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date: 06 December 2019

Turnbull, Thomaslocked

(b Glasgow, Aug 23, 1824; d Wellington, New Zealand, Feb 23, 1907).
  • John W. F. Cattell


(b Glasgow, Aug 23, 1824; d Wellington, New Zealand, Feb 23, 1907).

Scottish architect, active in New Zealand. He was employed as Clerk of Works to David Bryce in Edinburgh before travelling to Victoria, Australia, in 1851 where he practised as an architect in the gold-digging townships. He moved to San Francisco in 1861 and over a ten-year period designed many buildings there, none of which is known to have survived. Overwork following the earthquake of 1868 led to a breakdown in his health and his emigration to New Zealand in the early 1870s. He settled in Wellington, establishing an extensive practice there. At the time of his arrival the use of brick for building construction was eschewed by that city’s inhabitants who favoured earthquake-resistant wooden structures. Turnbull introduced methods of strengthening brick buildings learnt in San Francisco and was instrumental in transforming Wellington into a brick city of ornate public and commercial buildings in a variety of classical styles.

Turnbull was a pragmatic colonial architect whose work shows a greater concern for practical considerations than for stylistic fidelity. His architecture is representative of the Scottish classical tradition in contrast to the Gothic bias evident in the work of most of his English-trained contemporaries. However, two of his finest surviving Wellington buildings are in the Gothic Revival style. These are the wooden St John’s Presbyterian Church (...

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