Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
Alexander Handyside

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 de Mowbray.

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 elected ARSA , 1846.


  • Gunnis , 1951;
  • GG : Statuary for the Bank of Scotland, Ingram Street, 24 February, 1849, p. 4;
  • GG : Architectural Decoration of the Bank of Scotland 20 October, 1849, p. 2;
  • McKenzie (1999) ;
  • Nisbet, in McKenzie (2002) (Lost Works), pp. 438-9;
Works in our Database:
1: Gordon Street (City Centre),
Former Commercial Bank of Scotland, 4-16 Gordon Street
Narrative and Allegorical Reliefs of Children and Associated Decorative Carving (1853-7)
Modeller: J Thomas; Carver: AH Ritchie; Architect: D Rhind; Builder: D Rae
2: Nelson Mandela Place (City Centre),
Royal Faculty of Procurators, 12 Nelson Mandela Place
Keystone Portraits and Associated Decorative Carving (1854)
Modellers: AH Ritchie (portraits); J Steel (decorative work); Carver: J Shanks;
Architect: C Wilson
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