Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
John Gibson
(1817-92)
Born in Castle Bromwich, near Birmingham, the son of a Warwickshire farmer.

His natural talent for architecture appeared at an early age when, as a boy, he designed a henhouse of 'extra-ordinary beauty and classic design'. After serving two years in an architect's office in Birmingham, he became an assistant to the future Sir Charles Barry in London.

He assisted Barry in the preperation of drawings for the Houses of Parliament in the 1840s, and came into contact with the sculptor John Thomas, who oversaw the production of the building's vast sculpture scheme.

During this time, Gibson entered and won the competition for his only building in Glasgow, the National Bank, 57 Queen Street. Designed as an Italian palazzo, the building was richly sculpted by John Thomas, who modelled its attic figures of Peace and Plenty and its colossal Royal Arms, together with keystone heads above its ground floor windows representing the rivers Clyde, Thames, Severn, Tweed and Humber, and a tiny portrait head of Queen Victoria amidst its richly carved cornice (1846-9).

The bank's design made Gibson's reputation and was later described as 'the greatest stepping stone to [his] after success'. In 1901-3, the building was dismantled and re-erected in Queen's Park as Langside Public Halls, 1 Langside Avenue, when its original site was earmarked for the construction of Hunter & Barr's warehouse (a photograph of the bank in Queen Street is reproduced in Gomme & Walker's Architecture of Glasgow, p. 121).

Gibson's work elsewhere includes a number of churches in North Wales, including St Margaret's Church, Bodelwydden, Denbighshire (1860).

He was awarded the Royal Gold Medal for services to architecture.

Sources:

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Works in our Database:
1: West George Street (City Centre),
Merchants' House Buildings, 7 West George Street / 30 George Square:
On the staircase inside the George Square entrance
Statue of Kirkman Finlay (c.1842-4)
Sculptor: J Gibson
 
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