18th June 1882

Architectural designer Thomas S Tait is born

The work of Paisley-born Thomas S Tait is world famous, even if most people who encounter it aren’t aware of its designer. He designed the stone pylons at either end of Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Scottish Government headquarters at Edinburgh’s St Andrew’s House, and Selfridges department store in London.

After studying at the Glasgow School of Art, Tate took a job in London where he worked on new galleries for the British Museum and, later, in Essex, where he helped develop the village of Silver End.

Glasgow Empire Exhibition

In the mid-1930s he was appointed chief architect of the 1938’s Empire Exhibition, which was held in Glasgow. He selected the location and designed most of the buildings on the site, including the 300ft-tall Tower of Empire, which later became known as Tait Tower.

His work was much appreciated. The Scotsman of 7 September 1938 reported that “at an informal function, Mr Thomas S Tait, the architect of the exhibition, was presented to Her Majesty [Queen Mary], and in the course of a long and interesting conversation the Queen expressed her personal appreciation of the fine architecture of the buildings and the general scheme of lay-out”.

There were calls for the Exhibition to be continued in a different format the following year which, said the Shields Daily News of 11 October 1938, were supported by Tait himself. “Feeling in Glasgow is that it could not merely be a repetition of the Empire Exhibition but that [it should be] a Scottish Exhibition, devoted to the industrial and cultural sides of Scottish life…”

However, the Exhibition closed as planned and the art deco Tower of Empire was demolished, as making it suitable for long-term use would have required significant rebuilding.

Wartime role

During the Second World War, he was appointed director of standardization for the Controller of Building Materials; a job that saw him undertake the design of accommodation for evacuees.

The Dundee Courier and Advertiser of 20 July 1954, reporting his death two days earlier, noted that “culmination of his lifetime’s devotion to the design of fine buildings came in 1947, when he was asked to design the new Colonial Office on the site opposite Westminster Abbey… the Royal Institute of British Architects awarded him its annual medal for Lloyd’s Bank head office and for the Royal Masonic Hall, Ravenscourt Park, London.”



Other events that occured in June

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