Thomas Roger Smith Papers

Scope and Content

Documents re: Thomas Roger Smith (1830-1903):

Cutting from 'The Builder' of lecture on Haddon Hall by Smith, 1880. First plate is from 'Building News', 14 May 1880, second plate is from 'History of Architecture' by J J Stevenson

Printed testimonials supporting Smith's application for the Chair of Architecture at University College, 1881

Specification of fittings for new laboratories at University College, 1893

Specification of work fto be done in erecting a studio in no. 7, Gordon Square, 1899. Missing page 21.

Administrative / Biographical History

Smith, Thomas Roger (1830-1903), architect, was born on 14 July 1830 at Sheffield, the only son of Thomas Smith (1783/4-1853) of Sheffield and his wife, Louisa (ne Thomas) of Chelsea. Between 1817 and 1852 his father was minister of Nether Independent Chapel, Sheffield, and a classical tutor at Rotherham College. He was brought up as a Congregationalist and, after being educated privately, he entered the office of Philip Hardwick; he then spent a year and a half travelling before beginning independent practice in 1855. In 1858 he married Catherine, daughter of Joseph Elsey of Highgate. They had one daughter and three sons, one of whom, Ravenscroft Elsey Smith, became his partner and (in 1899) professor of architecture at King's College, London. Until 1891 he was also in partnership with A. S. Gale.

Having been selected to prepare the design for the exhibition buildings in Bombay, Smith travelled there in 1864, though the buildings were abandoned after the contract was signed, because of the cotton famine. Several other important buildings were erected in India from his designs, including the post office and British Hospital at Bombay, and the residency at Gunersh Kind. In Britain his work included the technical schools (and baths) of the Carpenters' Company at Stratford; the Ben Jonson schools at Stepney (1872), as well as other schools for the London school board; Emmanuel Church and vicarage, South Croydon; the sanatorium at Reedham (1883); the North London Hospital for Consumption at Hampstead (1880; enlarged 1892; completed 1903); laboratories at University College, London (opened 1892), forming part of an uncompleted scheme for the Gower Street front of the large quadrangle; many City warehouses; and, besides other domestic work, Armathwaite Hall, Cumberland; Brambletye House, East Grinstead; a house at Taplow for Mr G. Hanbury, and Beechy Lees at Otford, Kent.

Smith devoted much of his time to lecturing on architecture. In 1851 he became a member of the Architectural Association, a body to which he delivered a series of lectures; he was president in 1860-61 and again in 1863-4. At the Royal Institute of British Architects he was elected an associate in 1856 and a fellow in 1863. He took a prominent part in its debates and committees, was for several sessions a member of its council, and in 1899 became chairman of the statutory board of examiners (under the London Building Acts). In 1874 he was made district surveyor under the Metropolitan Board of Works for Southwark and North Lambeth, and he was transferred in 1882 to the more important district of west Wandsworth. At the Carpenters' Company he acted as an examiner in carpentry and was a frequent lecturer and surveyor; in 1901 he became master of the company. He was an examiner in architecture at the Department of Science and Art, in South Kensington, as well as at the City and Guilds of London Institute. He was surveyor to the licensing justices of Wimbledon and Wandsworth; but the most important of his posts was the professorship of architecture at University College, London, which he held from 1880 to his death. His wide practical experience in questions of rights of light brought him frequent work as an expert and arbitrator, and in 1900 he served (as chairman) on a joint committee of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Surveyors' Institution, which was appointed to discuss amendment to the law of ancient lights. He was also often an architectural assessor in competitions.

Smith prepared many papers on professional and artistic subjects, and published several works, including 'Acoustics in Relation to Architecture and Building' (rev edn, 1895, originally published as a treatise on Acoustics in Weale's series 1861), and two handbooks: one, with John Slater, on 'Architecture, Classic and Early Christian' (1888; new edn, 1898); the other on 'Architecture, Gothic and Renaissance' (1880; repr. 1888).

Access Information


Closed pending cataloguing.

Acquisition Information

Transferred from College Collection, DS 66; BD 1 Sm1; DS 66.