of the Art Galleries and Museums Committee. He also served as a Vice President of the Architectural Section of the Glasgow Philosophical Society. 11

The achievements of Robert Bennett, of painters J. B. Bennett & Son, in professional and public life led to his inclusion in a volume of noted Glasgow citizens in the early 20th century, Who's Who in Glasgow in 1909; Honeyman, Keppie, Mackintosh and Catherine Cranston were also included. Bennett was Chairman of the Glasgow Association of Master Painters for four years and President of the national association. He was elected Deacon of the Incorporation of Wrights at Glasgow's Trades' House in 1888, and a Visitor of the Incorporation of Maltmen in 1898 and 1905; he was was also a member of the Glasgow Merchants' House. In 1911, he contributed to the Buildings and Grounds Committee of that year's Scottish Exhibition of National History, Art and Industry held in Kelvingrove Park. 12

Mackintosh Contractors     ^

Almost a third of the core group of 90 contractors worked on a high proportion of projects by, or closely associated with, Mackintosh (categories 1 and 2 in the Catalogue). The work of furniture-makers Francis Smith and Alex Martin for Mackintosh's major domestic and tea-room commissions is documented elsewhere. 13 Other contractors who regularly appeared were metalworkers James Brown, who made interior lamps; George Adam (later George Adam & Son) and Bryden & Middleton, who specialised in exterior ironwork such as railings; joiner John Craig, who worked at The Hill House and Miss Cranston's Lunch and Tea Rooms, Ingram Street; painter William Douglas, who worked at Queen's Cross Church, The Hill House, commissions for Miss Cranston and several smaller projects, including the Lady Artists' Club; mason Daniel McCallum, who worked on Mackintosh's home at 6 Florentine Terrace; and fathers and sons with their own businesses, plasterers William Forbes and John Forbes, electrical engineers James Hutcheson and Andrew Hutcheson, and slater John Anderson and plumber William Anderson.

In the affluent Renfrewshire commuter villages of Kilmacolm and Bridge of Weir, where JHKM built a significant number of houses, local contractors who carried out a high proportion of work specifically for Mackintosh included mason R. Aitkenhead & Son; general contractor John Woodrow; and painter John Ritchie.

Working Practices     ^

For the majority of projects, work was tendered for and carried out by individual trades, as was customary in Scotland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 14 In fewer than ten cases the phrase 'all works' or similar is recorded in the job book, which meant that a substantial part of the work was carried out by a single contractor. Examples of these 'general' contractors include John Woodrow at Auchenbothie Gate Lodge , Kilmacolm and Headington, Bridge of Weir ; Alexander Stuart at North Berwick Free Church , and William Gow of Kilsyth, who made alterations and additions to Aberfoyle School, and Blairuskin Lodge, both near Loch Ard, Stirlingshire.

For another small group of projects, around 12, the term 'artificer' was recorded in the job books to describe the type of contractor or work carried out. Tenders submitted under this term were always received from contractors whose chief trade was wright or joiner, and the commission consisted of additions and/or alterations involving no structural work.

Currently, very little is known of the pay and working conditions of building contractors in Glasgow in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some details of the numbers of hands employed by individual contractors or firms have been gathered from census returns and other documents. For instance, in 1871, painters J. B. Bennett & Sons employed 80 to 90 men and boys; in 1881, joiner John Craig employed 40 men and 10 boys; and in 1895, Hutcheson & Grant employed between 50 and 60 men. 15 Further research would provide useful insights into the building process and contractors' professional activities.

Two glimpses into the working lives of contractors can be found in the 1872 diary of wright John Smeaton, who later worked on three JHKM projects, and in John Honeyman's 1893 published lecture, The Plumber Trade: A Retrospective and a Forecast. In 1872, Smeaton was a master wright and builder, employed by a Glasgow firm as an overseer, and earned a salary of £75 a year. 16 In 1900, as an experienced senior draughtsman, Mackintosh earned an annual salary of £192. 17 Honeyman described the plumber's working week as 51 hours long, finishing at 1 pm on a Saturday. These working hours may also have applied to a wider range of trades. Honeyman lamented, 'I wish I had so much [leisure] myself, especially when, sometimes hurrying along just in time to catch a 5 o'clock train on a Saturday afternoon, I find my way blocked by groups of workmen sauntering along in a very leisurely manner with the air of men in easy circumstances.' 18

Away from Glasgow     ^

JHKM carried out a number of projects in places a significant distance from Glasgow. It remains largely unclear how they operated in these locations – whether a contractor's employees travelled to and stayed at the location of the work for the duration of the project, or the contractor employed local labour, or used a combination of these arrangements.

