The son of a Musselburgh brickmaker and ornamental plasterer, his
grandfather was a fisherman and self-taught sculptor.
He attended art, architecture and anatomy classes at Edinburgh
School of Arts, under Samuel Joseph, 1823, then at Trustees School
of Design before studying with Thorvaldsen in Rome, 1826-30.
He returned to Musselburgh in 1830, then opened a studio at
92 Princes Street, Edinburgh, 1842.
Assisted by his brother John Ritchie, he executed portrait
busts for wealthy patrons and statuary on Edinburgh's Central Public
Library (1837); the Royal College of Physicians, Queen Street (1844);
and the Commercial Bank, George Street (1847).
He worked for John Thomas on the Houses of Parliament, London,
executing marble statues of Eustace de Vesci and William
For Stirling's Valley Cemetery he executed the monument to Agnes and
Margaret Wilson (1850) and five statues including John Knox and
Ebenezer Erskine (1858).
In 1852, he carved two recumbant Lions for the Hamilton Mausoleum
at Hamilton, and returned to the Mausoleum in 1863, to carve keystone
heads representing Time, Death and Eternity.
His public work includes statues to Sir Walter Scott, Selkirk
(1839); Ralph Erskine, Dunfermline (1849); Sir Robert Peel,
Montrose (1852); Hugh Miller, Cromarty (1858); Sir William Wallace,
Lanark (1859); and The Fisherman's Monument, Dunbar (1856).
In Glasgow, he executed a colossal Armorial Group for the former
Bank of Scotland, 176 Ingram Street (1849, removed c. 1871); the John Henry
Alexander Monument, Necropolis (1851); and modelled the Law Lord
keystone heads for the Royal Faculty of Procurators, 64-8 West George Street
(1854), which were carved by James Shanks.
Despite considerable artistic success and aristocratic patronage,
he died virtually penniless leaving an estate valued at £6.10.6d.
He exhibited regularly at the RSA
, 1831-71, RA
, 1830-68, and was
: Statuary for the Bank of Scotland, Ingram Street, 24 February, 1849, p. 4;
: Architectural Decoration of the Bank of Scotland 20 October, 1849, p. 2;
- Nisbet, in
(Lost Works), pp. 438-9;