Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Smith, Thomas Roger

SMITH, THOMAS ROGER (1830–1903), architect, born at Sheffield on 14 July 1830, was only son of the Rev. Thomas Smith of Sheffield by his wife Louisa Thomas of Chelsea. After private education he entered the office of Philip Hardwick [q. v.] and spent a year and a half in travel before beginning independent practice in 1855. Mr. A. S. Gale was in partnership with him until 1891, and from 1888 his son, Mr. Ravenscroft Elsey Smith, who co-operated in all his subsequent works.

Having been selected to prepare the design for the exhibition buildings in Bombay, Smith proceeded thither in 1864. The erection was abandoned after the contract was signed owing to the cotton famine, but several 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 England 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 (built 1880, enlarged 1892, completed 1903); laboratories at University College (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, who devoted much of his energies to lecturing on architecture and to official duties external to actual professional practice, became in 1851 a member of the Architectural Association, a body to which he delivered an extensive series of lectures; he was president in 1860–1 and again in 1863–4. At the Royal Institute of British Architects he was elected an associate in 1856 and in 1863 a fellow. He took a prominent part in its debates and committees, was for several sessions a member of its council, and became chairman in 1899 of the statutory board of examiners (under the London Building Acts) which the institute appoints. In 1874 he was made district surveyor under the Metropolitan Board of Works for Southwark and North Lambeth, and was transferred in 1882 to the more important district of West Wandsworth. Smith's other official appointments were numerous. At the Carpenters' Company, for which he acted as examiner in carpentry, &c., as a frequent lecturer, and as surveyor, he attained in 1901 the office of master. He was an examiner in architecture to the Science and Art Department, South Kensington, as well as to the City and Guilds Institute, and 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 engagements 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 appointed to discuss the amendment of the law of ancient lights. Smith was often an architectural assessor in competitions.

Smith prepared many papers on professional and artistic subjects, but his only published books were the manual on ‘Acoustics’ in Weale's series (1861), and two handbooks, one on ‘Architecture, Classic and Early Christian’ (1882; new edit. 1898); the other on ‘Gothic and Renaissance Architecture’ (1888, ‘Illustrated Handbooks of Art History’), of which Mr. John Slater was joint author. Though afflicted with serious lameness for many years, Smith continued his professional labours till within three months of his death on 11 March 1903 at his residence, Gordon Street, Gordon Square, London. His office was at Temple Chambers, Temple Avenue, E.C.

He married in 1858 Catherine, daughter of Joseph Elsey of Highgate, and was survived by his widow, one daughter, and three sons, one of whom, his partner, Mr. Ravenscroft Elsey Smith, became in 1899 professor of architecture at King's College, London.

[R.I.B.A. Journal, 3rd series, x. 276; The Builder, 1903, lxxxiv. 289; Building News, 1903, lxxxiv. 369; information from Professor R. Elsey Smith.]

P. W.