Architect - Bradshaw & Gass

John Bradshaw Gass was born in 1855 at Annan, Dumfriesshire, the son of George Pool Gass and his wife Alice. Alice was the sister of the architect John Jonas Bradshaw. Gass was brought up in Bolton and educated privately. He then studied at Bolton School of Art and became a fine watercolourist, exhibiting at the Royal Academy from 1879: in his later years he was to travel North Africa, Asia and India in his search for subjects. After a short period as a teacher of mathematics and art, he was articled to his uncle, J J Bradshaw remaining with him as managing assistant from 1876 in parallel with Wallace. During that period he studied civil engineering at Owen’s College, Manchester from 1874 in order to equip himself for the predominantly industrial nature of the practice. He won the Ashbury Exhibition Prize in 1878 and was Art Prizeman in 1879.

After Gass’s American tour the practice moved quickly into the national league. The Wesleyan church became a very important client commissioning large buildings in Finsbury, London, 1902, Liverpool 1904 and Wigan 1908; other major commissions were the Victoria Halls in Bolton, 1898-1900, the Royal Friendly Society, Southampton Row, London, 1902-04, the Northern Stock Exchange, Congregational Church House and Cooperative Insurance Headquarters, all in Manchester in 1907-09. A London office opened at 31 (later 108) City Road to supervise the London commissions. These buildings were in vigorous neo-Baroque with elements drawn from George, Shaw and American practice, but there was an arts-and-crafts side to the practice in the houses and other buildings for Lever at Port Sunlight, in a large half-timbered country house at Withnell Fold, Chorley and in the Wesleyan Church, Haulgh, Bolton.
Withnell Fold was Gass’s work but the simpler arts-and-crafts idiom of the smaller houses built in those years seems to have been associated with the third partner Arthur John Hope. Born on 2 October 1875 he had been brought up in less affluent circumstances in Atherton and educated at Wigan Grammar School where his aptitude for mechanics induced him to study civil engineering at the Bolton Schools of Science and Art. He was articled to Bradshaw & Gass in 1892 but thereafter he neither sought London experience not attempted the qualifying exam. He was strong on structural engineering and quick to see imaginative solutions in the planning of buildings but had no patience with drawing them out. His assistant Ernest Wall Winks described him as one of those who ‘not only wrack their own brains but utilise those of everyone else with whom they came in contact’. Presentation drawings were entrusted to Roger Oldham, as subtle a watercolourist as Gass himself. Hope was taken into partnership in 1902. The practice title then became Bradshaw, Gass & Hope.

Bradshaw died at Greenmount, Heaton on 28 April 1912, the practice title being amended to Bradshaw Gass & Hope by omitting the comma. It is unlikely that Bradshaw had designed much for the previous quarter century, but with the practice that now extended to Portugal, an increase in design staff was required, even though the London office had been closed. In 1913 Gass & Hope recruited James Robert Adamson. Born in 1883 and educated at Galashiels and George Watson’s College, Edinburgh, Adamson had been articled to John Burnet & Son in Glasgow 1901-05, and had studied at Glasgow School of Art and the Royal Technical College, remaining with Burnet as an assistant before moving to Newcastle as chief assistant to Graham & Hill.

In January 1914 Bradshaw Gass & Hope won the competition for the reconstruction of the Manchester Royal Exchange, their most ambitious project. At that date Gass gave the total value of the work executed since the Bradshaw & Gass partnership was formed in 1881 as being ‘upwards of four million pounds sterling’. Opened in October 1921, the Royal Exchange was the last project in the full neo-Baroque idiom associated with Gass. After the First World War the lead designer in the practice became Hope, working closely with Adamson who was made a partner on his marriage in 1920. Also a partner from some time after 1914 and before 1920 was William Scott, born in 1880 who had concentrated on the industrial side of the practice since about 1900: he was primarily a structural engineer and construction manager.

In the early 1920s the most important of the assistants was the Rome scholar Frederick Orchard Lawrence whose skill in presentation for a time enabled the practice to reduce the dependence on the free-lance work of Philip Dalton Hepworth and Cyril Farey when entering competitions. A considerable number of the staff were Scottish in the 1920 and 30s: most of them, like James Maclaren Honeyman, and the Edinburgh City architect Alexander Steele, came only for experience. But in 1925 Lawrence left and an advertisement for senior architectural draughtsmen brought an application from Robert Mackison McNaught, who had been a partner in the Dumbarton firm of Denny & Blain since 1921. Articled to Denny & Blain before war service with the Royal Engineers, he had studied at the Glasgow School of Architecture under Bourdon and Fulton and had spent the years 1919 to 1920 with Campbell & Hislop before returning to Denny & Blain. McNaught took charge of the Bolton drawing office, working under Hope, and became a partner when Gass died in July 1939. Adamson, who was for a time a vice President of the RIBA, died in September 1943, the surviving partners then being Hope, Scott and McNaught. Hope died in April 1960 and McNaught, by then senior partner, in 1969. 

Source:- Dictionary of Scottish Architects

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