Thomas Leverton Donaldson

Birth: 1795


Thomas Leverton Donaldson (1795-1885), architect and author, born 19 Oct. 1795, at No. 8 Bloomsbury Square, was the eldest son of James Donaldson, architect and district surveyor of repute. He received a classical education at King Edward VI's Grammar School at St. Albans. In 1809-10 he proceeded to the Cape of Good Hope, to the office of Mr. Robert Stuart, a merchant there.

An expedition being then in course of fitting out to attack the French in the Mauritius, the youth joined as a volunteer, but the French capitulated soon afterwards, and he then returned to England to study architecture in his father's office, attending at the same time the schools at the Royal Academy, and received in 1817 the silver medal. Two years later Donaldson travelled throughout Italy, measuring and drawing the principal buildings.

After visiting Greece, he went to Teos and Ephesus, whence he, with the view of fixing the sites of several edifices of those cities, returned to Athens. He also proceeded to study the Temple of aegina, and from thence to the Morea, publishing his researches at Bassae in 'Stuart's Athens.' His design of a temple of victory, with all the edifices necessary for the celebration of the ancient games of Greece, met with the approval of Canova, then president of the Academy of St. Luke at Rome, of which body Donaldson was elected a member in 1822.

His first work was the church of the Holy Trinity, South Kensington. Among other structures should be mentioned the town residence of Mr. H. T. Hope in Piccadilly, now the Junior Athenaeum Club; mansion for Mr. H. Hippisley at Lambourn, Berkshire; University Hall, Gordon Square; library and laboratory at University College; All Saints Church, Gordon Street; Scotch Church, Woolwich, besides numerous mansions and schools in various parts of the country. He took a prominent part in the competition for the Prince Consort's Memorial.

In conjunction with E. A. Gruning, Donaldson designed and carried out the German Hospital at Dalston, and his last work was the reconstruction, in 1880, of the Scottish Corporation Hall in Crane Court, Fleet Street. He devoted considerable time to the sanitary questions of his day. He became a member of a metropolitan commission of sewers, and was actively concerned in the founding of the Institute of Architects, of which he received the gold medal in 1851, and was elected president for 1863-4. He likewise obtained a French medal of the first class in 1855; the Belgian order of Leopold in 1872; was a member of the Institut de France; and from 1841 to 1864 was emeritus professor of architecture at University College, London; during that period he delivered each session a series of lectures, dealing exclusively with the various phases of classic and gothic art.

In 1833 Donaldson published a book entitled 'A Collection of the most approved Examples of Doorways from Ancient and Modern Buildings in Greece and Italy.' This work was translated into French and republished in that tongue within four years of its first appearance. He died at his residence, 21 Upper Bedford Place, Bloomsbury, after an attack of bronchitis, 1 Aug. 1885, and was buried at Brompton cemetery. Donaldson exhibited at the Royal Academy twenty-seven works between 1816 and 1854, his first contribution being No. 863 of the catalogue, 'Interior View of a Sculpture Gallery, forming part of a design for a National Museum.' A portrait of Donaldson appeared in the 'Builder' of 24 July 1869, page 586. For many years he held the lucrative appointment of district surveyor for South Kensington, under the metropolitan board of works, a post rendered vacant by his death.

Among the most important works written by Donaldson are: 1. 'Pompeii, illustrated with Picturesque Views engraved by W. B. Cooke,' 2 vols. London, fol. 1827. 2. 'Handbook of Specifications, or Practical Guide to the Architect,' &c., 2 vols. London, 8vo, 1859. 3. 'Architectura Numismatica, or Architectural Medals of Classic Antiquity,' &c., 100 lithographs, plates, and woodcuts, 8vo, London, 1859. 4. 'Memoir of the late Charles Fowler,' &c., London, 4to, 1867. To these must be added numerous articles printed by the 'Architectural Publication Society.'

[Builder, 8 Aug. 1885, p. 179; Building News, 7 Aug. 1885, p. 204; Royal Academy Catalogues.]


Louis Alexander Fagan, Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 15. pgs. 214-215?.

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