George Henry Walton

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George Henry Walton (1923) by Sir William Oliphant Hutchison
A copper and stained glass door panel designed by George Henry Walton for the luncheon room at Miss Cranston's Argyle Street Tea Rooms
Painted panel by George Henry Walton used for Miss Cranston's Argyle Street Tea rooms
Button used by Walton on his furniture designs

George Henry Walton (3 June 1867 Glasgow – 10 December 1933 London), was a noted Scottish architect and designer of remarkable diversity.

Biography[edit]

George was the youngest of twelve talented children of Jackson Walton, a Manchester commission agent and himself an accomplished painter and photographer, by his second wife, the Aberdeen-born Quaker Eliza Ann Nicholson. George was a brother of the painter Edward Arthur Walton of the Glasgow School.

His father's death in 1873 left the family in straitened circumstances, and at the age of thirteen George started work as a clerk with the British Linen Bank. With a view to a different career, he attended art classes in the evenings at the Glasgow School of Art and with Peter McGregor Wilson (1856–1928) at the short-lived Glasgow Atelier of Fine Arts. When he was commissioned to redesign one of Miss Cranston's tea rooms at 114 Argyle Street in Glasgow, Walton started his own decorating company, George Walton & Co, Ecclesiastical and House Decorators, in 1888 at 152 Wellington Street. He was greatly influenced by both James Whistler and William Morris and his work ventured into almost every avenue of decorative art, helping to pioneer the distinctive Glasgow Style. In 1890 he employed Robert Graham, the future manager of the company in 1903–05, and met the Quaker architect Fred Rowntree (1860–1927)[1] at an amateur dramatic performance. On 3 June 1891 Walton married Kate Gall, a London girl from an affluent family, and moved into Charing Cross Mansions. Their daughter was born in 1892.

The firm rapidly diversified, winning commissions in woodwork, furniture making and stained glass. From 1896 Walton partnered Rowntree in Rowntree family projects in Scarborough. In the same year he decorated and furnished Miss Cranston's Buchanan Street tea room, originally designed by George Washington Browne. In 1897 he joined his brother Edward in London and set up house and studio at 16 Westbourne Park Road, Bayswater. In London he, through his friendship with the Glasgow photographer James Craig Annan, designed a salon in the Dudley Gallery and met George Davison (1854–1930) who was employed by Eastman Kodak. Through him Walton was commissioned to design not only Kodak showrooms in the United Kingdom and Europe (London, Glasgow, Brussels, Milan, Vienna and Moscow), which brought him international fame, but also the company's product packaging.

His company opened a showroom in York's Stonegate in 1898 and erected a four-storey block of workshops in Glasgow in 1899 and 1900. From 1901 Walton undertook the construction of complete buildings, making use of experience from his association with Fred Rowntree. His first building was The Leys at Elstree for James Booker Blakemore Wellington (1858–1939) of Wellington & Ward Ltd, photographic materials manufacturers and previously of the Eastman company.

Walton moved to a more fashionable address at 44 Holland Park Road, and resigned from George Walton & Co on 17 January 1903. The York branch closed shortly after and on 30 June 1905 the remaining partners wound up the company. From then on Walton practised only as architect and designer, and was admitted as Licentiate of the Royal Institute of British Architects on 20 July 1911, his proposer being his long-standing friend Charles Edward Mallows. From 1905 he had worked from an even grander home at 26 Emperor's Gate in Kensington, but following the outbreak of World War I, commissions were scarce. His wife Kate died and the generous financial support from the Gall family ceased. In 1916 Walton moved to Carlisle and between 1916 and 1921, working under Harry Redfern, he produced designs for pubs and canteens for the Central Control Board, established to manage the drinks trade and public houses in many munitions production areas.

Walton married a colleague, Dorothy (Daphne) Jeram, daughter of a Hampshire doctor on 20 November 1918, and a son was born in 1920. In 1919 Walton attempted to revive his private practice, with the support of various friends and the Scottish portrait-painter William Oliphant Hutchison (1889–1970), who had married his niece, and painted a striking portrait of Walton 10 years before his death. He now worked mainly as a textile designer for Morton Sundour Fabrics of Carlisle, but this work also ceased due to the recession and a falling-off in demand for Art Nouveau designs. In March 1931 the Waltons moved to 70 Seabrook Road in Hythe to cut down on living expenses.

A despondent Walton died on 10 December 1933. John Betjeman obtained a civil list pension for his widow. Walton's drawings and photographs relating to his later practice are in the British Architectural Library Collection.[2][3]

Bibliography[edit]

  • George Walton: Designer and Architect – Karen Moon (White Cockade Publishing, 2001) ISBN 1-873487-01-0[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ David Goold. "Dictionary of Scottish Architects – DSA Architect Biography Report (February 19, 2010, 7:51 pm)". Scottisharchitects.org.uk. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  2. ^ "Brussels armchair". TheGlasgowStory. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  3. ^ David Goold. "Dictionary of Scottish Architects – DSA Architect Biography Report (February 19, 2010, 7:51 pm)". Scottisharchitects.org.uk. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  4. ^ "George Walton: Designer and Architect (9781873487013): Karen Moon: Books". Amazon.com. Retrieved 19 February 2010.