19 Nov 2017

George Henry Walton (1867 – 1933) was a noted Glaswegian designer and architect. Greatly influenced by William Morris and James Whistler, he was one of the pioneers of the distinctive Glasgow Style of Arts and Crafts. In the 1880s, he assisted Charles Rennie Mackintosh with the interiors of Miss Cranston’s Tearooms. He also designed antique dining chairs and antique cabinets for Liberty.

Walton was born into a talented, artistic family. Following his father’s death in 1879, Walton began work as a bank clerk, studying part-time at the Glasgow School of Art. While here, he became involved with Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style of design.

By 1888, George Walton was working with Mackintosh, and was commissioned to decorate a new smoking room in one of the Cranston tea rooms. This inspired him to establish his own interior design company of George Walton & Co, making furniture, stained glass and panelling for homes and churches. In 1896 he was commissioned to furnish Cranston’s Buchanan Street tea room, following which he set up a house and studio in Bayswater, London. Here, he undertook various commissions, including the furnishing of several Eastman Kodak showrooms in London and Europe, which brought him great acclaim.

Walton opened further workshops in York and his home-town of Glasgow between 1898 and 1900, following which he began designing entire houses, having learned construction from his colleague Fred Rowntree. In 1903 he resigned from George Walton & Co, and by 1905 the company had been folded by its partners.

Walton continued working as a private architect and designer, but never regained recognition. By the1930s he was reduced to designing textiles in Carlisle, but the interest in Art Nouveau was at an end. He died unemployed in Hythe, Kent, in 1933.

Today, George Walton is once more in vogue, with his Arts & Crafts Furniture fetching good prices in auctions. His work is recognised in a permanent exhibition at Glasgow Museum. The display includes antique cabinets, stained glass panels, antique tables and dining chairs – many from the Cranston Tea rooms.

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