An architectural and monumental sculptor, he was the father of
William Mossman II
, and grandfather
William Mossman III
. Initially working as a marble cutter in Glasgow from 1816, his business traded as 'William Mossman' until 1854,
when his firm was renamed J G & W Mossman, and then
J & G Mossman
, in 1857, by his sons.
A descendant of James Mossman (1530-73), Goldsmith to Mary, Queen of Scots, he was born in West Linton, a Peebleshire village known
as a centre for masons and sculptors, on 18th August, 1793, one of at least eleven children born to school master John Mossman (d. 1808)
and Jean Forrest. He trained as a carver in London and worked for
Sir Francis Chantrey
, before moving to Edinburgh in 1823, where he set
up as a marble cutter at 3 Moray Street, Leith Walk.
A year later, he moved to 39 Leith Walk, and then in 1825, he was employed at Thin & Co.'s marble works at 33 Leith Walk.
In 1827, he was listed in the Edinburgh Post Office Directory as a sculptor and marble cutter at Giles' Buildings, where he remained until
1829, when he moved to 15 Heriot Buildings after Thin & Co. ceased trading. In 1830, he moved his young family to Glasgow, where he became
the manager of
David and James Hamilton
's marble business and worked at James Cleland's statuary yard, 1830-31.
Mossman then set up his own business in Glasgow as a monumental sculptor in 1833, at 172 West Nile Street,
later moving to 83 North Frederick Street in 1845, where he employed seven men and boys as carvers and hewers.
Amongst his apprentices and assistants at this time were James Shanks, John Crawford and
worked with Mossman and his sons on a number of sculpture schemes on buildings in and around Glasgow, and who went
on to make their own distinguished contribution to the city's architectural sculpture after they left to start
their own, albeit short-lived, businesses as carvers and modellers.
As an architectural sculptor Mossman carved the details on several of David Hamilton's buildings.
These include the lion masks on St. Paul's Church, John Street (1836, dem. 1906); the corbel heads at the entrance to Mosesfield,
Springburn Park (1838); the heraldic shield and lion heads (now lost) on the Cleland Testimonial Building, Buchanan Street (1836) and the
heraldic panel on the north front of Lennox Castle (1837-41).
In 1849, he carved the corbel heads on the new West front of Glasgow Cathedral, as well as restoring
the building's ancient gargoyles.
He also executed death masks, chimneypieces for steamboats,
designed the monument to Highland Mary, Greenock Cemetery (1841,
carved by his son John Mossman) and carved the Gothic monument to Lord Cathcart in Paisley Abbey (1848).
Attempting to establish himself as a portraitist, he produced marble busts of
James Cleland, reputedly the first marble bust executed in
(n.d.); Dr Aitken and Thomas Muir of
Hunter's Hill (1831), but gave up after severe criticism.
His marble bust of
(n.d.), however, was regarded by
Thomas Gildard to have been a better likeness than that of the artistically
more successful portrait by
With the opening of the Necropolis in 1833, followed by
other large cemeteries in the city, e.g., Sighthill, 1840, and the Southern
Necropolis, 1849, his success as a monumental sculptor, however, was assured and distinguished.
Interesting examples of his Necropolis work are the monuments to Lt. Joseph F. Gomoszynski,
the Polish patriot, which is carved with his coat of arms (1845), and the obelisk to an unidentified woman which
is carved with a poignant relief of a group of children mourning at a grave with a stone inscribed "Beloved Mother"
Thereafter, he concentrated on training his sculptor sons in the family business.
Throughout his career, his workshop and home were at 83 North Frederick Street, which he shared with his wife, Jean
McLachlan, whom he married in 1816, and their three sons, and later his daughters-in-law and his grandchildren, as well.
He Exhibited at RGIFA
, 1829-33, including Copy of a Medicean Vase (1829), and Bust of a Gentleman (1831).
Mossman was buried in Sighthill Cemetery, his grave marked with a tall obelisk carved by his sons, reputedly to a design by
Alexander 'Greek' Thomson
: Willim Mossman Job Book, 1835-9;
- Nisbet (Biog: W Mossman Senior), in
, p. 493;
- E-mail from Caroline Gerard, 17th June, 2006;
- Information from Caroline Gerard: 1851 Census Return, St David's, Glasgow, 644.1, Book 21, Page 9, Schedule 25;