At Brechin, in Angus, over 100 miles/160 km N.E. of Glasgow, the architects restored the Cathedral (1899–1902) and built a new house, The Mary Acre (1902–4). At the Cathedral, with the exception of the painters, only the contractors selected are recorded in the job-book entry. Around half of the contractors who received payments were from Glasgow, including mason J. H. White [& Son] and joiner James Grant. It appears, however, that Grant at least recruited local men: Brechin joiner James Small Watt was injured when he fell from scaffolding while removing rafters inside the Cathedral in April 1900, and sought compensation from Grant's firm while incapacitated. 19 At The Mary Acre, around half of the tenders were from Glasgow firms, including White and Grant, but only tilers Galbraith & Winton were selected. In addition, fireplaces were supplied by the Glasgow ironmongery firm of McGeoch & Co.. The building inspector, Robert Aitken, was also based in Glasgow.

JHKM carried out two projects at Kirkcudbright, Dumfriesshire, a similar distance S. of Glasgow: at Honeyman's mid-1870s Kirkcudbright Free Church (1894–5), which appears to have been painter work, and a picture gallery at Broughton House (1909–10), home of artist E. A. Hornel. With the exception of a local mason and joiner, Walter Wallace, at Broughton House, all of the work for both projects was tendered for and carried out by Glasgow contractors.

Comrie, Perthshire (60 miles/100 km N.E. of Glasgow) was served by a branch railway line from Perth, but its relatively remote location appears to have affected the participation of Glasgow contractors in tendering: only two Glasgow firms, E. C. Morgan & Son and Hutcheson & Grant, submitted. Here, Mackintosh designed a shop, flat and offices (1903–5). All work was carried out by local contractors. At the same date, the architects designed a new parish church at Auchterarder, 16 miles/26 km S.E. of Comrie. Although the village is located on the main route north from Glasgow to Perth, the majority of the tenders were submitted by local contractors. A small number of Glasgow contractors tendered for and carried out work, predominantly furnishings and fittings, as well as the installation of heating.

Selection Process     ^

The job books show that the architects usually managed the tendering and selection process. However, where the project in question was educational or ecclesiastical, the process was often overseen by the respective School Board, educational committee, or, as at Brechin Cathedral, the specially appointed Restoration Committee. The firm's Glasgow School Board projects, particularly Martyrs' School and Scotland Street School, show a significant number of names that rarely or never otherwise appear in the job books. 20 On a very few occasions, work was carried out by the client's own employees: the job-book entry for the third phase of work at Mossyde records that the mason work was carried out by 'own men'. 21

Precisely how and where new work was advertised to contractors by architects in Glasgow is not yet fully understood. Tender information in JHKM's job books occasionally includes the phrase 'returned with thanks' adjacent to a contractor name. This suggests that contractors were invited directly by the architects to submit a tender and that when these invitations were declined, a courteous protocol was followed.

The Building Trades Exchange     ^

From 1895, the 'Building Trades Exchange of the City and Districts of Glasgow Limited', located at 30 Gordon Street in the city centre, appears to have provided an important venue for professional networking and debate. 22 John Keppie was a significant figure in the Exchange and was a member of its Executive Council in 1896 and 1898. 23

At its opening in August 1895, which Keppie attended, the Exchange was described as being the first of its kind in Scotland and modelled on institutions in America, which had substantially reduced 'friction between the various sectors of the building trade'. The Glasgow Exchange was 'initiated to enable builders, measurers, architects, or any other class of the community to meet and discuss any matter connected with the building trade, and all members met on the same level. Further, the Exchange had been started for the purpose of guaranteeing that members who undertook certain work would carry it out according to the specification. If they failed it would be imperative upon the committee to deal with the matter.' 24

The Exchange published an annual volume containing details of its executive and sub-committees, shareholders and subscribers; building regulations specific to Glasgow; guidelines for measurers (quantity surveyors) on measuring each trade's estimated and completed work in a building project; and contractor advertisements and particulars of these contractors' products available to view in the 'Samples Room' at the Exchange. 25

