Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
Bower & Florence
(fl. 1862-1963)

An Aberdeen based firm of monumental sculptors formed between James Haddon Bower (1831-1901) and John Florence (1837-92), at the Spittal Granite Works in King's Crescent. The firm became one of the most important granite firms in Aberdeen, producing architectural work as well as cemetery monuments.

They produced a number of monuments for the Necropolis, including the colossal, pink granite obelisk to Hugh Brown (1870) and the obelisk commemorating Hazelton Robert Brown (1876).

Other good examples of their funerary work are the granite obelisk to Jane Borthwick Girdwood in Edinburgh's Dean Cemetery (1869), and the monument to Peter Kerr of Gallowhill in Paisley's Woodside Cemetery (1869).

Bower also traded as a lime and manure agent from 34 Marischall Street and 48 Market Street, and lived at 18 Golden Square, whilst Florence operated independently as a granite polisher at Rose Acre, King's Crescent.

James Haddon Bower was born in Lochee, Forfarshire, and came to Aberdeen as the manager of the North Eastern Railway Company's goods department before forming his partnership with Florence. He retired from the partnership a few years later and was replaced by his son Haddon Anderson Bower (d. 1927); whilst he pursued his other interests in the city's businesses.

Purchasing the estate of Pitmurchie, near Torphins, he became greatly respected for his knowledge of affairs connected with farm and land management, and for his promotion of the recycling of by-products from the distilling industry for agricultural use as feeding cake for animals, to prevent the polluting of rivers.

Around the years preceding World War I, John McLaren, a former employee, returned to the firm as Bower's partner. At the end of McLaren's war service, when 75% of the firm's workforce was in uniform, Bower petitioned the War Office to obtain McLaren's early discharge and return to the works, in order to prepare for the imminent return to work of the firm's remaining men and others seeking to fill its vacancies.

In November 1923, the firm came to the attention of the Glasgow Herald when it reported that Bower & Florence was being sued by a Mrs Rosalie Knox at the Court of Session over the firm's failure to complete her husband's monument at Pau in France. A colossal, granite obelisk costing 914, and commissioned in 1917, its construction had been delayed during World War I; Bower & Florence arguing that the delay was admissible under the terms of section one the Emergency Powers Act of 1917. After the court's ruling that the firm's action was within the law, Mrs Knox withdrew her case.

After World War II, the firm tendered for the order for 2250 military gravestones but lost out to monumental sculptors in the south of Scotland and north of Aberdeen when the Imperial War Graves Commission decided to use the lesser quality Inver granite, as opposed to the more robust granite Bower had advocated.

The firm was purchased by McLaren after Bower's death in 1927, became a Limited Company in 1947, and eventually amalgamated with Stewart & Co. Ltd., in Fraser Road in 1963, bringing to an end a century of production at their King's Crescent workshops.

John Florence was apprenticed as a stonecutter in Aberdeen and had aquired a considerable knowledge of building work by the time he became Bower's partner. He was also active in local politics as a Conservative, although he never gained public office. A portrait of Florence accompanies his obituary in the Aberdeen publication: In Memoriam: An Obituary of Aberdeen and Vicinity, 1892, p. 128. He died of influenza.

The story of Bower & Florence was recorded and published by John McLaren (McLaren's son) who became a Director of the firm in 1947, in his book Sixty Years In An Aberdeen Granite Yard: The Craft and the Men, in 1987. This features a number of photographs of the firm's staff, including Haddon A Bower, John McLaren and their masons, as well as photographs of other granite firms at work.


  • Slater's Royal National Commercial Dictionary of Scotland: 1837-96;
  • In Memoriam: An Obituary of Aberdeen and Vicinity (John Florence), 1892, p. 128 (ill.);
  • Aberdeen Journal, Death Of Mr Bower Of Pitmurchie, 12 January, 1901;
  • GH : Litigation About A Monument, 1st November 1923, p. 7;
  • GH: A Husband's Monument, 14th November 1923, p. 12;
  • John McLaren (1987) Sixty Years In An Aberdeen Granite Yard: The Craft and the Men (ills.);

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