Walton, George Henry

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Walton, George Henry

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George Henry Walton was born in Glasgow on 3 June 1867, the youngest of the twelve children of Jackson Walton, a Manchester commission agent, by his second wife, the Aberdeen-born Quaker Eliza Ann Nicholson: the painter Edward Arthur Walton, born near Barrhead on 15 April 1860 was his elder brother and the flower painter Constance Walton his sister. The Waltons had settled in Glasgow in 1862, Jackson becoming first a manufacturer of steam boiler coverings and later a manufacturing chemist, neither successfully. He was, however, a good amateur painter and photographer: one of his elder daughters, the decorative artist, Helen, born 1850, also had marked ability, studying at Glasgow School of Design from 1865 and becoming artistic mentor to the younger members of the family. Jackson died in 1873 leaving his family in reduced circumstances. George had to leave Partick Academy in 1881 at the age of thirteen to become a clerk with the British Linen Bank, but while in its employ he studied at Glasgow School of Art (as the School of Design had become in 1869) and took classes with P McGregor Wilson at the short-lived Glasgow Atelier Fine Arts. In 1888 Miss Catherine Cranston commissioned Walton to re-design the interiors of the tea rooms at 114 Argyle Street, Glasgow (originally opened in 1878). Walton gave up banking and opened showrooms entitled George Walton & Co, Ecclesiastical and House Decorators, at 152 Wellington Street. In 1890 he took on Robert Graham who was to become manager of the company in 1903-05, and in the same year (1890) he became acquainted with the Quaker architect Fred Rowntree through an amateur dramatic performance. In 3 June of the following year Walton married Kate Gall, a London girl whose parents were well-off with good connections, and set up house in Burnet's newly-built Charing Cross Mansions. A daughter was born in 1892. The Walton firm quickly expanded into woodwork, furniture making and stained glass and from 1896 Walton collaborated with Rowntree on Rowntree family projects in Scarborough and on a large house at Dunblane. Later in the same year Walton was commissioned to decorate and furnish Miss Cranston's Buchanan Street tea room which had been designed by George Washington Browne. In 1897 Walton followed his brother Edward to London where he set up house and studio at 16 Westbourne Park Road, Bayswater. The catalyst appears to have been the commission to design the Photographic Salon in the Dudley Gallery which came to him through his friendship with the Glasgow photographer James Craig Annan. It led to a further commission from George Davison for the Eastman Exhibition in the New Gallery in Regent Street in the same year, and in turn to a series of Eastman Kodak showrooms in London, Glasgow, Brussels, Milan, Vienna and Moscow which brought him international fame. A George Walton & Co showroom was opened in York's Stonegate in 1898 and in Glasgow a four-storey block of workshops was built in Buccleuch Street in 1899-1900. But from 1901 Walton began to undertake complete buildings having learned enough of building construction from his showroom alterations and his work with Fred Rowntree, his first being The Leys for the photographic magnate J B B Wellington of Wellington & Ward and previously of the Eastman company. Walton moved from Wesbourne Park Road to a more fashionable address at 44 Holland Park Road, and on 17 January 1903 he resigned from George Walton & Co as the time he could give to it had become limited. The York showroom closed in the same year and on 30 June 1905 the other partners wound up the company, their designer Robert Paterson setting up his own business entitled 'The Crafts'. Thereafter Walton practised exclusively as an architect and designer in private practice and was admitted LRIBA in the mass intake of 20 July 1911, his proposer being his long-standing friend Charles Edward Mallows. Since 1905 he had operated from a still grander house, 26 Emperor's Gate, Kensington, but with the outbreak of war,work tailed off. Kate died and the financial support of the Gall family died with her. Their daughter Marguerite married a doctor in the RAMC and the Emperor's Gate house was given up. In 1916 Walton moved to Carlisle as assistant architect and designer to the Central Control Board (liquor traffic) working under the supervision of Harry Redfern on a series of hurried public house refurbishments. On 20 November 1918 Walton married a colleague at the Central Control Board, Dorothy (Daphne) Jeram, the daughter of a Hampshire doctor: a son was born in 1920. Walton resigned from the Central Control Board in 1919 to resume private practice. Walton died on 10th December 1933.


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