In 1896 and 1898, when Keppie was on the Executive Council, engineer Sir William Arrol, whose company built the Tay and Forth railway bridges, was Honorary President. A significant number of contractors working for JHKM were involved in the Exchange. In 1896, its president was Robert Bennett, of the painters J. B. Bennett & Son. Andrew Gray, a wright, was chairman of the executive. The vice presidents were mason Alexander Muir, of Alex Muir & Sons; mason John Paterson, of John Paterson & Son; and plumberWilliam Anderson. These men and Keppie were joined on the 21-man strong Executive Council by several contractors who regularly worked for JHKM: wright Matthew Henderson; sculptor R. A. McGilvray; joiner John Craig; and painter Daniel Fisher. Three further council members, James Goldie, John Porter and William Lightbody, worked for the architects once each. In 1896, the Exchange's 68 shareholders additionally included the slater John Anderson; painter Robert Locke Anderson, son of the founder of H. L. Anderson & Co.; mason and builders George Barlas & Co.; engineer John Bennie; engineers Bladen & Co.; joiners & heating engineers James Boyd & Sons; painter John R. Donald; wrights J. & G. Findlay; tiler and marble-cutter William Gilfillan, of Galbraith & Winton; wright Thomas Kay & Co.; tiler J. Winton Mackie; slater William Mailer, of W. & D. Mailer; and warehouseman Robert Wylie of Wylie & Lochhead. 26 Among the names of the 200 or so subscribers were more than 30 additional contractors who worked with JHKM. 27

The Exchange operated for 22 years before going into liquidation in August 1917, probably because of the downturn in building resulting from the war. 28

Scan of cover of Title page, The Glasgow District Building Trades Exchange Catalogue and Book of Reference, 1898

Glasgow Art Club     ^

The Glasgow Art Club was another valuable forum for both clients and contractors. John Honeyman and Keppie were both admitted to Glasgow Art Club as artist members in December 1888, shortly after their partnership was established. Keppie went on to serve as President in 1905–6 and 1926–7. 29 Mackintosh was never a member.

More than 20 contractors who worked with the architects to a greater or lesser extent were members. Six of these were sculptors or carvers who were admitted as artist members. 30 The remaining were lay members, all of whom owned or were partners in their own firms; several were painter-decorators and glaziers. 31

JHKM carried out work at the Art Club itself. The only Club members among the contractors appointed were the sculptors and carvers William Kellock Brown and Richard Ferris; William Bryden, supplier of window blinds, joined the Club while work was carried out in 1892.

Biographies of over 300 contractors and suppliers can be found in the People section.


1: In some cases the range of tenders is not recorded. For educational buildings in particular, the respective school board or other educational committee made the selections and only the names of successful contractors appear in the job books.

2: Two of these last four contractors were the continuation of one company, wrights and joiners Hutcheson & Grant, from 1901 James Grant, which worked on a total of 82 projects.

3: Builders' Journal & Architectural Engineer, 24, 28 November 1906, pp. 251–74.

4: Glasgow Herald, 4 October 1880, p. 4; 18 July 1889, p. 7.

5: See contractor biographies in the 'People' section.

6: Glasgow Herald, 12 January 1888, p. 6; 17 January 1893, p. 4; Scotsman, 28 February 1903, p. 7; 4 January 1907, p. 6.

7: Glasgow Herald, 19 September 1891, p. 4.

8: Glasgow Herald, 19 March 1889, p. 3.

9: Glasgow City Archive Collection: Scottish Amalgamated Society of House and Ship Painters Membership Card, Working Rules, TD 194/3(1); Standard Rates of Glasgow Master Painters Association, TD 194/1/2(1), p. 13.

10: Obituaries, Scotsman, 13 November 1914, p. 4; Glasgow Herald, 13 November 1914, p. 1.

11: Glasgow Herald, 29 December 1933, p. 1.

12: George Eyre-Todd, Who's Who in Glasgow in 1909, Glasgow: Gowans & Gray Ltd, 1909, p. 14; Scotsman, 28 February 1903, p. 7; 26 May 1916, p. 4.

