Thomas Ross, FRSA, lived from 10 November 1839 to 4 December 1930. He was an architect and a partner in the practice of MacGibbon and Ross best known today for their comprehensive multi-volume books about Scotland's castles and churches. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Thomas Ross was born in Perthshire, the son of a farmer. In 1855 he moved to Glasgow and became an assistant to the architect Alexander Kirkland, and later also worked with Charles Wilson. In 1862, Ross was employed as an assistant by the architect David MacGibbon, and in 1872 they went into partnership, forming the firm of MacGibbon and Ross. Shortly after becoming a partner he married Mary MacLaren and they later had a son and two daughters.
In 1880 David MacGibbon gave a series of lectures to the Edinburgh Architectural Association on the architecture of Scottish castles, the product of several years' work making field visits and producing sketches. From this initial work came a much more ambitious project, and from then on, as well as working on their architectural commissions, MacGibbon and Ross spent a considerable amount of time travelling the length and breadth of Scotland making sketches and collecting information about the country's architectural heritage. This resulted in two of the best publications ever written about Scottish architecture. The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland appeared in five volumes between 1887 and 1892, while The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland appeared in three volumes from 1896 to 1897. Both remain essential works of reference for anyone interested in Scottish castles or churches.
MacGibbon had to move his family to the French Riviera in the mid 1880s because of the health of one of his daughters, and although he then spent part of his time Scotland helping complete the work on their two books, an increasing amount of the day to day running of the firm fell to Ross. When David MacGibbon died in 1902, his place in the firm was taken by his son Alfred.
In 1908 Ross became a founder commissioner of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, and in 1910 he received an honourary degree from the University of Edinburgh. Alfred MacGibbon fell ill in 1914 and dissolved the partnership: he died the following year. Thomas Ross continued to work as an architect until he retired in 1916. He also continued to survey and make sketches of old buildings: in 1915 he fell foul of wartime restrictions when he was arrested (and later fined five shillings) for "sketching in a prohibited area", while at Rossend Castle, overlooking the harbour at Burntisland. In 1918 Ross became Professor of Antiquities at the Royal Scottish Academy. He died in 1930 at the age of 91. His son James MacLaren Ross also became an architect.