13: For Smith see for instance Roger Billcliffe, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings and Interior Designs, Moffat, Dumfriesshire: Cameron & Hollis, 4th edn, 2009, pp. 70–1, 1206, 158–65, 198–200, 207–11; Thomas Howarth, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2nd edn, 1977, pp. 124, 130, 134–5; for Martin see for instance Roger Billcliffe, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings and Interior Designs, Moffat, Dumfriesshire: Cameron & Hollis, 4th edn, 2009, pp. 156–7, 171–5, 190–1, 201–6, 212–16, 223–4.

14: Francis M. L. Thompson, Chartered Surveyors: The Growth of a Profession, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968, pp. 264–5; J. M. Trushell, 'Miss Cranston's Tea Rooms: Cost Analyses', Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society Newsletter, 67, Summer 1995, p. 3.

15: Census returns, www. [accessed 20 May 2013]; Glasgow Herald, 4 November 1895, p. 6.

16: Stana Nenadic, 'The Victorian Middle Classes', in W. Hamish Fraser and Irene Maver, Glasgow, 1830–1912, Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2, 1996, p. 273.

17: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: John Honeyman & Keppie / Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh / Keppie Henderson cash book 1889–1917, GLAHA 53079, pp. 58–63.

18: University of Glasgow Library, Special Collections: John Honeyman, 'The Plumber Trade: A Retrospective and a Forecast', lecture, Glasgow: Robert Anderson, 1893, pp. 14–15.

19: Dundee Courier & Argus, 2 November 1900, p. 7; 24 November 1900, p. 4.

20: Schools designed by other architects which featured alongside Scotland Street in the 1906 article 'New Buildings in Glasgow' were built and fitted out by a further range of unfamiliar names: Builders' Journal & Architectural Engineer, 24, 28 November 1906, pp. 266–9.

21: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh job book, GLAHA 53063, p. 119.

22: Glasgow Herald, 9 August 1895, p. 4.

23: Glasgow City Archive Collection: Catalogue and Book of References. The Glasgow Building Trades Exchange.1896, T-ARD 17/36; 1898, T-ARD 17/37.

24: Glasgow Herald, 9 August 1895, p. 4.

25: Glasgow City Archive Collection: Catalogue and Book of References. The Glasgow Building Trades Exchange.1896, T-ARD 17/36; 1898, T-ARD 17/37.

26: Glasgow City Archive Collection: Catalogue and Book of References. The Glasgow Building Trades Exchange 1896, T-ARD 17/36, pp. 4–7.

27: Glasgow City Archive Collection: Catalogue and Book of References. The Glasgow Building Trades Exchange.1896, T-ARD 17/36, pp. 8–12.

28: Edinburgh Gazette, 31 August 1917, p. 1884.

29: Glasgow Art Club Archive: Glasgow Art Club Membership Register, Book 1; Glasgow Art Club 1867–1967, pp. 68–9.

30: The artist members were William Kellock Brown (admitted 1889); Richard Ferris (1891); James Pittendreigh Macgillivray (1882); Alexander Proudfoot (1912); Archibald MacFarlane Shannan (1897); and William Shirreffs (1887). Glasgow Art Club Archive: Glasgow Art Club Membership Register, Book 1, Artist Members.

31: The lay members were: Robert Locke Anderson, of painters and paper hangers, H. L. Anderson & Co. (admitted 1892); J. C. Bennett, of painters J. C. Bennett & Son (1888); James Boyd, of joiners and heating engineers James Boyd & Sons (1895); William Bryden, of bellhangers and window-blind manufacturers William Bryden & Son (1892); Charles Carlton, of painters Charles Carlton & Son (1886); Thomas Duff, of measurers Thomas Duff & Son (1892); John (1886) and William (1888) Guthrie of decorators and glaziers J. & W. Guthrie (later J. & W. Guthrie and Andrew Wells); Claud Hamilton, of electrical engineers Claud Hamilton Ltd (1899); George Laird, of wrights and joiners George Laird & Son (1912); William Lightbody, of wrights William Lightbody & Son (1886) and his son William Junior (1892); Hugh McCulloch, of painters and glaziers McCulloch & Co. (1895); Rudolph A. Stoffert, iron and steel merchant (1895); William Tonner, of plasterers William Tonner & Son (1896); Archibald B. Watson, measurer (1888); Andrew Wells, of painters and glaziers J. & W. Guthrie & Andrew Wells (1897); and Robert Wylie, warehouseman, of Wylie & Lochhead (1892). Glasgow Art Club Archive: Glasgow Art Club Membership Register, Book 1, Lay Members.